Monday, July 21, 2008

My life in the sky

a couple of mates have asked me what its like being a long haul flight attendant, so thought i would sum up a typical day in the life of one.

halfway through the month you get your next months roster... we all sit on the edge of our seats, waiting to know if the following month is going to be heaven or hell. will we be relegated to the depths of standby hell... or worse, annual exams.. or will our lifes be filled with sun, sand, fun filled destinations and good paying trips. usually its dire, with one little ray of sunshine somewhere in the month.

As we have to be at the airport 2 hours prior to scheduled take off, and factoring in the 1 hour travel time for me to Gatwick, or 2 hours to Heathrow, plus the minimum of 1 hour to groom and get ready before i even leave the house, i could have been up and on the go at least 6-7 hours prior to the flight even taking off. With flight times anywhere from 7-14 hours you can imagine how tired we can be at the other end.

We sit around crew check in, waiting for todays on board manager to call us in for our briefing. This is our first chance to know who are crew are going to be. We sit around in a tiny room, looking at 17 strangers, trying to figure out who we will get along with and who we wont. its usual that you fly with a complete bunch of strangers every time... with over four and a half thousand crew, the chances of you flying with someone you have flown with before are small.. but it occasionally does happen.

No one really talks to each other during this phase.. we are all too nervous about the briefing, where we are told the particulars of the flight, details of the aircraft, briefed on what each cabin manager expects from us and how they want the service run, and are asked the dreaded safety question, based on this month's topic. failure to answer the questions correctly can lead to you being offloaded and sent back into training, although i am yet t see this actually happen... we all know our stuff, but its the fear of getting a question we cant answer that fills our heads at this point.

Once the briefing is over, its a quick dash to have the one last cigarette that has to last you for the duration of the flight and get through security, and onto the bus that takes us to the plane. This is where we start tentatively exploring each other. We all usually sit alone on the bus, frantically texting or making last minute calls to loved ones saying we are about to go, and how much we love them (you just never know what might happen on the flight) and start testing the waters about the personalities of those you are going to be working with. We all pray fr a god crew that gels together nicely, and that you can have a good laugh with during the flight and downroute.

we get onboard and get our checks done and prepare the cabin for the passengers. and before you know it, the seats are filled and you are strapped into your jumpseat ready for take off.

By now you have a small indication of what the passengers will be like. if they have been making tiresome demands or ringing call bells before they have even sat down, you know its going to be one of "those' flights. If we manage to close the doors without any tears, or people demanding to have seats changed or complaints about being separated from a companion, then we are going well.

once in the air, its all systems go for the crew as we get everything out ready for the endless services that we perform on the plane. it is literally non stop from the moment we ourselves board the plane until the moment we get off it. when you don't see us in the cabin, we are in the galley packing away the last service and preparing the next. on some flights, youre lucky if you get 10 minutes to eat something yourself.. usually done whilst standing up.

They tell us in training, that you will see all walks of life and every facet of human behaviour on board...and they arent kidding.

we can expected to be waiters, rescuers, survival experts, policemen, counsellors, dangerous goods experts, medics, fire fighters, world encyclopedias, security agents, safety procedure experts and above all do it with a smile and a winning personality, even though its probably been 16 hours since you last slept.

if we are lucky, we are given crew rest, which means an hours break 9sometimes a bit more depending on the length of the flight) and you rush to the crew rest area, and lay in the bunks, desperately trying to get some sleep..sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt.

it still amazes me hw many people do not wear the seatbelts for the entire flight. pilots cannot see r anticipate clear air turbulence and planes can suddenly drop some hundred of feet without warning..which would result in passengers flying up out of their seats.. or during bouts of turbulence, be thrown around in the seats, and yet they still argue and grumble when you tell them for their own safety to fasten their seat belts. i have even seen passengers get up and walk around or try to go to the toilets during turbulence... its just crazy.

finally the moment will arrive that you have been hanging for for the last few hours..... descent... and again, it amazes me how many people do not consider their own safety, and when you ask them to raise window blinds, or fasten seatbelts, they look at you like you have asked them t bite the head of a small child.
it doesnt matter how many announcements you make about placing bags under the seat in front, you can guarantee that at least 4 people have totally ignored it and still have a bag under their feet or on their lap. women with handbags are the usual... it seems a foreign concept to them, that if their handbag was in the hatrack above their head, they wouldnt possible notice if someone went into it and touched their bag.

from the moment the seatbelt signs come on... the cigarette craving starts.. funny, i never even think about it during the flight, but the prspect of soon being able to light up, seems to make the last 20 mins of the flight drag out. Then you strap back into your jumpseat, and have to sit in front of passengers, feeling like total crap, being tired out of your brain, but still manage to have a smile and strike up an intelligent conversation with the people sitting opposite you, all the while, concentrating on whats happening and ready to spring into action should anything untoward happen.

finally the darlings are all're knackered, but glad to be off that aircraft.
they (the groundstaff) say that when the doors are opened, the emanating stench is enough to gag a maggot. (well i guess the BO and the farts of 400 people confined in a small space would be enough to make anyone retch) but funnily enough we crew seem immune.... that is until you go to iron your uniform for the way home and it reactivated the smell that has permeated your clothes.

by the time we get to the hotel, you feel knackered, but hopefully you have bonded with at least 1 or 2 of the crew (sometimes the whole crew gets along like long lost friends) and you will head out for after work drinks or a crew party.

i think we are picked, amongst other things, for our ability to form close bonds quickly. passengers on flights would never guess that the mates having a laugh over a cart or chatting together on the jumpseat, have really only just met. one of the positives for this is, when youre down route, you know you can let your inhibitions go as you dont really know these people, and probably wont fly with them again, and yet can trust them to look after you should anything untoward happen.. like god forbid you should get drunk.. lol. Since we have all just gone through the same ordeal of a flight, we usually all have something in common now.

depending on where in the world, that metal tube has spat you out, will depend on how long you will have there, and what you can get up to whilst your there.. but you have to ensure you have enough rest before you receive that wakeup call 1 hour prior to being picked up from the hotel and driven back to the airport, to crew the flight home and go through it all again... fun.

funny things that people do..... can you believe on my last flight, we found a plastic glass on the bench in one of the toilets, with poo in it. someone had shat in glass and left it in the toilet.... why??? who can say.. but thats just one of the those crazy unexplained passenger behaviours. they do they expect us to clean that up after them??? ummm.. no.. we do not.. FYI, the offending bathroom was locked off for the remainder of the flight.. we can be dealing with shit.. when we are food handlers)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

LA LA Land

just back from a really nice 2 days in LA, spent sunning myself and drinking and eating with a nice bunch of crew.

flights were awful.... had a passenger hurl abuse at me (we dont call this the psycho 7 for nothing) LA flights are reknown for having slightly unusual passengers.)

didnt get to sleep before check out and didnt sleep in crew rest, which left me with being awake for 24 hours before i actually got to bed at home. you can imagine how delerious i was by then. but then such is my life now.

on a positive note.... i did get to assist in upper class for the final service.. which was a nice chance to see how being a senior is.

a few days off before going back to the states...sigh.. hope the weather is nice, wanna go to the beach today

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Catch up

Its been so long since i had the chance to update this.

have been jetting over the world, bringing mum to the UK, and back again to australia.

since they say that pictures tell a thousand is a glimpse of whats been happening.