{February 28, 2013}   Buh-bye, ciao, au revoir, adios

The most tedious part of my job is at the end of the flight when passengers are deplaning and I have to stand at the boarding door and say good bye to everyone.  I try to send authentic and caring.  I alternate between saying “bye-bye”, “thank-you”,”take care”,”see you later”, and “have a good day”. Pretty exciting stuff, huh?

It’s definitely a nice touch when the captain stands next to me and greets the passengers adieu as well. The only time it gets interesting  saying goodbye to the gang is when we play the ‘glasses’ game. One of us only says goodbye to passengers wearing glasses and the other one only says ‘ciao’ to non-glasses wearers. We usually mess up and end up giggling. It’s fun! You should try it sometime.

Unless they are on their phones, passengers usually like to say their goodbyes as well. They like to tell us good bye or that they had a nice flight. Sometimes,  they turn into amateur pilots. They tell the flight crew, “Great landing!”…Everyone’s an expert!   Usually,  more times than not, the pilot replies, “I just get lucky sometimes” and then chuckles as I roll my eyes. Once, a pilot replied with a simple ‘thank-you’. I told him I appreciate him not saying the same stupid joke! 




{February 27, 2013}   I am not a thief.

Friends of mine just had their second baby girl.  I love buying baby gifts. But, it’s difficult to buy a special gift for that same gendered baby.  I want it to be meaningful and/or practical.  So, off I go shopping with a couple of ideas in my head.

I went to several stores,  but nothing grabbed me. Finally,  I went into a specialty baby store, hoping to hit the perfect baby gift jackpot. I nodded hello to the only sales clerk in the shop and proceeded to browse  with my four year old daughter.  She was about to put her dirty boots on a kid sized chair when both myself and the sales guy reacted at the same time.  Disaster averted. 

Every time I took two steps to look at something new, the sales rep took two steps towards me. He had his eyes on me the whole time. Finally I walked the length of the store and continued up the other side.  Sales dude stayed on ‘his’ side of the store, but again, every time I took a step, he did too. It was weirding me out.  Finally, I couldn’t help myself and I said: Do you think I am going to steal something?  He replied ‘No’ but continued his behaviour.

 Even if I had LOVED something in the store, I wouldn’t have bought it because of him.

I wasn’t dressed like a total hobo! Does he do THIS to everyone?

Anyways, off to find the perfect gift… More specifically,  to BUY the perfect present. 

There are a lot of clichés or stereotypes when it comes to pilots. One that comes to mind, is that they are terrible dressers. When you see them at the layover hotel, you can always recognize them from their ‘other’ uniform, which usually  consists of a golf shirt and khakis.  But, something is  always ‘off’ with their outfit. Perhaps, the colour combination of the clothes do not work. Or maybe the shoes are ALL wrong. Regardless,  they dress like pilots! The theory goes that since they have ALWAYS worn pilot uniforms to work everyday since they started their careers, they never learnt to coordinate their attire properly.  The only flaw with this argument is that flight attendants also wear uniforms to work everyday.  But, most flight attendants are very sharp dressers. Especially the young girls and of course the gay guys, which goes without saying! 

The second character trait of pilots is that they are CHEAP. They don’t like to spend their money. They will come on to the airplane after a three hour wait between flights and proclaim that they are STARVING and do we have anything for them to eat. Nuts, passenger meals…anything.  Meanwhile,  us flight attendants who make a FRACTION of what they make, have bought ourselves a proper meal at the airport. They also rarely buy themselves a coffee. Why should they spend $1.50 on non-Starbuck’s coffee if they can get it on the airplane for free. I hate when they say: I need a coffee. I can barely keep my eyes open. Uhm…Hello? I kind of like a well rested pilot! The cheap personality trait could be due to all the years they were flying in the early days to get their flying hours up. They are not paid very well until they make it to the big leagues i.e. a major airline. Even when they join said airline, it’s usually a pay cut from their last job and they make less than the flight attendants for their first three years.

