Saturday, October 27, 2007

Carry-ons Suffer From Elephantitis

New York - Upon boarding a late afternoon, La Guardia to Denver flight, it became obvious to crew and passengers alike that many carry-ons were suffering the same affliction. Several were unrecognizably distended beyond their factory dimensions; others were overflowing with bottles, books, and unused articles of clothing; and still there were others that threatened to burst their seams. There's only so much one zipper can hold back before it bares its teeth, letting flow the tide of over packed (and often unnecessary) items.

Many ask the question, "Why?" Why do people feel the need to bring all their worldly possessions with them onto the aircraft? What do they have against the cargo holds? They do come with their own fire repression systems, and some are even pressurized and climate controlled for furry friend transport.

Lack of overhead storage is the main side effect of carry-on elephantitis. And yes, it affects nearly everyone on board -- especially the man who refuses to remove the garment bag containing the tux he rented for $300 and is told that it must go in the overhead bin for safety and security, regardless of how much the rental cost or how wrinkled it will become. Why must he endure such torture!?

One magic phrase people, "Would it be possible to gate check this?" It may seem scary, but gate checked luggage emerges from the Fraggle Rock that operates below the wings and slides down the ramps on the baggage claim carousels first and is almost never forgotten in the originating city.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm There!

After five weeks of training, I'm officially a flight attendant. Hopefully there will be no more observation flights in my near future. I find them to be overly intimidating. I'm never quite sure whether I should be deferring to the check flight attendant, or just going about my job like I know how.

I flew two observation flights to Las Vegas on Saturday and Sunday and was constantly second guessing myself. Yesterday I flew an overnight to Chicago without a hitch, and tomorrow it's off to New York.

Coming home from Chicago, I did get the lecture from the "senior mama" about the need for unionization and a contract. She's been flying for 11 years and has everything figured out. After talking for nearly an hour in the back galley, I was running out of polite ways to defer comment. While I don't hold anything against good old union supporters, I am amused by the way they all seem to venerate the possibility of a contract - like it's a gleaming gold scroll that will protect them from all injustice and plain, old-fashioned hard work.

But hey, I'm just the FNG.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Graduation Day

I have my wings! During an FAA mandated graduation ceremony, my wings were pinned on by my favorite aunt and traveling inspiration. Naturally, the ceremony was followed by a cake and punch reception in the lunch room.

The path toward my wings was interesting, exciting, and trying at times. I fought fire, defended myself against hulking members of the Aurora City police force, served beverages from a cart throughout the HR and Executive offices, evacuated a mock up of an Airbus using two different exits, applied AED pads and administered CPR to a plasticized six year old, and passed nearly 30 tests with a 90% or better, among other things.

I still have to pass my Initial Operating Experience with another flight attendant standing over my shoulder marking a checklist while I do my job in the air, but I'm almost there. I can't wait to move past this step and get to the real flying part of the job. I'm looking forward to going to work and knowing that I'll be leaving my trainers and managers 39,000 feet below me and several thousand miles behind me. I do value my independence after all.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pleasures Await...

I went out for Chinese food with my darling husband and parents to celebrate my husband's birthday. At the end of the meal, we each received our requisite fortune cookie with the check. Appropriately, my fortune read, "Pleasures await you by the seashore."

Considering I am two days away from receiving my wings, I think this is a sign I will be getting paid to lounger on the beach within the week! How did I come to lead such a charmed existence?

Friday, October 12, 2007


Yesterday, after a long day of training, I went to the grocery store to make sure I had everything I needed to make the salad I promised to bring for our class potluck. The lines to check out were long, of course, so I resigned myself to catching up on the latest gossip mags while I waited. It appeared that the line next to me was moving much faster, so I made a move only to see that someone was coming in behind me at the last moment.

I ended up knocking over a cardboard box display of chocolate bars as I was trying to maneuver my cart. There was nothing I could do, I was stuck behind my cart. It was a thing of beauty though, watching all those chocolate bars tip out of the display box and cascade onto the industrial tile floor. The best part was that two people actually stopped to help pick everything up. Needless to say, their Lindt chocolate display was more than a little rearranged. But thanks to the kindness of others, it was reinstalled in less than a minute and I was spared the embarrassment of causing a huge traffic jam down the main aisle of the grocery store during the after work rush hour.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Evacuations, Emergencies, and Rejected Take Offs, Oh My!

We've begun week four of training, and the second "scary" week. Although not certified, I can now provide CPR to infants, children, and adults; treat major and minor bleeding; diagnose a stroke; recognize a shocky passenger; and clean up the products of motion discomfort syndrome without getting any on myself. A helpful hint from this lesson is that coffee grounds and brewing coffee help to cover up the odorous evidence of a sick passenger.

Our trainer sent us away for the weekend, closing with "Are there any questions about abnormal aircraft attitude?" sporting a big grin on her face. We were so punchy by that point that a friend next to me murmured, "A plane's personality really has nothing to do with the way it lands."

