Category Archives: Being Cabin Crew

Travelling as a Passenger

There are a lot of really good things about having a job in Aviation, one of which is that we get discounted flights.  But do not be fooled by the whimsy of not needing to pay thousands of whichever currency you’re using, because airport chairs or floors can get incredibly uncomfortable if you have somewhere to be, urgently.  In my case, I need to get home, because my holiday is officially over and I need to get back to work.  I am 13 hours away from home now.  With only one flight that leaves in the next couple of hours and me sitting on a very uncomfortable surface with a lot of other people around me looking like they would kill me if I get a seat and they don’t, you should be able to understand that with great discount comes great anxiety attacks.

Not only do I have to be at the airport at least 2 hours before the flight departs, I also will not know whether I will board that flight until the boarding gates open.  So here I am , 2 hours before the flight, standing in line at the service desk.  The lady behind the desk is friendly, she understands, but still I have to take a seat and wait until they call me.  An hour goes by and I’ve had my fair share of coffee and I’ve watched an episode of Breaking Bad and I’m still waiting for the typical “Ladies and Gentlemen” announcement to happen.

I only have half an hour left until my fate is thrown at me, so I decide to pack everything just in case I need to hop up in a hurry. There is a man speaking to one of the Ground Staff, they have been offloaded because they’re child has an ear infection.  I feel sorry for them, but it makes my chances of getting onto the flight a lot better.  Staff traveling is a dog eat dog world, survival of the fittest and may the odds be ever in your favour all thrown together in a washing machine of tears and anger and laughter and relief.  UHG how is the time going by so slowly?!

“Ladies and Gentlemen, those of you travelling on staff travel please approach the check-in desk.”  Finally!  Just give it to me straight, yes or no?


The couple next to me got two seats as well, but the guy on my other side isn’t as lucky.  He was supposed to have a transit visa, because his onwards flight might have him stuck on the airport for longer than what is legal.  So the poor guy had a seat, but couldn’t be allowed on.  That makes no sense to me, why would you need a visa if you’re going to stay airside?  Anyway, I now have to run to the gate because the flight is already boarding and I am still standing at the desk.  “Bye-bye check-in luggage, have a fun ride downstairs, don’t get lost now!”

So I am speed walking with my Adidas sport bag as a carry-on because my friend borrowed my usual wheeled carry-on and all I can hear is the final call for my flight.  How?!  We JUST got our boarding passes.  And now I’m stuck in line behind about a thousand people to get through security.  Tick-tock security people!!!

Okay so 20 people later I am ripping my MacBook out of my handbag and tearing my jacket off and practically throwing my bags into the rubbery flappy mouth of the x-ray scanner and I run through the thing that beeps for every tiny bit of metal that exists.  On the other side I am egging the machine on like I am betting on a horse race, begging it to give my bags to me sooner so that I can shove everything I took out of the bags, back into the bags.  After half falling into my shoes that I had to remove because it was bound to beep, I am doing this weird speed wobble every 10 steps, you know walk walk walk faster wobble walk walk…  Passport Control!  Trying to manage getting my passport out of my handbag with one hand while walking and holding my carry-on over my other shoulder is insane!  How do people travel with children?!  Okay I have to smile at the official looking guy behind the desk.  He scans my passport and then stamps it and he double checks that it is in fact me in the picture before handing it back to me and saying I’ll have to run.  And he is grinning.  As if it is funny that I am sweaty and out of breath and it makes no sense because I have been at the airport for 2 hours.  And so I continue my speed wobble after thanking him for stamping my passport.  I can at least see the gate.

Bleep, my ticket is scanned and I start walking down the air bridge to the aircraft, which feels like another 10km away.  Finally greeted with a smile on board by one of the cabin crew, I waddle my way to my seat and I am being given the stink-eye by my fellow passengers for arriving so late.  Little do they know.

I think it was about 3 minutes after I boarded when they closed the last door, I plopped myself down onto my much softer airplane seat and settled in for the 13 hours that awaited me.  Shortly after, I watched the safety video and felt the plane jerk as we started to push back, the crew was told to arm their doors for departure.  The taxi was short and soon we were finally in the air.  Just after the seatbelt sign went off, about half the plane got up to do something or the other, nobody knows how everyone would desperately need something that very second, but the ruckus died down and finally the crew got around to start service.  They did not take my order yet, which makes sense, and they won’t until every other guest has had their choice.  So I am having a cup of tea and waiting patiently for them to get around to little old me, staff, travelling as a passenger.  At least my seat has a massage function!


