Tuesday, August 30, 2005

More Q & A's

Here are a few more questions that have been asked:

What’s the most exotic place that I’ve worked to? What’s the place I’d most like to work a flight to?

We never think of work in this way. Working to someplace is never what the fun part is. The fun part is the layover. Even that is open to discussion. One person’s exotic and fun is another’s horror story. My preferred flying is to cities. I’m a city girl at heart. And it’s always nice to go to the sun when the rest of the world is cold.

What’s the craziest thing I’ve seen someone do on a plane?

I could write a book answering this question alone. I simply do not understand why people act the way they do on a plane. Maybe they think they are in the privacy of their own home. Here’s just a starter list: smoking pot, blow jobs in the seat while thinking that you’re hidden under a blanket, two people going into the bathroom together to join the mile high club, getting on the wrong plane and not realizing it until halfway through the flight, sitting in the first row with baggy shorts and your legs wide open, thinking Canada is part of the United States. I could go on and on!

Are you a member of the mile high club?

No. The bathrooms are disgusting! I only go in there when I have to use the facilities, and even then I’ll wait if I can.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Beef or Chicken?

Occasionally when I’m waiting in the boarding area to get on a plane, a passenger will approach and ask if there’s a meal on the flight or if they should get something to eat at the airport. I’ve never really understood this question.

Very few airlines offer food on flights any more. If you happen to be on one that does serve food, you may have noticed that both the quality and quantity has been reduced. Breakfast may now be a muffin and juice. Dinner, a sandwich. And that’s if you’re on a meal service flight. Most of the time it’s just a beverage and peanuts.

I always try to plan ahead by eating just before heading to the airport or by bringing something with me. The best is when I can bring something to eat from home -- those yummy leftovers from the previous night. Alternatively, most hotels will have a café or coffee shop that can prepare you a sandwich, salad, or simple entrée to go. Ditto for most restaurants. I let them know it’s for travel, and most times they are very helpful in packing it up so that it survives the transit to the airport.

If that’s not an option, there are new services cropping up that will provide you with a meal and deliver it to your office or directly to the airport. I haven’t personally tried out any of these services, but I’m starting to see of lot their food on the plane. A quick Google search should help you find out what’s offered in your area.

If all else fails, get something to eat at the airport. While the choices are limited, most times you can find a sandwich or salad, or a fast food chain.

One thing to keep in mind when bringing on food, is the odors that the food will cause around you. While you certainly have the right to whatever you choose, a little thoughtfulness will have your seatmate drooling over your meal rather than holding his nose.

Bon appetit!

FOLLOW UP: I decided that enough time had elapsed and I emailed Daniel, the actor. He was witty, attractive, fun to talk with. What’s the worst that can happen? He doesn’t respond.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Marry Me, Fly for Free

One of the big perks of the job of a flight attendant is travel. Pass benefits usually extend to our spouses, dependent children, and parents, and in some cases domestic partners.

Usually, pass travel on your own carrier is at no cost, which means if you are married to a flight attendant you fly for free. (NOTE: some carriers charge a small service charge.) There are also reduced rates of travel on other carriers, which can range from great deals to more than it would cost to buy a full fare discount ticket.

One big disadvantage to pass travel is that you fly standby. This means that you only get on the flight if there is an empty seat. These days, there aren’t too many empty seats.

One big advantage to pass travel is that you can make a decision to go somewhere on a spur of the moment whim without having to bear the expense of a last minute ticket.

In the scheme of things, the pros and cons balance out. It’s part of why we do this job.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Neighborhood Fun

While on a layover a couple of weeks ago, I found myself out exploring in one of our larger cities. Rather than just visit the tourist spots with a fellow crewmember, I decided to pick an area and spend some time getting to know a small quarter of the city.

I stopped in at a neighborhood coffee bar for a latte and read the paper. I walked the main streets, poking my head into the shops and galleries. I wandered up and down the side streets, doing some people watching and stopping to check out information on some residential vacancies. Although by myself, I felt neither fear, nor reluctance, in immersing myself in the tastes, smells, and feel of the place. I didn’t want to be a visitor to the neighborhood; I wanted to be a part of it.