The joke is that pilots have to work until retirement because most of them are on their second wives. Half their paycheck goes towards alimony and child support.  Of course,  this is not true in all cases, as you hear of stories of happily married pilots to first wives for many many years.  But, our lifestyle aren’t always conducive to a happy family life. We are on the road, so you speak, many days in a row. Thankfully,  I have enough seniority to stay close to home and not be away more than one night at a time. But, the pilots seem to have many more 4 and 5 day pairings away from home. That’s a long time to be away from your loved ones every week. We were chatting with our captain the other day and he was saying that when he used to fly the overseas routes, most of his co-pilots seemed to be bitter divorced men trying to screw their ex-wives out of every last cent. He said it was very disheartening to have to listen to that every day over the Atlantic Ocean.  I asked if he was still happily married.  He said: Yes..to his second wife. We all had a good laugh,  except for one flight attendant.  After he went back into the flight deck, she said that she doesn’t think that was funny AT ALL. She said that she used to be married to a pilot and when her son was two, she found out that he had a whole other family 5 miles away from her home. She continued  saying that he ruined her son’s life. Son is now ten. There was an awkward silence and then we went back to work.

Pilots are real aviation geeks. They eat,sleep, and breathe flying. You might be on a layover with them and they are trying to flirt with you. But as soon as another pilot joins us, they drop you like a hot potato and talk airplane talk with said pilot for the rest of the night. 

Pilots like beer…a lot. They are always jonesing for a beer as soon as they land. We have to stay ‘dry’ 12 hours prior to flying. 12 hours from bottle to throttle. So, if we only have a 13 hour layover, they are rushing to the hotel to get their beers in. And they ALWAYS go to the same bars/pubs. Usually the ones that have dollar beers. But, then again, flight attendants are very loyal too and we always talk to the others about the best places to eat/drink/shop. We spread the info amongst us like wildfire.  So, if you have a service industry business, give a special crew rate for your establishment. The word will spread and your place will always be packed.

Pilots have a pretty easy job…but they will NEVER admit it to passengers or the general public.  As you can imagine,  take offs and landings are pretty busy for them, but the rest of the time they are pretty bored. They fill in the flight deck time with reading the newspaper,  doing sudoku and crosswords, as well as chatting about women, telling dirty jokes and farting. It’s true! If it’s a 10 hour flight, they are only really working for like 2 hours and have to fill in the other 8 somehow. 

Despite all this, I like pilots. They are nice and I am nice back to them. Even if they do think they’re God.

{February 22, 2013}   Stroke THIS.

I love old people. I find them interesting and at times hilarious.  I have been working a lot of flights to Florida, bringing the Snowbirds back and forth. So, there are senior citizens everywhere!  It’s not unusual to have a dozen wheelchair requests on those flights. 

Some grannies give me advice by telling me not to get old as it is NO fun getting old.

Stereotypical, some oldies complain about EVERYTHING.  The seat is too far back in the airplane.  It’s too close to the washrooms.  They need an aisle seat. It’s too cold, etc.

Then, there are the seniors who are so funny without even trying. I helped an elderly couple onboard yesterday.  They needed wheelchair assistance to and from the plane but had to hold onto seats and my arm to get to their seats. For real,their seats WERE really far back. They took their time and finally got to their seats huffing and puffing.  The old man took the windows seat. He asked me how many were in our crew. I told him 3 flight attendants and two pilots.  He reached into his bag and then pulled out 5 Chapa Chups lollipops and instructed me to hand them out to the crew.  He acted like he was the most generous man in the world.  Then he took out one more lollipop and handed it to ‘the young man’ who was sitting in the aisle seat. He said: Here. You look like a nice man!

Finally, the old man’s wife was making her way to the seat. Except, she seemed to know a lot of the other passengers onboard. She stopped every few rows to catch up with those people’s news. I heard her say things like: How’s your mother’s hip replacement going? And, how many grandchildren do you have now? Etc. Meanwhile, since she walked as quickly as a snail, there were about 20 passengers behind her and she was oblivious to this!

She finally sat down and saw the sucker in her young seatmate’s hand. (young man was probably around 40 or so). The old lady turned to the guy and said in her best Estelle Costanza voice (Seinfeld-George’s mum): Oh, you got a lollipop too, I see. You big baby! The passenger and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. 

Another time, I had an older couple onboard in business class.  The wife walked in and sat down first. Then the husband got wheeled to the aircraft door and walked to his seat. But,he walked really lopsided. His speech was slurred and he drooled slightly. This couple was probably only in their late 60’s. I figured the man probably had suffered a stroke. I felt really bad for him because of the way he walked and talked,  he appeared mentally challenged.  

At first, I thought his wife was a bit rude because she was very aloof and she didn’t help him do simple tasks that were difficult for him to carry out,  like put on his seatbelt. But, then, I realized that she loved him enough to try to give him his independence.  I am sure when he first became ill, she probably didn’t know how to help him. Perhaps he was stubborn and didn’t want to receive help. The only thing she said to me about him, was to not fill up his coffee too much.

