Archive for March, 2010

First Day

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 31 March, 2010 by Thomas

It’s the start of a four day trip that’s already been cut short by two days because of my last three day trip that had me working eight days in a row (which is illegal – I can only work a maximum of six days).  This is no normal trip for me.  As a check flight attendant I’m responsible for training newly graduated flight attendants, and today is not only this new hire’s first day but also my first day training.  Neither of us has any idea what to expect.  All I know is that she was the “valedictorian” of her class, and because my trip has been cut short I only have four legs with this girl before she moves on to another check flight attendant to finish out her training on the CRJ-200.

I looked at the passenger loads last night to see how difficult her first day may or may not be, and thankfully they were pretty light.  This first leg to LGA she is just shadowing me, watching me during boarding and during the service.  I’m asking her questions to test her job knowledge and explaining everything I’m doing (or trying to anyway).  We only have 25 people on board and it’s early so most people are asleep and the service is over before we know it as is the flight.

With only 26 minutes on the ground in New York boarding for the second leg is almost immediate.  For this flight we only have 17 passengers so the main cabin door closes pretty quickly and we get ready to do the safety demo.  It’s the new hire’s turn to do the safety dance, and she does it very well if a bit theatrically.  We secure the cabin and notify the flight deck that we’re ready to go.  Because of an incredibly long line behind us it takes us 45 minutes to even push back from the gate.  We’re finally in the air, and she makes her announcements with great style and aplomb.

We start the beverage service, I’m following behind her, watching her take orders and serve drinks.  We’re in the middle of the cabin when the flight deck calls back.  I go to the front to answer, and the first officer tells me we’re diverting to Philadelphia, to put the cart away, and prepare for landing.  He doesn’t tell me what’s wrong, and in effort to get everything put away as quickly as possible I don’t ask.  I just know that he’s not asked me to prepare the passengers for an emergency.  We get everything put away, and I make an announcement telling the passengers that we’re diverting and going to be landing soon.  I tell them there’s nothing to worry about and that this will be a normal landing.  Everyone seems to be doing OK so I sit down in my jumpseat.  A few minutes go by and I can hear that the guys up front are wearing their oxygen masks.  I know we haven’t lost pressurization because the masks in the back have not dropped, but I’m still wondering what’s happening.  Finally, the first officer calls back and tell me the windshield has cracked and they have the masks on just in case they need them.

I make another announcement telling the passengers why we’re diverting, and this time I walk through the cabin to check on people and make sure everyone is still in good shape.  One passenger stops me and asks if it is raining in Dayton (where we’re going).  I tell him it is not, and he asks if it is raining in Philadelphia (where we’re diverting).  I tell him it is, and he asks why don’t we continue on to Dayton where’s it’s not raining instead of going to Philadelphia where it is raining.  I wonder if this guy thinks airlines usually tell people they’re going to be flown to one location only to change their mind and instead take them somewhere else.  I remind him that the windshield is cracked and the captain is not going to fly all the way to Dayton with a cracked windshield.  His response is one that would indicate that he didn’t listen to the announcement I just made saying as much.  I don’t know about anyone else, but if I were a passenger and the flight attendant made an announcement saying we were diverting to another airport shortly after taking off and without reason I would then listen to everything that was said from that point on.  Apparently, though, this guy couldn’t be concerned with details.

Twenty minutes go by and we finally land and pull up to the gate.  The flight deck door is opened and boy is that windshield cracked.  One of the supervisors tells me that the flight is most likely going to cancel and to ask the passengers to remain in the gate area after deplaning.  Everyone gets off the plane, and it’s just the four of us on there for the next hour and a half.  After the initial glance at the windshield by the police and a maintenance guy, no one else comes out to look at the plane.  Scheduling finally calls us and sends us all to different places.  My new hire deadheads down to Washington, DC to meet up with another crew and the pilots go to Charlotte to spend rest of the afternoon in a hotel.  I, however, get to hop on a plane back to Dayton where my day finally ends around 7pm.  A four day trip has turned into a one day trip.  I don’t mind this at all because I still get paid for all four days.  One of the benefits of being a fancy lineholder is cancellation pay.  Since all those flights were part of my original schedule I get paid for the them even though I don’t work them.  I just scored three paid days off.

Job Shadowing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 3 March, 2010 by Thomas

About a month ago I made a post about having the opportunity to shadow a crew scheduler.  It’s all part of my airline’s plan to mend the relationship between crew members and schedulers.  Our VP says that of all the airlines where he’s worked the situation is the worst he’s ever seen here.  It’s this whole “walk a mile in another man’s shoes” thing.  I think it’s also a good thing; there is definitely a lot of animosity between the two groups.

Picture Courtesy http://sarahmaidofalbion.blogspot.com/2009_10_01_archive.htmlYesterday I finally got to shadow a crew scheduler.  Thankfully, I had met this scheduler a few weeks prior and she was one of the nice ones there.  Had she not been friendly it most certainly would have been a long 11-hour shift.  I can’t imagine sitting beside someone lame for 11 hours watching click the mouse so fast and barely explaining to me what was being done and then listening to a 30-second phone call about a canceled flight.

Yesterday was a relatively busy day for our crew schedulers.  There was some snow and ice in the Charlotte area, which is where my airline does the bulk of its flying, so of course there was a cluster %#$& at the airport.  People were stranded and misconnected, and luckily I didn’t really have to deal with a bit of it.  However, those schedulers really had to earn their money trying to get people and planes into place to recover as much of the schedule as possible.

I used to joke around that the only thing schedulers did all day was sit around playing solitaire on their computers planning their next smoke break, but that’s not the case at all . . . at least it wasn’t yesterday.  I’d say for the first five hours of the shift there was maybe a total of 20 minutes of downtime.  When the scheduler I was paired with wasn’t making or taking a call from a crew member, she was busy trying to make sure flying was covered.  People were having trouble commuting into base for work because of the bad weather so their flying had to be covered, entire crews were stranded in another city so she had to find another crew to work flights, people called in sick, reserve assignments had to be made, and tons of different reports had to be run and all kinds of things reconciled.

After sitting there and watching these people work for almost half a day I can’t really say that I know what they do.  I can say, however, that they do a lot, and it doesn’t seem to be very easy.  I can’t speak to the level of stress they may or may not feel because nothing that happened was my responsibility, but I can say that were it my job to make sure everyone was in place to keep an airline running smoothly and weather issues arose I’d be stressed to the max.

The training takes about a month to complete, and then it’s about a year before a scheduler really gets comfortable doing the job during irregular operations.  After sitting in on a shift I can say that I learned a lot.  Those people have a tough job to do, and sometimes we as crew members don’t like the message they bring to us, but we need to remember that it’s not always their decision.  It’s a business that’s being run, not a friendly game of “Fly Around the Country.”  That’s not to say that there aren’t some jerks working in there that need to go to nice school and take really good notes, but I just don’t think they’re out to get us.  At least I hope not.

I Know

Posted in Uncategorized on 1 March, 2010 by Thomas

Yeah, I know I haven’t been posting very much lately, and I’m sure my three loyal readers are really jonesing for a post, but this doesn’t really count.  I’ve been on reserve the last two months and also a bit lazy.  However, I’m a fancy lineholder again for March so I should have some decent stories.  I know I have some good layovers coming up so perhaps I can manufacture an awesome story; I have 24 hours in our nation’s capital and 18 hours in White Plains (easy access to NYC).  I also have a story that I’ve been sitting on for a while.  I took notes on it so maybe I’ll be able to convey the emotion and true experience . . . we’ll see.  Stay tuned.