flightmum











{July 8, 2013}   Asiana flight 214

Typically,  when there is a plane crash, two observations come to play. One: People point their fingers at the pilots and scream: Pilot Error. Second,  the heroic acts of the flight attendants get all but forgotten. 

In this most recent accident,  many media outlets are talking about the fire fighters and the emergency response teams as the true heroes of this tragedy. The flight attendants, once again, have all but been forgotten. 

The flight attendants are just as much heroes as the other first responders. The flight attendants were the ones to shout their bracing commands to the passengers as the aircraft was about to crash land. They were the ones to assess the outside conditions,  open their emergency exits and pull the inflation handles. The flight attendants were the ones to command the passengers to release their seat belt and evacuate the aircraft.  Many passengers ‘freeze’ after a crash and they need the authoritative voice of the flight attendants to command them on what to do: Come this way. Cross your arms. Jump and Slide. 

Flight attendants, like myself, spend six intense weeks of training before we earn our ‘wings’. We need to earn 90% on our tests to pass initial training. Many intelligent people don’t make it. We learn about the ins and outs of each aircraft type. We become experts on fire fighting,  disruptive passengers, first aid procedures and evacuating an  aircraft in under two minutes.

We learn to check for danger and  then open our emergency doors that we had previously armed. We can jump into action in a planned or an unplanned emergency.  We learn how to survive in a deserted area or on a lifeboat. We take charge during a depressurization or an aborted landing. 

During each take-off and landing, we silently review all of our emergency procedures so as to be ready for any catastrophe. 

Every year, we attend a recurrent training about our emergency procedures to keep up to date with our procedures.

We are hired to save lives. Everything else, including your diet Coke and bag of peanuts, is just a bonus to you, the first passenger.

Bravo to the flight attendants of Asiana, flight 214. You did your job and saved lives. You make us proud. True heroes.



{June 10, 2013}   Twins

A passenger boards the aircraft and asks when will we be landing because he has a tight connection.  I reply that we should be on time. He starts explaining how he HAS TO make his connecting flight. Meanwhile,  as he is explaining his predicament,  he is holding up the boarding process; risking delaying the flight!

After we finish boarding,  I seek out this passenger and he tells me that his connecting flight leaves exactly five minutes after we land. I give him a ‘You gotta be kidding!’ look. He tells me that he is a police officer and he was supposed to be on the earlier flight that would have given him plenty of time to make his connecting flight. Normally he could check-in his service revolver at the check-in counter, but this time, they made him go to the special services counter which made him miss his flight.  I sympathized with him and told him I’d look into his next flight after take-off…perhaps it was delayed.

I asked the pilots about the guy’s  flight and then I went to inform the passenger that unfortunately, his flight was on time and he would misconnect.  Also, since it was eleven o’clock at night, there wouldn’t be any more flights tonight and he’d have to overnight.  He asked me what I would do in his shoes. He said that his wife had called and told him she was in labour with their twins and on the way to the hospital. He NEEDS to get home as soon as possible. I told him that that changed everything and I’d go speak to the pilots again. 

I called the guys up front and said,” Do you want to be a hero tonight?”. I quickly explained them the story and they told me that they would do everything in their power to try and hold the other flight to wait for that passenger.

I envisioned being in the newspaper in the feel good section. Perhaps the passenger would name his son Jett. Boy, do I LOVE a happy ending!

I have to admit that the thought did cross my mind that the passenger was full of shit and making up the ‘pregnant wife’ story to better his chance of making the flight. I mean, why did he wait until our third interaction to bring it up? But, I decided that I’d believe him for now.

I moved his seat to the front of the aircraft so he could be the first person to deplane…just in case it all worked out.

After we landed and while we were taxiing, the captain called me to tell me that unfortunately the other aircraft pushed from the gate five minutes early. Since, it was not us, but our feeder airline, there was nothing they could do. 

