Tag Archives: travel

Flying the less-friendly skies

1238071_10151845524384061_77421692_nMy first Op-Ed. Los Angeles Times, A25. They changed the title from “flying the less-friendly skies” to “Turn off your cell phone means turn it off” in the paper. I liked the original one better. It’s more in the spirit of the piece.  And yeah, the handcuffs got cut out. 

Long ago — I’m talking in the 1960s — “stewardesses” were taught how to walk up stairs in heels and how to blow out a match after lighting a passenger’s cigarette. They were issued pillbox hats and little white gloves. Their glamour was a big part of the allure of airline travel.

But when passengers reminisce about those good old days, I remind them that barely anyone could afford to fly then, and then I might point out a colleague and say, “Remember the stewardesses back then, the ones in hot pants and go-go boots? Well, there’s one right over there. Still flying.”

Hard to believe, I know, but these days flight attendants are allowed to grow old and gain a little weight. As long as we can still fit through the exit window, buckle our seat belts without an extension and, most important, pass the yearly training, we can fly as long as we want.

I’ve been a flight attendant for a major carrier for 18 years, and I’ve seen a lot of changes in that time. But nothing changed my job more than 9/11. Since then, at yearly training we focus more on safety and security than service. We’re taught karate. We talk about throwing hot coffee at lunging terrorists and other things I’m not at liberty to discuss. “This is not what I signed up for,” I’ve often heard veteran flight attendants mumble during class.

At the same time, with turmoil in the industry and rising fuel costs — and, more recently, with the recession — airlines are more focused than ever on the bottom line. Flight attendants have taken multiple pay cuts. We’ve watched days grow longer and layovers grow shorter. Sometimes, with only the minimum required eight hours behind a hotel room door, it feels like there’s not enough time to eat, sleep and shower.

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10 ways to handle a tight connection

4079981298_37ce535983_n1. 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.

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Photo credit: NewbieRunner

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Disturb

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Photo Credit:  Heather Poole

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April 12, 2013 · 2:04 am

2013 New Year’s Travel Resolution

photo-40This originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler’s website: New Year’s Resolutions from Travel Bloggers, Chefs, and Other VIPsTHE FLIGHT ATTENDANT
Heather Poole

Be more fully present: “As a flight attendant I spend a lot of time looking ahead—to the next flight, the next crew, the next group of passengers, the next layover, the next couple of days off, the next month’s schedule. Before I know it another month goes by and the next thing I know we’re ringing in a new year and I can barely remember what happened leading up to it. It’s all one big, hazy blue blur. So this year I’m going to work harder at focusing on the moment. By living in the now, stress and anxiety over what I can’t control gets left behind and simple things become beautiful moments that last a lifetime. Like sitting in a jump seat on a very early flight and watching the rays of sunlight peak through the clouds and make its way into the quiet cabin across the faces of passengers lost in thought on takeoff. Such a quiet beauty that goes unnoticed on most flights.”

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The 10 best travel apps for flight attendants (and frequent fliers)

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. WhatsAppAn 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.

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[Photo courtesy of PartyMonstrrr]

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Real Simple: How to pack like a pro (Just a few quotes!)

There’s a great article about packing featured in this month’s issue of Real Simple magazine (July 2012).  And I’m not just saying that because they quoted me and gave my book a little love.  Okay so maybe I am!  HA!  No seriously, it’s a really good article. I even learned a thing or two about packing. …

[A special thank you goes to Vicki Howell for teaching me how to pack jewelry]

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Travel questions answered

Heather PooleStephanie Elizondo Griest, author of  of Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana, and Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines, interviewed me on her fun and insightful blog.  Just thought I’d share…

This week’s Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010 contributor spends her days pushing 300-pound carts at 30,000 feet and then blogging all about it: Heather Poole. A flight attendant with 15 years of experience, she’ll be making her memoir debut next summer.

What is “home” for you? Is it a particular place or person or thing?

Home is where my fifteen-pound cat, Gatsby, lives. I’m a flight attendant. I spend part of each month living out of a suitcase. My husband, whom I met on a flight, travels over 100,000 miles a year for business, while my son, a three-and a half-year-old, has been on an airplane at least once a month since he was three months old. All roads lead back to the cat, the only family member with a permanent address.

When did you first hit the road? How did it go?

After I didn’t get a raise working a regular 9-to-5 job for a well-known watch company, I quit. Soon after, I ran across an ad in the newspaper for an airline looking to hire flight attendants. I had never wanted to be a flight attendant, but the pay wasn’t bad and there were lots of days off, so I figured I’d do it for a little while, and as I traveled the world, meeting all kinds of exciting new people, I’d apply to other jobs, ya know, the kind that pay well and people have respect for – something in marketing maybe. Fifteen years later I’m still flying. Life is good.

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10 Gifts for flight attendants (and frequent fliers)

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is job security, being able to hold my first bid, two weeks vacation, a raise, longer layovers, more wide-body flying, faster flying times, grateful and polite passengers with a sense of humor, more ferry flights, a cockpit that appreciates who’s on the other side of the reinforced door, and a fun crew

Florence, the flight attendant

Something tells me that ain’t happening. So what can you get that special flight attendant, pilot or frequent flier in your life for Christmas this year? Glad you asked. Here’s my 2009 holiday gift list…

1. AVIATION CRAP STUFF - If there’s one thing flight attendants have in common, it’s the airline museum hiding in the guestroom closet. So if you see something with an aviation theme buy it, wrap it up, and send it to me. I’m talking things like vintage airline posters, sassy bag tags, airplane pajamas, flight attendant dolls, even an airplane Christmas ornament – anything really!