One of the flight attendants noticed that he was wearing an ‘olympics’ ring that they only give to the athletes. Kinda crazy, that, in his youth, he could have been a strong celebrated athlete. And now, in his twilight years, strangers pity him and think of him as an inferior human. It must also be hard for his wife too. Her life, as she knows it, is changed forever too. Can you still love the drooling man the same way you had?

As a nice treat, I had that couple on my flight a week later and brought them home. I would have loved to have had a conversation with the man, but it was too difficult to understand him. But, it was obvious that his wife understood him, in more ways than one.


{February 20, 2013}   Evacuate! Evacuate!

You go through your entire career hoping that you never have to use your emergency training to face the unexpected on an aircraft. Even though we silently think about the inevitable before every take-off and every landing, as per our regulations, so as to mentally prepare ourselves for anything at all to come our way.

Annually,  we attend a flight attendant emergency prep refresher course and practice fighting fires, shouting out our commands and activating the emergency door slides and evacuating the aircraft in 90 seconds.

Some flight attendants fly for 30 plus years and never have anything more serious to deal with on the airplane more than a scraped knee. And that’s the way we like it.

After three years of flying,  I had a real live emergency on my aircraft. This is how it went down.  I was working a flight to Jamaica on a Boeing 767. Flight was full. My jumpseat was in the back of the aircraft. We took off without incident.  Ten minutes later,  the Captain comes over the p.a. and says the code words to let the flight attendants know that there is something wrong on the airplane. 

The in charge flight attendant went into the flight deck to find out what was going on. She got all the necessary information and called us to brief us on the situation.  The captain said that his flight deck indication showed that we had TOO much oil on the gauge and having too much oil on the plane is dangerous and a fire hazard.  We were going to return to the airport and have maintenance look at it.

Right away, we prepared the cabin for imminent landing. The captain said that is was going to be a high alert abnormal landing and NOT an emergency landing. We sat in our jumpseat and silently reviewed all of our emergency procedures ‘just in case’.

We held our breath as the plane landed. Thankfully,  it landed without incident.  The captain had mentioned to us and the passengers that we were going to park away from the airport and that there would be fire trucks and emergency vehicles to check out the airplane just to be on the safe side. 

A minute later, the captain said ‘evacuate, evacuate ‘ on the left side of the airplane. Oh no, that was MY side, I paused for a moment,  and then my training kicked in.  I started my shout out commands and opened my emergency door. I was mesmerized as the slide deployed. It jumped up and out towards the ground. All of a sudden, I was shouting to the passengers to come to my emergency exit and to go down the slide. I also asked them to leave all their luggage behind as it can damage the slide. It was pretty surreal.  My passengers were not rushing to the exit or anything but were casually coming over. Probably because they didn’t really know what the emergency was. Actually,  we didn’t even really know what the emergency was either.  Later, we found out that the fire department saw a fire in our right engine and that’s why we were evacuating. 

We continued evacuating the aircraft while simultaneously grabbing the passengers bags and throwing them in the galley.  One woman froze in fear at the top of the slide. We had to get her to slide down. Finally she did. 

Eventually,  everyone was off, we checked the cabin, grabbed a piece of emergency equipment (I took the megaphone) and we slid down to safety. For those of us wearing the uniform skirt, we found out that going down the fast slide allowed our skirts to pull up to our shoulders. Awkward! Fortunately, there were cute fire fighters at the bottom of the slide to catch us. 

After it was all over, we got debriefed and found out that aside from one woman who twisted her ankle going down the slide, everyone was okay. We got a couple of days off and went on with our careers.

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice. I am hoping that holds true since I already experienced an evacuation early on in my career that I will have no more ‘excitement’ in the years to come.   Fingers crossed. 

{February 19, 2013}   V.I.P.

Lately I have had a few self proclaimed VIPs onboard, which, of course stands for Very Impatient Passengers and NOT Very Important People as they would like to believe. 

There are 3 types of VIPs. First, is the passenger who feels like he should be your number one priority and HIS needs come before anyone else’s. He flies often and knows what to expect, but he wants his newspaper BEFORE  you offer it and he wants his first cocktail BEFORE you get to his row. He’s like an excited 3 year old boy in the body of a business traveller. So, you give him what he wants and hope the other passengers don’t mind that he is monopolizing your time and that he is getting things out of turn.

