Archive for December, 2009

Honored

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 30 December, 2009 by Thomas

I’m working a flight to FAY, and it’s still dark outside.  I’m tired, and I don’t really want to be here right now or going to this place.  This flight is too short to perform a beverage service so I just stand there for 20 minutes like an idiot and the flight feels much longer than it really is.  Thankfully we don’t have many passengers; we’re maybe only half full.

As passengers are boarding one lady asks if she and the people traveling with her can get off first.  The first thing to pop in my mind is something along the lines of Who does this broad think she is?  You can get off  when it’s your turn. But then a friend of hers explains that she and he and the other people with them are Air Force personnel who have just arrived back home from Afghanistan.  Well Hell’s bells, I can’t believe my luck.  It’s not at all uncommon to have soldiers or airmen on these flights since there is both an Army and Air Force base in Fayetteville, but I feel honored to take these people home.  I realize this is simply pure coincidence and I wasn’t chosen for this flight, but still . . . With a big goofy grin I tell them they can do whatever they want and welcome them home.

After boarding I talk to the one woman in the group and find out they’ve been in Afghanistan for about six months and won’t have to go back for a year.  Once we finally close the door and I’ve done the safety dance I sit in my jumpseat and start to think.  Of all the flights on all the days that I could be working I’m working this flight on this day with these passengers – these passengers who have put themselves in constant danger for half a year because I asked them to.  What luck!  I start to tear up a little bit, and I don’t know exactly why.  I guess it’s a combination of their sacrifice, willingness to face danger, gratefulness to be back home, and just the simple fact that I get to be the one to take them there.

We take off, and I get up.  I walk through the cabin and ask each one if I can get him (or her) anything, and then I repeat…anything. They all politely decline because apparently – and according the the one female – they’re all still loaded from the last flight when they got upgraded to first class and drank all the booze.  That’s OK; I’m glad they were taken care of, even if I wasn’t the one doing it.

When we land I make an announcement asking everyone to let them deplane first and explain who they are and where they’re coming from.  Everyone obliges, and as they step off the plane I shake each hand and thank them.  I mean it, and I try show them that I’m not just saying words but expressing true gratitude.  I think they get it.  I hope so anyway.

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Winter Weather and Another Reason I Love My Job

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20 December, 2009 by Thomas

Click to enlarge.

I was supposed to start a three day trip today, and I guess, despite mother nature’s best efforts, I technically did.  Originally, my schedule had me working four legs today and ending in Newport News, VA, but last night Crew Scheduling called and told me the first two legs were canceled and that I and the crew would be ferrying (flying the plane without passengers) to RIC to work the last two legs and end in PHF.  Around 5:00am scheduling called again to tell me my show time would be 9:15am instead of 6:45am – I’m all about sleeping in – and ferrying a plane to LGA only to work the flight back to DAY.  All this because of the snow that hit the east coast over the last couple days.  As a lineholder, I get paid for my original schedule or the two flights I was actually on today, whichever is greater (obviously, the four flights I didn’t work were worth more time than the two I did), so I kinda get paid to not work.

I really enjoy ferry flights.  There’s no one on board the plane, and I get to ride up in the flight deck.  It’s amazing the stuff that goes on up there during a flight.  What with all the buttons, dials, and switches, it’s a wonder people can fly anywhere; how do pilots learn it all?   Also, with all the chatter that’s going on with ATC, it’s amazing anything can be understood.  I’m not that great at understanding everything ATC tells those guys to do, but usually I can pick up on our call sign and flight number, frequency changes, and altitude changes.  Other than that, I’m totally lost.  It’s still cool, though.  Every time I ride up there (so far, only three times) I’m like a kid in a candy store – my eyes are open wide, and I have a goofy grin on my face.  It’s the coolest thing.

Today’s weather flying into NYC was just perfect.  You could see the Statue of Liberty clearly, and the new Mets stadium.  The captain pointed out Rikers Island (I watch Law & Order: SVU), but I couldn’t find it.  The Expressway Visual Approach was super cool to watch, and I got some good pictures and video of things.  To see my pictures, head over to Fotki; to see some videos, just go here.  The captain even let me enter a new altitude with the fancy little dial and twice let me adjust the vertical speed (the rate at which we descend) with the press of a button and the turn of another dial.  It was like I was an eight year old kid.  I’m no pilot, but I’d sure like to be.