After a couple hours I realized that I was hungry, and began looking for someplace for a late lunch. When it comes to travel, I’m fairly adventurous. I like going to new places, and having new experiences. I like discovering little out of the way places, hidden gems of restaurants and bars. When I do this, it doesn’t feel like I’m alone on a layover. It feels like I’m at home.

On this day, I discovered a little bistro with outdoor seating. (This is probably the only time when I’m clearly labeled a tourist, as I enjoy sitting outdoors, even in the sweltering heat of summer.) I asked for a corner table where I could be in the thick of things, while still being removed enough to watch the world go by. I sipped a beverage, perused the menu, and relaxed as I reminded myself “you are getting paid for being here.”

Before I had an opportunity to place my order, the waitress said that a gentleman at the table across the patio wanted to send me over a glass of wine and asked what I would like to have. Since I wasn’t drinking over lunch, I declined and asked her to let him know that I appreciated his gesture. A few minutes later, he strolled over to my table, introduced himself, and asked if he could join me for lunch.

What followed was a lively and animated discussion over a simple meal. Good company and good food is a powerful combination. There was plenty of good-natured flirting, but no sexual innuendo or banter, no concern that the conversation was taking a turn that it shouldn’t. Two people laughing and having fun. Time spent getting to know someone from a neighborhood that was becoming a home away from home.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Q & A

When people find out that I’m a flight attendant they always want to ask a bunch of questions. Here are some of the basic ones. Feel free to make a comment if you have a question of your own.

Is it tough to get a job as a flight attendant?

Yes. The competition for the job is very stiff. Even with everything going on in the industry, there are hundreds of applicants for every job opening. Think of it like an open casting call.

What is the pay like?

Well, if you’ve read any of the news stories lately, you know that pay cuts have become an industry trend. Starting pay is very poor. As you move up the pay scale it gets better. If you’re at one of the airlines that hasn’t been hit too hard, the pay allows you to make a decent living.

If it’s that bad, why do people still want the job?

It’s the lifestyle. The flexibility of being able to manipulate your schedule to make it fit your life. Working with friends, the adventure of every day being different. The dread of getting into a rut by working 9-5 every day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year. And because even though you can have a bad flight, a bad trip, a bad month, most of the time when we go to work, we have a really great time.

Do you get airsick?

No. Thank God!

How many days a week do you work?

It all depends on your seniority and the schedule that you hold. Most airlines allow for a fair amount of flexibility in trading around your schedule. Some people like working a consistent number of days each week. Others like to bunch all their flying together and then take a week or two off. I like both options, it just depends on what’s happening in my life.

Are you afraid of flying?

No. I learned back in a physics class what makes airplanes fly. I didn’t really get it then, and I don’t get it now. I still believe it’s all smoke and mirrors. Whatever it is, it seems to work. I’m comfortable with that.

Do you like staying at cool hotels?

The hotels are chosen by the company, and the decision is largely based on price. Some are nicer than others, but there are not very many cool ones. Regardless, living on the road has its perils. You learn to adapt and love it, or leave the job. There doesn’t seem to be much in between.

Do you get to travel to all sorts of exotic places?

If I buy a ticket, I do. Travel benefits are not what they used to be. We fly on a standby basis, which means the only way we get a seat on the plane is if it would otherwise be empty. If you’ve traveled lately, you know that there aren’t a lot of empty seats on planes. Still, with careful planning, the benefits do allow us travel advantages and opportunities unaffordable to most of the general public.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Airplane Boyfriend

Most jobs have a specialized language full of acronyms and jargon. Ours is no exception.

Each airport has a three letter city code. Some are obvious: DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth), BOS (Boston), STL (St Louis). Others are a little more puzzling: ORD (Chicago), MCO (Orlando), CDG (Paris).

We have codes for the various airlines themselves: UA (United), AA (American), HP (America West), BA (British Airways).

We have codes for things on the aircraft: AED (defibrillator), POB (portable oxygen bottle), UM (unaccompanied minor).

When you make your reservations there are all sorts of fare codes that even I can’t begin to decipher.

While frequently confused, there are two acronyms with very different meanings which flight attendants regularly use: ABP and APB.

