{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.


{March 8, 2013}   That’s not a knife!

You’ve probably heard by now that the TSA will be loosening their rules on what people can and can’t bring on board the aircraft in  the USA. Starting in April,  passengers will be able to bring on some sports equipments and pen knives. 

Not sure that I am thrilled with that decision.  For twelve years now, since 9/11, people have not been allowed to bring knives onto the aircraft.  In fact,  for a while, we didn’t even have metal knives in business class either…we had plastic ones.  We all know how dull those airplane metal knives are!

Passengers adjusted to not having their pocket knives on their person at all times when they flew.  They accepted their new reality.

Soon, the general public will be able to keep their knives. Why do they need sharp objects with them anyway?  Why can’t we just leave it the way it is? I know a lot of people are uncomfortable the reintroduction of knives onboard again.  Myself included.  Don’t forget that the hijackers on the airplanes on 9/11 primarily used knives to kill people and bring the planes’ down.

I do believe things are different now. I don’t think we could ever have another 9/11 because if it was ever tried again,  passengers would take it upon themselves to attack the bad guys. They would be reminded about worse case scenario and would fight until the bitter end. 

Truth is, with or without knives on the plane, there are a lot of other ‘weapons’ already in and around the plane.  Oxygen bottles and fire extinguishers to name two. But, it would be a lot trickier to get up from your seat, go to where the emergency equipment is kept, remove it without being noticed and attacking a flight attendant vs swiftly getting up from your seat with your 6 cm blade and attacking me, the flight attendant.

You know what I am saying?

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.

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.

{January 29, 2013}   Transition time

Flight attendants are a unique breed.  We kind of do speed dating when we first board the airplane with our colleagues but we call it speed talking. We usually fly with different people all the time. So, we are always introducing ourselves. It goes something like this: Hi! I am Jane. Nice to meet you. What’s new with you? Me?  I had a threesome with my boyfriend and a prostitute last night.  Okay… Maybe not exactly,  but close!

We do share personal information with our co-workers pretty quickly. It’s a weird concept to grasp but I think I figured out why. Firstly,  we go to work and leave our family and friends behind for an extended period of time.  We can’t just send a quick text of make a call. So, our fellow flight attendants become our family and friends for a few days.  Secondly, we unplug from our technology  as soon as we come to work. We can’t escape into cyberspace. We have to dust off our underused communication skills and get reacquainted with the art of conversation…until we land at our destination and we can finally  get lost in our smart phones and Facebook  again. And if you don’t buy either of those two reasons, then maybe it’s because we work in a pressurized airplane tube and we are deprived of oxygen. Anyhoo…

Last week,  I was flying with a lovely flight attendant  and we were talking about our kids. Pretty basic stuff. Then, bang out  of nowhere, she casually reveals that her ex-husband is transitioning into a woman and it’s hard on her sons. Wow. Okay. I mean, what do you say to that? I’ve only known her for like one hour. Um …thanks for sharing! Tell your ex to have a nice sex change. See you later!


et cetera