Archive for September, 2012

Staying hydrated while flying


When I was in new-hire training with my airline, our instructors spent a few minutes going over the importance of staying hydrated while you are flying. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but two and a half years later I can tell you it is one of the things I focus on!

Flying constantly can be harder on the body, and all of that recycled dry air can be even harder. It’s very easy to get dehydrated, which can lead to headaches and even kidney stones if you aren’t careful. Thankfully we have a (mostly) never-ending supply of bottled water on the plane, so make sure you drink plenty of water while working. Skip the sodas and juices, and go straight for the water! I drink about two liters per day while I am working, and sometimes even that feels like not enough. I have coworkers that say “oh, I hate water” and things like that, so if you have trouble drinking enough water, find something that will help you drink it. I like to bring a small bottle of lemon juice with me to add to my water. I have coworkers that buy those instant drink mixes to add to their water.. Anything that will make you drink more water is great!

Your skin will dry out a lot as well. Guys and girls alike, make sure you use lotion constantly! I like to make sure I put some on my hands prior to landing, and of course I use plenty while off the plane as well. Especially in the winter time, if you aren’t careful, your skin can become dry and cracked very quickly! Trust me when I say, dry skin and polyester uniforms just don’t mix. I like to use nice thick lotions (I’m a huge fan of the Body Shops body butters), and good moisturizer at night as well. Even under-eye cream is a must! Keep your insides and outsides nice and moisturized.

Keep yourself hydrated, and you’ll be so much happier at work!

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No-Chip Manicures


I firmly believe that no-chip manicures are a flight attendants best friend!

If you’re like me, you like to keep your nails looking nice for work. Manicures can be difficult to maintain as a flight attendant — lots of things scrape past your nails every day, and I’ve found that mine have become much weaker since becoming a flight attendant. I attribute this to all of the use of hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes, washing my hands frequently, etc.

When I first started my career I chose to take the path of acrylic nails, thinking they would be perfect for the job. But they broke and chipped so fast it wasn’t worth the money! Because of this, I had my doubts about “no-chip” manicures for a long time. Recently though, a fellow flight attendant friend convinced me to try one and I am a convert!

No-chip polish is applied to your regular nail, and even as a flight attendant I find the polish to last 2-3 weeks with no chips at all. Occasionally one will peel right off, but most salons are very nice about fixing that. I love the range of polish colors, and although it means about an hour-two hours spent at the nail salon every few weeks, I absolutely love the look. And no-chip polish isn’t as hard on your nails as acrylic nails. It costs about $25-40 depending on the salon. Many salons do them nowadays, and here in Chicago at least I’m able to find Groupon deals pretty frequently to help reduce the cost even more.

If you haven’t tried one yet, I definitely recommend it!

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Flight Benefits (or the reason everyone does this job)


One of the best things about being flight crew is the travel benefits.  With your travel benefits, you will be able to see all of the cities you don’t normally fly to.  You’ll be able to make family events you otherwise would not have, you’ll be able to visit friends that moved far away.  Those benefits are one of the best parts about the job!

But of course, it’s a little complicated to explain.

As a flight attendant you’ll receive flight benefits for whatever carrier you work for (or if you’re at a regional, its the airlines your airline contracts for).  Some airlines have yearly enrollment fees, some do not.  Typically you are able to have yourself, your parents, spouse (if married), and children under the age of 24 (if you have them).  Some airlines also offer the ability to enroll a travel companion or buddy — this can be anyone you choose! My company allows two, so I have my younger brother and best friend on mine.  Even further, although we are seeing these disappear as the years go by, some airlines still offer buddy passes which allows you to let anyone travel on your flight benefits for a fee.

Now of course, because you aren’t actually paying for a ticket, you will be traveling as a non-revenue space-available traveler (or NRSA). As an NRSA you show up on the stand-by list after all revenue standbys (displaced passengers, re-accommodations, elites that have switched to a different flight).  The NRSA list is then further sorted based on your position with the airline, seniority date, etc.  It’s quite complicated!  But once you are hired and find out your travel priority, it will be easier to understand.   Thankfully you will have access to a company website that allows you to see how many seats are open for each flight, and how many standbys there are, but of course things in the airlines change rapidly (weather, delays, etc) so it’s still a gamble!  We like to call it playing the NRSA game — sometimes you win and get a seat, sometimes you don’t and get left behind.  But it’s hard to complain because you’re traveling for free!

