The Replacements

Credit: Flickr/BriBri

In recent news, American Airlines has come out publicly to say that in the event of a flight attendant strike (over contract negotiations) the airline is committed to their operation and would consider training their managers and support staff as flight attendants.

Putting aside the ramifications and reasons over a strike, this is a bad, bad idea.

The managers and support staff would be put through a quick abbreviated flight attendant initial training course, focusing mostly on safety and security and not the customer service aspects of the position. Usually, flight attendant training courses range from 3 weeks to two months, depending on the airlines standards and training schedule. My fear, is that the airline will “push through” replacements that may not be 100% qualified for the position, in an effort to keep planes in the air.

With the recent influx of security scares at airports and heightened awareness of aircraft safety, would you feel safe with a full crew of replacement flight attendants working your flight?

It’s no secret that flight attendants have become your first defense in the air against terrorism and have proven time over time that they are properally trained to safely evacuate passengers from an aircraft in crisis, but can these replacements do the same?

Probably. The FAA needs to approve any abbreviated training program before American can legally train any replacement workers. Therefore, you would hope that any safety and security training modules that are imperative to doing the job of a cabin crew member wouldn’t be cut in lieu of time. But what worries me is the mindset of a replacement worker.

These people are being taken out of an office environment, thrown through an inflight training course (which, trust me, isn’t easy and is very stressful!) and placed in a metal tube for a ‘temporary’ amount of time with other ‘flight attendants’ new to the position as well. If they happen to encounter a medical emergency, diversion or god forbid an emergency landing no one on board that aircraft has any prior experience to draw upon to lead the other crew members through the situation. The best training after initial ground training is experience and guidance from those who have been doing this job for a decent amount of time.

Through you sit through a month of training on the ground, and run through various scenarios, being faced with a situation in the air is a completely different story. I remember my first medical emergency, it was a very scary experience. At first, I froze. I won’t lie. I did. I was in one of those moments where I thought “oh my god, this is really happening!” Luckily, I had 2 other flight attendants working with me, who had been flying for over 5 years, and to them this situation was “routine.” They sprung into action, assisted the passenger, and taught me the ‘real way’ of dealing with the situation. From that moment on, dealing with medical emergencies also became routine to me and I’m able to show our new hires how to handle this situation in the real world.

These flights being operated with replacement workers, won’t have experience to fall back on when things aren’t going according to the textbook.

In addition to these replacement workers, ex-TWA flight attendants (who have been laid off by American Airlines following the merger) have now come forward and said they would be willing to work in the event of a strike. Even though these are past flight attendants, with years of experience I would question their motive in returning to the skies for an airline that has jerked them around for the better part of almost 10 years. These flight attendants were stapled to the bottom of the American seniority list, laid off, offered buyouts, etc. and now what to “help the company out in a time of need.” Why?

All of this aside, the employees at American should understand where the flight attendant work group is coming from (as they too took paycuts to keep the airline running) and should support each other. Crossing a picket line isn’t going to win over new friends, just create more enemies which, in the end, will create further atomicity between work groups which will be seen by the passengers and ruin the airline.

Passengers need to understand that flight attendant’s don’t make as much money as they used to and have taken considerable paycuts through the last few years to keep their airlines operating. As the airlines are looking to increase revenue and decrease spending during the recession, it’s sad to say that in my opinion they are putting safety on the line as they further jerk around flight crews and allow them to work in a hostile work environment.

Though it is important to mention that not all airlines share the same beliefs and some take care of and work with their employees to make their company a great place to work.

Alaska Airlines Flight Attendant’s file lawsuit due to Turbulence

Yep. You read that correctly. I was just as shocked as you are when I first read this story.. and frankly, I’d love to meet these ladies.

Donna Dacko and Inga Isakson were working a flight to ONT (Ontario, CA) from SEA (Seattle, WA) on December 25, 2007  when just prior to landing the flight hit “previously unreported sever turbulence.”

Inga allegedly hit her head on a seat armrest and metal rod below the seat which left her surrounded in a pool of blood and foaming at the mouth. Donna, was reportly thrown “at least” 6 rows of seats after hitting her head on the ceiling and landed on top of Inga.  In their lawsuit, they claim that Weather Service International (WSI) neglected to properly predict the weather and/or warn Alaska Airlines of the weather and are seeking payment for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and emotional distress. They also named the U.S. government in the claim because they think Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Air Traffic Organization should have warned them about the severe weather because their injuries were “totally preventable.”

