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Tag: flight attendants

The Call

Every member of the airline industry has had to deal with crew scheduling many, many times during their career. They generally get a bad rep for simply doing their job. Now that I’m removed from it I can see it. Not that there weren’t those that were completely uncooperative and rude but that’s also probably from dealing with 2,000 pissed off flight attendants every day. I tried to be nice and cooperative. After all, they controlled my fate all but 11 days of every month. I wanted them on my side. Most of them fade into the background as general crew desk but there were two that stood out. One who I loved, and one who made me want to grind my teeth in hatred.

As a flight attendant it was very hard for me to regulate my sleep schedule. One day I could be on a 5am flight across the country, be expected to sleep all day and then work the red eye home later that night. The next I could be on a plane to Europe and the next on an afternoon flight somewhere. You never could tell. This translated to my sleep schedule being seriously whacked out and staying up half or all night most nights. All the while dreading the call.

The worst was when crew scheduling would call me for a early morning check in in the middle of the night and I was still up. Sally always worked the middle of the night shift and for that I hated her. I’m sure she’s a perfectly wonderful person but since she never gave me good news (ie. a late check-in to somewhere exotic) I got all stabby whenever it was Sally on the other end of the phone.

The conversation usually went something like this.

*crew desk ring tone* (to this day I cringe whenever I hear that tone)

Me- ::siiiiigh:: Hello?

Sally- Hi this is Sally from the crew desk calling for Abigail. Sorry to wake you.

Me- ::in my most sullen voice:: This is her

Sally- I have an id for you. Let me know when you’re ready to write it down.

Usually by this point I was already on my computer looking at the craptastic trip she was assigning me.

Me- I’m ready.

Sally- ID blah blah blah, checking in at ridiculously-early-o’clock, to Somewhere Incredibly Dull.

Me- Ok ::through gritted teeth:: thank you.

The part of that conversation that irked me the most was the sorry to wake you. Generally she wasn’t waking me anyway. I want to think she probably knew that. In my head she took a very sick pleasure in interrupting my sleep to give me a trip that she knew I’d hate. She loved giving out the awful trips. Looking back I realize I might have been a little bit crazy thinking that and she probably was trying to be nice. She also probably hated staying up all night long giving out trips that flight attendants were less than nice about accepting. Poor Sally.

Matt at the crew desk, on the other hand, was my favorite. For the same reasons I hated Sally, I loved Matt. He worked the day shift and always gave me the best trips. Everything from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Narita, Japan to Rome, Italy. You could almost hear the giddiness in his voice when he was assigning those trips. Matt is lucky it’s not possible to jump through the phone because there were multiple occasions I wanted to kiss him right on the lips (Sorry, Joel). Actually Matt assigned me my very last trip out of DC before I transferred to Chicago.

That conversation went something like this:

*Crew Desk ring tone*

Me- ::siiiigh::Hello?

Matt- Hi, this is Matt from the Crew Desk calling for Abigail.

Me- Oh, hi Matt! How are you?

Matt- Just fine. I have an ID for you when you’re ready.

Me- I’m ready.

Matt- (totally stalling for added suspense) By the way I see you’ve had quite the month here so far. First Brussels, then Zurich and now… ID blah blah blah, checking in at some-nice-time-in-the-evening-o’clock to…. Rome!

Me- AH! Are you serious?! I’ve wanted to go there so badly!

Matt- Good! I decided to give you all the best trips this month so you kick yourself for transferring to Chicago.

(Chicago in my airline? Not so much known for awesome trips)

Me- Har, har…

Matt- Well have a great trip.

Do you see why I loved Matt?! I mean, night and day. Literally. Poor Sally really got the short end of the stick and probably became all mean and sadistic as a result of getting bitched out for the hundredth time for a trip she had to give. People aren’t usually their best at 3am when you’re telling them they have to be at work in a few hours to go somewhere they’d rather not go.

Once I transferred to Chicago I didn’t hear from Sally or Matt on a regular basis anymore. I bid a different kind of reserve where I was assigned my trips via computer the night before. I don’t miss talking to anyone at the crew desk really. When I’m assigned a crappy trip I like to have time to seethe and sulk without pretending to be nice to anyone. (I’m not proud of that. It’s just how it is, OK?! Don’t judge me) I did have to talk to Sally once but I don’t think she remembered me. I’m ok with that. I probably wasn’t ever very nice to her anyway.