Meeting New People

My horizons have broadened quite a bit in the last six months, I’ve been to a whole bunch of new countries, seen the greener grass that everyone always talks about and I’ve spent time with a whole bunch of different people.  Whether they are on the aircraft with me or on ground in the hotel or in another country altogether, people are different.

I’m walking through the aircraft introducing myself to my guests, one after the other… A honeymoon couple, a doctor, a business woman, a staff travel user, another couple and a VVIP.  Everyone gets the same greeting, tweaked to fit them personally.  I ask how they are, where they’ve been or where they’re travelling to, I briefly discuss the menu and I joke a bit to break the ice.

The couple are travelling to Paris for their honeymoon.  It’s freezing there now, but I guess the city is still beautiful to a couple in love.  They order yogurt and fruits, champagne and a bowl of cereal for after takeoff.

The Doctor is on his way to a massive conference about cancer.  He keeps it simple, just a cup of tea.

The business woman settles herself into her suite and looks at the menu, says she is vegetarian, doesn’t eat spicy food.  I will tailor make a menu for her.  She is on her way to Dubai for a meeting, and will be working and sleeping.  Eat. Work. Sleep. Repeat.

The staff travel user keeps quiet, places his luggage under his seat and only asks for some orange juice.  He says to tend to the other guests before him.  I like this guy, he knows my world.  I walk away wondering who he could be.  Management? Nah he is too young.  Maybe a sibling or a friend.  Anyway.

The other couple orders before I can introduce myself, the husband says nothing.  She asks for tenderloin, potatoes, vegetables, wine, no dessert.  She thanks me, hands me her Louis Vuitton carry-on and smiles.

The VVIP laughs, he doesn’t want anything now, he also doesn’t speak much english. He just wants and a cheese sandwich.  Later, he says.  Now, he wants to watch a movie.  He points at Frozen.  I smile as I walk away.

After takeoff I prepare everyones aperitif orders, I start setting up for service and I make sure to give everyone everything they asked for.  It’s not too busy, the guests are content, the cabin is quiet, everyone is either eating or relaxing.  Just as I finish serving everyone and the crew clears all the tables, the honeymooners walk into the galley asking for me, so I take my gloves off and I follow her into the cabin.  She asks for lunch.  Lamb shank, potatoes, sauce.  Beef cheeks, parsnips, vegetables.  Wine.  I’m sure they JUST had breakfast.  So lunchtime is 10 minutes after breakfast.  Ovens on!

The Doctor would like to sleep, so we do his turndown, as well as the VVIP’s, the staff travel guy and the business woman.  Her door gets stuck when we try to close it, she doesn’t like that.  Lights off in the cabin, only the couples’ IFE screens are on.  After serving the honeymooners their extended breakfast / lunch, they watch a movie and they also then retire.  The other couple however, are restless.  They ate a bit later than the other guests, made them a special starter and after the palate cleanser I served the lady her main course.  When I returned with her husband’s fillet steak, she had placed her plate in front of him.  She was crying and staring at her phone, trembling, clenching her jaw.  Her husband has no words, he asks to take her food away.  He eats.

There is a medical emergency in Business Class, we get busy, the flight crew keeps calling to know whats going on and my cabin is still quiet and my guest is still crying and her husband is still eating.  I walk past their suite and she is throwing her salt and pepper shaker at him, knives, forks, plates everything.  Okay.  Her husband hands me his plate.  I ask if there is anything I can do, she just shakes her head and continues crying.  I go back to clean up the mess, wipe up the spilt wine and find the missing salt shaker behind the seat.  She is putting up the divider between their suites and he is pleading with her not to be like this.  We offer to turn down her suite, she only wants a pillow.  He stands quietly while we do his turndown and listen to his wife cry.

After a couple of hours of sleep and much needed quiet, the cabin slowly starts waking up, the VVIP wants his cheese sandwich now.  The Portuguese crew member is talking to him, they laugh and I know everything is fine.

After asking for a doctor on board, my guest offers his assistance and after seeing his license and passport we realise it is his twenty-fifth birthday.  So needless to say, I start preparing a birthday cake.  After he has his lunch, I give him his tiramisu birthday surprise.  I’ve never seen anyone this happy about a tiramisu.  Apparently it’s his favourite, he is amazed at the fact that I knew that.  Convinced I had called the ground from the cockpit to find out what his favourite things are, he happily sits and eats his birthday cake, drinks his espresso and smiles at me every time I pass his suite.