I reluctantly gave my passenger the bad news while trying to suss out if he was telling the truth or not. I asked him a few pertinent questions about his situation. He seemed to say the right things.  He said that he was going to rent a car, drive the four hours and hope for the best. At least he didn’t have to worry about getting a speeding ticket, chuckled Mr. Police Officer.

I’ll never know what happened or whether he was telling the truth. I’d like to think that he made it to the birthing room in the nick of time… 

 

 

 



{May 24, 2013}   Turbulent Times.

Nobody actually likes turbulence when they fly. It’s downright annoying. Uncomfortable, yes. Dangerous, no. An airplane does not just fall out of the sky due to the Harlem shakes. Aircrafts are designed to withstand bumps with their ingenious flexible wings that ‘flap’ in the wind.

Even though I have flown in hundreds of hours of turbulence,  I do not pretend to be an expert in that topic. I still don’t REALLY get it.  But, I’ll give it a shot and explain what causes turbulence to the best of my abilities.

Turbulence in the air is like driving on a bumpy pot-holed road. When you are flying in the sky and you hit ‘an air pocket’, you are experiencing irregular fluctuations in the air. Technically speaking,  air flows like a horizontal snaking river that is referred to as a jet stream. When the edge of the jet stream interacts with slower moving air, you get turbulence.  Hey, presto.

Even though pilots can’t see turbulence, they can avoid it by relying on ride reports from other pilots that flew the same path moments before. It is always rush hour up in the sky, so there is a lot of information to share amongst pilots and air traffic control!

Pilots are trained to handle turbulence and any other mishap thrown their way, so don’t worry.  Keep your seatbelt fastened and you’ll be fine. I trust the pilots. You should too.

I have had many fearful passengers over the years. Some drink  alcohol or take ‘something’. Others just cower and suffer through it.

I used to be able to take scared flyers into the flight deck so that they could see the pilots in action and ask them a ton of questions.  That used to help. But, after 9/11, that practice stopped.

I had a woman so frightened once, she wouldn’t let go of my hand. Fortunately, I had a deadheading pilot in uniform that was nice enough to talk to her and calm her down a little.

Then, there was the woman that looked me straight in the eyes when we were flying through turbulence and shrieked: What’s going on?There is something you’re not telling me! 

Fear of flying, is an irrational fear, just like fear of spiders (unless you live in a country like Australia, where they have the most deadliest arachnids). So, you can’t reason with these types of passegers because they are so frightened and cannot think logically about the situation.

The most fearful flyers appear to be female, unless the men are better at hiding it. The fear of flying crowd tend to have controlling ‘type A’ personalities. They probably would not be afraid if THEY were licensed to fly the aircraft. At least they’d be in charge. But, I do sympathize with them.

Of course, it goes without saying that, statistically speaking, it is safer to fly in an airplane than  drive your car to work. 

Like I said, irrational fear.



{April 8, 2013}   Freedom Flight

As a mum, it goes without saying that my kids (especially when they were young), preferred me to do things for them or sit next to them. As opposed to their father.  My younger kids constantly fought over who got to sit next to mum at dinner time. When they woke up in the morning, they’d crowd me in bed while my husband had half the bed to himself. I’d tend to have two children sandwiched around me and one child with the coveted position of lying ON me. Their dad is a good sport about all this. He knows the kids love him immensely.

I don’t know if the kids gravitate towards me because of the mother/child bond OR because of the irregular hours I work. They never know when I will be available to kiss them good morning or tuck them in at night. Their dad always had more regular hours.

Anyway, no complaints.  I am very lucky. 

Many years ago,  my husband and I and our two boys were trying to fly home on standby. (Our daughter was just a figment of our imagination). The passenger agents called our name but said she only had 2 seats available and did we want to take them? We only needed 3 seats as our youngest was 18 months and would have been lap held. I asked if I could sit in the flight deck and she replied with an affirmative. My husband and I discussed the different options.  Basically,  we could pass on the seats and wait half the day in the airport for the next flight.  Or, I could sit in the flight deck while my sweetie sat with our 3 year old and a laptop held 18 month old for a five hour flight. It was a no-brainer. Ha ha.

