Archive for February, 2010

I’m Not Your Biggest Fan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 16 February, 2010 by Thomas

I suppose I’m entirely too young to remember, but from everything I hear and read people once wore their Sunday best when flying.  Now it’s so cheap that everyone is doing it, and so as a flight attendant and the person who must interact with the flying public more than any other work group I’ve got to be able to handle several different personalities.  There are so many that I can’t even begin to name and describe them; it would simply take too much time, and I’m definitely entirely too lazy to even entertain that idea.

I can’t say that I have a favorite type of passenger.  I like the ones who talk to me and ask questions about my job, but also find myself irritated by the ones who talk to me and ask questions that I can’t or even should know the answer to.  I also like the passengers who sit down and keep a low profile.  I definitely love the ones who kindly make requests and say “please” and “thank you” rather than bark orders at me like I’m the hired help (I perform a service, but I am no servant).  I’m sad to say that this last group is a refreshing change and a departure from what is normal.

I can, however, say that I have a least favorite type of passenger.  I hate the ones who are rude and inconsiderate, the ones who won’t even  acknowledge my existence for the two hours I have with them, and the ones who won’t do what I tell them to do, but the one type of passenger I dislike more than any other is the student-athlete.  This is not to say I don’t like college students because I do.  I would love to still be a college student, and college ladies sure are fun to look at.  But when you put 20 punk kids on an airplane in their little uniforms with their coaches it seems all hell breaks loose.

I recently had the displeasure of taking the Marshall Thundering Herd Men’s Basketball team from Birmingham to Charlotte.  I initially felt sorry for these guys – they were all 20 feet tall stuck on a little regional jet with no headroom when standing and no leg room when sitting – but that sentiment quickly passed as they settled into their seats.  Before we even closed the aircraft door there were legs and knees in the aisles, tray tables down, seatbacks reclined, and head phones on.  So now with 20 kids who think their crap don’t stink on board my flying partner and I go about securing the cabin and doing our compliance checks.  In hindsight I realize it was all a bit Sisyphean trying to restore order to the plane as these players would never fully comply with what we asked of them.  As we walked through the cabin telling them to turn their phones off and bring their seatbacks up they just claimed the phone was already off or would recline the seatback as soon as we walked past.  I remember telling one in particular to turn his phone off and remarking that Airplane Mode is not off and one of his teams piped up with, “It should have been off a long time ago.”  On the surface it would appear he was giving his buddy a hard time, but what he was really doing was making fun of the job I had to do.  Not that I mind his making fun of me, I just mind when people act like idiots.

Take a small group of young people and they’re not so bad.  It’s when you get a large group of them together that they start to joke around and feed off each other.  The immaturity just grows and grows like a weed making my job much much harder than it ever should be.  But what really gets me is the attitude of the coaches.  You’d think they’d be all over their players like stains on a mattress making sure they represent themselves, their team, and their school in the best light possible, but some of them are just as bad as their players.  If they’re not just sitting in the seat trying to ignore the brats they’ve been charged with then they take their seatbelts off or won’t turn their phones off and then lie to my face about whatever it is I “chastise” them about.  I want to point out to them that they expect their athletes to do what they say the first time on the court or on the field and that I expect the same on my airplane; perhaps next time I will do just that.  And if you think that my ire shouldn’t be directed to all student-athletes I will just say that I’ve also had the UT Volunteers Girl’s Volleyball team, USC Gamecocks Track & Field team, some small college basketball team, and probably a few others on my plane.  They’re all pretty much the same . . . aggravating.  I wish the school would just charter a plane so I wouldn’t have to put up with their stupidity.

Seniority Rules

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 7 February, 2010 by Thomas

The airline industry is not a meritocracy.  Everything we get or “earn” is based on seniority – our pay, trip pairings, days off, vacation, travel privileges, and pretty much anything and everything else.  We realize this is how things are done when we sign up and are OK with it; it’s really the fairest way to do things in most instances.  The longer we’re at our airline the higher our quality of life.  Personally, I find it comforting to know that all I have to do is bide my time and eventually I’ll have a good work schedule with the days off I want earning a living wage.  I just have to pay my dues and my time will come.  I wasn’t the first to have a crappy schedule with low pay, and I won’t be the last – at least I hope not.

