Is there a doctor on the plane?

IMG_5051Is there a doctor on the plane? originally appeared in The Guardian on November 1, 2013.  

“Unfortunately, most flights are full,” says Heather Poole, a flight attendant for a major US carrier and author of Cruising Attitude, an account of her experiences in the air. “So it’s not always possible to move an incapacitated passenger to an empty row of seats. Singapore Airlines is the most prepared. Some of their planes feature a ‘corpse cupboard’, a compartment for storing a dead body if the situation arises.”

Even today, with low-cost carriers undermining the mystique of air travel, there is still something vaguely magical about flight crew, these people to whom one looks for reassurance in the event of scary turbulence. Post-9/11, they are trained to be cautious even in the face of a medical emergency. “You want to be there for that passenger, but you never know if it’s a decoy,” Morter says. “There might be a passenger pretending to have a fit and someone trying to get into the flight deck at the same time.”

Or, Poole says, it may be the case that the passenger has merely taken a sleeping pill and passed out. (“I’ll never forget that lady. We checked for breathing. Checked for a pulse. Cleared a row of passengers and were just about to get her body flat on the ground when she came to. Turned out she’d taken a sleeping pill. That’s why we prefer passengers to take them after we’ve pushed away from the gate and we’re up in the air, in case there’s a delay and we have to disembark. Flight attendants can do a lot of things, but there’s no way we’re going to be able to drag half a plane full of disoriented wet noodles by the ankles off the plane.”)


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Skydoll: Destination Unknown (Chapter 2)


Galley Gossip / Heather Poole

….That’s when I did what any single girl in her twenties would do: Froze.  I  just stood there in the aisle wearing navy blue polyester staring him down like an idiot.  Then I did what my mother would: Checked for a ring.  Nope: No wedding band, not even a tan line.  Yet he was so far out of my league it wasn’t even funny.  I know my man equivalent and he wasn’t it.

Shaking myself out of it, I smiled a first class smile.  I tried to think of something to say, something witty but with an edge, something that could lead to an interesting conversation, like one about dating.

“Cokah Light?” I said.

He nodded.  My cue to shove the plastic scoop into the drawer of ice. For like two seconds I was tempted to tell him about the ex New York mayor I had on board the other night.  I served him eight diet cokes on a two hour flight from New York to Chicago.  Bet you didn’t know a can of original Coke will sink in water, while a can of Diet Coke will float on the surface.  Which means all those frequent fliers who are addicted to the stuff won’t need a life preserver if they ever have to ditch in the ocean.  While I was imagining wrapping my arms around Cokah-Light in an unplanned emergency, I glanced across the cart and noticed Sean’s dropped jaw and wide eyes screamed, “Gurrrrrl! Oh…My…God.”

Oh my God was right: My best friend was drooling all over his pinstriped apron. I shot him a look. He pursed his lips and struck a pose. Even though I had no shot – none – zero – I felt defensive.  What the heck was he doing, standing there licking his lips like that?  He was practically humping the cart.

“Do you have any Diet Coke on your side?” I asked.

“Of course, Doll, anything for him,” Sean purred, handing me a silver can.  Then he leaned over the Styrofoam cups and whispered, “Make sure to give him a free snack.”

Which is what I did.  I placed a can of soda, a package of nuts,  a bag of pretzels, a container of hummus and a box of popcorn on his tray table, stacking it all up real nice and neat.  Then I did what any single girl who is also a flight attendant would do, I moved on to the next passenger.

Maintain Service, that’s the name of the game in airline world.  Otherwise things can get out of control, and that’s the last thing you want when you’re stuck in a flying tube at 35,000 feet surrounded by one hundred and fifty passengers….



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Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)



October 13, 2013 · 3:19 pm

Photo of the day: With the government shutdown, airports have had to look outside of the TSA for security personnel


Photo credit: Heather Poole

Caption credit:


October 7, 2013 · 7:21 pm

Talking travel: airlines, airports, frequent fliers and life in the sky


The following interview originally appeared on October 7, 2013

First things first, what motivated you to travel, and become a flight attendant?

Heather - When I finally realised life was about amazing moments and new experiences, I knew what I wanted to do. I’ve been a flight attendant for almost 18 years now.

As a flight attendant you often have a first hand view of people traveling to and back from their trips. What has been some of your most memorable travel and flight experiences?

Heather - My favourite trips tend to be the ones that were totally unplanned. I’ll never forget deciding at the last minute to hit the road with a colleague from work on a Friday afternoon. This was almost twenty years ago when I worked a regular 9-5 job on the ground. We drove from McAllen, Texas to Monterrey, Mexico for the weekend. We ate goat (a first), listened to guitar music under the stars, spent the night in a cottage on a mountain, and woke up early the next morning in the clouds. As a flight attendant, the nicest and most memorable layovers for me have more to do more with the people I meet than anything else. Once we landed late Christmas Eve in Bermuda. The man who picked us up at the airport and drove us to the hotel every week invited the entire crew over to his house on Christmas day for dinner. It was such a nice thing to do. This after having spent many Christmas dinners stuck at an overpriced hotel buffet

We know you work for a major American airline, do you have a favourite airline, if you’re allowed to answer this question ;)

Heather - Can I say my airline? I mean come on, they hired me! (After our competition didn’t.) I can’t tell you which carrier I work for because I’d like to keep my job, but it’s one of the big ones. And with that I’d like to thank all the frequent fliers who’ve helped me keep my secret. It’s got to be the worst best-kept secret in the world.

