In this chapter, I discuss some suggestions, to help you prepare to work your first flight or first trip. Preparing to work your first trip, will help alleviate any anxiety, as you begin your airline flight attendant career.
A. Checklist before starting a trip:
1. Clothes. Be sure you have your flight attendant uniform pieces folded into your roller board. Bring an extra pair of shoes.
You may have to wear your coat, jacket, or sweater, instead of trying to fit into your roller board suitcase.
2. Be sure you have all your required items: Airline ID Badge, FAM, current passport, working flashlight, watch, and overnight bag.
Pack an extra package of batteries for your flashlight.
3. Food/snacks. Bring as many snacks or food items as you can to help save money and time. Non perishable items.
4. Check to make sure all zippers on your roller board bag and overnight bag are in working order. Zippers are one of the first items
to fail or not work on roller boards or overnight bags. Also, the wheels on your roller board or overnight bag may need to be sprayed
with WD-40 periodically to keep the wheels running smoothly. Put a piece of rope inside your rollerbag/suitcase.
The rope can be used to keep your bag together, just in case any of the zippers breaks, or come apart.
5. Print out a copy of your assigned trip. Try not to rely on your airline flight crew room printer to print out your trip.
Sometimes the printer is not working, or may not be available.
6. If you are commuting, my advice is to start early. Try not to wait until the last possible flight or flight combinations.
For more on commuting, please read my detailed chapter on commuting.
7. If you are a commuter, or even while deadheading on a flight, I highly recommend investing in a Bose noise reduction headset.
Wearing a Bose (or similar) noise reduction headset, will make commuting or deadheading a much quieter and relaxing experience.
8. If you live alone, be sure to turn off lights, stove, heat/air conditioner, etc…before leaving your house.
I also highly recommend investing in a wireless home security system.
Since you will be away for several days at a time, your house may be more vulnerable to a break in, or burglary. Make sure your home security system allows you to be alerted via your cell phone, should a break in, or attempted burglary occur.
When purchasing and installing your home security system, be sure to have video cameras installed inside your home, and outside your home as well.
9. When you arrive at your crew base, or wherever you are starting your trip, be sure to check your “V File”, and your company E Mail for any changes, bulletins, or updates. A “V File” is your personal folder, usually located in a filing cabinet.
With Comair and Chautauqua Airlines, each flight attendant and pilot, had a V File, located inside the crew lounge, or crew room.
We also had to check our company e mail before starting a trip. If we had any e mails, we had to read them, and acknowledge that we actually read and understood that e mail.
10. Be sure you have plenty of breath mints with you! Use your breath mints often, and throughout your work day.
11. As you prepare to work your first trip, I recommend packing one or two small bottles of Germ X Hand Sanitizer. Put one of these bottles in your overnight flight bag. This way you will have access to a hand sanitizer throughout your work day.
Luggage, Overnight bag, lunch bag.
Comair and Chautauqua Airlines, required us to purchase black colored luggage. This included our “roller board” (suitcase), overnight bag, and any other bags such as lunch bags. The required luggage can be purchased on line, or at an Airline
Flight Crew retail store (located in selected airports such as Atlanta, Detroit, and Minneapolis).
Comair and Chautauqua Airlines encouraged us to purchase our luggage from Travelpro. Travelpro offers roller board bags, tote bags, lunch bags,
and overnight bags. The roller board bags, cannot exceed 22 inches in length in order to fit in our crew bag closets on the aircraft, and to fit into most mainline carrier overhead luggage bins. TravelPro offers 18 inch, and 22 inch roller board bags.
My advice is, to purchase your first set of airline crew luggage in person. You want to be sure you are purchasing the correct color and size. You will also want to test the wheels of your roller board, and overnight bag.
Yes, both your roller board bag,
and overnight bag should have wheels. If you take good care of your roller board and overnight bag, these bags should last for at least 2-3 years. However, the length of time will vary based on the wear and tear your bags will experience. Since I was a commuter, and had to literally run and race through airports to catch a flight, I had to purchase a new roller board and/or overnight bag every two years or so.
We ordered our airline flight crew luggage through: www.mandhuniforms.com., www.crewoutfitters.com,
Crew Outfitters also has retail stores located in various airports:
Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Houston, Miami, and Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Crew Outfitters and www.flightattendantshop.com, also offer accessories including a “Top Popper Can Opener”, which makes opening
all those aluminum soft drink cans much easier and quicker to open.
I highly encourage you to purchase a battery operated alarm clock. If you have an early show time, or need help in waking up, I suggest you set your watch, cell phone, and a battery operated alarm clock to wake you up. Do not rely on the hotel front desk
for a “wake up call”. Especially, do not rely on the hotel room alarm clock. Some of the hotel room alarm clocks do not work properly, with no instructions on how to set the alarm. Always carry an extra set of batteries for your alarm clock. Also, always carry
an extra set of batteries for your required flashlight, which must be located in your overnight bag.