However, there has come an occasion where I am not OK with the seniority system.  We’ve recently had a flight attendant come back on line after being out on medical leave.  Now, I don’t know this person from a ham sandwich, but if what I’ve been told is correct then I don’t think she should even be employed with my airline anymore.  Yeah, that may sound harsh, but there should be a statute of limitations on how long one can be on medical leave and keep a job.  I’ve been told that after being hired by the airline and working on line for six months she went out on workman’s comp.  After about two years of being on workman’s comp, she took a medical leave of absence for about four years.  Our union contract provides that employees out on these types of leave not only retain seniority but also accrue it.

On paper this seems like a good idea, but in practice (obviously) it has its flaws.  I think after two years one should no longer accrue seniority, just retain it.  There are other types of leave that we can take that only allow for accrual for the first 30 days.  Why for these two is accrual indefinite?  She only worked for 6 months, left for six years, and now that she’s decided she wants to come back she comes back at number 34 on the company-wide seniority list!  I’ve only been flying for less than two years, but I’ve worked more than she has.  Something doesn’t seem fair about this.  It is what it is, and there’s nothing I can do about it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  And it’s not like I have a problem with her personally, I just think our union screwed up when they negotiated this part of our contract.

Even though my company-wide seniority has gone up three spots in the last month, now that’s she back, she’s bumped me down one spot on my base’s seniority list.  Being on the bubble of holding a line and being on reserve makes this a big deal, which is why I’m so upset about this.  No one senior to me ever leaves my base; they all leave from the Charlotte base.  Eventually, I think I might like to be based there because the trips are better, but since it’s so much bigger I’m even farther away from holding a line there.  Maybe this flight attendant will realize she doesn’t really like the job all that much and decide to do something else.  Even better, maybe the industry as a whole will improve beyond anyone’s wildest imagination and I can get called up to the big show.  A boy can hope, right?

Job Shadowing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 5 February, 2010 by Thomas

I can’t really speak for other airlines, but at my airline crew members do not get along with crew schedulers.  For various reasons we feel like they’re out to get us . . . at least the reserves anyway.  As a reserve flight attendant I’m at the mercy of our schedulers.  As long as they schedule me legally and according to Federal Aviation Regulations then I have to do what they tell me.  That means if they schedule me for six legs and 14 hours of duty with a 9 hour overnight only to work another 6 six legs and be on duty 14 more hours the next day I have to do it; that’s legal.

Also, because I work for a small airline there is more interaction on a human level; our scheduling is system is not done by a computer but by actual people.  A computer wouldn’t allow illegal schedules to be built, but because a human is doing the building “mistakes” can be made.  I use quotation marks because sometimes it’s not a mistake.  Just recently my roommate was assigned hot reserve at 5:00am.  For hot reserve, duty starts at 5:00am so the latest we can be scheduled to work is 7:00pm.  They tried to schedule her until 9:00pm, and when she called them out on it they acted like they didn’t know.  When they finally changed her schedule to be legal and got her back into base, they tried to cut her rest short.  Our contract says that rest in base will be at least 10 hours.  When she arrived in base and checked out of her trip at 8:00pm, they had assigned 5:00am regular reserve.  She called them on this illegality and the scheduler quickly backpedaled (but not without copping an attitude).

The way the schedulers arrive at their decisions when assigning flying is something that boggles my mind, too.  Yesterday was my third day of reserve in a block of six.  There was a four-day trip that started yesterday, but instead of giving it to me (I was legal for the trip) they instead gave it to someone junior to me who couldn’t finish the entire four days; she could only complete the first two days and then had to deadhead back on the third day.  Guess who has been given the rest of her trip?  Yours truly.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Crew Scheduling?  Are you all braindead?

So in an effort to help crew members and crew schedulers understand each other’s job, our management has decided to let crew members shadow schedulers and vice-versa.  From what I hear the schedulers will be following Check Flight Attendants – of which I am one – on trips (with overnights), and these aren’t the nice, cushy, easy trips but the ones with 14 hour duty days with short overnights.  They won’t be allowed to sleep or sit on the flights but must actually help with boarding, beverage service, trash collection, and whatever else may arise.  I hope I get one, but being on reserve I might (and probably) won’t.

I’ve also requested to shadow a scheduler.  I realize that many of them are doing a job and sometimes we don’t like what we have to do.  I also realize that some of them are jerks because they can be.  Maybe by doing this I’ll be able to better understand why junior FAs are given flying that I feel I should get and why I ALWAYS get hot reserve.  We’ll see how it goes.  I just hope those schedulers are given hell when they have to fly and that they are as tired as we are at the end of the day.  Perhaps by putting a face to a name and voice we can better understand each other and not have such animosity towards each other.