ABP stands for able-bodied person, and is a term used in a variety of work environments. On the airplane it means people we would look to for assistance should it be needed. Flight attendants identify several ABPs per flight. It could mean strong individuals who we could count on to handle opening emergency exits. It could mean individuals with specialized knowledge, like doctors and nurses, law enforcement officers, or other airline workers. It could mean individuals who carry themselves with an air of leadership, who could be counted on to assist in an emergency situation. There are lots of people who could be an ABP.

APB stands for air-plane-boyfriend. There is only one APB per flight per flight attendant. It’s the expression that we use when we see someone gorgeous, interesting, sweet, funny, sexy, or downright HOT on our flight. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we want to take you home with us or date you in any way. It’s a status for the duration of the flight only, and is one that we freely talk about with our co-workers. For example: “Hey, dibs on the APB in 24C.”

As a further differentiation between the two, an APB is always an ABP. The same is not true in reverse.

Care to be my APB?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Barefoot in the Plane

You can go barefoot in the park, the backyard, on the beach, in the house, even in the steam room. But don’t ever, EVER go barefoot on the airplane!

I know that it’s tempting while you are sitting in your seat to slip off those uncomfortable shoes, and in limited circumstances it’s okay to do so. Here are the rules: No stinky feet (if in doubt, leave your shoes on). No holes in socks (if in doubt, leave your shoes on). Do not allow your bare or stocking clad feet to ever, EVER touch the floor of the airplane under any circumstances whatsoever.

The carpet on the airplane is a terrible, terrible thing. It has gone miles without a thorough cleaning, meaning miles of spilled food, vomit, soiled baby diapers, garbage, disgusting germs and other leave behinds from previous passengers. The airlines say that the carpet gets deep cleaned about once a month. I’ve yet to see evidence of that.

And what’s up with going into the lavatory without your shoes on?

Barefoot, stocking foot, I don’t care. It’s disgusting! It’s like you’re saying that you haven’t had enough germs around your seating area, so you want to walk down the aisle collecting more as you go. Then, because you still haven’t had enough, you now step into the lavatory, and walk into the mess left there. Do you wonder why your feet or socks are wet after that? Keep this in mind: That’s not water on the floor in there; it’s someone’s bodily fluids!

Next time you travel, look around. Do you ever see flight attendants with their shoes off? Of course not! We keep our shoes on – and so should you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Rainy Day Friend

I was hunkered in at a corner table in a coffee shop, drinking a vanilla latte and reading the paper. It was a drizzly day, the kind of day exactly suited for this activity. Never mind that I was on a layover in a dazzlingly vibrant city and that all my plans were now being rained out. None of that mattered, because the first things I learned as a fly girl were flexibility and resilience.

The rain forced others indoors as well, and soon the coffee shop was full of wet umbrellas and people. An attractive, casually dressed man approached and asked if he could share the table. Looking around, I realized that the coffee shop was indeed full, and that my squatter’s rights to the corner table would have to be forfeited in the name of sheer decency to other coffee drinkers.

Daniel joined me at the table, and after confessing to my status of a tourist, he told me all about himself, his city, and his career as an actor. I was a stranger in a strange land and eagerly drank in all his stories, mesmerized by his voice and the penetrating, yet kind, blue of his eyes. He warmed me more than the coffee.

He had an appointment, and I had dinner plans, and so after an hour we parted company. He was bright, witty, charming, fun, everything you could want in a new friend or lover. He gave me his email address and asked me to keep in touch, saying that he would enjoy getting together the next time that I was in town. As I went off to my dinner I was already writing the email in my mind.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Puppy Love

Most airlines allow passengers to bring on small pets. They must be able to fit in a traveling container that will fit under the seat, and have a certificate from a veterinarian stating that the pet is vaccinated and okay to travel.

Most people who travel with their pets have a close, warm relationship with them. They want to hold and cuddle with them, pet them, talk to them. In short, they dearly love their pets. This is not an emotion necessarily shared with other passengers who may be seated around them.

For this reason, airlines have requirements that the pet must remain in the travel carrier. If food or water is needed, this must be placed into the carrier along with the pet. Under no circumstances may the pet be allowed out of the carrier to roam the cabin, play on the floor, or snuggle on a lap.