At first, I purchased three bags. My roller board (suitcase), overnight bag, and a lunch bag. However, I also carried a laptop computer, which meant purchasing another bag. So, I was carrying four bags with me. It became too much, and difficult to fit all those bags (along with other crew bags), into the closet on the aircraft.
Over time, I was able to find an overnight bag which could accommodate my laptop computer. The lunch bag(s) wore out rather quickly. So, I stopped buying the lunch bags.
However, the lunch bag will allow you to bring snacks, and even small meals with you.
This will save you money and time, especially on those longer work days, or short overnights.
Since most airline crew members purchase black colored luggage, you will want to find a way for your bags to stand out.
I tied some colored yarn around the luggage handles, and even placed colored stickers on the wheels. A colored name tag also works well. Be sure to place a name tag inside and outside of each bag. Also, make sure you place a colored “crew” tag on the
outside of each of your bags. “Crew” tags can be purchased on line, or at any airline crew retail store. By placing a “crew” tag on the outside of each bag, your bags will stand out among the many other black colored bags.
While it is rare, it is possible for your luggage to be lost, or misplaced while working a trip, and especially when commuting.
While working a trip, we were flying on the EMB 135 Regional Jets. The front closets on most of those aircrafts had been removed.
So, this meant, the pilots and I also had to gate/valet check our bags. During a quick turn in Flint, MI, somehow my bags had been removed by the ramp personnel, but not placed back into the cargo compartment.
So, I was without my rollerboard (suitcase) for three days.
Finally, my bag was located, not in Flint, but in Milwaukee.
Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.
I learned that phrase a long time ago. In the airline industry, time is everything.
While working as a flight attendant, you are the face of your airline. You may be the first airline employee, passengers actually see or talk with in person. Now, most people book their airline tickets on line, or over the telephone. Then, with most airlines,
passengers can select their seat assignments, and print their boarding passes via the airline’s website.
Once passengers arrive at the airport, many passengers will try to bring their luggage on the aircraft. However, most airline now charge fees for checked luggage, or even carry on luggage. Some airlines allow passengers to pay for checked baggage fees on line.
When passengers arrive at the departure gate, then begin to board the aircraft, the gate agent either collects half of the boarding pass, scans the boarding pass, or passengers may have the option to scan their Smart Phone, I Phone, etc…..
with their boarding pass from an “app” screen from their phone.
So, by the time many passengers actually board the aircraft, you as a flight attendant may be the first, and possibly
the only airline employee that passenger will actually see, or talk with during that flight.
When greeting passengers, always stand to leave enough room for passengers to board. Be sure you are in full uniform,
with your airline ID Badge in view. Do not eat, chew gum, or drink anything while passengers are boarding. Greet every passenger
with a smile. Try to say hello, welcome aboard, etc…. to as many passengers as possible. While many passengers will not respond
or even acknowledge you, you must still smile and be pleasant to all passengers.
Since time is a critical factor, encourage the passengers to board as quickly as possible. If you are working on a regional jet,
you may be the only flight attendant working that flight. If so, the aisles on most regional jets are quite narrow. Unless all the passengers are on board and seated, you will have a difficult time assisting passengers with their overhead luggage. However,
as passengers are boarding, try to look at every piece of luggage passengers are trying to bring on board. If you can see the bag(s) are not going to fit underneath their seat, or in the overhead compartment, stop the passenger as they are boarding.
At this point, advise the passenger, their bag(s) are too large and must be gate/valet checked.
Explain, their gate/valet checked bags will be available to them, upon arrival at the next city. Explain, their gate/valet checked bags will not go to the baggage claim area.
Instead, their gate/valet checked bags will be brought to them at the bottom of the stairs, or inside the jetway.
Passengers may want to argue, or try to bring large bag(s) on board, even if you try to stop them. While you never want to argue with a passenger, you have to be firm and quickly explain the gate/valet checked bag procedures. People who have not flown on a regional
jet, may not be familiar with the gate/valet checked policy. As a flight attendant, screening passengers and their bags, is one of the required aspects of working a flight.
Once all the passengers have boarded, now is the time to conduct the passenger count. When you get to the exit row, “brief”, all exit row passengers to determine if those passengers meet the requirements,
to enable each passenger to sit in an exit row seat.
Once all passengers are seated, all carry on luggage is stowed, provide the pilots
with the passenger count.
An accurate passenger count is critical as this helps the pilots determine the proper “weight and balance” for the aircraft.
Sometimes, the Captain will ask you to “move” passengers from one section to another to create the proper weight and balance.
Sometimes, you may have to move, or relocate several passengers. While most passengers will be more than willing to cooperate,
there will be some passengers who will not be happy about being asked to relocate to a different seat.