**Names have been changed. Also? No hard feelings, Sally.**

Late to work, flight attendant style

I have not done this. At least not this exactly. I have come pretty darn close though because, let’s face it, those 20 extra minutes of sleep? Are totally worth it.

Dorothy can keep Kansas

Ugh, today was another fun filled* day of standby. We woke up at 3am so we could catch a bus to Denver airport. Our flight didn’t actually leave until 8:15 but since it was a Sunday the bus options were very early or too late. We had breakfast and hung around the airport for the better part of three hours. We got on our first flight no problem and slept like rocks the whole time. Unfortunately, that was where our non-rev luck ran out.

All the direct flights from Denver to Chicago looked impossible. Any major city I could think of was equally overbooked. The most open flight was to Kansas City (MCI). That also seemed like a good option because my mom happened to be at a conference in Kansas City so we planned to meet up and fly home together. The flights were a couple people oversold but with a little luck it could have been a quick, easy day. Ha.

Flight after flight went out completely full with a list of standbys left sitting at the gate. Almost all the standbys were paying customers who were trying to get where they were going sooner. For obvious reasons they get priority over employees. While I understand the how and why it was frustrating to watch people walk up and immediately get handed a seat while I was left behind. To be fair, there were some paying customers that didn’t even make it on and they were just as discouraged.

I really think it wouldn’t have been as bad if we hadn’t been at MCI. That airport is ridiculous. There isn’t one security check point like at most airports. At MCI each group of three or four gates has their own enclosed area with individual security. The only thing on the gate side are chairs, restrooms and a little concession stand. Not even a drinking fountain. If you’re hungry or thirsty you’re forced to purchase insanely high priced food and drink. I’m talking $8 for a small, mediocre sandwich or $2.50 for a 20oz bottle of water or pop. There are restaurants on the other side of security but no liquids over 3oz are allowed back in the gate area.

This is what I liked to call the zoo.

There was one poor lady with several rowdy kids. She freaked out on the CSR because there was no way for her to get a cold glass of water without dragging her kids and loads of thing back through security. Not easy to do for anyone much less a lady with screaming kids. In the end I think she was forced to exit because TSA rules are what they are, CSRs can’t break them any more than passenger can.

I wish I could have just stretched out across several chairs and taken a nap but that wasn’t possible because of the armrests.

The skinniest of persons couldn’t fit under those. Just plain cruel.

We ended up spending a grand total of 9 hours in that itty bitty little airport. Finally, we were called for the very last flight of the day. I’ve never been so happy to get a boarding card in my life. The flight was so quick it was almost a joke. Up and down in just about an hour. We literally could have driven home in the time we waited. I love my travel benefits but I’m probably going to think really hard before I go anywhere any time soon unless the flights are wide open. We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto and boy am I glad.

*and by fun filled I mean exhausting

On being a flight attendant: the best and the worst

I was asked by High Flyer on Twitter what the best and worst things about my job are. Since there’s no way to fit that into the 140 character limit I thought I’d list my personal best and worst here. If you’re considering applying as a flight attendant take note.

Best:

1. Getting paid to travel the world

I am lucky enough to work for a major airline. This has meant being able to explore various major (and not so major) cities all over the USA during my layovers. Not only have I been able to explore the good ol’ USA but I’ve also been lucky enough to have been sent on many international trips. During my two years flying I got layovers in 13 different international destinations, some of them several times. I can’t tell you how many times, while lying on some exotic beach or standing in front of some major landmark, I’ve thought “I just can’t believe someone is paying me to be somewhere so amazing”. It’s really incredible.

2. The travel benefits

In addition to my assigned trips I have been able to take numerous amazing trips in my time off. Joel and I spent our anniversary in Buenos Aires, we traveled to Sydney Australia for a major motion picture world premiere, we went to The Netherlands to visit my former host family… I could go on and on. On my own I’ve flown to dozens of other destinations, often in first or business class. I could never afford to pay full fare for a first class seat normally. This job has allowed me to travel the world like a rock star, without all the annoying paparazzi.