Are you KIDDING me?!

If I filed a lawsuit for every time I hit turbulence, when I was told by the pilots reading their weather reports, that it should be smooth- I’d be spending my days in a courthouse filing paperwork.  Nevermind the lawsuits I could file claiming “emotional distress”  when the flight deck asks me to take my seat because the aircraft in front of us reported hitting some bumps, and after strapping in, we never encounter them. Smooth as glass. A lot of aircraft get their reports of turbulence from other aircraft in the area who have already experienced it, whose to say that Alaska 464 wasn’t the FIRST aircraft to encounter the turbulence and that no one else in the area or on the ground knew it was there. I mean, can the meteorologists and the FAA Air Traffic Organization really SEE the disturbed air?

This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

Yes, of course, if they really got hurt, I do feel sorry for them and send my deepest heartfelt well wishes. Going through severe turbulence isn’t a fun situation to be in, and can be very scary. However, I find it odd that they file this lawsuit one week before the statute of limitations expires. Why wait until now to file this claim? Why wait 2 years? What happened to the other one or two FAs on board? Are they okay? Furthermore, are you to say that when a meteorologist forecasts a foot of snow at 11pm and the next morning there is only 2 inches, because the storm got weaker through the night, that we can now sue them? It could be claimed that schools closed and flights canceled which caused lost revenue for those businesses, much those flight attendants lost wages from being out of work.

I’m really stunned at the audacity of these flight attendants. Turbulence is always something to be unexpected in my book, and proper precautions are should always be made in the event you hit “previously unreported” turbulence.  It comes with the job. When you going through training your taught about the many things that can happen to you on board an aircraft, including aircraft crashes. Turbulence is one of those things that we encounter on an almost every day, every flight basis. This is nothing new for them.

Alaska Airlines says they know nothing about this legal action. Frankly, good luck to them. They have to prove that two years ago SOMEONE else prior to them descending to 8,000ft knew that the patch of rough air they went through, was already there. The only patch of rough air I can see, is in the same location their brain is supposed to be.

If you’d like to read their 18 page filing, click here.

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The Line Dance

Being a Flight Attendant comes with many perks. Some of which you use on a regular basis, some you hardly ever use; and then there are some that you use every single day when going to work.

The perk/ability to cut the security line.

I’m finding that this is a very touchy subject. Especially on high travel days such as Friday and Sunday, where the lines are literally, out the door. Most of the traveling public understands why we cut the line, but let me explain it for those of you who are against it or don’t know anything about it.

First, how happy would you be if your flight was delayed because your crew was at the end of the line at the security checkpoint? Not happy I’m sure. But, your first instinct is to say, ‘well, get to the airport earlier.’  Now, we’re dealing with a crew rest issue and I have to ask: should the government and the airline now factor in possible wait times at the checkpoint when building rest regulations and trip pairings?  We know how the government works, that’ll never happen. As it is we are on our ‘rest’ during our transportation to/from the hotel, the whole checkin/out process and going through security. Making the airline put us on the clock longer then they have to means you’ll encounter more crew rest delays.

So, crew members cut the line. Most airports now a days make it a little bit easier on crew members to cut the line by adding signage that says “Uniformed Crewmembers may cut to the front of the line during peek travel periods” and some have designated employee lanes to allow us to get screened through. Having a dedicated lane makes life less stressful on you, the normal everyday business/leisure traveler, as I’m not adding time to your wait in line.

However, some airports have employee “lines” to get our badges verified, which then dump us into the normal “lanes” to get screened, leaving us to cut the line at the lane (confused yet?) to get our bags screened first. This is usually when I hear the most griping. People who have been in line for 45 minutes to an hour get upset and start screaming ‘”I’m going to be late now!” Well, if you’re going to be late because I cut in front of you, just wait until its your turn to get your bag screened and you left a bottle of shampoo in there or you’re “randomly selected,” then we can talk about late. Then there are those who don’t seem to understand why we’re cutting them and start with the whole “the line is back there” routine. Yes, I’m in uniform (we have to be now a days to get anything through security. Ugh how I long for the days of going through with just an ID badge), no- I don’t wear the uniform for fun, so yes, I’m going to work. Do you wait in line when you go to work? Well, I don’t either.