At this point,
you have to be forceful. While you always want to be polite, and courteous, there are times when, you have to be straight
forward, and tell the passengers to move. If you get resistance from passengers not wanting to relocate to a different
row or section, I would remind those passengers we cannot leave the gate, until those passengers relocate. Then, passengers
who were required to move, might ask, if they can return to their original seats after reaching our cruising altitude.
The answer is, no. The weight and balance must remain the same throughout the entire flight.
Often, the captain or first officer, would ask me to relocate passengers for weight and balance at the last minute.
So, I knew I had to get this done quickly. So, again, while I always wanted to be pleasant, and courteous, when it came to
the relocating passengers for weight and balance, I would just select those passengers, and tell them they need to relocate
for weight and balance purposes.
At this point, wait until the pilots have completed their paperwork. Then, hand the paperwork to the
gate agent. Be sure the jetway, stairs, or ramp have been removed prior to closing the main cabin door.
Also, make sure the galley service door(s), are also closed, and secure.
In the airline industry, time is a critical factor. Not only for departing, arriving on time, but also the time spent
while taxing to/from the runway. Sometimes, the runway is very close to the terminal. You may have to speed up your
safety demonstration speech. With Chautauqua Airlines, we were provided with a CD which contained a pre recorded speech for
our safety demo speech, as well as other required announcements. While using the CD was always preferable, sometimes
I had to recite the safety demo with my own voice. Especially, when I knew it would be a very short taxi from the gate
to the runway.
For pilots, while safety is their top priorities, being on time, is another critical aspect. I can recall
working with Comair and Chautauqua Airlines. If we were even one minute late from closing the main cabin door, or leaving
the gate, the pilots would receive a call from their Chief Pilot wanting to know the reason(s) the flight was late.
So, for us, flight attedants, we do not want to be the reason(s) a flight departs late. Be sure to conduct all your pre flight duties in a timely fashion. Also, be sure to conduct your passenger count in a timely fashion. We had to fill out a form for
every flight, with a passenger count. We had to include all passengers, lap children, and any special request passengers.
A special request passenger could be a physically challenged passenger who might need a wheelchair upon arrival.
An Unaccompanied Minor was also considered to be a special request passenger. While conducting my passenger count, I would
do the “Exit Row” passengers briefing at the same time. I usually counted passengers, beginning in the first row and moving
towards the back of the passenger cabin.
I made sure to knock on the lavatory door, just in case a passenger was using the lavatory before we left the gate.
You must always be aware of the flight time,
and how much time you have to conduct a beverage/snack service. You
want to avoid running out of time, and not serve all passengers. If the flight time is one hour, this means, you will
have 25-30 minutes of actual beverage/snack service time. The first 10 minutes of so after takeoff, you cannot
even get out of your jumpseat. Not until you receive notification from the captain. Then, you have to get up,
prepare the beverage/snack cart. If you were able to prepare the beverage/snack cart before the flight, this will
allow for more actual service time. If you were not able to prepare the beverage/snack cart before the flight, this
will cut into your beverage/snack service time. The last 5-10 minutes of the flight, you will need to be in your jumpseat,
with your seat belt securely fastened, in preparation for landing.
While working a full flight (37,44, or 50 passengers), I was usually able to conduct a beverage/snack service in full, within approximately 25 minutes. However, if passengers wanted coffee or alcohol, this takes more time, than serving a soft drink,
or water. Also, if many passengers requested a cup of Diet Coke, it often took a few moments for the “fizz” inside the cup to settle
For example, I would try to get at least two beverages requests before actually pouring the beverages. If a person wanted
a cup of Diet Coke, and the other person wanted a cup of orange juice, I would pour the Diet Coke first, then pour the orange juice
into the other cup. Often, I would serve the cup of orange juice first. I was able to use both hands
to pour different beverages into different cups.
My right hand pouring one beverage into a cup. My left hand pouring a different beverage into another cup.
Using this system, allowed me to serve more passengers quicker. Believe it or not, even though I worked over
13,000 flights in my flight attendant career, I never spilled a drink onto a customer. However, some passengers spilled the
cup after I had already placed the cup on their tray table. Try to avoid handing the cup to the passenger.
Instead, whenever possible, place the cup onto their tray table. Be sure to place a napkin on their tray table before
serving a beverage and/or snack.
If I was working an American Connection flight, we were not stocked or provided with a plastic coffee jug. Since we
cannot be more than 3 feet or so away from the beverage cart, I would make an extra announcement, asking passengers to
raise their hands, if they wanted a cup of coffee. I would serve the coffee passengers first. I would use a tray to carry
as many coffee cups as possible, with sugar, cream, etc….Then, go back, and bring the beverage cart out, and proceed
to conduct a beverage/snack service. However, if I had to conduct a separate coffee service, with more than 4-5 passengers,
I knew I had to move even faster to attempt to provide all passengers with a beverage/snack service. I always had to be aware
of the time. I could feel the plane going into the gradual descent. At that point, I knew I was running out of time. Yes,
I worked a few flights in which, I was not able to complete a full beverage service. While I apologized to those passengers
I was not able to serve, I felt badly not being able to serve everyone.