Flight Attendants, being both human and animal loving kind of people, sometimes overlook this rule. I can guarantee you that an ugly, misbehaving pet will spotted from ten rows away. It is often difficult, however, to see a well-behaved, furry little puppy with big brown eyes that look up at you with love pouring out of its very being. If it’s not purring too loudly, we may occasionally miss noticing that tiny little kitten that has slipped onto a lap or into a pocket. I know, it’s not fair, but some days our eyesight just isn’t what it used to be.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Get the Hint

Here’s a hint: If you put your bag in the overhead compartment, and it sticks over the lip of the compartment, it’s not going to close. If it doesn’t close, it’s not going to be able to stay that way. So do everyone a favor, and make sure your bag fits before you sit down. Everyone will appreciate it.

And while we're at it, here’s some other hints:

We really do need you to put your seatbelt on. We don’t say this to harass you, it’s our job. The FAA makes us. We don’t want to get a personal fine or get fired for not doing our job. So just buckle up. It will make life easier for both of us.

Turn the damn cell phone off. You’re not that important! It really can wait till you get to your destination. Besides that, we're not going anywhere until you do.

If you are a person of size, please ask us for a seatbelt extension. Don’t pretend like you’re buckled in. We have to make sure that you are, so when we look, it’s just as embarrassing for us to look at your fat body as it is for you. Help us out here and make everyone a little more comfortable: ask for an extension.

When we come through the cabin with the beverage cart, it might be a good time to start thinking about what you’d like to drink. The beverage cart is the big 300 pound thing that we are struggling to push down the aisle. It takes us a long time. When we get to your row you need to be ready to answer the question of the day: What would you like to drink? Please don’t ask us what we have, because we know that you don’t really care. Just tell us what you want. We’ll let you know if we don’t have it. And for goodness sake, if you’re wearing those sound elimination headsets, take the damn things off. You can’t hear us, and we just get annoyed that you don’t realize that there’s a 300 pound cart parked right by you, and that you don’t understand we are talking to you. We are. Yes, we are talking to YOU!

If the answer to the beverage question is coffee, we’ll give it to you. Gladly. And then we’ll move on. If you want cream, sugar, and/or sweetener, just tell us when you order your coffee. We’ll give it to you. Gladly. But it really pisses us off if you wait till we’re two rows away and you wait till then to let us know.

There are other things that really annoy us. But that’s another post on another day.



We bid our schedules, trade things around, and try to fly with friends, the whole time keeping an eye on the layover. The very best layovers are those spent with friends or lovers, either those you work with or those who live in your layover city.

People always ask about flight attendants about hooking up with pilots. The majority of times that just doesn’t happen. Think about it. Who becomes pilots? There are certain personalities traits and backgrounds which are reasonably consistent in men who choose to go into aviation. While there certainly are exceptions to every rule, consider this. Most pilots come from a science background, engineering, aerospace, or physics, for example, and they have had a high degree of success in those fields. Now think back to high school and college. Who were the guys that excelled in those classes? Were they people that you were dying to go out with? Invite to your dinner party because they were such witty conversationalists? Probably not. And while some have improved with age, the majority of them are the same, only now they have a six-figure income.

One of the exceptions to this is the captain who we call B.D. The B stands for big, and I mean REALLY big. The D stands for a part of his anatomy below the belt line that makes him very appealing in bed (and makes you forget that he’s really a nerd at heart). I think you get the picture.

B.D. and Fly Girl Buffy hooked up on a layover in New York. It started out innocently enough. He was quiet and shy, she was a party girl. The rest of the crew was slam clicking - going to their rooms and staying in for the night. Fly Girl Buffy was never a slam-clicker, and planned on going out to enjoy the city. B.D. asked if she’d mind some company for the evening.

They went to Tartine in the West Village for dinner, stopping first to pick up a bottle of wine. Over dinner Fly Girl Buffy learned, among other things, that B.D. doesn’t drink. Not an auspicious start, yet there was something oddly appealing about him. They walked the streets of the West Village, wandering by the sex and fetish shops, stopping in at Condomania, and finally wound up at Magnolia Bakery for a dessert cupcake. B.D. was not a strong conversationalist, so there were periods of long silence. Not exactly Fly Girl Buffy’s typical evening, but still fun in a casual, low-key kind of way.