The second VIP is the newly  pregnant woman who can’t put her luggage in the overhead bins because she is expecting. Throughout the flight, she keeps reminding you that she is with child. For example, when she gets up to use the lavatory for the 5th time… It’s because she is pregnant.  I don’t mind this type of  VIP. It’s kind of cute. But, I chuckle in the galley with the other flight attendants and tell them that when I was pregnant with my second child, I’d be carrying my toddler, my groceries AND the diaper bag up two flight of stairs.  But anyway…I try not to judge because you never know her story. Perhaps she has had a miscarriage in the past or has been trying to get pregnant for 2 years…you never know.

The final  VIP type is the family with the new baby. They bring everything but the kitchen sink onto the plane and make a big fuss and act like they are the first people EVER to travel with a baby. It’s quite hilarious to watch them in action. Both the mum and dad go into the tiny lav to change juniors diaper. So cute! 

The truth is, all these people  don’t have to make a big fuss to become my very important passengers as ALL my passengers are important to me. Especially the ones that bring me chocolates and money. Just kidding…sort of.

{February 15, 2013}   Squirrel Airlines

Flight attendants are hoarders on the aircraft. We are used to the times when we were missing something semi important at 25,000 feet that we needed for our passengers.  Of course, we can’t  just duck into the local 7-11 for the missing item and we don’t like disappointing our passengers.  We are  people pleasers. We like to make them happy. 

So, at the end of the flight, if there are extra napkin/swizel sticks/ a corkscrew/mixed nuts/cute guy etc, we will find a spot to stow it for the next crew to use.  We are, like little squirrels, collecting items for the winter’s hibernation.  There are many cubby holes and hiding spots where we can stow our treasures. We even collect items in our personal suitcases, just in case we run out of decaf coffee on the plane.

We especially love to collect People magazine and other gossip magazines. When you deplane, we sniff it out and raid the seat pockets for our next reading pleasure. This find, however, is rarely shared with the passenger.  But, it gets passed from flight attendant to flight attendant until eventually all is left are ripped pages and a half finished crossword.  But, at least we are up  to date on our Hollywood  news.

Sometimes, when we board our aircraft,  we search the cubbies and find the usual bottles of water and tea bags neatly placed. Other times, it looks like a bad episode of Hoarders or perhaps the flight attendant thought we would crash land on a deserted island and would have to survive for an indefinite amount of time with the collected supplies. And other times, there is a nice surprise waiting for us, like a granola bar from the previous crew snacks that they chose not to eat. Hooray!

Once, I went to distribute custom cards to the passengers.  To my horror, the cards were missing. Passengers don’t like that! I instructed the flight attendants to scour the airplane and look for custom cards because that is something we squirrel away too. We checked every cubby, closet, overhead bins and seat pocket. There was not one custom card to be had. Shocking, I know! Even the flight attendants didn’t have any in their bags. I had to make an announcement to the passengers that we would not be distributing custom cards as they were not boarded.

However, I had a nagging feeling that I HAD seen them at the beginning of the flight but I had searched EVERYWHERE to no avail. Perhaps I had seen them on my LAST flight.  

After everyone had deplaned, I was tidying up and found the custom cards! Apparently I had removed them from the plane’s satchel and placed them temporarily on 1D seat. When passengers came on board, the passenger at 1F had thrown her pillow and blanket on 1D seat, hence covering the cards effectively for 5 hours. Seat 1D remained empty.  I felt bad. Oops….I was a bad squirrel that day.


{February 14, 2013}   Love is in the Air

Happy Valentine’s Day! I can smell it in the air!

I was working a flight recently to the most boring place in Canada.  And lucky for me as I had a layover there. On this particular flight, we were minus one Captain to operate the plane. But, not to worry as we had one on reserve who was going to rush over to our plane after he landed his plane. 

We boarded all the passengers in anticipation of his arrival. We made the obligatory announcements that as soon as the captain arrived, we’d be on our way. Twenty minutes later, he arrived.  Things were looking up.  He gave me a quick safety briefing and we were ready to go. We were about to close the aircraft door, when a flight attendant in uniform comes rushing on saying she has a last minute deadhead. Deadheading is when crew scheduling positions a crew member to operate another flight after this one. So, technically they are not working, so they take a passenger seat and do as they wish on the plane.