The line dance is going to be a touchy subject for as long as I can see, and has been one for as long as I remember. We can both take action to live peacefully, together. I apologize every time I cut the line: “I’m sorry, I’m headed to work, I’m just going to slot in in front of you and won’t take longer than a minute” or “excuse me, do you mind if I cut in front of you, I’m headed to work a flight.” As passengers, you can just accept the fact that we don’t have to wait in line to go to work, and that we have the right to cut the line. Putting up a fuss about it isn’t going to change anything or get you to your flight quicker. Yes it may seem unfair, but in the scheme of things flight crew know how to get through security quickly, we do it everyday, it really shouldn’t take long.. now, that’s not to say the screeners won’t take their sweet time screening the bags and moving the conveyor belt. That’s a whole other subject.

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Aborted Normality

I was on day 2 of 4, working Seattle to Los Angeles, back to Seattle, then once again, back to Los Angeles. I was flying with a crew that I knew but haven’t flown with before. I actually did one of their IOEs a year ago. Having that faith in her really came in handy.

We were getting ready to land as usual in Seattle from LA, nothing was out of the ordinary. Suddenly, we hit moderate to sever turbulence on our final decent. The aircraft was banking left, right, up, down, the tail was swinging as the front turned.. it was a very rough ride. The looks on the passengers faces in first class was a look of nervousness.

The landing gear came down, and the flight attendants received our two minute warning. I took my jumpseat, content as usual – knowing that all of my safety checks were done correctly and my cabin crew was seated. Thank god.

As we started our short final, things got hectic. The aircraft hit wind shear and we were again experiencing moderate to sever turbulence. As we got closer to the airport, I began to see the lights from the runway, I knew this was going to be a rough landing. Seconds before the aircraft would have been fully on the ground, wind shear again. Both pilots, in unison, decided to abort the landing. I expected it. I was prepping myself for an emergency had we landed. Yes, it was that bad. We had actually touched our main landing gear to the runway, and the wind shear then blew us off the runway onto the grass.

As we shot back to the skies like a rocket, and the airplane was making noises airplanes shouldn’t make.. I sat there.. smiling. 1A was having a panic attack. She kept screaming “its not safe to land” “its not safe to land” to which I screamed over the bulkhead “we’re not landing!”

Finally, after stabilizing our altitude the Captain came on the PA to address the passengers.

As you can see, Seattle is a little windy tonight. We didn’t feel comfortable putting the plane on the ground in that wind… so we’re going to go around.. take another look at it.. and it’s safe.. we’re going to land. If not.. we’ll worry about that when it happens — but air traffic control is saying it should be okay.

Then my phone rang. The Captain explained to me what had happened.. the main landing gear had touched the runway and the wind sheer blew us off course, and off the runway. We were going around, the landing should be normal and fine and if I had any questions. I didn’t.

I then called to the back to make sure the other FAs were holding up okay and heard the information the Captain announced over the P.A. They both said they were doing fine, the passengers seemed okay, and they were enjoying the ride.

As I hung up the phone the passenger in 1F looked over at me and mouthed “we’re going to be okay, right?” I said, yes. Though, reviewing my commands and prepping myself for the worst I too wanted to hear everything was going to be okay.

fpAs we started on our go around.. and went back through the turbulence to line up to land, again, I started to watch the people in first class become friends with each other, pray, and some began to cry.

After a few minutes we received the signal from the flight deck to take our seats and prepare for landing. We never stood up, anyway, it was entirely too bumpy and unsafe, so we were ready.

As began our decent we hit the same wind, rain and wind shear we did the first time, making me feel uncomfortable about a second attempt at landing. The passengers were beginning to cry louder and hold hands. Finally, the landing gear was deployed again and we were going to give it another shot. We landed, safely. And it was the smoothest landing I’ve had in a long time.

Trying to make light of the situation, and reassure everyone that they’re okay and the aircraft is still in tact, I get on the PA and said “well……..welcome to Seattle” and closed it by saying “We hope you’ve enjoyed your experience with us today.. and we look forward to seeing you soon!” As the passengers were getting off the plane each and every one of them stopped to say thank you to me and the flight deck. Some said “thanks” some said “thanks for saving my life” and some walked right past us without saying a word.

