One Day In The Shoes Of a Flight Attendant
One Day In The Shoes Of a Flight Attendant
Ah, such an amazing job. Flying to a new destination on a daily basis, and getting paid to do so, staying in amazing hotels, meeting new people and have a carefree life. The job is so easy and all that a flight attendant does is serving teas and coffees. Right?
There is much more to do than just serving teas and coffees. Being a Flight Attendant means being a doctor, firefighter, safety supervisor, cleaner, psychologist and a barista-waiter-barman all-in-one while soaring the skies above 30,000ft.
My experience in this industry is based on working with a short haul company, what means that I have less time in the places that we fly to, if any, and work for longer hours. Each company has its rules, so some things will be different from other companies.
Have you ever wondered how a day in the shoes of a flight attendant looks like?
How The Days Are Divided
Forget weekends, bank holidays and any other holiday time. When everybody is off, you may be working because those are the busiest periods for a flight attendant. Forget, also, about routine because you will have to work shifts and your schedule is built randomly.
Instead of days of the week, flight attendants use numbers of working days. If you are meant to work for 5 days a week and you did a flight yesterday, you will say that you are on day 2 of 5. This might sound strange, but this is a great way to have a picture of how well the whole crew might perform through the day. Someone working on day 2 will be better rested and alert than someone on day 5. The same way you feel when you have to go to work on Friday.
We can do an early or a late shift. A late shift starts from midday onwards and can end by 5 in the morning. An early shift usually consists of duties starting past four in the morning. A week is usually composed of the same shift pattern to fight off fatigue.
Start Of The Day
Today you will do four flights. The first flight is scheduled at 5:20 am, what means that you will have to wake up around 2:20 or 3:20 to get ready. The good thing about these shifts is that most of the time you will avoid rush hour madness.
You need to be at the airport at least 1 hour before the scheduled departure time. This hour is used for you to check-in, print relevant information for the day, meet the rest of the crew, be informed about any weather issues, turbulence and how full the flights are. You will also need to either talk or answer questions related to safety, first aid, and other operational procedures.
Then you have to go through airport security using the special crew/staff lanes. These lanes are much quicker than the passenger side, mostly because there are fewer people going through them. Flight Attendants are only allowed to use these special lanes while on duty.
Welcome To The Office
Each crew member is responsible for a part of the aircraft and before boarding, each one checks the safety equipment and their areas of responsibility, making sure that there are no strange or unusual things in the aircraft. If you can hide something somewhere, that place was searched by one of the crew.
One of the most stressful phases of the flight for a crew member is boarding. While boarding you might try to find a space for a suitcase in the overhead lockers, answer questions from passengers, guide someone to his/her seat, give an extension seatbelt to a mother with an infant and remember that someone asked you for a glass of water on row 9. When you do all of this, you also need to be aware of what is happening around you and what is being said over the Public Announcement (PA).
Fun Fact: An Aircraft will get grounded if some safety equipment is broken. If the front interphone is not working, an engineer needs to come and replace it otherwise it won’t be possible to fly.
Boarding Completed, Doors Closed
After the boarding, the crew arms the doors. Arming the doors simply means attaching the inflatable slide to the doors of the aircraft. In the unlikely case of an emergency in which you need to evacuate the aircraft, as soon as the door opens the slide will inflate.
By then the aircraft might be already leaving the parking stance and you will be in the cabin doing the safety demonstration(demo). When the demo comes to an end, each crew member checks their areas of responsibility and does a final cabin secure. Making sure that every passenger has his/her seat belt fastened, the window blinds are open, the tray tables are stowed and there are no big bags under the seats.
Then you sit down, pass the cabin secure to the pilots and the aircraft gets ready to take off. While in the air, the pilots will let the crew know that is safe to move around the cabin by switching the seatbelt sign off and on again.
Soaring The Skies
The services offered on a flight are different from airline to airline. You might go out with drinks and food service, then do a clearing of the rubbish. In some companies, you might have to go with duty-free down the cabin as well.
Each flight is different and how fast or slow a service is, depends on the length of the flight. While doing the service you are still in charge of checking the pilots if they need anything and if they are okay and you have to check the toilets to see if everything is how it should be.
When the aircraft is about 10 to 15 minutes to land, the pilots give the command to secure the cabin for landing. The crew does a final rubbish clearing and secures the cabin once more.
Landing and Disembarkation
You sit down on your crew seat again. When the aircraft is close to the ground, you have to do the 30-second review. In your head, you go through the steps of an evacuation, what is your brace position, who can help you if needed, how to open the door and which piece of safety equipment could be useful to take.
When the aircraft is close to the parking stand, the pilots give the command to disarm the doors. The ground staff places steps or a jet bridge by the doors and knocks on the door, letting the crew know that it’s safe to open the door.
Depending on the stand that the aircraft is on and the specifications of the airport, not all exits might be used for disembarkation. A lot of airports only use a jet bridge and the only exit open is the front door.
As soon as the last passenger leaves the aircraft, each crew member rechecks their areas of responsibility. You clean your rows and look for lost property. The rubbish bags that were used through the flight are offloaded as well.
When everything is done, you wait for the next passengers to board the aircraft and do everything all over again.