{September 19, 2013}   The Forever Flight

Rain storms cause as much havoc to the aviation world as snow storms do.  If there is any lightning activity or the threat of impending lightning strikes,  then, boom, there is a red alert. Basically,  that means that the airport is temporarily  shut down. No outside activity whatsoever. The ramp personnel or ground staff have to stay indoors due to the risk of a lightning strike. It is too dangerous to be outside near all those metallic planes.

Without the ramp guys (ramp rats), planes cannot be marshalled into the gate area to be parked. Nor can they be towed the away towards the runway.  Ditto for loading and unloading passenger’ checked baggage. 

The worse is when you look outside and it appears to be a beautiful day but we have to announce to the passengers that we are delayed to weather and there’s a red alert/work stoppage because the threat of lightning is within a 50 mile radius. The passengers grumble and form their own conclusions that those ramp slackers are really just on a coffee break.  Not true! Well, usually not true…

On one of those fateful nights in July, the weather was not cooperating.  We managed to depart to New York before the skies got nasty, but coming back was going to be a whole other story.  On arrival into NY, we found out that all flights out of The Big Apple were canceled or delayed. 

We managed to get all our passengers onboard and then we waited at the gate as our arrival airport was presently thunder struck. Actually,  there were two planes trying to make the same 1 hour journey back to homebase. Ours and theirs. Our flight was just a little late and their flight was super duper late. But, they managed to push back from their gate a few minutes before ours. They taxied towards the runway.  We had started taxiing but parked off to the side of the airport to free up our gate. Then we waited and waited and waited some more. Two hours and forty-five minutes later, the captain announced that while we had  waited with the engines running,  we burned too much fuel to make the trip, so now we had to go back to the gate to refuel. Grumble. Grumble.

Of course,  as soon as we got there,  everyone powered up their cell phones,  tablets and laptops and discovered that the other airplane that had pushed back just before us, had already  landed at their destination over an hour ago. And WE were still stuck in New York in this metal flying tube. Well, that didn’t go over very well.  The shit hit the fan. They wanted answers and fast! The conspiracy theories were rampid.

I marched into the flight deck to see if I could get some info and diffuse the situation. 

I chatted with the first officer for several minutes. He explained to me that the other aircraft had gotten permission just after they had pushed back from the gate to fly low at 10,000 feet so that they could go below all the thunder and lightning storms. When the plane flies at a low altitude,  the plane flies slower and burns a lot more fuel.  But, since we always get extra fuel onboard,  it wasn’t an issue for them,  so off they went.

Meanwhile,  we were offered the same deal,  forty-five minutes later.  But, by then,  we had burned our extra fuel and wouldn’t have been able to make the flight all the way to the arrival airport at that lower altitude.

The captain disappeared into the terminal building to get a new flight plan and we offered passengers all the pretzels they could eat. And water too. Yum!

I heard stories from my passengers saying that they were “supposed to be on the other flight” but transferred onto this one because it was supposed to land earlier.  Well, me too. My crew and I were supposed to have operated the other flight but we were assigned this one instead due to our tardiness into New York.  Drats!

Finally,  four hours after we has initially pushed back from the gate,  we took off, enroute to our final destination.  Truthfully,  by then, the bad weather had subsided,  and the flight wasn’t too bumpy.  We were able to fly at a higher altitude and faster too. We finally landed at 2:00 AM . Us flight attendants were tired as we had just completed a 16 & a half duty day. 

Our passengers,  of course, we’re classy and thanked us for getting them home safely. 


{June 15, 2013}   Zombie Passengers

In this day and age, there are very few places that you come across that forces you to be unplugged.  “Do you have Wi-Fi on this aircraft?”, they always ask. The answer is NO.

So, people get on board and mentally try to prepare themselves  to be wireless for the next few hours.  But, it does not stop people from typing away e-mails on their BlackBerry or IPad so they can send them as soon as we land.

The flight passes uneventfully. But, as soon as we touch down safely on the ground, I make the obligatory safety announcements and then inform people that they can now use their cell phones. But, they do not hear me because they have already powered on without my blessing.

I look upon the sea of passengers in my cabin and they all look like they are sleeping. I look more carefully and see that their eyes are not closed but open ever so slightly, looking down at their mobile device. At first glance,  it looks like not a muscle is moving.  But then I zone in on their little thumbs moving a mile a minute typing away their ever important texts and emails. The cell phone zombies have awoken.

Looking into the zombie faces of the ‘phoners’ on the aircraft, reminds me of a Stephen King book called ‘Cell’ that I read many years ago about a mysterious signal that passes over the cell phone network and turns everyone into mindless zombie-like killers. In the book, there is a scene where all the phoners lie down in a soccer field at night and ‘switch off’ until morning while listening to weird music.  The next day,  they forage for food and kill whatever non-phoners they encounter. 

I think the phoners have won the battle. I rarely encounter non-phoners anymore while the plane is taxiing to the airport. The plane is filled with my zombie passengers who are at last reunited with their 3G network. 

et cetera