Even though I had a good day and got to do something that I think is cool, I still feel pretty sorry for all the passengers that got jerked around.  Of course, it wasn’t the airline’s fault, but that’s who they’re going to hold responsible.  This was the second day in a row that weather caused lots of cancellations.  I take pride in my work and who I work for, and this bad weather makes us look bad, again, even though it’s not our fault.  But at the same time, if I’m told to fly on an empty airplane, you better believe you’ll find me up front with the bus drivers.  I just hope everyone got to where they were going and that they were compensated for their troubles.

Why I Do This

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 17 December, 2009 by Thomas

There are lots of different aspects of this job that I really like.  I like the flexibility in scheduling; no day, week, or month is ever the same.  Sometimes I have very long days, and sometimes I have very short days.  I also get to work with different people.  Some of those people are awesome, some are OK, and some I’d rather not ever work with again, but it’s always different.  I get to meet some interesting characters on the plane, too.  Some are incredibly attractive, some are funny, and some are just rude, but I never know what combination I will get when boarding begins and we close the main cabin door.  Some months I work a lot (when holding a line), and some months I don’t work very much at all (when I’m on reserve), but the constant and unpredictable variety is a huge part of why I love my job.

However, the main reason I got this job and still love it as much as I do is for the travel benefits.  Twice this month I’ve tried to take a day trip to NYC, and while neither has worked out and I haven’t left town, the ability to go there for the day and sleep in my own bed at night is a major perk.  And I can do it for free.  Hopping on a plane is like hopping in a cab for me.  I can jet to Europe for $40.  Awesome.

Right now I’m in Valdosta, GA (WTH is that?) visiting my best friend and his wife.  It’s great to be able to just say, “Hey, I’ve got a few days off.  I think I’ll go somewhere and not spend a single red cent getting there.”  I don’t have to take my work home with me, and I can do whatever the heck I want.  I’m not paid a whole lot, but I didn’t sign up to earn a paycheck.  I do this job to be able to fly wherever I want to whenever I want to, and for the time being I don’t want to do anything else.  I love my job.  Oh, and I’ll try to get some stories from the line instead of being all philosophical and crap.

Keeping Me Safe

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on 12 December, 2009 by Thomas

Obviously, since 9/11 our nation’s airports have been on high alert.  There are so many rules and regulations saying what a passenger can and cannot take through an airport security checkpoint, but we can’t know everything.  Sometimes there are exemptions to these rules, but who really knows what’s getting through those X-ray machines?  I once read a story about a guy who was making fake boarding passes and using fake IDs to get past TSA – those entrusted with keeping our planes, trains, and automobiles safe – just to make the point that it’s not security, but security theater that we experience when traveling.  When a TSA agent asked him why he had two full-sized contact lens solution bottles in his bag he responded with, “Two eyes,” and he was allowed to proceed with both.  Had he been planning shenanigans then he would have had a free pass.

Part of TSA’s job is to notice any suspicious behavior.  I imagine they are trained to do this, though how extensive the training is I cannot say.  Noticing suspicious behavior is also part of my job, only to a lesser degree.  My training is presumably not nearly as extensive as TSA’s, but I do know that in order to notice suspicious behavior one must look at people.  I don’t know how many times I’ve walked up to a security checkpoint in uniform only to have an “agent” ask me if I have liquids in my bags or ask me to take my shoes off before passing through the metal detector.  I know that if they cannot discern that I am a uniformed crewmember (and therefore exempt from liquid/shoe rules), that they are not on the lookout for anything suspicious.

I also had a couple friends tell me about the time a TSA agent let a man through the security checkpoint when the name on his ID did not match the name on his boarding pass.  This was not a simple misspelling or omission of a middle initial, but two different names . . . like Terry Tate and Ndamukong Suh (who, by the way, should win the Heisman Trophy).  This security breach occurred in Dulles – a very major airport.  Thanks for keeping me safe, TSA.  I hate you.

Peddling Our Wares

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on 10 December, 2009 by Thomas

Times are tough in the airline industry, and every CEO is doing whatever he can to make more money, from charging to check a bag to charging for a Coke.  Some plans work well (bags), some do not (Cokes).  This à-la-carte pricing structure, I believe, is here to stay.  I also believe it’s the right way to do business.  Any Google search will return countless articles about how ticket prices have continued to drop since deregulation, but the operating costs have only gone up.  People want first class service, but they don’t want to pay for it.  They’ll be damned before they fork over money for something they want, but it’s getting to the point where they have to.

