Don’t Sit There

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 22 January, 2010 by Thomas

So I’m finally working again.  I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve flown.  I originally had Hot Reserve this morning (6th time this month), but thankfully someone called in sick the night before and I was the only one who could work the flight on time.  Originally I was a little upset when I saw I had a 4-day trip put on my schedule (why?  I need the work), but then I saw I was working with my favorite captain.  Without sounding like I have a crush on him, let me just that he’s a man’s man and a lot of fun to fly with.

Anyway, somewhere along the way 5D’s seatback breaks.  As an empty seat it looks normal, but put a body in it and the seatback just reclines.  It doesn’t recline any more than normal; it just reclines without pressing the button.  Sit up and the seat pops back up on its own.  This is a safety issue for the people in 6D & F since it can impede their egress into the aisle during an evacuation.  So I tell the captain, and he calls maintenance who responds by saying that they are really busy fixing a bunch of planes for another regional airline and can’t spend five minutes to tighten a seatback (it literally takes less than two minutes to fix; I’ve seen it done).  Instead, we defer the seats and make it so no one can sit in them . . . or so we think.

We flip the seat cushions upside and thread the seatbelts through the straps (the cushions are an approved flotation device after all) and buckle it in.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the massive stickers that say “DO NOT OCCUPY,” but you’d think that an upside down seat cushion that you have to unbuckle would send up a red flag to a passenger.  Yeah, you’d think that, but you’d be wrong as hell.  After 38 people board my plane, I walk down the aisle closing overhead bins and looking at bags, and what do I see?  That’s right.  Two people sitting in 6D and 6F.  I tell them the seats are out of commission and explain why, and the husband says (in a friendly manner), “Well, we put them back in commission.”  I politely ask them to move and they oblige, but as they sit down, the guy across the aisle in 6C starts to move his jacket over to the seat so he can have them to himself!  What is wrong with these people?!  Seriously, if I saw that my seat had an upside down seat cushion buckled down, I’d wait and ask someone in charge what the the scoop was.  These people are ridiculous.

Before the passengers boarded the captain made a joke about people still sitting there, not realizing they actually would.  I knew someone would because I’ve had people do it before.  People are idiots; God love ’em.

Hot Reserve

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 13 January, 2010 by Thomas

As you may or may not have noticed I am posting less and less these days.  When I started this wee little blog I was a fancy lineholder meaning I was working regularly and had more chances for more stories and inspiration.  Well now I’m back on reserve, and I expect it to stay that way for the foreseeable future (unfortunately, I don’t qualify for any government assistance programs).  This particular post is more a means to vent some frustration than anything else.

Like I said in the above paragraph, I’m back on reserve.  Reserve is not a fun way to live.  The main reason I don’t like reserve is I don’t make a whole helluva lot of money.  My airline guarantees me 72 hours of pay whether I fly that much or not; most months I do not break guarantee.  While it’s great to know I will get something every month, it’s not nearly enough (what can I say, I have expensive tastes).

Another reason I so disdain reserve is that I must maintain daily contact with Crew Scheduling.  Some of the schedulers are nice people who are simply doing their job, and that job can sometimes piss off the crew members.  However, some of the schedulers are also mean, spiteful people who condescend to crew members and talk to them like children and jerk us around with our schedules just because they can.

I also hate reserve because I never get late reserve times like 8:00am or 10:00am.  If I’m assigned those times then I don’t have to worry about Hot Reserve.  It has come to my realization that scheduling hates my guts.  Why, I do not know.  Every single time I start a new block of reserve days after a day off I am given 5:00am Hot Reserve, which means the rest of my reserve days will start at 5:00am (a double edged sword to be sure).  For Hot Reserve I must wake up well before the sun is up so I can get dressed in my snazzy uniform and be at the airport where I spend the  next ten hours of my day dying on the inside ready to cover any last minute call offs.  For the rest of my days spent on call I am given 5:00am home reserve, which theoretically allows me to sleep.  Most of the time I can sleep through a large portion of my reserve period (it lasts until 7:00pm) – that is unless scheduling calls me at 5:00 to come in as a replacement flight attendant on hot reserve.  This doesn’t happen often, but it did happen recently.

After having Hot Reserve the previous day I am rudely awakened by the most skin-crawlingly awful ring tone and asked to come in again because the original hot reserve flight attendant was used.  Thankfully, the voice on the other end of the phone belongs to someone I like and I just roll with it.  That was the third time on Hot Reserve this month; tomorrow is the fourth.  I imagine I’ll get up to six days before the month is over.  This is getting old.  FML.

Slam! Click!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 4 January, 2010 by Thomas

Most jobs have their own vocabulary that those on the outside won’t really understand even though the individual words by themselves are oftentimes easy to define.  The airline industry is no different.  Take “slam-click” as an example.  Everyone knows what slam and click mean by themselves, but put together they take on a completely different meaning.  To slam-click is to go into your hotel room and never come out until it’s time to take the van back to the airport; it gets its name from the sound of the door slamming shut and the clicking of the security latch over the door.

If you’ve got a short overnight then you have to slam-click and no one thinks a thing about it.  A lot variables must be taken into account when trying to decide whether to slam-click.  For example: Did I recently get paid?  Is the crew cool?  Might we get into shenanigans by going out?  Do I have to wake up early?  If you’re on reserve and working with a fun crew then slam-clicking is a bad idea.  The next time you fly it might be with a really boring crew who force you to slam-click by slam-clicking themselves, so you must take advantage of your good crews while you can.  Even if you’re short on money you should try your best to go out and have fun.

On a recent trip to BHM I had the pleasure of working with a fun crew (well, 75% fun anyway, including myself).  I was running short on money and not feeling like taking my aforementioned advice on fun crews so I asked the first officer if he and the captain were going to make me feel bad for slam-clicking.  He said no, but then a few minutes later the captain mentioned going out to this certain restaurant, that I had actually been craving lately.  He mentioned barbecue and beer and that was that; I had to go out.  You see, this place, only a few blocks from the hotel, serves up some savory BBQ and tasty brews, and I wasn’t going to miss out on this opportunity to have some fun.  We asked the other flight attendant if she wanted to join us, but she preferred to stay in and watch some DVDs like a square.  So . . . Guys’ night out!  Now we can do man doings and say man sayings without fear of reprisal.

After being manly and saying horrible things about (probably) wonderful people we arrived back to the hotel and remembered it was “haunted” and that our other crew member was afraid of ghosts.  We enlisted the help of the nice front desk lady to play a little prank on the slam-clicking flight attendant.  After making a key for me to gain entry to her sleeping quarters we had her call up to the room to tell the slam-clicker that she had forgotten to sign a new no-smoking policy.  When she finally went downstairs to sign it, I slipped in her room, moved some furniture around, and left a hand-written note (written with my left hand) on her bed.  The note called her by her full name (which she hates) and thanked her for staying at the hotel again.  Oh, and we also changed her 6am wakeup call to a 4am wakeup.  Unfortunately, after getting back to her room she did not coming running and screaming down the hall.  I guess she was smarter than we gave her credit for.  Though it didn’t have the effect we desired, we still had a fun time plotting it.

And that is why you don’t slam-click if you can avoid it.

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.

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.