No retirement regrets

No retirement regrets

Since retiring from my flight attendant career, my most asked question is, do I miss it?  I do, but not in the way most people expect.  My flight attendant career gave me some of the most incredible memories of my life.  However, as I think about the job and the realities that flight attendants face now, I have no regrets about leaving the career.

Recently, a flight attendant was assaulted on an American Airlines flight and may have had her nose broken.  The assailant claimed that the flight attendant “hit her nose against the palm of his right hand” and claimed he had “psychological damage from the injury.” I have read and listened to stories about the incident, but few from the flight attendant’s perspective involved or any other flight attendant’s perspective.

According to reports, the issue began when the flight attendant informed the flight attendant of the Fasten seat belt sign.  She was doing her job!!! Contrary to what many people think, the primary duty of a flight attendant is to save lives.  They train continually and yearly for the career, guided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules.  Not advising the passenger of this obvious fact was putting her job in jeopardy.

Flight attendants, like many others, are not self-employed, and they have families and loved- ones that depend on their ability to provide. Their job is governed by the rules and regulations not only of the airline but of the FAA.  Most importantly, interfering with the duties of a crewmember violates federal law.  Recently the job has brought more risk than reward.

An airline ticket is valid only to and from the cities on your ticket or trip record.  An airline will provide service as they see fit, and the flight crew does not determine that service.  The flight crew performs the service provided by the airline.  They cannot deliver items or services not provided in advance by the airline.

A flight attendant may have several flights in a day and be on several different airplanes within the same day.  Sometimes their duty days are more than 10 hours, and rarely is there time to get off the aircraft and purchase food.  More so, once duty starts for a flight attendant, there is usually no designated lunch break until the duty day ends.

The realities of Covid have not only increased stress for air travelers but flight crew as well.  Flight crews are not provided meals in many cases, and if they are, individual dietary needs are not acknowledged.  Before Covid, many airlines cut back on service, and passengers were advised to purchase food at the airport or bring their own.

The career I left provided many opportunities to travel the world.  Currently, airplanes are more crowded, services are fewer,  and people are more frustrated by wearing masks or being told to comply.  In addition, the stress of airport security and baggage fees or allowances make the travel experience much more stressful than it ever has been.

The next time you travel, I hope you have no regrets but, more importantly, cause your flight crew to have no regrets as well.

Covid Restrictions and Holiday Travel

Covid Restrictions and Holiday Travel

Recently a friend traveled from Washington DC to Egypt. She discussed with me the harrowing experience of trying to get a required Covid test for travel. With recent federal guidelines, the need for Covid testing has increased, and availability has decreased. As the holidays are a busy travel season, it stands to reason travelers needing testing during the holidays will also surge.  Here are a few things to think about regarding Covid testing and the holidays.

A surge in Covid testing

Many of the issues involved with the current availability of Covid testing affect the recent executive order requiring Covid vaccination for federal employees. Companies with over 100 employees will be required to comply with the order or face significant fines. As expected, there are many questions regarding the order and implementation that need an answer.  However, the demand for Covid testing has risen, and so travelers need to prepare.

Thanksgiving travel

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it’s usually one of the busiest times for people to travel.  In 2020, many suggested curtailing travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, and many ignored that suggestion.  In preparation for the upcoming busy Thanksgiving travel season, the U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act may require all passengers on domestic airlines to either be fully vaccinated, tested negative, or fully recovered from Covid.

The World and Covid

Preparing for holiday travel

In essence, travelers should be aware of travel restrictions and Covid guidelines. They should know where their Covid testing sites are. Find out if they need to have Covid symptoms or can test as a precaution. Research the timing of their test before seeing friends and family as exposure varies. It’s also good to know the different Covid test options, PCR or antigen.

As with any travel experience, preparation is critical.  Stay safe this holiday season and if you choose to travel, do it safely.

Flight attendants and 9/11.

Flight attendants and 9/11.

Crew ID

September 11, will always be a day of remembrance.  I was an American Airlines flight attendant at the time. It is a particular day that would always sit heavy in my heart.  I was based in New York, where this tragedy occurred, and I had flown with some of the crew who perished that day. Flight attendants and 9/11 will forever be intertwined.

Along with the trauma that the world has experienced, flight attendants experienced dramatic changes in their work environment. Along with these changes, the job description has remained the same yet has changed.  The career of a flight attendant is more than serving snacks and drinks on an airplane.  Flight attendants have always been responsible for travelers’ safety, security, and comfort.  Their duties are similar to first responders.  They are trained to fight fires, handle medical emergencies, and are retrained and recertified every year by the FAA.

At this time of year, we are bombarded with the phrase “never forget.” For many flight attendants, it’s almost impossible not to do so.  New safety rules about congregating in the aisles, galleys, or near the lavatories were implemented worldwide. Everyone who flies is reminded of those rules.  But flight attendants are daily assaulted for trying to enforce those rules.  These rules, which may seem trite to travelers, are a daily reminder of 9/11 to flight crews.  Somehow when travelers are on board, many seem to conveniently forget the reason for these rules.

9/11 saw changes that did not happen over time but overnight.  Airplanes were grounded, and airport procedures forever changed.  These security changes not only occurred in the airport but in businesses and public places all over.  The world was on alert to be vigilant, and flight attendants needed to be more observant.   A passenger’s trip to the bathroom was no longer routine; we had to subconsciously note how many times and how long they stayed in the lavatory.  We had to wonder if the souvenir picture passengers were taking was simply that and no more.  So, while passengers think the flight attendant’s job is routine, know that they have a lot more on their minds.