While preparing a cup of vanilla rose tea for the business woman who just woke up, the Portuguese crew member walks into the galley with the VVIP and he drops down on one knee.  She says he wants to marry me.  YEAH I think I can understand that part.  He says a bunch of stuff and she translates.  Says he has never met anyone more beautiful (oh I am flattered) and he wants to buy me a jet.  Hang on, WHAT?!  The guy wants to buy me a plane?  Goodness.  Uhm, how do I keep him happy but deny his expensive proposal?  So I tell him he is more than welcome to buy me the jet, but I would never be home, so I would have to think about it.  10 minutes until top of descent.

The business woman is drinking her tea and complaining about her back pain, says she wants to land right now and she wants to get off the plane straight away.  Unfortunately we are still 30000 ft in the air, so no doors will be opened anytime soon, but I offer her some painkillers and show her the massage function in the chair.

The staff travel guy awakes from his 10 hour nap and he asks for something to nibble on, anything, doesn’t want too much trouble.  So I give him breakfast.  Fried eggs, sausage, turkey bacon, mushrooms, toast, pastries, juice and coffee.  He is clearly appreciative, we start talking and I find out he is a flight attendant for Emirates.  His dad is a captain with Etihad.  I knew he was one of us.  Cabin Crew UNITE!

After making sure that the wife didn’t physically harm her husband in his sleep, showing the guests to the dressing room individually, securing the cabin, handing out last minute coffees and juices and asking my guests if they had a good trip, we strap ourselves in for landing.  I have a big day ahead of me, I’m meeting a new person.  I’ve perfected my makeup, I’ve made sure my house is perfect, I’ve planned the week ahead in perfect detail.  I’m smiling at what lies ahead, laughing, dancing.

We’ve landed and the doctor has given me his email address, the VVIP has been picked up by his pre-ordered Mercedes, the flight attendant has thanked me and told me how amazing we look in our new uniforms, the honeymooners ran out to be the first ones in the lounge, the business woman shouted at her phone and the couple stormed off.  I go to get dressed, turn on my phone and wait for 16 hours of missed messages to catch up with me while I do my security searches.

The messages caught up with me.  I stand and listen to the de-brief.  I walk away, go through security, collect my trunki.  I walk to the bus, the crew wondering why I’ve gone from dancing and laughing to quiet.  I tell them I’m just tired.  I lied.  The bus takes forever to get home but when it does I walk up the stairs into my apartment and I turn my music up as loud as I can.  Broken.  Jet lagged after a long day at work.

Every person is in their own world, wrestling with their own problems, laughing at their own jokes and expecting nothing less than first class.  People just have different perspectives.  Some people will eat EVERYTHING that they can possibly manage, others will not want to trouble us with anything but a bottle of water every now and then.  Some people complain about the little things and other people appreciate them.  Some people cry and make a scene and others stay quiet and keep out of the public eye.  In the end everyone gets off of the plane and goes about their lives as usual, but sometimes they need to be nudged into the right direction.

Even though all of this didn’t happen on one flight, this is in a nutshell what my days are like.  Compliments, complaints, happy and sad.  But I recover from the jet lag and I laugh at the messages from the people I care about and I know that tomorrow’s flight will be perfectly crazy, and that I’ll meet a new guest going somewhere else wanting something different.  My life is almost perfect right now.


Surviving Frequent Travelling

Last month I think I might have finally understood partly how new mothers feel.  You are able to sleep anywhere, eat anywhere and everything, for some reason you shower 3 times more than usual cause you’ve forgotten what day it was and most importantly you’ll do anything to block out noise.

Jet lag, times motherhood, equals frequent ultra long haul cabin crew.  Within a month I traveled East to West to East to West so many times that I couldn’t sleep unless the sun was up.  Even though some people were happy that I could stay up and chat all day,  I almost lost it.  Nah, I did lose it, I just can’t remember that I did.  So after I went to Sydney and my state of mind miraculously readjusted, I tried figuring out how to keep it that way.  I would be so tired that I’d sleep for 18 hours straight and that’s not only incredibly confusing and scary, its also unhealthy and I kept losing my days.

