British Airways introduces a mood blanket

airlineWhen I read about British Airways’ new high-tech blanket, called “the “happiness blanket,” my first thought was that it had to be a joke. A blanket that analyzes the “meditative state” of premium cabin fliers? What a waste of money.

But it’s not a joke. According to Businessweek, “The wool ‘happiness blanket’ is embedded with tiny fiber optic LEDs that change color based on brainwaves transmitted via Bluetooth from a band worn on a passenger’s head.”

I don’t need fiber optics to tell you when a passenger is stressed and anxious, or how to make them more relaxed.Try two more inches of legroom, and a seat that fully reclines. And a neighbor who isn’t chatting about the shade of their blanket.

Plus, if you’re sleeping, don’t you think you’re pretty relaxed? Is there anyone who really wants everyone knowing that much about them? Having your mood transmitted to the rest of the cabin sounds like something that could make you even more anxious.

Sure, we live in the age of Facebook where we put it all out there for the world to see, but at least we have some control over what we share.

Imagine seeing 3B turning a dark shade of red. Must have been the pasta. (No joke: that tortellini in a cream sauce makes some passengers freak out.) Or imagine the opposite about 3A; we don’t really want to know why he’s so happy with his blanket, do we? If you know what I mean.

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Don’t Touch The Flight Attendant!

Stewardess Barbie

It Sounds So Last Century, but Cabin Crew Are Still Hassled by Sex Pests originally appeared on Time.com June 26, 2014

Of course, it is not really about what recruits wear, or how they look, but about power. Flight attendants could wear potato sacks and still get hassled. Stopping would-be offenders means showing passengers and staff alike that abuse will not be tolerated, says Heather Poole, an industry veteran and the author of the bestseller Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet“There’s a reason foreign carriers like to keep their flight attendants young,” she says. In her experience, young people, who often have less job security, may be hesitant to speak up.

When, as a rookie, she was groped by a passenger in first class, she fled to the galley and did not report it. “I had just started flying, and I didn’t want to lose my job by causing a problem with an important passenger,” she recalled in an email. “I still don’t [know] who I’d go to for something like that. The union? Human resources? A 1-800 number?”

For Hong Kong–based crew, at least, the new rules may provide some help. And at least the issue is being discussed. But tackling the problem globally will require all jurisdictions, and airlines, to step up. Not to mention passengers. “I’d suggest that any person with a propensity to act out in this manner consider traveling as if their mother is sitting next to them,” Poole says. “An 18-year-old new hire may handle a situation differently than a flight attendant with 10 years’ seniority and a black belt in Taekwondo.”

Creeps: consider yourself warned.

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How to sleep in coach

get-attachment-1.aspxSurprising Tricks: How to Sleep on a Plane  appeared on Entrepreneur.com May 30, 2014

Before the flight

 

Choose your side. Now, the last time you bought a mattress, you thought about what kind of a sleeper you are, right? Side sleeper, stomach, toss and turner? Now unless you afford to book a lie- flat seat (and, if so, will you adopt us?), you’ll need to start thinking of yourself as an on-your-back somewhat-to-the-side sleeper and book accordingly. The big question? Do you sleep on the left or the right side of the bed at home? “Get a window seat for night flights. If you sleep on your right side at home go for the right side of the plane,” says Heather Poole, a flight attendant for one of the “big” airlines and author of Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet. (Over the last 18 years as a flight attendant, she’s watched thousands and thousands and thousands of people try to sleep on planes. She knows what works.)

During the flight

Comfort. Please, for the sake of everybody else’s eyeballs, do not wear adult footie pajamas on the plane (it has happened, people – it has happened!) but do make yourself comfy for that sleep-in flight. No need to change after takeoff. Wear the nice-and-clean-without-any-holes-in-them sweats to the airport. Carry your suit on and change into it when you get off the plane. “It will look as though you just put it on because you did,” Poole says. So spiffy. And refreshed.

Cradle. Yes, the donut pillow is ugly. And used as expected, with the U bit at the back of the neck, it never really seems worth schlepping along. But Poole turned the idea on its head (or, well, neck): “The trick is to wear it backwards so your neck stays in place.” That means: no more sudden jerking forward neck snapping wow are you awake and in pain moments. Nope. Gone.

Ergonomics-ish. Poole also advises that you use your carry-on as a leg rest or roll the airplane pillow under your knees. And that sketchy blanket they (sometimes) hand out? “Use it for lumbar support,” Poole says. “It’s better to freeze than risk the potential infection.” (Yes, we’re all grossed out now. And off to buy a thin sleeping bag liner to use on our next flight—and wash immediately after returning home.)

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Crew Life, Mile-High Selfies and Our Lasting Obsession With Flight Attendants

get-attachment.aspxAirlines take their reputation seriously. There are strict rules about what flight attendants like myself can and can’t do while in uniform.

When I first started flying 18 years ago, I was told I couldn’t eat, drink or chew gum while walking through the airport terminal. (I have no idea if that rule still applies or if the company ever tried to enforce it.) Off duty we aren’t allowed to drink alcohol at a bar or on an airplane if we’re wearing our navy blue polyester.