I looked to the back of the cabin and saw that were was 2 pax still in their seats. So I went to back to the back and there was an elderly woman, probably in her late 60’s who was visibly shaken up. She was crying, shaking and didn’t want to move. I had one of the other FAs grab me a bottle of water and told her I would be bring her bag to the front so that whenever she was ready, she could walk to the front. Once I got to the front of the aircraft I also had ground support order her a wheel chair.

I look over, across the aisle from this woman, and there was another woman, this one was laying on the floor. I asked her the same thing, got her some water and the other FA moved her bags to the front. I kept telling both of them “its okay, we’re on the ground now.. everything is fine.” For some reason I didn’t think they believed me.

As the elderly woman walked off the aircraft she did get in the wheelchair. She was feeling weak in her knees and didn’t want to walk.

After the passengers were all gone the Captain came out of the flight deck for a debriefing. That’s when we were told about how we were blown off the runway, and how the decision was made to go around. He then asked us if were okay or if we had any questions. None of us had any.. we were all pretty calm because we never got up out of our seats.

In retrospect, we should have done a quick walk through to make sure everyone was okay, but I really don’t think it was safe enough.

Anyway, a few minutes after our debriefing .. one of the gate agents comes down to the aircraft and said “Are you ready to board?”

And that quickly you have to forget about what just happened, could have happened and might happen.. put the fake smile back on your face and work one more flight before going to bed.

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Quick Update

2009-10-16 22.27.42Okay, so I was told by my friend Kyle (another FA at my company from my class, pictured left in my SFO hotel room showing my blog on his phone) that I haven’t updated my blog in a while.

I’m actually in San Francisco right now, for fun (believe it or not), getting ready to head out for a night out on the town. Tomorrow, we’re going to see Pam Ann in the Castro.

I promise to update the blog after Pam Ann and after this weekend is compete with a full recap of the goings on. There might even be an UPtv episode involved. We’re talking about filming one now.

Sorry for the lack in updates, recurrent training took up a lot of my time!

The Schedule Lottery

In the airline world seniority means everything. It runs your life from your days off to what trips you work and from your vacation time to your pay. Monthly you’re always reminded of exactly where you stand when you bid for next months schedule.

Depending on where your seniority stands, it’s almost like playing the lottery every month. You pick some trips and days off you like and you hope you hit the jackpot by getting awarded everything you want, but most likely you get 1, 2, or 3 things you asked for.

Luckily, I left my last airline where out of 2900 flight attendants in my base I was bidding 2305. I was STILL on reserve and will probably never see a line in my life time. Now, at my new airline I’m bidding the “purser” position, #65 out of 120. That’s not TOO bad, but if I was bidding in the main cabin, I’d be #60 of 280.

I always get some of the trips I bid for. I never usually get my first preference, it usually takes my first 4 preferences before my line is completely built. Usually I bid for trips that avoid New York (JFK) mostly because that was the first city we opened and I feel like I’ve been flying there for 2 years, I can deal with the people no problem (I was born and raised there).. but it is now become one of the more junior cities as we’ve expanded because of the people. I like my transcon flying and only working 1 or 2 flights a day. So, based on those preferences I pick trips that I’d want to fly, in essence building myself a few “perfect” schedules and enter those in as my top 4 preferences. This time, it turned out OK. I ended up going to JFK.. but got my days off I needed (I’m going to see Pam Ann) and I had to bid around my recurrent training. Here’s what I ended up with:

TU 29 00489 BOS
WE 30 LAX
TH 01 IAD
FR 02 SFO
SA 03
SU 04
MO 05 00461 JFK
TU 06 LAX
WE 07 BOS
TH 08 SFO
FR 09
SA 10
SU 11
MO 12
TU 13
WE 14 Recurrent
TH 15 Recurrent
FR 16
SA 17 PAM ANN
SU 18 00520 BOS
MO 19 LAX
TU 20 JFK
WE 21 SFO
TH 22
FR 23
SA 24
SU 25
MO 26
TU 27
WE 28 00510 SEA
TH 29 LAX
FR 30 JFK
SA 31 SFO

