30 December 2008

The Lure of a Nap

All night flights are the bane of everyones existence, yet a necessary evil for all. Passengers take them to get where they need to go and arrive at the start of the business day, we as crew generally fly one per 'trip' if we fly international routes.  Trying to stay awake during the 'red eye' portion of your trip can be challenging indeed.

Being based in Europe, often my work day for the flight home starts anywhere between 11 pm and 4 am on my body clock time. The ride to the airport is usually the time your head is starting to get heavy and your eyes a bit sore. A quick catnap on the crew bus and/or a coffee at the ubiquitous airport Starbucks will usually perk a crew member up for a few hours. The rush of the dinner service will keep you awake, as you have to be quick as the passengers want to get a few hours of sleep in. 

When the service is done, you turn the lights down, sometimes warm the cabin a bit to aid the passengers sleep, and see them snuggle off as best they can. The only light in the cabin is a random reading light or the glow of a laptop or two.  Window shades are down to keep out the impending sunrise and the crew speaks in hushed voices in the cabin. Most of know how difficult it is to get some sleep (particularly in economy) and try not to wake you too often.

What makes for a sleep inducing cabin for passengers starts to make life hell for a crew member trying to stay awake. Breaks are not given on all flights, some carriers give none , the one I work for , breaks are dependant on flight time and how full the cabin is.  My flight last night was one of no break. I had landed in Washington at 445 am in the morning, and was due to work that evening to London. The rest of the crew had arrived the evening before. 

Flights with no break mean certain behaviors will kick in. Magazines, puzzles and paperbacks will be dug our of our bags, and shared liberally. it is not uncommon for a magazine to be passed among an entire dozen member crew during the 'between' hours. Coffee and/or tea will be drunk continuously. Seats will be created in galleys, the jumpseats near doors usually have a strong draft near them, and passengers usually linger chatting or waiting for the toilets near the others. Galley containers are pulled down and made into seats, if we can scrounge up a spare blanket it will be perched on top. Some have perfected a way to flip the container so that it opens near the floor heaters and they in effect have a heated seat.  Scarves and suit jackets come out to fight off the chill of sleepiness. Some will lean against turned on ovens to warm up, others make hot water bottles out of empty Evian size bottles to warm up.

Brave crew will sneak into empty passenger seats to read a magazine in comfort, or visit the cockpit where it is bright and the pilots are starved for conversation to keep them awake and alleviate boredom. After the initial comfort of our 'nests' wear off, the lure of a nap beckons. Some will pull a pillow and blanket into the lavs and get a minute or two of shut eye, some have crawled into the closets to close their eyes for a moment. Others get a nap in spite of themselves. I have seen people fall off galley containers and have their heads hit an oven as they keel over. Some I have heard snoring with a book in their laps. That is when the next pot of tea or coffee is made. Watches will be checked incessantly, eagerly awaiting the breakfast service service, in order to have something to do. Hair styles will be made over, relationships critiqued and layover purchases analyzed all while fighting the naps lure.

Soon enough ( not really) we will feed the passengers breakfast while wiping the sleep out of our eyes. More coffee and tea is drank, we will land  and make our way home.  We will all shower and crawl into bead as everyone else starts their day.....and finally give in to the lure of the nap.


29 December 2008

What Is That Smell?

I should be in London right now, sleeping after a flight from Chicago to London Heathrow. Instead I write from a hotel room in suburban Chantilly, Virginia, near Dulles airport. Why is that? Where to begin...

Our flight was on the dreaded plane we knew had diverted a few weeks ago to Montreal, Canada, due to an engine problem. We were briefed before the flight that the crew on the inbound flight had smelled an electrical acrid odor and the galley power in economy was shut off. The mechanics do take things like this VERY seriously and were up in the crawl space, looking for sources of burning, worn wire, etc when it was in Chicago. They tore everything apart but found nothing. So lucky crew that we were, got the plane for our flight to London. A few hours into the flight, the burning smell came back. Cockpit took it VERY seriously, memories of Swissair in their minds. So were were supposed to divert to Boston. Then it was changed to Dulles, then back to Boston. Then...finally Dulles.

So there was several hours of flying with no lights (except the assorted emergency ones), no films, no electric seat recline and most importantly for a sleepy crew, no coffee. Putting every business and first class seat into bed mode manually and back again before landing wrecked our knees! 

At long last, or 445 am, we landed in DC. Thankfully the ground staff had scheduled a new aircraft and crew to take the passengers onwards , while we headed to the hotel. The Krispy Kreme doughnuts were most appreciated Holiday Inn!! 

Now back to work, flying home tonight....By the way 34D, not cool to call the lady sitting  in front of you a lard ass, have a little class please!!

28 December 2008

Dear 33B

I do appreciate good hygiene as much as the next person, but brushing your teeth WHILE sitting in your seat, with a stranger sitting next to you, is NEVER appropriate. The toilets were vacant, and no cart was blocking your access. BAD MANNERS!!

26 December 2008


We have all been waiting at the baggage carousel after a flight, waiting for our black rollaboard bag to pop into view. Suddenly it appears in the distance, you get ready for it to come to you when BAM, some traveller with poor eyesight starts to take your bag off the carousel. You have to race over and claim it as your own, usually as their bag comes into view, and is always a different color or vastly different size than the one they tried to take.

You can buy large brightly colored bag tags, but those can come off. Bin Hog has solved that problem by creating tags that wrap around the handle. Hopefully it will slow down the blind bag grabbers that try to take your luggage as theirs. At under $10, they seem a cheap way to keep others mitts off your bags. If you have any Navy or marines in your life, those tags are on sale as I write!! The company is run by a flight attendant, and if that isn't enough, she donates a portion of all sales to TAPS, which is the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which is a support group for those grieving the death of a loved one that was killed while serving in the armed forces.

22 December 2008

Overheard in Economy

Purser: Sir, the economy toilets are located behind you, these toilets are for business class.
Passenger: People have been coming up here the whole flight and using them!! Why didn't you say anything to them?
Purser:Sir, do you ever go fishing?
Purser:Do you catch all the fish?

05 December 2008

Computer Says No

Sorry for the total lack of postings. My laptop is being repaired yet again. if it were human it would have a Do Not Resuscitate order on it. As soon as it is up and running, I will be back with photos and posts. I am realizing being without a laptop how very addicted to email I have become!!