photo credit: Heather Poole
Long ago I was on a flight from Chicago to Boston via New York when a weary woman with an active baby sat next to me. Having much experience babysitting, I was used to babies and thought I might be called upon to smile, wave and cheer up a crying baby, but never did I think that the mother would abdicate her responsibilities to me, a complete stranger. The mom began to feel airsick(or so she said) and told me she was unable to change her baby’s diaper because she was about to throw up and asked me to do it for her. Guess what? I did it. I just felt so badly for the woman and the baby having to sit in the mess and yes, especially for myself because I could not stand the fumes either. After the dirty job was done, she thanked me profusely and then said she was exhausted and asked me to hold her baby while she grabbed a few winks. She woke up when the wheels touched the ground to find her baby finally fast asleep on my shoulder. I prayed that they were not on my connecting flight. Am I crazy or just a Good Samaritan? Cheers, Priscilla
I’m going with Good Samaritan. I’m also going to say Thank God for passengers like you. While I can’t say that sort of thing happens often, it does happen, and not everyone is as nice about it as you were. Your act of kindness proves you’re a compassionate human being.
That said I came a cross a child acting out in her seat while we were doing the beverage service not too long ago. I couldn’t help but wonder why the mother wasn’t doing anything to keep her child entertained during the flight. Instead the mother kept her eyes closed and ignored the child. Later on in flight the child came to the back of the airplane and asked for a soda, I went over to the mother to see if it was okay. The woman shrugged. Not the response I expected. That’s when I asked a strange question: ”It this your child?” The woman sighed and said no.
1. “The Gift of Fear,” by Gavin De Becker, should be required reading for all men and women, especially for those of us who travel, particularly for women who travel alone. I’ve recommended this book to more flight attendants and passengers than anything thing else over the years. It’s saved my life more than once.
2. Skip the first floor. They’re easier to break into. That’s why you’ll never find a flight attendant below the second floor in a hotel. There’s a reason for that. It’s in our hotel contract.
3. Leave the lights and television on when you’re not in the room. Put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. It gives the appearance that someone is occupying the room, so no one will break in.
4. Stay Healthy: Never leave home without a small antibacterial spray. A mini bottle of vodka works just as well. Hit up the remote, the light switches, doorknobs and taps. You don’t want to get sick while you’re stuck at a less than desirable layover hotel.
5. Walk with intent. Walk down the street like you have a place to be, like you know where you’re going and need to get there quickly. Do that and people will leave you alone.
1. Book wisely. If you need to be somewhere really important, it’s probably not a good idea to book your flights with less than an hour between them. Even an hour is pushing it. An hour and a half is good. Two hours, even better. Whatever you do, don’t take the last flight out! Delays happen. So do cancelations.
2. Pay the extra fee. If you’re the anxious type and travel is stressful, pay the extra fee to sit closer to the front of the airplane and be done with it. Why start your trip out on the wrong foot and the risk a snowball effect. Because once something goes wrong, everything seems to follow suit. Better to be out a few bucks than to miss a flight! It’s worth it just to relax.
3. Check your boarding pass. Many airlines print the boarding time, not the departure time, on the boarding pass. Depending on the equipment type (smaller vs. larger aircraft), you can usually tag on another 30 to 40 minutes to your connection time. Read the fine print.
4. Switch seats. Ask a flight attendant if you can move closer to the front of the cabin on landing. Unfortunately, most flights are full these days and just because there’s an open seat up front doesn’t mean you’ll find a spot in the overhead bin for your bag too. If you’ve booked a tight connection, you might want to make sure your carry-on luggage fits under the seat in front of you.
5. Relax: I know, I know, easier said than done. Just know that while it might feel like it takes forever to disembark, the truth is almost everyone is able to deplane in less than 15 minutes. So take a deep breath and … exhale. Put in your earphones and play the most relaxing music you have. Then get ready to run. Here’s to hoping you wore appropriate shoes to sprint across the airport terminal.
Photo credit: NewbieRunner
From time to time I get asked questions about bad passengers. I thought I’d share a few of them here.
What’s the worst passenger behavior you’ve witnessed?
I’ve caught passengers taking other people’s luggage out of the bin to make room for their own bags. I’m not joking. They’ll pull out a bag, drop it on the floor and walk away leaving it in the middle of the aisle for the passengers behind them to crawl over. Have you ever tried stepping over a 21-inch Rollaboard? Not easy. Happened three times last month!
