Live from the Line: It’s all up in the Air

So I’m in Seattle right now and was supposed to work to Los Angeles and then onto Washington DC tomorrow. But, that’s not happening anymore.

Thanks to the storm on the left, my schedule is up in the air, literally. My LAX DC flight is canceled so now I’m waiting for a re-assignment.

Who knows where I can end up.. I’m hoping to just work to LA, layover, then deadhead to DC to pick up the rest of my trip. Let’s hope that happens. Less work + same pay = Happy FA 😉


Worst Airline Ad Ever

Okay, so I saw this ad on TheFlyingPinto blog and I had to post it myself. Maybe they should have reversed the position of the airline logo and make the plane point upwards? ha!

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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A Day in the Life: Flight Attendant Trips

In an effort to explain to those non-flight attendants and airline folks how each aircraft gets a full compliment of crew members, and generally speaking; what goes into being a flight attendant, I’m going to continue to add chapters to my “A Day in the Life” series. I think this could also help you understand some of the posts I make in the blog and help bring everything together to make some sense.

You may hear me mention from time to time that I’m leaving on another “trip” or that I’m on a “4 day trip” and I’m not saying that because I’m going on vacation or because thats the easy way of me saying I’m “going to work.” A trip is a collection of flights that a flight crew member will be operating over the course of one day to four days and sometimes even longer than that. The word “trip” can be substituted for the word “pairing,” “ID,” or “sectors” depending on the airline or country in which you work.

Trips can change monthly. The trips are built by the Crew Planning department after they receive a list of flights that the airline intends to operate for the next month from either Route Planning or Marketing. Flight times and flight schedules can change monthly, therefore impacting what kind of trips can be built.

Most domestic carriers build trips ranging from 1-4 days, and in some cases have 5 day trips. Depending on the flight attendant’s work rules or union contract regarding duty and flight time, some trips may contain a transcontinental turn (example LAX-JFK-LAX) allowing the flight attendant to fly 11 hours in one day. Most senior flight attendants like these one day trips because it allows them to be home at night, like a normal job would but allowing them to retain the scheduling flexibility that comes with being a flight attendant.

Commuters, like myself, enjoy 3 and 4 day trips. This way, I only encounter the annoyance of flying to work once a week.

Here’s an example of what a trip can look like:

Above is an example of the flights I might work in a 4 day period. Now, I’m going to break down a trip and tell you about some aspects of them, that you might not know.  Let’s take a look at the last flight on day 3, and the first flight on day 4.

You’ll see that if you were work flight 682, you’d land in New York at 10:29pm and you would stop getting paid at that moment. Figure it takes 15 minutes for everyone to deplane and 30 minutes for you to get to your hotel. Now, its 11:14pm. You’re report time the next morning, at the airport, is 10:30am. Which means, you have to leave the hotel at 10am, so you’re up getting ready at 9:00am or 8:45am.  You can now see that though the layover says you’re getting “11 hours 46 minutes rest” you’re really not. If you were to actually fall asleep the second you get to your hotel room, which would never happen, you’d be asleep for roughly 9 hours and 30 minutes. Realistically, by the time you take a shower (20 minutes), eat something (20 minutes), relax in bed to fall asleep (20 minutes) you’re now down to 8 hours and 30 minutes of sleep. Mind you, this is factoring in that you don’t wait 30 minutes at the airport for the van, your rooms at the hotel are ready, you have food with you to eat (and you don’t have to wait for room service or delivery), and most of all, you weren’t delayed arriving into JFK. Your rest isn’t extended if your late, unless it goes below 8 hours.

Another way trips can be built, which really messes with me, is with day sleeps.

You’ll see with this trip, that you leave San Francisco at 11:15pm and arrive in Dulles, VA at 5:45am the following day. You ‘rest’ for 13 hours and 10 minutes. Then, later that same day, you work a night flight to Los Angeles at 8:10pm. Some flight attendants prefer to sleep during the day after working all night, then again, working a night flight. So, some trips may be built this way.

For those days where you do “turns,” or a lot of short flights in and out of a particular city or cities, some trips come jam packed with “sit time” or “ground time.”

This is one of those things I can’t stand when it comes to being a flight attendant. “Sit time,” sometimes known as “airport appreciation time” is time you spend in an airport, not getting paid your normal, hourly rate, but yet — on duty, waiting to work your next flight. In the example above you land in San Francisco at 9:50am from Los Angeles, but you don’t leave for Las Vegas until 2 hours and 20 minutes AFTER you arrive from Los Angeles. This is usually when your momentum of ‘working’ and ‘being at work’ fades because you literally have nothing to do, and aren’t getting paid, until you close the door for your next flight.