Clearing NRSAs is essentially the last thing a gate agent should do prior to closing out a flight, and sometimes things become too rushed and they will forget or will simply not have time to clear.  To prevent this situation, I always like to say hello to the gate agents, offer to get them coffee or something, and let them know I’m NRSA and I’ll be sitting over in a seat if they find they have a seat for me.  No matter how rude a gate agent may be, always be nice to them because ultimately they can make or break you getting on a flight!  Always remember to be on your best behavior (and remind your travelers to as well) because not only are you representing the company while traveling, but you are representing yourself as well and misbehavior can often lead to disciplinary action and loss of benefits.

There are other travel benefits too (like ZED fares and jumpseating) but we will cover those in a future post.

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Good Morning O’Hare

Some days you just have to stop and appreciate the view.

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Pay day!

In celebration of pay day (hallelujah!) I’d like to explain a little bit about how pay works.  Airline payrates of often very misleading!

As a flight attendant you will be paid by the flight hour as opposed to by the hour.  Each airline has a set guarantee of hours that you will be paid for, so you will receive that pay, plus any hours you fly over guarantee, plus per diem while you are on trips.  Pay can actually be quite confusing!

At my airline we have an 80 hour guarantee, and are paid twice a month.   This means that on each paycheck you receive half of your guarantee (for me it’s 40 hours).  Some airlines are different, but most airlines pay just like my airline — the first paycheck of the month (paid on the last day of the previous month) is just for half of your guarantee.  Then, in the middle of the month you receive your “clean-up check” which is half of your guarantee, plus any other hours (sick pay, vacation pay, holiday pay, hours worked over guarantee), plus per diem.  You will always be celebrating in the middle of the month when you get your “big check”!

It can be rough getting used to the pay days (and trying to make sure you have enough money to live on while also paying bills by due dates) but once you get it all sorted out it makes your finances really easy to manage, especially if you consistently work the same hours each month.

Any other questions about pay? Let us know!

 

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A typical week in the life of a flight attendant


One of the most popular questions I get from those not in the industry is, what is a typical week like for me?  So I’ll tell you!

I like to think that my week starts the day I start a trip, regardless of what that day is.  I typically work weekends (by choice!) because the schedules are a little better. So last week my week started on Sunday.

Sunday: 7:50am report time.
I wake up at 5:30am.  I am lucky enough to live in base, so a 7:50a report is not a kiss of death.  My bags are already mostly packed (I like to do this the night before) so I spend about an hour getting ready for work.   Shower, makeup, hair, uniform, check!  At about 6:35a I walk out of my house, bags in tow.  Because I live in Chicago, I walk to the train and take the train into O’Hare.  I typically like to get to the airport 20-30 minutes before my show so that I have enough time to eat breakfast and take my time checking in.  Check in is one-hour prior to departure, so for an 8:50a departure I arrive at our gate at about 8:10.  And now the day begins! I do my safety checks, stow my bags, prep my galley, meet my crew, and get ready for boarding!  We spend the next nine hours doing a mixture of flying and having a sit (break time, basically).  At 4:30pm we land at our overnight city, take the van to the hotel, and get settled in.  Because we have a longer overnight, I make plans to have dinner with my captain and a friend who works for another airline that happens to be in the same city that night.  We go out, have fun, and then hit the sack because tomorrow is another long day!

Monday: 10:40am report time.
Today sleep in a little, waking up around 9:00am to get ready for work.  We take the 10:00am van to the airport which gives us just enough time to get through security and get to our gate in time to board our airplane.  Twelve hours later we arrive at our overnight city with just enough time to get a solid nights sleep for the next day.  And thank goodness we do!

