I just recently returned from a wonderful mother-daughter trip to Hotel del Coronado nearSan Diego. My husband, who has traveled for business for 30+ years, chose not to make the trip…or any trip this summer…due to his weariness of travel in general. Who could blame him? I may have recently blogged that “no one puts ‘websites I want to visit’ on their Bucket List,” but I have also seen first-hand what a big, fat hassle air travel is…even leisure travel.
My daughter and I had a very early (6 a.m.) flight, which meant a 4 a.m. wake-up and a very dark 40 minute drive to the airport. From there, we had to park our car; climb on board a shuttle bus, and enter what we thought would be a somewhat empty and quiet terminal at the time of day. No such luck. The airline counter line wrapped around several stanchions and the security line was equally long and winding. What? Why so many travelers so early in the morning? Crazy, right?
As are most flights, ours was completely full and not a non-stop flight. We had a layover at LAX but didn’t see one movie star and were surrounded by seemingly very unhappy people. Who could blame them? The gate area seating was aligned so socially miserable and awkward that travelers had no choice but to stare vacantly into space, the back of someone’s head, or tap away on their smart phones. Whoever designed the rows of chairs lined up like desks in a classroom and facing the gate check-in counter must seriously fret conversation and comfort. There was no talking. No people watching. No fun!
From there we flew toSan Diegoon a plane with propellers. We arrived at the commuter section of the otherwise very large international airport, which proved to be a blessing in disguise. Used to exiting a plane, looking for baggage claim and ground transportation signage, and climbing onto a shuttle or an escalator, we walked straight from our entrance gate to outside! Again, what? The airport was so small we actually walked right past the sole baggage claim belt! What a pleasant surprise and what a trip back in time.
I remember, as a little girl, going to the airport with my mom and sisters to pick up my dad. We would watch the planes land and be there at the gate to give him a big welcome home hug. Those days are long gone but shows like ABC’s “Pan Am” continue to give us a taste of what travel used to be like and what it use to be: a true luxury. I adore that show and sometimes still slip and call a flight attendant a stewardess and long for the days when blankets on planes were free. I love to travel, but if I have a choice between driving 6-8 hours or flying, I’ll often opt for the road trip. No shuttles, no flight delays, no missed connections, no lost baggage.
Yes, air travel is stressful and frustrating but I still strongly believe that travel is one of very few things you spend money on that makes your richer. Hmmmm…where should I go next?
She Wrote the Book
I recently read the book “Cruising Attitude” by flight attendant Heather Poole. As she notes throughout the tell-all book, being a flight attendant is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. In fact, according to her (and I agree!), her life is just “plane crazy!” Here are some of the more interesting tid-bits I gathered from it:
- If you want to get the whole can of an on-board drink, ask for a Diet Coke. For some reason the fizz in Diet Cokes takes forever to dissipate and since flight attendants are usually rushed to serve a packed cabin, they will often just give you the whole can.
- If you like to take sleep aides for a flight, only do so after take-off. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you will need to be awake!
- Count exactly how many rows are between your seat and the exit row, as it might be dark during an emergency.
- The back of plane is bumpier than front
Random notes I found interesting and hope you do too:
- Pooleloves her job and takes it seriously, and stresses that passengers aren’t getting bad service, they’re getting “limited service” based on the reduced tools flight crews are given.
- A flight attendant’s pay clock doesn’t start until the aircraft door is shut and plane backs away from gate. This means flight attendants saying “hello” as you board aren’t getting paid yet! Keep in mind that delays affect them as much as they affect us…maybe more so!
- Crew naps on long flights are based on seniority.
- Poolesays the NY-Miami and NY-Vail routes are the ones nearly all flight attendants dread the most.
- Everyone thinks the benefits of flying free are to be envied, and they are, butPoolereminds us that “Buddy Passes” not free, are good on a standby basis only and for coach seats on domestic flights, and forget trying to fly on weekends or holidays.
- Pilots keep photos on the underside of their caps to distinguish them from each other’s.
- AtPoole’s airline (which she never names), flight attendants are required to walk thru cabin at least once every 15 minutes
- Crew meals are not in their contracts on domestic routes. Flight attendants have to pay for their own meals during connections and layovers.
- A flight attendant’s “base” is where trips begin and end. Many don’t call their base city home. They are “commuters” and often live in “crash pads” near their base, which are basically homes where many flight attendants “live” just to literally crash between trips. Most even set up beds in dining rooms of a home and rarely see each other due to their erratic schedules. Some commuters actually have motor homes parked along the back fence at JFK’s lot inNew York City!
- Rookie attendants are on “reserve,” which is basically stand-by for flights to work. They never know where they’re going or even for how long so packing is difficult. Poolesays those on reserve basically have no life and one friend hers quit because she couldn’t get off reserve for her own wedding!
- Airlines still enforce dress codes for flight attendants and once they are sick, they can’t fly…even as a passenger…so they tend to not report being sick while on a route.
Many people say you can tell what kind a person someone is by how they treat their mom. I concur, but I also think you can tell their character and level of compassion by how they treat a flight attendant.
Happy Travels everyone!