Also, I hear Cathay is pretty freakin nice. One day I’ll fly on them

Any preferred airport? 

Heather - My favourite airport is Miami.  Not to be confused with my favourite route!  Because the NY-Miami is my least favourite route in the system. But as far as good food and people watching goes, you can’t beat Miami.

And what about your favourite aircraft type? I bet it will be a Boeing ;)

Heather - Yep, I’m going to be sad to see the 767 go.  I’ve worked that aircraft more than any of our other wide-body airplanes. I guess you could say I feel most at home on it.



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Skydoll: Destination Unknown / Chapter 1

Galley Gossip, Heather Poole

“Galley Gossip” / Heather Poole

Here’s what I’ve been working on….


God this is bad, real bad, worse than bad.  I mean did we?  I don’t know.  I don’t want to know.  What I do know is I have to get out of here and quick! But when I try to move I can’t because my legs are tangled in the sheets. No way do I want to disturb the guy before I have a chance to get my thoughts together. Not ready to face reality, take responisibilty, I slowly lean back into the pillows, careful to keep the bed still.  Holding my breath, I try not to hyperventilate, not to panic, not to freak out.  What the hell happened last night?!  Think, Nicole, think!

I remember the bar, a hole in the wall kind of place on the Upper East Side that caters to airline personnel by offering buy-one-get-one-free drinks to anyone with crew ID.  A way to entice those without crew ID into the place.  There to celebrate a coworker’s birthday, I flashed my badge at the bartender and half jokingly ordered a gigantic apple martini with an investment banker on the side.  After one (or two) very strong drinks, I found myself on the dance floor doing the electric slide. (Yes, I have a sick obsession with disco, even when I’m not drunk.)  It was when I slid to the left, I made The Announcement.  Oh God, The Announcement, why did I make That Announcement?!  That while I may have been the dry humping queen of Queens, I’d only had sex with six different men in my entire life.  They were all different men, totally different men, I swear.  That’s when, at least I think it’s when, First Officer Meyers did what he always does after he’s had one too many.  He placed both hands on my breasts and squeezed.

Okay it’s important to point out, at least it’s important to me to point out, that the only men I typically allow to squeeze my breasts are either in love with me or have the potential to fall in love with me.  I’m not a believer in free squeezes.  In fact the only action my boobs have seen in the last few months came from a distinguished gentleman seated in 3B who awoke with a start just as I was leaning over him to fix his neighbor’s reading light.  Well that’s if I don’t count my gynecologist, two year-old nephew, and some drunken perv on the subway last week.  Unfortunately the only drunk perv last night seemed to be me.  And for the record, so I don’t come off like some ho, some drunk and slutty disco dancing ho, the only reason I allowed First Officer Meyers to squeeze my boobs for what some might consider an awfully long time was not because he had a lot of fantastic things to say about my B-cups, though it did warm my heart, but because he was drunk and gay and dating my best friend Sean.

“Girl, you need to loosen up and have some fun,” I vaguely remember Sean saying, snap snap snapping his sassy fingers in front of my flushed face.  We all slid to the right. “For Christ Sakes,” he said, lifting a knee and clapping. “Try taking a walk on the wild side sometime!”  That’s the last thing I remember before it all went black.

Looks like I finally took that walk.  Too bad I can’t remember it.

Oh sure there’ve been times, plenty of times, I’ve wished I were that girl, the walk-on-the-wild-side-kind-of-girl, the kind who’s not afraid to do what she wants when she wants with whomever she wants just because she wants to. But for reasons even I don’t understand I care too much about what people think of me. Of what I think me!  I’m a good girl, a nice girl, a girl who doesn’t get drunk and sleep around.  (Though it does sound kind of exciting, doesn’t it?)  Okay, okay, so I may have had that almost one-week-stand last year with the Dutch medical sales rep from Curacao in Amsterdam. That was different. It was totally romantic. It took place in a foreign country.  It just didn’t count, okay!

Too bad this one might.



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iPads on Planes: Be Careful What You Wish For

get-attachment-1.aspxiPads on Planes: Be Careful What You Wish For, by William J McGee, originally appeared on September 27, 2013.  

A partial lifting of the ban will encourage use of all electronics in airline cabins, from the moment boarding begins. And while some scientists may be O.K. with tablets and readers rather than phones because of how such transmissions may affect the cockpit, these battles shouldn’t be fought on the front lines — in airplane cabins where proven safety procedures can save lives. “I don’t have time to argue the whys and hows of the policy,” says Heather Poole, a flight attendant and author of Cruising Attitude“The press never mentions how these PEDs might affect evacuating quickly when time is critical.” Since departures and arrivals are so critical (most fatal accidents do not occur during the “cruise” portion), and since even the worst crashes have become increasingly survivable, the need for all passengers to stay alert and aware is critical. It’s not the time for one more Tweet.



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