Tuesday: 11:30am report time.
We all get our eight hours of sleep and have some of the free hotel breakfast.  We arrive at the airport just in time to see them post an hour and a half delay for our flight.  We’re flying into the New York area, so it’s not surprising.  We eat lunch and chat with the friendly gate agents.  At 1pm we board and wait on the runway for our departure time.  This flight becomes difficult as we reroute around weather and enter into a holding pattern before we can land.  A two hour flight turns into three, and we almost divert, but we make it into Newark safely.  Originally scheduled to have two hours of sitting time, we hustle to our next plane so that we can get out as quickly as possible and hopefully make up time so that we will have time to get dinner when we get to our layover.  We make up time, and two flights later we land on-time!  And then the unexpected happens.  I open the aircraft door to find our crew tracker waiting with new schedules for us.  We’ve been reassigned!  Understandably, the three of us are a little bummed because we were excited to go get burritos before hitting the sack, but we understand.  You have to be flexible when you’re flight crew!  So we operate one more flight full of very thankful passengers (if not for us, their flight would have cancelled) and we safely land in our new overnight city two hours later.  Even though we now have a very short overnight (nine hours), we opt to go across the street from the hotel to get dinner as it’s now 10:30pm and none of us have had a chance to eat or really even breathe since noon.  Then, its a short night of sleep.  We’re going home tomorrow!

Wednesday: 7:30am report time.
We wake up and take the van to the airport just in time to see another delay! Because we were reassigned we are actually just deadheading (riding as passengers) to Chicago to pick up the rest of our trip.  So we have breakfast in the gate area and wait for boarding.  It’s a quick flight to Chicago but just like the day before, we land late due to airport conditions.  Now we are behind schedule because we’ve landed at the same time our next flight is due to depart.  We hustle across the airport to a new airplane, board up, and are on our way for our last turn. I like to call our last turn our victory lap, and although I’m always friendly, I think I’m always at my best on our last turn!  We get through our last two flights and as we’re pulling into the gate on our last arrival, my phone dings.  “Can you please pull my bag? My commute was delayed and I’m going to run for it!”.  As soon as we’re parked I grab the first officers bag out of the closet and have it waiting for him by the door.  At my airline we all take care of each other (especially commuters!) when it comes to getting home, so I make sure to have all of his stuff ready so that once the door is open he can make a run for it!  And run he does!  Meanwhile we deplane, and I stay a few minutes extra to make sure my cabin is absolutely clean and ready for the next crew.  Then, I head home!

It’s been a long four days at work, and with only two days off until my next trip I begin the relaxation as soon as I get home!  I’m also an online student, so my days off are typically busy with school work and catching up with everyone since I’ve been gone for four days.  Being a flight attendant is very busy, but a lot of fun!

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Comfortable Shoes Are a Must!

If there’s one thing you can be absolutely certain of when you start your career as a flight attendant, it’s that nothing will be as valuable to you as a comfortable pair of shoes! Working as a flight attendant you can expect to be on your feet for 8-12 hours a day (sometimes even much more) and the days will feel so much longer if your feet hurt.

The dress code at most airlines require heels for appearance purposes in the terminal and during boarding, and allow for flat, more work-appropriate shoes while you are on the plane with the door closed. So not only do you need a comfortable pair of flats for while you’re pouring beverages and chatting with passengers, you’ll need a solid pair of heels for all those walks to and from the hotel shuttle, through the terminal, etc. Unfortunately, over the course of your career you will realize you are spending an awful lot on shoes, but its important to remember that is completely worth the money to have comfortable shoes to work in.

I’ve been through many pairs of shoes in my career, and here are some of my favorites

Heels:

  • Easy Spirit Redfine – $79.99
  • Clarks Plush Sweep – $109.99
  • Predictions Karmen – $19.99

Flats:

  • Predictions Eden Flat – $14.99
  • Easy Spirit Rabat Flat – $79.99
  • Crocs Alice Work Flat – $39.99

 

Your other option is to get the best of both worlds in a single shoe, with the ever popular Dansko clog.  You’ll see a lot of flight attendants (and other on-their-feet professionals) wear them.  I love the pair that I have, but wear them only in the winter because they are a very heavy shoe to have on.  The clogs run about $120 depending on which material you purchase them in, but they will last years if you take good care of them, and since they double as your heel and flat, it’s a worthwhile investment!

 

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A pause in our day to remember

It’s been 11 years since the tragedy of September 11th, 2001.

I was not flight crew at the time — I was still in high school, in a small town in Tennessee.  I can still remember how affected I was by the events, and I rememeber visiting New York City in 2004 and being blown away by the site.

11 years on, the memorial has been built, the new towers are well under construction, and now there are kids in high school that hardly remember what that morning was like.

