An Honest Day as a Flight Attendant
I mostly intend for this blog to be all about adventures & beer & funny flight attendant ramblings, but the thing is some days are rough in this industry. I know a lot of you think I spent two months in training learning how to pour a coke, but the truth is we spend most of our time learning how to make people feel comfortable and to be able to keep everyone safe in an emergency.
Luckily today was not a fatal day, nor was it anywhere near as bad as a flight attendant’s worst day. However, it was an emotional roller coaster, and I cannot wait to get to my room and unwind with a good book and a pint of whatever local beer is on tap.
First flight, beginning of a three day: Boston to Atlanta.
Since I am the lead, I brief with my crew and give them any important and necessary information. During boarding, a woman gets on and needs assistance getting to her seat. She is traveling alone with a newborn and seems highly stressed. Once we get her settled, she comes up again during boarding to use the restroom. Her baby’s diaper “blew up,” her words, not mine. However, after my many years of nannying, I would have said the same. At this point, she’s in tears and can barely talk to us. After she changed the baby’s diaper, the woman tells us she left a costly item at security and wants to know if she can take the next flight. She begins to cry again, and we find out that she’s going to visit her Mom, who is starting her first round of chemo tomorrow.
I cannot emphasize this enough, but you never know what someone is going through, and travel is not always a pleasant experience or for exotic vacations. People are struggling and going to funerals or doctor’s visits or to see their family for the last time, and guess who is there for them when they’re going through those things? Flight attendants. Sometimes we have to be therapists, and it is not easy. I’d love to just be flying around pouring soda-pop and have nothing to worry about at the end of the day but people’s stories stay with you. I really do wonder what happens to them after they walk off my aircraft.
Then we all sit in Atlanta for 4 hours.
Yes, flight attendants have long periods before flights too. Long delays frustrate us just as much, if not more. I often work on my writing, read one of the many books I lug around and wait in line at the closest Starbucks for my iced coffee fix.
Flight 2: Atlanta to Tucson.
I really should have been more mentally prepared for this flight, but after the long sit I was out of it. Unfortunately the coffee I had didn’t help much. I also didn’t expect the flight to have as many elderly passengers as it did. It being Arizona I should have known, they’re all heading back to the warmth now that summer is over. We have about 30 minutes to board an aircraft, except for international flights, and some planes are harder than others. Some flights also have several people who need assistance to their seats, which takes up a lot of time & backs up the jet bridge. All during this 30 min period, I, as the lead, have to…
- Take beverage orders for first class
- Assist people with seat issues or any other confusion
- Hang up coats
- Make and deliver beverages to first class
- Communicate with the gate agents
- Keep an eye on overhead bin space & make sure it’s not filling up & that people are placing their bags in properly
- Make 2-3 announcements
- Communicate with the rest of my flight crew that there are no issues in the back and that exit rows have been briefed
- Meet with the pilots and make sure they have everything they need
- Count and hopefully unwrap meals for first class
- Make sure I have everything dr catering in the front and back
These are just the basics. This doesn’t include all of the other random things that happen during boarding that are unpredictable.
Moving on to inflight
We are in the middle of our service. I’m picking up meals from first-class passengers, and the flight attendants in the back are about halfway through the cabin. Suddenly I get an emergency indication that there is smoke in the lavatory.
At the same time the pilots call, a call light goes off, and the smoke alarm begins ringing. It takes me a minute to figure out what’s going on and I rushed to the back having another crew member take my place upfront. We push the carts out of the aisles and immediately check all 4 lavatories onboard. Everything appears to be fine. However, someone must have either lit a cigarette or been vaping in the mid lavatory. I inform the Captain there is no actual smoke or fire and that we have dumped water in all the trash bins as a precaution.
Since we didn’t know who it was I made the following announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have gotten an indication that there is smoke in the lavatories. If you were smoking or vaping, please be aware that neither is allowed on an aircraft. If caught, it comes with a hefty fine. So once again, there will be no smoking in the lavatory, in the galley, or anywhere in this cabin. If anyone does we will be diverting, meaning we will not be going to Tucson.” Now that I’ve handled that, I head back up front to finish my service. I have my crew keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior. All I want to do is eat my crappy airport pizza in the galley alone.
Then one of the sweet old men that needed help during boarding needs help to get to the bathroom. Along the way he forgets where I’m taking him. He sees the people eating and tells me he isn’t hungry and doesn’t know why I brought him up here. Then when I take him back to his seat he forgets who his wife is for a minute. His wife looks exhausted and like she might break down if he forgets who she is again. I begin walking back to the front galley and realize I need to go into the lavatory because I’ve started to cry.
This is the third time this week I’ve been around someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It reminds me of my Great Grandma who was recently put into a retirement community that specializes in Alzheimer’s. I haven’t been able to see her in a couple years. The last time I saw her she kept calling me by my Mother’s name. To be fair, we do look a lot alike. I take some deep breaths, make sure I don’t have any mascara running down my face, and finally go eat my pizza.
We arrive in Tucson. I’m safely and comfortable in my room, appreciating that I have a fantastic job that I love despite how draining it can be. I’m also savoring the silence I have until I begin another day tomorrow that may bring just as much or more than today did. I hope you now understand that being a flight attendant isn’t all glamorous and it’s not just about serving snacks. At the end of the day it’s all about connections. Connecting flights, connecting with people and connecting paths.
The Hoppy Flight Attendant
Now if you’re in the mood for something funny check out this post: Things Your Flight Attendant Doesn’t Know #1-10