We proceeded to  take off and we were off to the most boring place in Canada. About an hour after take-off, the Captain comes out of the flight deck and we start chatting for a few minutes.  We exchange stories and he tells me about his wife and 3 kids.  Then he asks whether that flight attendant got on the flight.  I tell him yes and where she is sitting. He says that he will go and say hi. He walks to coach class, plops down next to her and chats away for 10 minutes.  It’s weird to see the captain of the airplane sitting in the back chatting to a passenger when the aircraft is in-flight. But, there he was. Not to worry…it really only takes one pilot to ‘fly’ the aircraft when it is in cruise.

He heads backs to the flight deck for the remainder of the flight. Meanwhile, the deadheading flight attendant comes to the front to use the lavatory.  I say to her: It’s weird.  Our passenger list shows that you are flying stand-by on a personal flight pass and not deadheading on company business. She smiles and says: I am a terrible liar…I am with the captain.

Note that he was in his early 40’s and she was a new flight attendant in her early 20’s. There was so much I wanted to say…but I said nothing.

She went back to her seat and I thought about the pilot’s poor wife at home looking after the 3 children while he invites ‘the flavour of the month’ on a layover to the most boring place in Canada. I doubt they were going to sightsee… I also thought she was an idiot for getting involved with a married man and if she thought that she was special, and that what they had was going to last, then she had a lot to learn!

Once we landed, she came on the crew bus to the hotel.  The captain’s cover story was that she lived in that city and was just catching a ride with us and then she was going to walk home. Not sure anybody bought it. We checked into our rooms while she scurried around the outside of the hotel. When she thought the coast was clear, she joined Captain Dickhead and off they went to their room.

I wasn’t flying with him the next morning, so I did not see him again until just a few days ago. He was commuting on my flight back home. He didn’t recognize me. I remembered him though because he was joined at the hip to a different young flight attendant whom he chatted up the whole flight. What a surprise! I wonder who he will be spending Valentines with tonight?  Decisions, decisions!

{February 13, 2013}   Deja Vu

In my line of work, it’s rare to fly with the same flight attendants and pilots all the time. You can imagine that it is even more rare to see the same passengers.  It’s pretty cool to recognize one and for them to remember you too.

I had an uber rich couple onboard who were nice enough. The flight attendant I was working with was too curious and wanted to know if they were ‘somebodies’ so she googled them. Sure enough,  they were indeed known around town (the area with money). About a month later, the woman was on my flight again.  I recognized her right away.  It was hard not to. She is tall, bottle blond, perfect body, big (fake) boobs, botox and oozing with bling. She also does not eat airplane food (smart woman). I mentioned to her that I remembered her and she said she remembered me too! Hooray!

No kidding. Three days later, I was flying the same route and I noticed a teenager with the same last name as my woman passenger.  Sure enough,  it was her son! What are the odds! How fun! Seriously, I have seen this family more than I have seen my own lately!  


{February 12, 2013}   I swear, it’s true.

Flying could be a stressful event for just about anybody.  Now, imagine a family with a 3 year old boy and twin 6 month old girls. Shoot me now! 

I had THAT family onboard the other day. The mum was freaking out as she boarded the aircraft about how she was waiting in line to check in for the flight for over 2 hours and the family did not even get seats together (by the way…you can’t always believe everything passengers say…they lie or exaggerate). I told her not to worry and that I would make sure they all sat together.  You know, kill them with kindness. 

Meanwhile, she is ranting and raving loudly all the way to her seat. Oh yeah. She is also swearing like a sailor. Fuck this and Fuck that.

To make matters worse, the gate agent comes rushing onto the aircraft saying that he forgot to get one of the twin girl’s information and needs the baby’s passport.  He asks the mum for it and she starts freaking out again and cussing. The gate agent tells her to calm down and that sets her off again. He left the airplane  to process the passport info.  Suddenly,  one of my flight attendants comes rushing towards me telling me about this mum  passenger who is disturbing all the other people onboard and that I need to deal with her.

I rush over to her and try to calm her down.  I tell her not to worry about the passport as I WILL NOT close the aircraft door until she has that passport. Then I tell her to please watch her language as there are a lot of children onboard. Which, of course is ironic, because SHE has 3 children sitting with her! 

In the end, the stress head calmed down. But, if this is how she acts and talks in public,  could you imagine how she behaves in her own home? Even her husband and little boy seemed to be afraid of her. I try not to judge people based on one incident,  but it’s pretty hard not to in this instance.  I hope her holiday was more relaxing than her flight home. 

et cetera