We decided to go for it and boarded the aircraft. There were some tears as I headed left towards the cockpit and the kids and husband went right towards their seats. My husband gave me a brave smile and off they went.

I strapped myself into the jumpseat and waited for take-off. Once airborne,  I explained to the pilots that my husband and young sons were stuck in the back, while I got to have adult conversation.  We all had a good chuckle. All of a sudden,  I had a drink and a newspaper in my hands. It was a very relaxing and carefree flight…one I wouldn’t have had in the back of the aircraft with two little boys vying for my attention. It was a shame about being separated…but that is the sacrifice I made for my family that day. You’re welcome.



I recently watched the movie Flight with Denzel Washington.  I love any movie/tv show/book about flight attendants or that takes place on a plane. I am not quite an aviation geek but perhaps a distant cousin.

Without going into too much detail for those who did not yet see the film, the Captain (Denzel) is an alcoholic captain and crashes the plane. Don’t worry.  This all happens in the first 20 minutes of the movie. There is still plenty of story to watch.

Firstly, in the film, it shows the captain naked in bed with a hot flight attendant (my double) and they had been up to no good all night drinking, having sex and doing lines of cocaine. In reality, the sexy flight attendant wouldn’t have slept with the captain…he’s just not hot enough. If all night drinking and cocaine parties are happening in real life between pilots and flight attendants, then I am not getting the right layover!

There is a rule that we can not drink alcohol 12 hours before departure.  It is generally a well respected rule. Also, we can randomly getdrug tested at any time on duty, so I have never see anyone partake in illegal drugs. But, I suppose if one of us was an alcoholic,  perhaps there could be some drunks working on the plane. But, I believe that if a pilot was going to drink all night, he would have done it in private so nobody else on the crew knew.

Next part of the story line, Denzel walks into the cockpit and the first officer suspects he is drunk.  He also refers to him as ‘Sir’. In real life, they call each other by their first names and I would like to think that the f.o. would have walked off the plane the moment he suspected that the captain was not fit to fly.

During the beginning of the  flight, the plane encounters severe turbulence.  I personally have only ever experienced light or moderate chop. Severe is HARD CORE! In real life,  99% of the time, the turbulence is known ahead of time, reported by previous airplanes flying at that altitude. In that case, the flight plan would have been modified to go around that ‘weather’. Regardless,  I am happy to report that, at my airline, the communication between the pilots and the flight attendants would have been far superior. 
During that awful turbulence,  as a flight attendant, I’d strap myself into my jumpseat and not get up again until it was safe for me to do so. In the movie, an overhead bin pops open, and you see the flight attendant from the back of the aircraft walking/being thrown around to try to close that bin. She never makes it back to her seat.

Another scene,  shows the plane go upside down (ya okay, whatever. According to my pilot I flew with today, it is impossible to fly the plane upside down and then invert it just before a crash landing), and a little boy falls out of his seat. The flight attendant in the front of the aircraft crawls on her hands and knees on the ceiling  to get to him. She also never makes it back to her jumpseat and emergency door. I will tell you why I wouldn’t have done that. My job, in case of a crash landing,  is to open my emergency exit, and evacuate as many passengers as possible. I have to be there for the greater good of all the passengers vs just one. So, it was a pretty stupid move on her part.

Then, when the plane loses its ability to fly properly, the captain calls the in charge flight attendant to help land the plane by pushing on the throttle.  As much as it would be fun to help land the plane in real life, the two pilots in the flight deck are (usually) fully capable to do their job without a third set of hands.  I guess, that is Hollywood for you. 

Recently an acquaintance told me he saw the movie and asked if I’d get out of my seat and save him, like the little boy. I told him no but I’d save his ass later when I was alive to evacuate the aircraft. He didn’t seem to like my answer. Oh well.

All in all, I liked the movie. 

The next morning, I went to work and do you think I was scared at all on the flight?  Well, no, of course not. But, I did check the pilots pupils to make sure they weren’t dilated…just in case.



{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! 

 Buh-Bye!

 



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 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!



et cetera