In all seriousness though, these two weeks are really where the fact that flight attendants are responsible for much more than your can of soda and bag of chips is driven home. Flight attendants become the first responders in medical emergencies and the last ones off in emergency evacuations. For these reasons alone, a nice big smile as you board the aircraft for your next flight is a great way to recognize this and say thank you.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Scary Week #3

At this point, I'm almost finished with what the instructors so aptly call "scary week #3." Today, for example, we got to watch videos of what it looks like to be sucked out of a plane at 40,000 feet, and how a plane will become entirely consumed by flames in less than three minutes. Oh yeah, and we're responsible for preventing these things from happening, and if we can't, for the successful evacuation of all passengers in less than a minute and a half. No pressure.

We also learned about this scary phenomenon called clear air turbulence. This is extreme turbulence that hits without warning. Meaning, the captain may not have time to turn on the fasten seat belt sign and he won't call back to alert the flight attendants. The important lesson here is: even if the fasten seat belt sign is off, it's a great idea to fasten your seat belt anyway whenever you are sitting down. And if the drink cart is in the aisle right next to you...don't be shy, please reach out and help anchor that puppy down or it can do some major damage too.

There's a lot more to this job than serving Coke and pointing to the emergency exits. It's a good thing the flight benefits are good!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Day in the Life #1

Today's flight attendant lesson included our first exposure to "A Day in the Life" exercises. We all troop into the mock-up room where there is about one quarter of a fuselage set up with electricity, hydraulics -- everything a commercial airplane would have. We get to practice our jobs here before we're trying to figure things out at 39,000 feet in the air.

Today three of my classmates were flight attendants on the perfect flight: no over-sized carry on luggage, no screaming babies, no medical emergencies, etc. They had to do their pre-flight checks, board everyone, prep the galleys, make all the announcements, demonstrate all the safety information, and provide food and drink service. Although this was a perfect flight, it really illustrated how much there is to remember and take care of before you throw emergencies and other hang ups into the mix.

This was a great exercise. We had a lot of laughs. Mostly from the tiny key board the trainer used to make the ding sounds one would normally hear whenever the seat belt sign was turned on, for example.

It's OK, I Know First Aid -- Sort of

The past two days of training have been dedicated to first aid. What's interesting is that we do not actually get a Red Cross certification because then we can be personally held liable for any injuries we cause to the patient. This speaks to the sad state of our society. Specifically, how litigious we have become. One person's good deed gone wrong is another's lottery ticket to easy money.

Not to stomp on my soap box, but if you're having a medical emergency on board, pray there is also an EMT or nurse flying with you. Yes, as flight attendants we must all prove we're capable of administering basic first aid, including CPR, but that does not mean those skills will transfer to an emergency situation. A person whose livelihood is to be a first responder to accidents is really your best bet. They are tested everyday and are confident of their skills in emergency as well as classroom situations.

Training Flight #1

This past Saturday was my first training flight. It was a turn to NY-LGA. We were on the ground in New York for all of 40 minutes. It was exciting to finally be up in the air putting everything we've been learning about in the classroom to use.

The real flight attendants on my flight have been with the company from the beginning. While they all had a lot of little tips to make the job easier/more efficient, the mantra of the flight seemed to be, "I know they taught you to do it this way, and do it that way for the test, but this is how we really do it up here." I was surprised how soon they started in with this, not knowing if I was the tattle tale type or not.

I was the safety information model on the leg out. I managed to keep up pretty well, but probably looked like a puppet with a broken string up there. Once we reached cruising altitude, I was in charge of passing out the snacks. It felt like this duty took forever, but when I got back to the galley and asked the flight attendant, he said snack service went faster than it usually did when he worked with other trainees.

My least favorite parts of the flight already are trash pick up and compliance check. We are not allowed to say "trash" when collecting trash. It might be misconstrued as an insult to a passenger. And, we're not supposed to let the passengers put their trash in the bin themselves. We are expected to touch every single piece of trash in the cabin of the plane -- yippee. Every time the captain turns on the fasten seat belt sign and before take off and landing we have to do a compliance check to make sure every one's seat belts are buckled and their seat backs and meal trays are upright. This includes waking people up if they're sleeping and their seat belts are not visible.

The flight, although fairly bumpy, went smoothly. No medicals, no disturbances, and I didn't spill hot coffee on anyone.

Another One Terminated

Last Friday we did our self-defense training off-site from headquarters where we usually have class. Unfortunately, one woman got lost and didn't make it to class on time. The next day we all went on our first training flights. She was told not to report for her flight and to be at headquarters at 7:30 Monday morning to hand in her badges.

The farther along in training we get, and the better we get to know each other, the harder it is to lose someone. And for some reason, we seem to be losing people with more rather than less life experience. Now that we're more than half way through training, hopefully we won't lose anyone else.