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.

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When Complacency goes Up, Up, and Away.

The last week has been anything but quiet in the airline industry. On December 25, 2009 Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, otherwise known as the Underwear Bomber tried to take down Northwest Airlines flight 253. Thankfully, the passengers and crew were able to apprehend the terrorist when his explosives failed to ignite. Following this event, the Transportation Security Administration put a series of new regulations into place which made no sense what-so-ever. Passengers on flights arriving into the United States from international departure cities weren’t allowed to be out of their seats for the last hour of flight and further weren’t allowed access to any of their personal items and/or have anything on their laps or in their hands, crews weren’t allowed to report the location of the aircraft to their passengers and passengers could be and were frisked and patted down prior to boarding (in addition to the security check point).

Delta Airlines flight 2377 from West Palm Beach to New York’s LaGuardia took a two hour delay on December 26, 2009 when socialite Ivana Trump became belligerent when crew members asked her to stop screaming profanities at children running up and down the aisles. Trump was removed from the aircraft, and the FBI was contacted but didn’t pursue the matter.

On December 27, 2009, the same day Umar Abdulmutallab was to appear in Court, Northwest Airlines flight 253, again, from Amsterdam to Detroit made an emergency landing due to an unruly passenger who spent an “abnormal” (what exactly is “abnormal?”) amount of time in an aircraft lavatory. The flight was parked at a hardstand while all passenger carry on items were checked by bomb sniffing dogs and the passengers and crew were bussed to a secure location to be interviewed by the FBI and TSA. Later, all passengers, including the man who was “unruly” were let go, when Officials determined that the man, was in fact, sick and became unruly when passengers and crewmembers opened the lavatory door and dragged him out of the restroom.

Later that day, the 27th, two passengers were removed from US Airways flight 192 in Phoenix, AZ after the flight made an emergency landing inbound from Orlando. Passengers alerted the crew of two Middle Eastern men “speaking loudly in a foreign language” and whom were watching the terrorism thwarting movie “The Kingdom.”

What are we thinking? Are you following the ridiculousness?

The number one thing that should have come of the Underwear Bomber is a jolt out of complacence that America is safe. We must remember the events of September 11, 2001 and remember that we are currently a country at war. There are many organizations and groups out there that time after time make threats against us as a nation, and sometimes, it seems, they might actually try to carry them out. We must not allow them to do so.

Frayed underwear from 'The Underwear Bomber' via ABCNews

However, how far is too far? Did we really need to call the FBI in Palm Beach when Ivana Trump thew a temper tantrum? No. Come on now, they have bigger underwear to fry at the moment. And, did those “unruly” passengers plucked from airplanes in the days following Christmas need to be removed, probably not. Had the events on Christmas NOT taken place, would they have been removed? Would the FBI be called in on Ivana Trump? No.

We overreacted. And, that’s okay. The TSA learned from their mistake in the days following and retracted many of their original directives, President Obama called for a study of our current homeland security policies and procedures and individual airlines now have policies in place to better handle a situations like this.

In the last few days there’s been a major call-to-action to beef up airport security and to ensure men like Umar Abdulmutallab never get into the United States or onboard on of our airplanes. But what strikes me as funny, is the civil war going on trying to decide how exactly to keep our airports safe.

Some airports have a body scan machine which allows the TSA agents to get a “naked” view of your body to pinpoint any concealed weapons and contraband that might be on your person. Some people view this machine as an invasion of privacy, so for the time being while its an optional screening level, they bypass it and opt for a more through check using the regular metal detector and a physical patdown.

@ediableguys: I don’t want no dog sniffing at me. Can you imagine being sniffed every time you have to travel? Bring on the scanners I say

In addition to this machine the TSA is also using bomb sniffing dogs at airports to detect any explosives in checked bags, cargo and carry on items. It has been mentioned that these dogs could also be used to detect explosives on your person, but again, some people view this as an invasion of privacy and don’t want a dog sniffing them every time they travel.

@MsWendy23: Hell yes they [bomb sniffing dogs] should be allowed! Why wouldn’t they ?!?!

America doesn’t know what we want. What we do know is, we want to be safe when we travel, but we don’t want to give up our privacy to do so. And, in my opinion, you can’t have it both ways.

When you’re traveling you should no longer have [your] privacy for the time it takes you to proceed through the checkpoint. The TSA and Department of Homeland Security are not just checking your body and your belongings to keep you safe, but also checking them to keep the other 150+ people on your aircraft safe. At that point, it’s no longer about you, but about everyone else, including you, that you’ll encounter on the other side of the checkpoint.

It’s time to wake up America. We all agree that we need to remain safe and secure, so we should be doing ANYTHING and EVERYTHING possible within our power to do so.

[Note: The above post is my opinion and my opinion only. It doesn’t reflect the opinion of my employer or co-workers.]