Recently a woman tried to stow her suitcase in that, oh, what do you call that spot? Crevice? Crack? Between the overhead bin and the ceiling? There’s like a millimeter of space there! I don’t care which airline you’re traveling on, that’s not going to fit. Then there are the recliners and the anti-recliners. One anti-recliner got upset at a recliner because she couldn’t get her tray table down. I suggested if maybe she removed the gigantic fanny pack from around her waist it might go down. She looked at me like I was the crazy one! One man actually called me over because the passenger in front of him had reclined his seat. I had to point out that, uh … his seat was reclined too!
What’s the most common bad passenger behavior you’ve seen?
[photo credit: Telstar Logistics]
From time to time I get questions from readers who want to know what the rules are regarding viewing pornography in flight now that Wi-Fi is available on board most airplanes. Thankfully, it hasn’t been much of an issue (knock on wood). But planes are crowded, personal space barely exits, and when passengers do things they shouldn’t, well, they usually get caught.
Last week on a flight from New York to Fort Lauderdale, a coworker had to ask a 10-year-old boy to turn off the erotica and to fasten his seatbelt. On either side of him sat his younger brother and sister. Across the aisle were his parents who had no idea what was going on until we informed them why he may have been holding the computer screen so close to his face. On a different flight another passenger was caught reading a PlayboyMagazine. Next to him sat his young son. What gave this man away was the opened centerfold he was eyeing up and down. When a flight attendant politely asked him to put it away, he yelled at her for embarrassing him.
How common is it to see someone watching something rather risqué on a laptop, iPad, tablet or even the in-flight entertainment system in the air? I can only think of a few instances I’ve seen something that might raise a few eyebrows. When this happens, I’ll gently inform the passenger that there are children on board and remind them that other passengers seated nearby might find what they’re viewing distasteful. Nine times out of ten they’ll either fast forward through the scene or turn it off – end of story.
[Photo courtesy: Bekathwia]
1. FAAWait - During a creeping weather delay a flight attendant who also works part time as an air traffic controller told me about FAAWait. It’s his favorite app. One click and we knew which airports across the country were also experiencing delays, how long the delays were averaging, and what had caused the delays.
2. MyRadar: Recently a fearful flier on board one of my flights spent three hours watching the weather light up his iPad screen: blue, green, red – wow, so much red! He knew exactly when to expect turbulence, how bad it might get, and how long it would last. Knowing this kept him calm. At one point he even turned around in his seat to let the crew know it would be smooth flying from here on out. Two seconds later the captain called to tell us the exact same thing, it was safe to get up and finish the service. Since then I’ve been recommending the app to anyone who mentions they’re afraid to fly.
3. WhatsApp: An Emirate’s flight attendant from Bosnia based in Saudi Arabia told me about this app on a flight from Miami to New York. WhatsApp makes it possible to send text messages to friends and family out of the country free of charge. There is virtually no cost to stay in touch with loved ones. You can even share audio and video messages.
4. Twitter: Still the best way to get breaking news! You don’t need to “get it.” Just learn how to use the hashtags to find information as it’s happening. For instance, not too long ago I was at an airport that was being evacuated and no one knew why. That was my cue to search the airport code – #DFW. That’s how I found out there was a bomb threat on an incoming flight. I learned this from passengers who were actually on board the flight and tweeting about it as they taxied to the gate.
5. HappyHourFinder: Flight attendants don’t make a lot of money. In fact new hires start out making less than $18,000 a year. And yet we’re subjected to overpriced hotel and airport food on a regular basis. This is why we take advantage of happy hour specials, particularly ones that include half priced appetizers, which might explain how I ended up at Vince Neil’s Bar, Tres Rios, in Las Vegas two hours after learning about the app in the crew van on our way from the airport to the layover hotel.
With your culture, how do you handle the treatment of female passengers? Like everybody else. No special treatment these days.
During the Ramadan, how do you deal with not eating and drinking during sunlight with a very tiring job like yours? It’s allowed in our religion (Islam) during Ramadan to eat and drink while traveling, but some of us prefer to be fasting.
Is it true that female cabin crew can’t serve men during their “time of the month?“Nooo! Of course it’s just rumors without source.
Can you marry and/or have kids and keep working? Yes. With the new rules females can marry and have kids. They have maternity leave for maximum one year.
Is there a call to prayer in the air? No, but if someone asks we’ll let them know.
During prayer onboard the aircraft when passengers need to get up and face the east, how do you accommodate for that? All the new fleet (wide bodied) is equipped with a worship place in the aft of the aircraft (A330 , B777 , B747)
Do you have a union? Sky Team Alliance.