Block 82.48
Credit 88.48

At least I get to go to Boston and LA all month, I’m excited for that! Boston is a lot of fun and a great hotel. LA, though the hotel is less than Boston standards theres a lot around there and allows me time to rest on my home (Phoenix) time zone. Seattle brings me a nice layover too of 21 hours..And, thats right.. theres 15 days off in there! Whoo hoo! Anyway, if you’re a FA and happen to be in any of these cities on the same day as me next month.. Let me know! Maybe we can meetup and if you’re from Twitter like myself, I guess you’d call it a Tweetup! What does everyone have for October? How do your schedules look? Note: The COMMENT button has moved to BELOW the posts now, after the tags and categories it says “Leave a Comment”

BOS
LAX
IAD
SFO

Flight Attendant Confession: No Fly List

Though I wrote a post about Flight Attendant Camaraderie, there is, however, the flip side to that. Not only between airlines, but within each airline.

I usually bid for 4 day trans-continental trips.  Doing this, results in our crew of 3 usually becoming very close. Not only are we working together for 8-9-10 hours a day within those 4 days, but sometimes we go to dinner together and explore our layover city as a group. The majority of the time the other FAs awarded the same trips as myself are fun, hard working people and we mesh very well together. However, with as many flight attendants as airlines have you’re bound to meet someone that you just don’t work well with; and, because you’ve been together for 4 days, you may now have a deep disgust for this person.

For example, a few years ago my crew and I reported for our flight to SFO from LAX that was supposed to continue onto JFK. When we got to the airport, the aircraft arrived missing 2 oxygen bottles. Unfortunately, LAX didn’t have any more in the stock room and we had to wait for some to be flown in from San Francisco. 4 hours later, we departed. Upon arrival into SFO, we thought for sure the company would have used a spare plane & reserve crew to dispatch our JFK leg ontime. Wrong. A spare airplane was used, the passengers were boarded with Airport Reserves, all they were waiting on.. was us.

As we approached the airplane an InFlight supervisor was outside the door. She informed us that because of the delay the company decided that everyone on board would receive a free meal for being inconvenienced. We were 100% catered. As the purser, I spoke to Lauren & Jill, who were both working main cabin, to find out if they had any preference on how to do service. It was decided, as a whole, that a beverage service would be done and then both of them would go through the cabin with the food cart and pass out an item to each passenger to ensure everyone got something to eat.

Once InFlight, Jill approached the first class galley (where the extra food was being stored) and very loudly yelled

Whose idea was it to do service this way, anyway?! We’re in the aisle entirely too long — this is taking forever!

I reminded her that we all decided this was the best way to ensure everyone got something and no one was left out. She then stated that she never agreed to this, then she grabbed another drawer of sandwiches and headed to the back.

About 15 minutes later she came back to the front threw the empty bin on the floor and again reiterated her disgust for still being in the aisle 1.5 hours after take off. Again, she took more food and headed aft. 15 minutes later,  just as I had picked up two trays of food to deliver to my passengers, she again comes to the front  but this time holding a hot water cup and proclaimed her need for hot water. I looked at her with raised eye brows, as my hands were full, and said: “you know where it is” as I headed into the cabin. Spitefully, she then proceeded to hit the “hot water” button without placing her cup under the spicket making the hot water flood my galley counter, and destroying my paper which had my first class orders written on it. Unbeknown to her, I saw this happen as I was waiting for her to exit the galley so I could continue my service. As I re-entered the galley she told me the button ‘got stuck’ and walked away.

This is how Jill got added to my “no-fly” list and why flight attendants as whole secretly keep one.

When bidding for schedules, some airlines allow you to actually enter your no-fly list as a bid preference such as “Avoid Trips with Employee XXX” or “DO NOT Award Same Schedule as LASTNAME, FIRSTNAME” but some airlines don’t allow you these bid options. They view it as being anti-team building and not being a team player. Most FAs then resort to dropping or trading the trip away – some even pay money for you to take the trip from them just to ensure they don’t have to work with the particular flight attendant they are avoiding.

Though it can be viewed as not being a team player, if you know you don’t get a long with a particular person and don’t trust their judgment within sticky situations I believe you should be allowed to avoid trips with them. Not only for your personal sanity, but for the sake of the passengers as well. If you’re constantly dealing with this co-worker and trying to talk them through situations, how much customer service are you providing to the paying passengers?

Therefore, yes, as a flight attendant I agree with the traveling public. There are those of us that don’t belong in this position. The problem is we aren’t the ones who hired nor are we the ones that can fire them. We can just avoid them.

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