For travelers, the changes 9/11 brought included security screenings that can be intrusive at times.  Passengers now had to take off shoes, belts, and odd pieces of clothing.  Everyday items are currently judged for their ability to be used as weapons and confiscated.  Travelers can no longer take liquids beyond security. Even breast milk or baby formulas became suspect. Airlines stopped serving food, and airport options are less plentiful and more expensive. Travel, in general, has gotten harder for travelers.

I’d like us to remember that while the events of 9/11 are not always on the minds of the public.  They are forever on the minds of flight crews, and they will “never forget.”  I hope this post has given you pause for thought this day, the 20th anniversary of 9/11. I hope you remember it the next time you travel and give grace to your flight crews who never can forget.

Five things every flight attendant wants you to know.

Five things every flight attendant wants you to know.

There has been a significant increase in passenger disturbances in recent months.  It’s important for passengers to understand the duties and responsibilities of flight attendants. There are many realities your flight attendant wishes that you knew about their job.  Here are just five for you to consider.

1.         The primary duty of a flight attendant is safety. The primary responsibility is to help passengers in the event of an emergency.  Other responsibilities include fighting fires, first aid, and directing evacuations.  Flight attendants are trained to conduct safety checks before each flight.  In addition, they present safety equipment and give instructions to passengers on how to use the equipment. While trained in dealing with unruly passengers, the level of passenger aggression seen recently is beyond what most flight attendants are prepared to handle.

2.         In addition to their safety duties, flight attendants provide customer service. They greet and communicate with passengers.  Help them find their seats, and assist in directing passengers in how to stow their luggage.  They are not bellhops and are not required to lift or carry bags for passengers. Most airlines urge their flight attendants not to lift or move heavy bags because of inflight injuries to the crew.

3.         Although flight attendants at times do serve meals and beverages. They are not waiters in the sky.  Serving customers comes secondary to the safety of the passengers.  Many times, flight attendants are blamed for not having a particular beverage or meal.  They can only serve what has been provided to them by the airline and have no idea of passengers’ wants or needs unless asked.  Most importantly, however, there is no supermarket in the sky.  If it is not on board the aircraft before departure, it cannot be served in flight.

4.         Flight attendants are often hired for their critical thinking skills and to be problem solvers.  They are not airplane police.  They are, certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and are required to make sure passengers comply with federal guidelines.  These guidelines include wearing seatbelts and, most recently, wearing face masks over the nose and mouth. Most passengers remove their masks after boarding and become very uncooperative and combative when prompted to follow the guidelines.

5.         Most importantly, passengers should know that it is a federal offense to interfere or physically assault a flight crew member.  Assaulting or intimidating a crew member can result in a felony conviction.  Interfering with flight crews can result in prison time and significant fines.  In addition, airlines can ban passengers from flying a particular airline.

The airline has important information on every passenger that boards their airplane.  Flight crews are given some of that information.  They know your mileage status, the extent of miles or money paid for your flight, and your assigned seating. Next time you fly, think a bit more about your flight attendant.  Know that they are human and experience delays, disturbances, and frustrations just as you do.  Be kind and give grace.

Summer travel behind the scenes.

Summer travel behind the scenes.

Being an avid traveler means you raise avid travelers.  I went to pick up my daughter from one of her summer trips recently and was amazed at the number of travelers at the airport.  Being in the field of travel, I was aware of the increase in travel recently.  However, I was not prepared for the actual realities. Many of my friends who are still in the flying business have been discussing the many travel issues they have seen this summer.  Here are a few ideas that have been shared by my friends who are in the business of flying.

Firstly, if you are flying anywhere this month on any airline, pack snacks and PB&Js. Carry a refillable water container, a portable charger for your phone, a deck of cards, or UNO.  Download extra movies on your iPad or kindle.  Whether you have wireless headsets, also bring the old-school plug-in type.  Carry a light blanket. Go to the airport one extra hour earlier than you would have. Bring your patience and a mask. If you must travel with kids, go to Dollar Store or Walmart, and buy new toys your kids have never seen, give them these during the inevitable delays. You can also purchase blow-up arm floaties to use a pillow or lumbar support for your back.  A small portable fan or paper fan will help, especially during these hot summer months. Finally, pack a tennis ball to help massage your aches.

Airlines no longer supply pillows or blankets.  Since Covid, there is usually no food onboard to buy or give, and there are not enough beverages for flight attendants to serve second requests for drinks.  Fill your water bottle in the airport or buy a bottle of water or drink in the airport. There is not enough bottled water on board for flight attendants to refill your container, nor are they allowed to fill it for sanitary reasons.

If you are booked on the last flight of the day, be prepared that you might end up spending the night in the airport.  Do not check your medicine or keys in your luggage.  Carry a Pen!! You may have to fill out forms or need to write down information.

I was an international flight attendant for over 23 years, and I have NEVER seen it this crazy! Every airline is short-staffed, gate agents are working alone at gates for oversold flights, the wait times to get through to reservations are 3+ hours. Restaurants and stores can’t get people to work. Super long lines everywhere. LOTS of mechanical issues, weather, staffing issues, none of which is due to frontline airline employees. They are as frustrated as you are. They are EXHAUSTED! These travel realities have been happening to them every day for over a month, with no relief in sight.

Therefore, I am asking you to BE VERY KIND TO EVERYONE, especially your flight crew. It’s always appreciated. Always bring treats, whatever they may be, to the agents and flight attendants. They’re human also and live this travel nightmare every day, not just once a year.

Have you traveled lately? I hope these realities have opened your mind and that you be kind and travel well this summer.  Let me know.

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