3. Meeting new people

I have met so many fascinating people. I’ve made good friends during training, worked with some fantastic crews and met some incredibly interesting passengers.

4. Flexible schedules

I have 11 guaranteed days off every month. Even that is more than most people working a 9 to 5. In addition to that I am almost never used on all my days on call. Plus, I have the option of getting a schedule with several days off in a row. I’ve had up to two weeks off at a time and that isn’t even when I had vacation. How many jobs allow you to do that?

5. Lots of down time

Being on reserve means I work flights when other flight attendants call in sick, misconnect or can’t work the flight because of contract legalities. Some days, even though I’m on call, they simply don’t need me to cover any flights so I get a bonus day off. This sometimes happens several days in a row. Also, every time I get to my layover hotel it’s my free time to do whatever I want. Whether that means exploring the city I’m in, laying out at the pool or the beach, getting something to eat, reading a book or just sleeping for a long, long time.

6. Pride in my work

I am so proud to be a flight attendant. Only 1% of those who applied to work for my airline were hired. I completed 7 weeks of flight attendant training even though not everyone who began training completed it. I’m responsible for the lives of all the passengers on whatever plane I’m working on. My job is generally thought of as glamorous. While glamorous is not always the word I’d use to describe my job, I’m always proud to tell people that I’m a flight attendant.

7. A “fast pass” through security

Because our job often requires us to get to our flight quickly, most airports have a dedicated employee line. We’re allowed to use those lines even when we’re off duty. We still have to follow the same rules as everybody but it’s nice to be able to go to the front of line. Now that I’m on furlough and had to turn in my badge I really miss my “VIP” status in the security line.

8. Did I mention the travel benefits?

Because yeah, they’re awesome.

Worst:

1. Irregular schedule

We have to bid for our schedules every month. They are assigned based on seniority. I’ve only been an employee for about two years so that puts me at the bottom of the barrel. Sometimes I get the days off I need in a month and sometimes I don’t. I never really know and that can be frustrating.

2. Weird sleeping and eating patterns

I could work a red-eye one day and a mid day flight the next. One day I could be in Des Moines Iowa and the next I could be on a 14 hour flight to Tokyo. Sometimes I get a long layover and have plenty of time to sleep and other times I barely have six hours at a hotel. I just never know. There are also times when I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to get my next meal. When I’m on a plane there may or may not be food. Also, I might get to my layover hotel after all the local restaurants are closed. There are times when I have to force myself to eat when I’m not hungry simply because I have no idea when I’ll get another chance. It’s not the healthiest way to live.

3. Missing major events and holidays

Only the most senior flight attendants get their first choice when it comes to getting holidays off. Sometimes I get to be with my family and sometimes I’m at an airport hotel alone. I’ve missed many birthdays, sports games and special events. Bidding for my schedule is always stressful when I have something important coming up.

4. Lots of down time

I know I listed this as one of the benefits but it can also be a pain. You have to be really creative to make a long Oklahoma City layover interesting (no offense to any Okies out there). Also, when the weather is good and not many people are calling in sick it’s really hard not to feel useless sitting at home for days on end waiting for a call. You can’t really make plans because you could get a call so you just sit. Because inevitably when you do make plans with someone that’s when you get the call and have to cancel.

5. Mistreatment

I’ve had my share of difficult passengers. I can deal with someone who’s frustrated or angry. The worst is when it’s my own company. I watch the executives make muti-million dollar a year salaries and take huge bonuses while we’re not even making enough to live on. On top of that it seems like at every opportunity the crew schedulers try to bend or even outright break the contract rules. It’s frustrating to have to have to be on the defensive and feel like you have to fight for your rights with someone who should be on your side.

6. Crappy pay

I don’t care what you’ve heard, most flight attendants aren’t well paid. The very most senior flight attendants get paid fairly decently but even they are making up to 40% less than they were before 9/11. Their pensions were lost and hours were cut. If I wasn’t married, at my salary I qualify for food stamps and other government assistant programs.

Being a flight attendant is really hard work. It’s exhausting, frustrating and extremely rewarding. It’s not a job for everyone. While there are certain things I’d fix I believe the good definitely outweighs the bad and I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s my dream job and I feel so lucky to be able to say that I’m a flight attendant.

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