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Live from the Line > Flight Trip Report: BOS-LAX

Bathrooms: DON’T SLAM THE DOOR! What’s with Boston folks SLAMMING the door closed when they exit or enter the lav? Trust me, it locks!

Sleeping: DON’T ORDER FOOD THEN FALL ASLEEP. First Class specifically, you, sir, placed your order with me for food and proceeded to tell me how hungry you were. I rush your food out to you, to find you SLEEPING. Seriously?!

Boarding: Yes, there is in fact people behind you, also with luggage. Don’t look back and hold up the line.. keep moving!

Complaints: Don’t complain to me that we “ran out of” a menu option when the option you’re complaining about wasn’t even offered on our flight PERIOD. Read the menu, specifically where it says “Westbound Flights ONLY”

Oh yeah, lastly, the headrests are NOT removable. Don’t try.

Lord.. and that was just BOS-LAX. Onward to JFK from LA!

Commuting, the ups and downs. Literally.

When I took the job as a Flight Attendant at my current airline, I knew I was going to be a commuter. Something, that when I first started in this industry, I swore I’d never do.

I remember seeing the stressed look on people’s faces as they bite their nails wondering whether or not they make it on their flight home to only have one day off before heading back to base. I didn’t want to be one of them.

Now, I live in Phoenix, AZ and I commute to San Francisco. SFO is entirelly to expensive to live in, for me. That’s why I commute. The money I make at work goes 30x further in Phoenix then it ever would in SFO. Luckily, I have seniority.

I’m able to hold completely commutable trips. To me, a commutable trip is one that reports after 10:30am, and releases by 6:00pm. Usually my releases are around 1:30pm to 3pm. This enables me to have a 2 flight buffer in each direction. Usually, thats a safe bet.

San Francisco is one of the most messed up airports in the United States. Why? Because they always issue “GDPs” or Ground Delay Programs. GDPs go into place when the fog, which SFO is known for, is so dense and populated that you cannot see the runways at the SFO airport from the San Mateo bridge. At that point, the pilots are unable to preform a visual approach and must use an instrumental approach which means the arrival rates are cut half. This leads to delays at every airline arriving into San Francisco until the GDP is lifted.

Two nights ago, I was planning my commute to work, I had a checking in time of 2:10pm, while my boyfriend made dinner. I was agonizing over which flights to take to work after checking the weather. Clouds were predicted under 1000ft. That’s a sure sign of a GDP. I debated going to Oakland, CA and taking BART (bay area rapid transit) over to SFO, but thats $10 wasted and another hour added to my commute. I thought about a flight through San Diego, arriving in SFO at 11:45am, but thats still prime GDP time. My first choice though was a 10am nonstop to SFO arriving at 12pm, though I still was uneasy about the arrival time and the possibility of a GDP. .All of this, to avoid taking a 6:35am flight, nonstop from Phoenix to San Francisco arriving at work 6 hours earlier than I needed to. I knew the flight was open and would land ontime, it always does, but I didn’t want to wake up at 4am.

At 9:45pm I decided to suck it up and take the 6:35am flight. I think that decision saved my job, or at least a write-up.

At 9:15am the next morning, I was checking the crew scheduling system and saw that a

SFO Fog Around the Golden Gate Bridge

SFO Fog Around the Golden Gate Bridge

friend of mine from PHX was working a plane in from JFK. I went down to meet him, and walked over to the gate for his commute to Phoenix. It was delayed until 2:35pm. Everything was delayed, SFO was a mess because of the clouds and fog. If the flight was leaving at 2:35pm that means they built in 20 minutes to board, I was flying Southwest, which means the flight was due to land at 2:05pm.

My friend and I watched all these people ask the agents questions, yell at them,and demand answers. All because of clouds. In one response the agent gave to a passenger I overheard “they held the flight longer in Phoenix, we’re working on getting you a different airplane.”

I quickly thought, wow, this plane is coming from Phoenix.. I wonder what flight it was. You guessed it. It was my first choice, almost got on, 10am flight to SFO. Not only was there a GDP into SFO but the wind shifted in Phoenix causing an additional 30 minute delay as the planes changed runways. That flight landed at 2:20pm.

Had I taken that flight, I would have no-called, no-showed, missed a trip. Thankfully, the non-rev gods gave me good sense the night before to realize that SFO is a mess of an airport and gave me the guidance to wake up at 4am and take the first non-stop.

Commuting has its privileges, such as making your money go further than it could it in your base city and living in a city you love while working for a company you like to work for. But it has its disadvantages, complete undue stress! I cannot begin to imagine what I would have felt like had I decided to take that 10am flight. All I can say is I’m thankful for listening to that inner voice that told me, “don’t do it.”

15 Reasons Why: It’s the Flight Attendant’s fault that…

So I got a little bored on my last 4 day trip and started taking note of things people blamed the crew for even though it was their own ignorance or stupidity. Not all of the following happened in the last 4 days, but they have all happened to me in my career.