Today everyone at my airline will be wearing red, white, and blue striped ribbons as a reminder of the lives lost that day.  Fellow crewmembers.  Fellow passengers.  Civilians at work.

We hope that you’ll pause to remember those lives lost on September 11th as well.

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Eating On the Road


Being a flight attendant can be difficult on your budget and your waistline.  Unless you pack snacks and make healthy choices, it can become very expensive to eat unhealthy meals in terminals and on overnights.  Obviously as an flight attendant (especially a first year) you want to spend as little on food as possible, which usually leads to trips to the in-terminal McDonalds and Subway, neither of which are terribly good for you!  That’s why I (and most other cabin crew) bring meals, snacks, and other goodies with them in their luggage.

In the future I want to highlight some of my favorite recipes and treats for bringing on trips, but for now I want to focus on the most important part of packing your food — the cooler bag!  Don’t get me wrong, it stinks to have to drag around yet another bag but each week you will thank yourself as you snack on veggies and other homemade meals while you watch your coworkers devour their third cheeseburger for the trip.

I’ve been a flight attendant for a little over two years, and have been through two cooler bags in my career.  I’m planning to upgrade mine next month.  As you go through your career you’ll find reasons to upgrade (or downgrade depending on your style!) your luggage, but I definitely feel you should start out with whatever option you think is best for your situation.   When it comes to crew coolers, I’ve seen three fantastic options, all of which I would recommend.

The first I recommend (and it’s the one I currently use) is the Travelpro Flight Crew 4 Large Crew Cooler.  It retails for $34.99, and is large enough to carry several days worth of snacks.  It is well made (just like other Travelpro products), insulated, and should last a long time (I have had mine for about a year).  My only complaint about this bag is there isn’t a whole lot of space if you want to pack actual meals (like spaghetti and such) in plastic containers.  It’s fantastic for what I have used it for though — I can usually fit a few packs of lunch meat and cheese, bread, fruit, crackers, hummus, microwave soup, etc.  The top zipper compartment is great for keeping tea bags and other treats you want to be easily accessible, and the front pocket is great for silverware, condiments, etc.  Many of my coworkers use this bag, and it came highly recommended to me.

Another great option if you are doing shorter trips (airport reserve, two day trips, etc) is the smaller Travelpro Flightcrew 4 Cooler.  It retails for $19.99 and is great for bringing just a few snacks plus a dinner or two.  I used it through my first nine months as a flight attendant (as a reserve) and it was great because I could just pack enough to get me through an airport reserve assignment or the one or two day trips I was usually assigned.

My third and final recommendation is the Aerocoast Pro Notebook Cooler Bag.  It retails for $69.99 and is the be all end all of cooler bags.  This is the bag I’m going to be purchasing next month, after drooling over it for quite a while.  Many of the pilots at my company use it, and it is fantastic if you bring along a computer along with several days worth of food.  I primarily work 4-day trips and like to bring along plenty of food (plus my laptop for blogging and doing schoolwork).  The cooler portion of the bag is huge — you can fit snacks, sandwich fixings, and meals in plastic containers, and the computer sleeve is great as well! It’s a newly designed bag that allows you to not have to take your computer out at security (always a plus during those 5am shows when the last thing you want to see is the TSA!) and it helps protect your computer and minimize damage from pulling it out at security, your bag being tossed into the luggage closet/hotel vans/etc.

All of these bags will fit nicely onto the handle of your crew luggage, and although it’s an extra bag to bring around, it is definitely cheaper and easier in the long run!  You will thank yourself (and your food budget!) for bringing along meals instead of planning to eat at expensive terminal and hotel restaurants.

 

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Make a Flight Attendant Smile

Working as a Flight Attendant is a wonderful fun and thrilling job, but just like everyone else sometimes we get a little worn out! Passengers can be awful so it is nice to get some great people on your flights!! Nothing makes our day better than having some great passengers. It’s okay to talk to us, we like human interaction! A lot of passengers act like we are robots that just pick up trash and bring you your diet coke! We would love to hear about your vacation or where you are heading to we don’t mind conversation!

On some flights passengers have even brought FA’s treats! A little candy and chocolate here and there is amazing!  It really puts you in a better mood and makes you feel like your job is appreciated!

Aside from work nothing makes us smile more than getting to spend time with the people we care about on our days off, that we all can agree on!

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