2. HAND LOTION - Flight attendants have always been addicted to fruity smelling antibacterial hand lotion. Now that the flu season is here with a nasty H1N1 scare to top it off, we’re going through germ killer like business class passengers go through wine and bottled water. Bath and Body has a wonderful selection of travel size lotion to stuff a stocking with. Also, we’re constantly washing our hands with harsh airplane soap, so hand lotion with shea butter is a must. Beth, a coworker and friend, swears by Gardners hand therapy cream by Crabtree and Evelyn.

3. CAFFEINE - Three reasons your flight attendant might not be smiling; 1. Long work days. 2. Short layovers. 3. They’ve given up their expensive Starbucks addiction in order to cut back and make ends meet. Every flight attendant deserves (and needs!) a decent cup of Joe, especially when working long hauls, early sign-ins, red eyes, or multiple legs. I’m sorry, but airplane coffee just won’t cut it. While a Starbucks gift card might be nice, a couple packets of Via Ready Brew would work well, too.

4. READING MATERIAL - Flight attendants are like vultures when it comes to scavenging seat back pockets for discarded newspapers and magazines after a flight. While I love to score a copy of US, Star, People, ya know, the kind of magazine you can flip through quickly between beverage services, it’s Vanity Fair I can’t commute to work without. What flight attendant wouldn’t love a magazine subscription or a gift card to Barnes & Noble? Or take it a step further and give a Kindle. You’ll help lighten the load.

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Just a few flight attendant gift ideas

Hi Heather,

I have a question for you.  My sister is a flight attendant and I was wondering what you would recommend as a good present(s) for her for Christmas? She’s been at the job a little over 2 years and is based out of Chicago, if that’s of any help at all. I figured you would have some recommendations for stuff you might use on a daily basis or just might find useful in general. The year she started, I bought a couple books that flight attendants had written, but I figured if I could get some help from someone with the same job, maybe I could just get her the perfect gift! 

Happy Holidays!

Katie L.

PS My dad is a private pilot, so any tips there would be great, too! :)

Dear Katie,

Good question!  Your sis is a lucky girl to have such a caring sister like yourself.  That’s why I hereby dedicate tomorrow’s Galley Gossip post to you – 10 gift for flight attendants (and frequent fliers).  Make sure to check it. 

Until then, here are a few gift ideas: Bose headsets, iPod, tempurpedic eyeshades, travel alarm clock with ambient sounds, tempurpedic travel pillow.  A cashmere scarf with matching gloves that will look nice with her uniform would make a great gift, especially since she’s based in Chicago – Brrrr!  I’m cold just thinking about it.  Every year there’s always a must have, non-regulation, “uniform” item that everyone seems to be wearing and this year, at my airline, that was a red fitted cardigan sweater from The Gap, as well as a pair of women’s navy blue, flat front, trousers from JC Penny’s.  I never did get the brand name.  Personally, I can never own enough pairs of navy blue/black DKNY opaque hose.   Also, make sure to take a look at these cool web sites…

Good luck finding that perfect gift!

Heather

Photo courtesy of GeorgeParrilla

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Miss Oklahoma, a ripped skirt, Pop Rocks, and other strange things on planes

Obviously the best thing about being a flight attendant is being able to travel at a moments notice, as long as there’s an open seat available on the flight. The second best thing about being a flight attendant has got to be all those days off! The third best thing about being a flight attendant is that we never know what the day will bring, and being able to leave that day behind as soon as we step off the plane – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Or the not so ugly as was the case on my last trip.

“I’m sorry,” whispered my coworker, cutting his eyes at Taylor Treat, the winner of the Miss Oklahoma pageant this year. “But I’m prettier than her.”

I looked at her, looked at him, looked back at her, and tried not to laugh. Because…well…In his own special way my colleague did indeed give the beauty queen a run for her money, all 200 pounds of him, with flawless coco butter skin, lashes as long as J-Lo, and….wait a minute, was that gloss? His lips were unusually shiny.

“Why Andre…” I handed a passenger a can of Dr. Pepper. “I do believe you’re jealous!”

Snorting, he slapped a beverage napkin down on a tray table and turned to the last row of passengers. “Something to drink?”

Just another day on the job.

It had started out like any other day, only on this particular day when we arrived at the Oklahoma City airport I ripped my skirt leaping out of the crew van like a world class athlete. I don’t know what I was thinking, trying to make that five foot jump to the curb. The sound of fabric splitting caused my entire crew to gasp, which caused me to walk backwards, or sideways, depending on where passengers were located, as I made my way into the airport, through security, and onto the airplane.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that bad things can lead to good things. It’s true! Because if it weren’t for the ripped skirt I would have never met the passenger with the double-sided sticky tape, and if hadn’t met the sticky tape man, I would have never met the beautiful young woman sitting beside him, a woman who will actually be competing for the Miss America title in January. And that’s how I almost – ALMOST – got wear a sparkling crown during the beverage service. Only something tells me if I had worn it, Andre would have snatched it away and placed it on his own bald head.

Continue reading GALLEY GOSSIP: MISS OKLAHOMA, A RIPPED SKIRT, POP ROCKS & OTHER STRANGE THINGS ON PLANES

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