Arriving back at their layover hotel, B.D. walked Fly Girl Buffy back to her room, and before you knew it, the two of them were making out in the hall. The shy, quiet (oh, did I mention married?) B.D. had some serious bulk going on below the belt. Well, according to Fly Girl Buffy, it was actually spilling out over the belt. Buffy was hooked. She had to have B.D. So she did.

That was a couple of years ago. She continues to have B.D. It’s a strange relationship; one that most people can never understand. But then, they don’t know what Fly Girl Buffy knows. And if she has her way, they never will.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

Like most people who’ve ever flown on an airplane, you may have looked at the Flight Attendants with a mixture of awe, maybe even envy. They travel the world for free, often at a moment’s notice. They seem to know the best places to go for shopping, dining, drinking or clubbing. They bring the latest and greatest home from their trips, showing over the new hip items to their friends and family. Maybe you secretly wish that you were a Flight Attendant, too.

Or, you may have looked at the Flight Attendants and thought that the average age of the crew onboard the plane seems to be getting older with each passing flight. You wonder what ever happened to the weight restrictions and grooming standards of days gone by. Or what happened to smiles, mild flirtation, and gracious service standards. (Of course you think all this while paying less for your ticket than ten years ago, perfectly content with the fact that everything seems to have gone up in price except the cost of airfare.)

Well I’m here to tell you that the job is what you make of it. There are some things in our industry that I just can’t change: the price of fuel, the lunacy of top management in the industry, concessionary labor contracts, air rage, outsourcing, downsizing, elimination of pensions, company bankruptcy and personal health risks.

But what I can change is my attitude toward these things. I work hard to fight for the gains we’ve made in our business, and to keep my workplace safe and my co-workers secure. I take care of myself to prevent fatigue and preserve my health, and sure, so that I can fit into those low, tight jeans and turn a few heads when I’m out walking about. After all, a girl’s just gotta have energy for a layover!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Who Wants to be a Flight Attendant?

The job of a Flight Attendant is not exactly what everyone seems to think that it is: glamorous, a fun work environment with attentive (and sexy) pilots, a joy to be in as you interact with attractive and interesting (and sexy) passengers. Yes, at times the job is all that. Yet so much more.

People come to the job for a variety of reasons. For some, it's a life long dream, the lure of travel. For others, it's a dropping out of the rat race career change. Whatever the reason, once on the job most people find that the lifestyle sucks you in, and you never shake it.

Getting hired on as a Flight Attendant at a major airline is not an easy task. It is not uncommon for over 500 people to show up at a cattle call interview. These numbers get pared away, until eventually 25-30 remain. The process is as much about interviewing skills and personality as it is about having the job skills required. Quite frankly, if you can successfully make it through a flight attendant interview, you can likely sail through any ivy league college interview.

Once you've been identified as a potential candidate, you are put through a medical exam which includes drug screening. The industry has zero tolerance for illegal drug use, so if you need your Saturday blow, this is not the job for you! Only after successfully passing these screenings are you slotted into a training class.

Throughout this process, people are constantly telling you how selective Anonymous Airlines is, and how great you are to have gotten this far into the process. You are reminded how many hundreds of people applied for the one position which you currently occupy. At every step of the way you learn how prestigious and selective Anonymous Airlines is, and you begin to believe how very special you must be if they want to hire you. Visions of glamour and excitement dance through your head. You hold your head a little higher, walk a little lighter, smile a little brighter. You know just how special you are.

This will change soon. Because you are about to begin flight attendant training.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Blog Begins

It was a rainy afternoon weekend. I'd spent the day with my best friend on a layover. After hashing over all the trials and tribulations of our respective love lives (or lack thereof) we stopped off for a beer and Mexican food.

The beer made us a little reflective and we reminisced about our many adventures together. No one would ever believe our stories. Shy, professional, responsible flight attendants on the outside. Adventurous, silly, daring fly girls on the inside. Would anyone believe we were one and the same?

Another beer, and voila! This blog was born.