When we discard a work dress or blouse, we have to remove all the buttons and any airline insignia. If our uniform pieces are stolen, we must file a police report — God forbid somebody tries to impersonate us. Did you know there are nightclubs in Japan that allow patrons the opportunity to spend the evening with women wearing “a real life” flight attendant uniform? It’s why one international carrier sewed tracking numbers into each of its uniform pieces and require its flight attendants to return them once they stop flying.

I was reminded of this recently, when I shared some of this with a reporter looking to do a story about a “secret group” of flight attendants. When she first mentioned the secret group, my head started spinning. A secret group of flight attendants? How could I not know about a secret group of flight attendants?

I’m a flight attendant. I’ve been flying a million years. I wrote a New York Times bestsellerabout life as a flight attendant. So if there’s one thing I know, it’s what’s going on in the airline world — and yet I had no idea what this reporter was talking about.

“Crew life,” she clarified.

“…crew life?” I laughed. “You mean the hashtag crew life?” I thought she was joking. She wasn’t.

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Things Frequent Fliers Fear Most

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I wrote Things Frequent Fliers Fear Most for Conde Nast Traveler (April 16, 2014)

It’s not hard to spot a fearful flier when they’re making the sign of the cross right before takeoff. That or they’ll ask about turbulence instead of what’s for breakfast as soon as they step on board and I greet them in front of the cockpit door. Others will cling to the armrest for dear life and request a couple of vodkas to wash down the valium. Fearful fliers aren’t the only ones freaking out—frequent fliers can be ten times worse. So what do frequent fliers fear most?

1. COACH.  Nothing stresses out a frequent flier more than the possibility of sitting in coach. I’ve seen grown men stomp their feet like children when their upgrades didn’t go through. Next time you fly check out all the sullen faces in the first few rows of coach. That’s where they’re sitting. Their names are next on the list. They’ve got their eye on the prize and nobody is cutting in front of them. My husband has actually flown a few hours out of his way to connect to another city just to ensure an upgrade on an international flight.

2. MIDDLE SEATS.  By far the biggest fear for any flier, not just frequent fliers, is the dreaded middle seat. “Hey somebody has to sit there,” I told one passenger. “Not a frequent flier,” he replied. He had a point. Business travelers are the bread and butter for airlines. The problem is that there are so many frequent fliers, the airlines had to create another top-tier VIP level to separate the million-milers from the three-million milers. Might explain why one passenger brought along a few X-rays of his knee to prove why he could only sit in an aisle seat. Another passenger offered $100 to anyone in an aisle seat in front of him willing to switch.

3. RUNNING OUT OF OVERHEAD BIN SPACE.  Boarding, for a frequent flier, is like a military operation. It’s all about preplanning and execution. In other words, getting the bag in a bin. They’re already in position to board before the agent even picks up the phone to make the announcement. They know where their seat is. They know their bag will fit. They walk onboard, make that sharp right down the aisle, and zero in an an empty space like a…..? Very rarely are they talking or holding a Starbucks cup. They’re on a mission. Nothing will come between a frequent flier and his bag space. Ask a frequent flier to check a bag and they might lose it in front of everyone. Time is money. A road warrior doesn’t do baggage claim.

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Confessions of a nervous flier

get-attachment-1.aspxConfessions of a nervous flier originally appeared on CNN March 19, 2014

Tell the crew you’re scared, suggests flight attendant Heather Poole, author of “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpad, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet.”

“If we know you’re scared, we’ll go out of our way to be reassuring if the airplane does encounter a few bumps,” says Poole, via e-mail. “We’ll update you on whatever information the captain passes along to us regarding delays, mechanicals, weather or turbulence. I’ve gone as far as to sit in an empty seat beside someone and hold their hand.”

Poole, who’s been a flight attendant for 18 years, suggests passengers who hate turbulence sit close to the cockpit — the front of the plane isn’t as bumpy as the rear. Passengers can also download the MyRadar app to track the bumpy weather.

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Bag Check Rules

4079981298_37ce535983_nFollowing Up on Bag Check Rules by Joe Sharkey originally appeared in the New York Times on March 17, 2014. Here’s an excerpt…

And Barbara Quinn is skeptical about the “strangely misshapen” sizer boxes that are used to measure bags, which some other readers said don’t readily accommodate odd-size bags that are otherwise of reasonable size, like some backpacks.

So let’s not forget traveling musicians. A violin, viola or saxophone case does not fit in the standard sizer, for example. “My son is the violist of an internationally renowned string quarter. He travels about twice a month, all over the world,” said Judy Amory. It would be folly to consign a valuable, fragile instrument like that to the checked-bag system. “Musicians are an obvious category where one-size-fits-all simply cannot work,” she pointed out.

And of course, consider flight attendants, referees of the bag wars as they mediate passenger disputes and often physically hoist and pound bags into crammed overhead bins.

Heather Poole is a flight attendant for a major airline who wrote what I consider one of the most amusing books in the flight attendant memoir genre, “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crash Pads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet” (2012). The bin wars are “my biggest peeve,” Ms. Poole said:

“I’ve had passengers actually take someone’s bag out of a bin to make room for their own bag, leaving the other person’s bag in the middle of the aisle for passengers behind them to step over. It’s out of control.”

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