Courtesy A. Currell (flickr)

We now sell snacks at my airline.  We used to offer free pretzels but got rid of them before I started.  Instead of bringing them back we now offer a whole slew of products that a passenger may purchase (again, that alliteration) if he’s hungry or thirsty or even sleepy.  We’ve always charged for alcohol and have been charging for blankets and pillows for a while, but the snacks and specialty drinks are new.  In my experience these new revenue streams have been well-received.  A few people have declined to pay for a snack when I told them the price, but those who have bought something have not uttered one word of complaint – at least not to where I could hear it.

Trying to organize multiple deposit sheets.

I don’t mind selling these products at all; if it’s helping my airline, then it’s helping me.  I love my job and want to keep it; however we can make money I say let’s do it.  What I don’t like is trying to change a 20-dollar bill for a three-dollar item and keeping up with the money for days at a time.  We can get into a bit of trouble (only a slight bit) for not depositing the money in a timely manner, but when it’s

Depositing two days' worth of sales.

midnight and you just finished a four day trip and all you want to do is go home and sleep, depositing money in a broken ATM is the last thing on my mind.  Nevertheless, these things must be done.  Once it’s done, it’s nice to be rid of that money.  Individually, we don’t really deposit a whole lot of cash, but with tens of thousands of flight attendants making deposits it adds up to quite a hefty sum.  And while some of our items may be a bit over-priced (one expects a mark-up on an airplane), a lot them are actually cheaper than the airport prices.

So while we all may have our varying opinions on what airlines are doing and whether they should go a different route (no pun intended), the fact of the matter is that airlines need to make money because passengers aren’t willing to pay the proper price for the services rendered.  They can’t continue to bleed billions of dollars a year while you pay $259 round-trip to go from New York to LA (and yes, that’s an actual price from Orbitz.com).

Nice Hair

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 8 December, 2009 by Thomas

1F, do you just hate animals?  Is that it?  Honestly, that’s got to be the only reason you would take hair that is not yours, attach it to your scalp, and style it to look like a dead dog is perched on your skull.  I’ve racked my brain, and I can think of no other reason why you would do such a thing.  You also have a fur? coat.  I would imagine that you’re on PETA’s unfriendly-to-animals list.  Be careful, 1F, for they will hunt you down like the dog you’ve affixed to your head.  Be careful.

Breaking Down Barriers…or Doors – Part Deux

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 6 December, 2009 by Thomas

6:30pm – Currently I’m in GNV sitting on a broken airplane. We got down here with no problems, but now things seemed to have spiraled out of control.

As soon as we open the door to deplane the gate agent asks when I’ll be ready to board again because apparently they want to get these people out of here. We only have 19 passengers so I asked for five minutes.

Everyone gets on and gets settled, but we’re still not even fueled, and the fueler is busy with another plane, so we wait. ATC has given us a window of 10-12 minutes past the hour to get off the ground before we have to wait on another slot; the flight deck clock says nine minutes past and we’ve not even been fueled.  I’m not too sure we’ll make that window.

After a few minutes we have our 6,500 pounds of Jet A fuel and the captain tells me I’m clear to close the door. I press the door assist button, and wouldn’t you know the thing doesn’t work. I’ve been in this spot before, but it doesn’t make it any more pleasant, not at all. In addition to a main cabin door that won’t close, the galley service door is showing as open. That problem is identified as a circuit breaker that keeps popping out.

The captain gets on the horn with maintenance, and they end up sending a contract maintenance guy out. He takes 45 minutes to arrive. Right now, I’m just drinking hot chocolate hoping we cancel, because a pilot that I met earlier today will be down here to overnight, and she’s got great freckles and pretty eyes.

I’ll update as news breaks.

7:20pm – Update: The guy came, and it was a quick fix. Something about a wire in the cargo hold that “popped” and deactivated all the door sensors causing them to go inop.  At least we didn’t have some aircraft safety guru trying to tell me we failed our safety inspection this time.

We were supposed to overnight in CHA, but now we spend the night in CLT when we get back. That’s fine with me. I don’t get to see the cute pilot, but I do get to drink cheap beer and get paid for a flight I’ll never work. Rum all ’round!