(Illustration: Ryan McCullah)
We convinced a fed-up flight attendant who we’ll call “Jenny” to vent her frustrations. And boy, is she frustrated. The airline where she has devoted 18 years of her life is merging with another airline and seems to keeping adding foreign and regional partners on a daily basis. She claims she is constantly walking on eggshells with new policies and new people.
Here, Jenny gets a few things off her chest.
These new planes are making me crazy! (Photo: Thinkstock)
There is too much new equipment. We have to train on every type of plane that we fly on. With the merger, I am trained on so many aircraft that I don’t know one from the other. I cannot keep the safety equipment straight. I never know for sure where to find the darn demo life vest. Or is the plane I’m on even equipped with vests? Maybe it just has seat cushion flotation devices. I am lucky if I know where to find the defibrillator — if the plane even has one.
New partner airlines make things confusing for everyone. We crew on some foreign flights, and they crew on ours. Yay! More planes to learn. Passengers are cranky about it. The ones who booked on a foreign airline expect a foreign crew; those that booked through a U.S. carrier expect an all-American crew. Here’s a secret tip for you: foreign crews give better service. Of course, you won’t have any way to know who is crewing your flight until you step onboard, so it’s pretty much a useless tip.
The routes change too frequently. The days of consistent schedules are long gone. I used to be able to memorize the schedules of my favorite routes into and out of my home base airport. Now every day is a new world. There is no consistency.
We almost never know the other crewmembers on a flight. I used know my fellow crewmembers at least half of the time. Now, it rarely happens. The mergers are partly to blame, but it’s more than that. It’s the nature of the job to travel halfway across the country to get to work and not always know if you’ll even get to work a flight when you get there. We meet our fellow crewmembers just before you do. Is that really safe? I always felt safer when I knew and trusted the team on board the aircraft.
There are too many new flight attendants. The merger seems to have weeded out some of the old guard like myself, leaving us flying with perky newcomers. Perky wears off in about a year. If they are lucky, they will have a few years of being content with the job and excited about the travel, but that too will eventually wear off. I flew to São Paulo last year for the first time. I saw the hotel and nothing else. Not one of the strangers on the flight crew had any interest in seeing the city. Not even the perky newcomers.
It’s a thankless job. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Passengers are crankier. The invention of premium economy class seats is one of the few changes I do like. “Middle class” is a good thing on a plane. Business or first-class passengers can be needy, and dare I say it, pretentious. Economy passengers are cramped and cranky. But give people more space and a tiny perk or two for a relatively small amount of money (compared to a biz-class seat) and they truly mellow out. Those seats should actually be called the “Zen” seats. People with more legroom are pleasant. I call them in-betweeners and reward them with extra snacks and my best pretend perkiness.
One thing that has not changed. One more confession and I will stop. I feel better already. You know when you are not allowed to get up and go to the bathroom? Specifically, like during takeoff and landing? That’s when we go pee. Really. You think we are all buckled up and happily waiting for touchdown when we are actually taking our turn in the lav. That is, of course, if we actually know where it is.
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