From napping to packing to getting on the plane, here’s how I stay sane…

I don’t take naps, I think its silly and I am the grumpiest person ever when I wake up from a nap, so I adjust my sleep.  I make sure that I get at least 5 – 8 hours sleep before my flight, cause you see, I need to be awake and happy at the same time.  So a lot of times I’ll be up through the night before a flight, like when I was studying for big exams in college…  Minus the strobe lights and “thirst quenching beverages”.

I’d have showered and packed before the sheep line up, otherwise every sheep would question my flight preparation.  Depending on the weather forecast, which should not be trusted, I try to have a little bit of everything in my trusty “Trunki”.  So I check the weather just to disregard it anyways, then  I pack my hooded leather jacket, a summer dress that looks good with tights, a pair of jeans and a shirt or two that works with everything. If its snowing I pack boots, if not, the boots stay.  So ballet flats and sandals work. I don’t know where my trip will lead me, so I pack a pretty little black dress and a pair of heels just in case.  Obviously I have the usual toothbrush, underwear, sleepwear, etc.  Then I have learnt to pack a small carton thingy of milk, because the hotels give minuscule amounts and I like a lot of milk in my tea / coffee (also packed in teeny amounts).  Oh and swimwear!  Cause there’s bound to be a pool or a beach or a jacuzzi or something.

My carry on has the usual on-board black crew pajamas for the crazy far flights, together with facial water spray, lip balm, hairspray, millions of extra bobby pins, toothbrush and toothpaste and my make-up (all liquids and gels separated into clear plastic bags for customs).  I also carry my tablet, camera, a folder with paperwork, my legal documents and licenses, wallet with the correct currency if I was bothered enough to go exchange before hand, my cabin shoes, trench-coat and finally my on-board uniform.

Thank goodness for air conditioning and blackout curtains.

After my 7th alarm has given up on me, I force myself out of my comfy pillow-nest and quickly make my bed before I change my mind.  Kettle on.  YouTube playlist on.  As I walk back into my room with a hot cup in my hand, I smile at the sound of the lyrics… da da da “I flick the switch on the generator…..” and I do a little happy dance.  After dance-fighting myself into my compression tights for flying, it takes me about 10 minutes to do my makeup, then about 5 minutes to make the signature low-bun then about 5 minutes to decide whether I should have breakfast.  After either having breakfast or not, I throw my charger and my make-up into my carry-on, I lock my Trunki bag.  I finish getting dressed and I chuck my phone and my flight journal into my handbag, and earphones for blocking out the noise on the bus and making a video call in public.  Out the front door.  Whatever I’ve forgotten I’ll survive without for a couple of nights, or I’ll walk into the nearest mall.  I know I have the basics, I’ll survive.

If I am travelling as a guest (happens more often than you’d think) surviving on the plane is just about securing yourself a window seat and scaring the people next to you into moving away, if you’re in economy.  Normally I am in business class, cause it’s nice and I get to sleep more, and I don’t have to scare anyone.  I just throw on the noise-cancelling headset and watch every movie that the in-flight entertainment has to offer, or connect to the wi-fi and go about my business as per usual with the crew happily bringing me whatever I want.

If I am working and everyone in first class has eaten and is asleep, I survive by walking around and annoying the other crew in the other galleys.  Or if the crew isn’t as fun as I’d hoped, I just sit in the cockpit and wait for something interesting to never happen.

I never shower right after a long flight, it’s something about your skin and it being bad after the dehydration on the plane or whatever, so I just moisturise.  And depending what time it is, I either go to sleep or I go out into the city and explore.  After a couple of hours exploring, having dinner with the crew at a cute little hidden place that the locals recommended,and the sun is setting, I’d be back at the hotel taking a shower and getting ready for a good nights sleep.

Getting back onto the plane for the ride home is the part that sucks for everyone going back home after a fun holiday, but if I have gotten enough sleep, I’ve eaten a good meal and seen the sun shine for a while, I can handle it just barely to smile at the fact that I got to experience a new country.  Even though travelling is tough on my mind and my body, I am happily exhausted by the time I get back home.  I throw on my most comfortable shirt and I try to relax.  I try not to be bored, I Skype, a lot (ask my flatmates).  I go outside, I go shopping, I go to the beach, I go have lunch, anything. Cause the next time I lock myself in an airplane for 16 hours (either as crew or as a guest), I need to make sure I smile at the people who keep me company.