15 Reasons Why: It’s the Flight Attendant’s fault that…

…you went under the velvet rope in a dual gate area during boarding, got on the wrong plane, didn’t bother to listen to the flight attendant’s PAs (that were made every 5 minutes) and ended up in New York’s JFK not Seattle. (true story of mine!)

…they don’t have a fork for your salad that you bought in the terminal, since they should always have a supply of extra utensils on them for your use.

…you must wait in line, like everyone else, to use the lav – because they can’t issue you a “move to the front of the line free” card.

…you didn’t board with your group/zone and there is no overhead bin space left since they personally made you go to Starbucks first.

…a screaming child is seated in front of you, since the flight attendant assigned EVERYONE’S seats!

…you’re on a strict diet and the airline isn’t selling food you can eat, the FAs should have called each passenger the night before to ensure you were able to eat something the airline provided.

…there is an Air Traffic Control hold on all departures/arrivals and you’re delayed 2 hours, and apparently, I guess, the flight attendants are not delayed with you (and NOT getting paid!)

…you were sleeping through the beverage service and didn’t get a drink on the 45 minute flight from LAX to SFO, because you WOULDN’T have gotten mad if they woke you up to hand you a coke.

…they don’t have psychic abilities to tell you the gate and status of your connection while at 35,000ft with you, because they can just call the ground on the cell phone you’re not allowed to use. (neither are we!)

…they don’t have lemonade, pineapple juice, guava juice, or carrot juice to offer you since they decide what products are carried on board, personally.

…after checking in 2 hours ago, and just boarding the airplane you just NOW noticed you’re in a middle seat but you “need a window or an aisle because you just had back surgery..” and there are none left and but they should make someone move because you neglected to take care of yourself first.

…they don’t have spare pen’s for you to use, because much like the spare eating utensils, they should always have a supply.

…there is no closet on board to hang your Armani suit and it has to go into the overhead with everyone elses bags, yes, even if you’re in first class, you bought a seat not a cargo plane.

…no matter how many times you asked to go to the bathroom when the seat belt sign was on, they said no, since the FAA permits them to break aviation regulations just for you and nobody else.

…they hit your elbow and foot with the cart while going down the aisle, even though they made an announcement saying they were passing through and to clear the aisle.

BONUS! “It’s the Airline’s fault that…”

…you overslept and when you got to the gate the flight was closed and you were not allowed on.

…you checked in only 45 minutes before your flight, though your tickets say to check in 2 hours prior, and the TSA security line was so long you missed your flight

…you purchased your tickets on a website OTHER THAN the official Airline’s website and they assigned you a middle seat that doesn’t recline.

…you booked the wrong date on your reservaton, though seemed to have missed it through the 15 step reservation process and now there’s a $100 change fee.

I have a gift for you, it’s a pyramid!

I was working a flight from Los Angeles to Seattle, pre-food poisoning, serving pre-departure drinks in first class, while my second FA was in the forward galley greeting people as they boarded. I turned my back to the boarding door to place a drink on someone’s tray table when I heard a passenger say:

Hey there! I have a gift for you!

I turned around to look at him and he added:

Oh! and one for you too!

My first instinct is to think that it’s a non-rev airline employee who brought us chocolates or cookies, as that happens a lot; or maybe it was a really nice passenger.

I know my Second FA thought the same thing, because after this happened his response was “I thought we were getting chocolate, and I was all excited.

Chocolate, we did not receive. What did we get?

Pyramid Schmeeramid

We got a CD invitation to join a get-rich-quick money scheme. My other FA and I both looked at each other, at a loss for words and said “thanks!” The  pax walked toward the aft waving “you’re welcome”, but still in our area, the other FA threw his copy in the trash and I said “oh, I’ll just put this right here. Thanks”

I thought that was kind of ballsy! Here you’re making it sound like a gift for someone, in the service industry no less (i.e. tipping), and its something which in turn, benefits you, since it states “I will be your personal mentor!” I’m sure you will, after I pay the $300 “activation” fee and join under you. I mean, it’s ironic and funny in the fact that he handed two FAs at a Low Cost Carrier a DVD to earn “money now,” since its widely known we don’t make tons of it and we’re in a recession, but seriously?!

Anyway, that is definitely one of the stranger gifts I’ve received since I’ve started flying back in 2005. That encounter was almost as bad as a first officer I worked with at the end of last month that tried to sell all of the flight attendants a motorized bike for the LOW LOW price of $2000, a months paycheck. Oh, okay, because I need a bike at home in Phoenix where its 117 degrees all summer. “Well, that’s why its perfect. It’s motorized.”

No thanks, my car works just fine. Call me when you’re bike has air conditioning as well.

Ryanair wants you to stand up there!

Ryanair, after hearing about Spring Airlines, is now also considering making their passengers stand, and just approached Boeing about making an aircraft which has standing room!

Click here for the News Story