Trips can come in all shapes, sizes, lengths, long days, short days, 1 days, etc. It’s a matter of personal preference as to what makes a “good” trip.. but generally speaking long sit times, working 4 or more flights a day coupled with a short layover seem to create a “bad” trip.

For those of you who aren’t in the airline industry, please take note (though not an excuse for bad service and/or cranky flight attendants): as you can see with the last example showing “sit time,” if you’re booked on the LAS-JFK flight at 2:35pm, as you can see, they’ve been working since their report time of 7:25am, which means they had to be on the way to the airport at 7am, and awake since 6am. By the time they are getting to you, to work a 4.5 hour flight, they’ve already been awake/working for 8 hours and 30 minutes trying their best to stay on time and dealing with everyday, normal, passenger issues. Trust me, they want to get to New York just as much as you do.. in fact, probably more than you do, so they can sleep!

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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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Blind, Deaf and Not So Helpless

This past week I went back to work following my vacation has it was quite eventful. You all saw I posted a blog live from the line about the passenger who wanted french fries and then proceeded to think the trash bag was a grab bag of snacks. Well, the day after that, it got a bit more interesting.

We arrived at the gate in Washington DC to be told by the agents that we had a woman coming onboard who couldn’t see, hear, or speak english. For this trip I was working in the maincabin (long story short I needed to move my schedule around and this m/c trip was the only thing that could work!) and was working the position responsbile for all of the special briefings so I started to formulate just how I’d brief her.

Just when we started boarding, this woman who looked to be about 90 years old walks on the plane (by herself) and hands me a note:

Hello, my name is Anita and I’m 93 years old. I’m blind and partially deaf and don’t speak English, I speak Turkish. I am traveling to Los Angeles to meet my son and need some help along the way. I prefer an aisle seat, low-fat milk, and soft snacks. I require a pillow and blanket for my head and back, as well as a reclining seat. I am mostly healthy but will need assistance to and from the restroom and help closing the door. Thank you.

Now, let’s dicsect, because this raises a lot of questions. How can someone let their mother, in this state, travel alone? On our airline you pay for food (including snacks) are they just expecting something free? We don’t have pillows and & blankets anymore in coach, they’re for purchase how badly does she need one? .. and lastly, Milk. You all know my dislike for people who want Milk. We don’t always have it either, what else can she drink?

Anyway, I walk her to her seat, put her bag up and she sits down. During the beverage service, forgetting who I was talking to, I asked her if she wanted something to drink. After waiting for a response, I remembered, untwisted the cap to a bottle of water, took her hand and made her touch it, to know it was there. We continued on.

Later, I started to think about how to figure out if she was hungry and what she could eat. I came to the conclusion that if she could drink Milk, she can eat a fruit & cheese platter. So, I walked over to her, placed it down on her tray table, again took her hand and placed it on it. Hoping she’d realize it’s cheese because I don’t know how to explain that to someone who cannot hear me nor see what I’m talking about. Of course, there was no charge, how do you explain to someone who can’t see or hear you that I need $7 credit card only?

Later, the 2FAs and I were in the back and as usual a line for the restroom formed. The Fasten Seatbelt Sign came on and the lead made her announcement about returning to your seat and fastening your belt. We all look at the line that has formed and we see Anita. How she found the line/back of the plane/bathroom is beyond us! The lead walks over to her, speaking instructions about how unsafe it is to be up (forgetting that she’s deaf) and to our surprise, she responded

I understand how unsafe it is darling, but I really must get to the restroom

Okay, WHAT?! She spoke perfect English!? I walked right up to her and said “you speak english? are you blind and deaf as well?” Her response was:

No dear, my son told me to just hand that note to the people on the plane and not to speak to anyone or get in anyones way because the contents of the note would take care of me for the whole flight. He also said by not talking back and following what he wrote I could get on and off the plane first.

We were all shocked. Here I am, taking her hand and placing it on water and food because I’m at a loss for how to help this woman eat and drink, and the whole time she speaks perfect English, can see and has a hearing aid in her right ear. She didn’t once question was I was touching her and placing her hand on products either.

I wonder if she was even 93. All women seem to lie about their age, that lie – I can understand. Maybe.


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.”