Do you have to share hotel rooms with other flight attendants? Yes, but only on domestic layovers. We get our own rooms when we work international flights.
What is the strangest customer request & how did you handle it? For me the strangest request came from a teenage girl. She wanted to kiss me. I had to take her number just to escape from her because she insisted on kissing me in flight. One of my friends had a passenger ask him if he could try and open the door during flight just to see how a decompression will occur.
Hi Heather, My wife is a flight attendant and for some time now I’ve been looking to make a career change and was thinking ofbecoming a flight attendant myself. I can see how she enjoys it and has fun with it and I’d like to try it, too. Do you think it would be a good or bad thing to bring up in an interview situation that I am married to a flight attendant or does it matter at all? Obviously being married to one gives me a greater insight and depth of understanding of the job and what it involves compared to many other candidates. I have a degree in Microbiology so I have somewhat of a brain, although my wife might debate that with you. I also co-managed a bar in Ireland before I came to the United States so I know what it’s like to have to deal with difficult and intoxicated customers. I also was an airport screener for a while and I’m a state certified emergency responder. I’d like to think these things would make me a strong candidate. Just curious what you think. Thanks for your time, Brian.
Based on your work experience alone, you sound like the perfect candidate to me! You’re comfortable cutting people off handling intoxicated passengers, you’re familiar with the responsibilities that go along with working at an airport, and you have a pretty good idea of what life is like in the sky. Being a certified emergency trainer will only make you more attractive to the airlines. Your wife, I’m sure, has mentioned that no one ever dies in flight, right? At least not until a doctor can make an official pronouncement. This might be why so many flight attendants have nursing backgrounds. Some are even senior enough to hold a flying schedule that allows them to balance a nursing career at the same time. These are always my favorite flight attendants to work with because when there’s an emergency in flight, they tend to take over. That being said, I truly believe it’s your wife that makes you a standout.
I’m scheduled for a flight attendant interview on Tuesday! I’ve been through the process once before so I am familiar with the questions they may ask, but I’m just not confident in my answers sometimes. The hardest part is answering behavioral or situational questions. When they ask, “Name a time when…” I find it really hard to recall examples from my past work experience. I have trouble with these questions and I’m not sure what a good answer may be. I hope you can help. Here are a few examples.
1. How do you handle stress?
2. Name a time when you were under a lot of stress and how did you deal with it?
3. Describe a situation when you had to make a quick decision?
You’ve been through the interview process once before, so you already know what to expect. That’s half the battle. Try to relax and don’t forget to smile. Being able to keep your cool during a stressful situation is a big part of the job. The fact that the airline called you for a one-on-one interview says a lot about you. Thousands of people apply for the job, but very few applicants hear back from the airline. Remember that next time you’re not feeling overly confident. And try to have some fun.
When it comes to answering interview questions, the most important thing to do is let the airline know you’re a customer service oriented person – as often as possible. Talk about how you go above and beyond the call of duty to help people. Airlines are looking for flight attendants who are friendly, work well with others and take pride in their job. Try not to read too much into the questions. There’s no such thing as a right answer. You don’t have to share life-altering events for an airline to realize you’d make a great fit. Think in terms of the job. Keep it simple.
[photo courtesy of Kudumomo]
I would love to become a flight attendant. I live close to Fort Lauderdale airport, only about 30 miles from Miami International Airport and 80 miles from West Palm Beach Airport. I also have two teenagers (13 and 16) so that’s where my question begins. If I live in Florida but my base is in New York, will I have to agree to relocate? How does that work if I live in Florida and have kids and a husband? Would the airline pay me to fly out to my base station every time I need to report to work or do I have to pay for that? Or would I just have to move there? This is what I don’t really understand. – Gladys
On the flight attendant job application you’ll probably find the question, “Are you willing to relocate?” Check the box “no” instead of “yes” and it’s safe to assume you probably won’t get called in for an interview. It’s common knowledge that flight attendants must be willing to cut their hair and go anywhere.
After you’ve successfully completed training, you’ll probably be put on probation. At my airline, probation lasts six months and new hires on probation do not receive travel benefits during this time. New flight attendants who choose to live in another city are on their own when it comes to covering the expense of getting to and from work during the first six months. Once off probation, commuters at my airline fly for free by standing by for an open seat. This is called non-reving because you are now a non-revenue passenger. Keep in mind there are very few open seats available on flights today, especially around holidays, during weekends and all through the summer. I’ve actually seen flight attendants come to blows over the jump seat on the last flight out. Which is why you’re lucky you live so close to three airports. You have options when flights are full or when delays and cancellations affect air travel.