This is one reason, I liked how Comair set up a chart, with all the flight pairings.
On this chart it showed what type of services we can provide, depending on the flight time.
As an example, on a very short flight, such as Cincinnati-Lexington (20 minutes), the chart said
to only provide mints to passengers. On a longer flight, such as Cincinnati-Greenville/Spartanburg (one hour flight),
the chart said to perform a full service, including alcoholic beverages.
On the other end of that spectrum, while working Continental Express flights, we were expected to “attempt”
a full beverage/snack service during any flight over 40 minutes. However, the actual flight time was often less.
For example, the “block to block” flight from Corpus Christi to Houston, was scheduled for 40 minutes. The actual
flight time was approximately 30 minutes. This meant, the actual beverage/snack service time, would be approximately
10 minutes. There was no way possible to conduct a full beverage/snack service on a full flight (50 passengers),
in only 10 minutes. Despite this, however, anytime I worked the Corpus Christi-Houston flights, or any Continental
Express flight of at least 40 minutes, I was expected to at least attempt to conduct a snack/beverage service.
So, yes, while working those short, Continental Express flights,
I would pull out the beverage cart, and begin the beverage/snack service. If I moved fast, I might get to row
7 or 8, then, have to stop. On our CRJ 200 aircrafts, there were 14-16 rows of seats. I can recall many passengers
being upset, that I was not able to serve them a snack or drink. I would apologize to those passengers
I was not able to serve a drink or snack.
One other aspect of working the Continental Express flights, we were stocked
with an abundance of alcohol. I served more alcohol and beer on Continental Express flights, as compared
to working American Connection, Delta Connection, Frontier Express, or United Express flights. One positive aspect of working
Continental Express flights was, Continental Express was the first to provide flight attendants with a hand held
credit card acceptance machine. So, this made selling alcohol and beer much easier while working Continental Express flights.
In order to conduct a successful beverage/snack service, being organized in critical. You do not want to spend time
running back and forth between the galley and the beverage cart. However, there will be times, when, you will have to go
back to the galley to get certain items. For example, you may run out of certain cans of soft drinks. So, you may have
to go back to the galley to retrieve cans of soft drink.
Preparing the ice drawer or ice bucket is also important. You want the ice to
be as fresh as possible. What you do not want, is an ice drawer or ice bucket which has become watered down ice. For this reason, I highly suggest always asking for new ice bags before every flight.
Out stations (airports), which do not provide catering service, will almost always have bags of ice available. So, if you are working an out and back trip, or a roundtrip, with a quick turn, always ask the gate agent, or ramp agent for a new bag of ice. Having bags of ice
is important for conducting a beverage/snack service, but also ice may be important for passengers who may require
first aid. For example, some people who suffer from air sickness, may request a cup of ice to help settle their
stomach. Or, if a passenger suffers a burn, (spilling hot coffee), ice may become a critcal aspect to help that passenger.
While working a flight, you always have to be aware of how much time you have before going into gradual descent.
Once gradual descent begins, you have very little time left to prepare the cabin, before you have to sit in your
jumpseat. As you work certain flights and routes, you will learn how much time you really have to conduct a
beverage/snack service, and how much time you have to clean the galley, prepare for the next flight, and
prepare the catering/supplies list.
Making PA announcements. At least 5-6 announcements per flight.
Each announcement should be said, clearly so everyone can hear and understand. While it is not necessary to scream or yell into
the microphone, or phone, the level of your voice must be loud enough to be heard by everyone.
Practice, practice, practice making every announcement. Practice in front of a mirror. Pratice in front of family, friends, even other
The five (5) mandatory PA Announcements:
1. Initial greeting. Welcome aboard flight number…..with non stop service to……I will say this at least twice.
I want to be sure everyone on the flight, is on the correct flight. This is very important. But even more important when
beginning a flight or trip from a busy airport, with multiple flights going out at the same time. Or, even multiple flights
leaving from the same gate area. Chicago, La Guardia, JFK, etc………You do not want passengers on the wrong flight.
During this initial announcement, I will also state the estimated flight time.
4. Initial descent into destination airport.
A. Connecting gate information
5. Upon landing announcement. Welcome to……
Other possible announcements:
1. Delays-At gate, how long before taking off, delays upon landing-waiting for a gate to open up. Tarmac Delays
2. Emergency evacuation preparation
3. Emergency evacuation
4. Any emergency on board (Medical, etc…).