No day is ever the same, but over the years I've developed a routine to fit my flying life into my home life. I prefer mid morning 'sign on's', so I don't have to get up too early but still have time to do a few jobs at home before getting ready for work. I always allow 1 hour to shower, style my hair into an approved style, do my make up and finally get dressed into my uniform, allowing extra time to pack a bag if my duty involves an Overnight. I leave for work in plenty of time for traffic, to catch the required bus from the Staff car park to the terminal, get through Security and to Sign On for the days' duty.
Sign on is always via computer. I check my crew list and print a copy of my day's duty, then read the latest notices regarding service and safety procedures. Once I'm up to date, there is usually time for a cup of tea and a catch up with my colleagues in the crew room. This is where we all come together before our day starts. I know most of the people I fly with really well but occasionally there will be someone new to meet. One of the best things about my job is all the wonderful people I get to fly with. Everyone has an interesting story to tell and I love getting to know everyone and all the all the latest things going on in their lives. Working for such a large company it can be months and sometimes years between 'catch up's' with flying friends.
Our Cabin Manager will call briefing 2 minutes after sign on. All the operating crew will then proceed to the 'Briefing Room'. There our manager will go over any updates to procedures, changes to service, Company news, discuss emergency procedures and equipment, Heath and Safety advice and finally allocate work positions. My job is extremely procedural. Everything I do is carefully dictated by 'Standard Operating Procedures', and these vary according to what work position I get. Each position carries different responsibilities. We all have favourite work positions, and we usually get to choose according to our level of seniority. I prefer to work in The Economy cabin if I can, but also enjoy the Business Class cabin occasionally for a change. Thankfully everyone has different preferences and usually we are all happy with where we are working.
Once Briefing is complete we proceed to the Aircraft, where we will introduce ourselves to the Captain and First Officer. They will give us any further information regarding our flight such as accurate flying times, enroute weather, and any unservicabilities in the cabin. We are always under time pressure for an on time departure, so all of these briefings need to be completed as quickly as possible, so we can check emergency equipment, the cabin presentation and catering. Our work position dictates what items we individually need to check, and we communicate any discrepancies with each other and in turn to our Manager, who can liaise with our Captain, Engineering or the Catering centre to have issues rectified.
Once all checks are complete we are ready to start boarding. We all have different responsibilities during board according to our work positions. My favourite work position requires me to 'board' at the gate. I must be at the gate, signed into the computer, and ready to go 25 minutes before scheduled departure and given our Sign On time is only 45 minutes before departure time, it is definitely a challenge to achieve this. Boarding at the gate can be very daunting. Typically a full flight on one of our smaller aircraft will hold 165 passengers, and there is only one Flight Attendant to board them all. Sometimes Ground Staff will have time to assist and of course it is very much appreciated. At the gate, our main responsibility is to check and scan boarding passes, but we also have to monitor hand luggage, that passengers are fit and well to fly (not affected by drugs or alcohol), are not carrying any dangerous goods. We look out for and assist Wheelchair passengers, the elderly, families with young children and of course Unaccompanied Minors.
Once everyone has boarded I will return to the Aircraft and assist to prepare for departure by closing lockers, checking luggage is correctly stowed, conduct an 'Overwing Briefing' for customers seated in the Exit Rows, distribute infant seat belts and brief unaccompanied minors, wheelchair and passengers with other disabilities. When all of these duties are complete the Aircraft door is finally closed and we 'Push Back' from the terminal.
As Push Back occurs we all 'Arm Doors', which together with Disarming the Door is probably time single most important thing we do all day. 'Arming' a door engages the escape slide so that it will automatically deploy when the aircraft door is opened in an emergency. Door Arming is followed by the Safety Demonstration, and a final Cabin check for seat belts, setbacks and tray tables, foot rests,window shades, hand luggage and PED's. We have just 1 minute after the safety demo video finishes to check the entire cabin and have ourselves secure and ready for take off.
Thankfully after take off the time pressure is gone. We can go about checking our passengers comfort and preparing for service. There is quite a lot of set up to get our carts ready to take into the cabin but everyone works together to get the service under way as soon as possible. Service varies significantly depending on the length of the flight, time of day and the destination. There is always plenty of time to complete the service provided everything goes to plan. Occasionally something will happen, such as bad weather, medical emergency, disruptive passenger or even an unserviceable oven which will impact the service delivery and it will need to be modified. Typically there are many challenges we face throughout a flying day, and it is one of the things that makes flying so fun.
When the main service is complete, and we have collected all the service items from the cabin, we have time to have something to eat and drink ourselves. If it is a 'meal time' my Company supplies a meal to each operating crew member, but we are always welcome to try any of the left over passenger food. Not all Airlines allow this and I consider it privilege to be able 'help myself'.
The remainder of the flight if it is a long one, will be spent maintaining continual cabin presence, and service on request, chatting to passengers and of course each other. If the flight is a short one, there is generally barely enough time to have a quick bite to eat before preparing the Cabin for Landing.
Throughout every flight from the time the door closes to the time it reopens on arrival at the terminal, Flight attendants remain vigilant and on guard to deal with any emergency situation that may arise. We need to be prepared to deal with any type of safety, security or medical incident, and although we are relaxed and enjoy our job we always maintain a level of alertness to be able to jump into action if required.
Taxiing to the terminal at our destination we get ready to Disarm Doors, so that they can be opened normally without a slide inflating, and our passengers can disembark. We assist special needs customers to the terminal, fold blankets and return those and pillows to their stowage and check the aircraft for items left behind.
Once everyone is off the aircraft we get ready to do it all again. A typical day can consist of any combination of flights from 1, 2, 3 or 4 flights either finishing back at home base or at an overnight port. Sometimes we change not only aircraft but the entire crew on a turnaround and I will have to meet a whole new crew and have another full preflight briefing before continuing on.
When the duty is finally over, either that day or at the end of a trip consisting of 1 or several days away from home, we will sign off via a computer checking for any roster changes, hand in Unaccompanied Minor paperwork, deposit Bar money and then finally make our way to the crew bus to head for home.
We usually ride the bus with still too many things to discuss with each other about the funny things that happened or the excitement of the days' 'dramas', having made new friends or just a great day out with old 'ones'. We make plans for the next time we get to fly together, looking forward to our next catch up. Never a dull moment in a Flight Attendants life, always new destinations, new challenges and people to meet, and best of all old friends to see. After 28 years of flying I couldn't imagine doing anything else.
To all our Cabin Crew students, I would like to introduce Fiona Woods.