You know you’re a commuter when you pack 20 pairs of pantyhose inside your crew bag. This is what I was thinking as I packed my suitcase to go back to work last week. Of course two seconds later I had to stop what I was doing so I could update my Facebook page with that very thought. Priorities, people! It didn’t take long for the hilarious comments to come rolling in. That’s when I knew I had to create the list: 10 signs you’re commuting, non-reving, or traveling standby.
But first a little airline 101:
NON-REV, NON-REVING, NON-REVENUE PASSENGER: Airline employees and/or eligible family members and friends who are traveling on an employee pass. Travel passes are also known as buddy passes. Non-revs will standby for open seats.
COMMUTER, COMMUTING: is the process of getting to work, in other words, flying to one’s base city. Commuters are Non-Revs, but non-revs are not always commuters.
STANDBYPASSENGER– A passenger or airline employee who is waiting for an open or available seat on a flight they are not ticketed on. Full-fare passengers will often “standby” for earlier flights, while non-revs and commuters standby for every flight.
10 signs you’re commuting, non-reving, or traveling standby
1. You know 10 different ways to make your uniform look like you’re NOT in uniform – so you can have a cocktail. – Kelley Fulmer
2. Your workday starts 15 hours before you sign in or get paid. – Beth Henry
3. A three-hour delay doesn’t even faze you as long as you have boarding pass in hand! Or for that matter an hour sit on the taxiway doesn’t bother you simply because you’re on the aircraft – Sonja Hollen4. You have actually sat in the middle of a crowded gate area and sobbed after an agent just informed you (on your tenth attempt) the flight is full. – Cindy Lunsford
5. You’ve flown five segments all over the country through multiple hubs to get home and still end up 60 miles from home. – Brian Hewitt
6. You’ve pretty much memorized the entire flight schedule of every airline in the US. – Bob Nadelberg
7. You’re happy in a middle seat. – Jim McDonough
8. You have no idea what the flight number is or what time you’ll land. You just know you’re going in the right direction. – Heather Poole
9. The working crew makes smart comments about how many bags and/or their size. – Karol Harris
10. You’ve driven half way across the country because it’s faster than rolling your bags from flight to flight for multiple days. – Brian Hewitt
Near the end of a flight from New York to Dallas, a little girl, 9 years old, handed me a piece of paper that read: “Everyone on this plane that works on this plane is very kind and welcoming, comforting and makes me feel safe, happy and comfy, so thank you to everyone. Love, Fallyn.” She made what would have been an ordinary day extra special. For that, I thank her.
Receiving thanks in the air travel industry is rare so when it happens it’s always appreciated. In fact, sometimes it’s so appreciated it feels kind of weird, like do I really deserve this? Did I really do something that deserves so much kindness? Usually, the answer is no. I’m just doing my job, what I’ve been hired to do – assist passengers and provide safety and comfort in flight. Then I’ll blush from the embarrassment of being acknowledged and either quickly refill an empty cup or ask if there’s anything else I can do to make the flight more enjoyable.
Those who do deserve a special thank you for just doing their job are our military men and women. Long ago, my grandpa confessed that not one person thanked him for fighting in WWII. My father experienced the same thing while he was in the navy. This is why I make it a point to say thank you to those who protect us. Once I offered my cellphone to a soldier I spotted putting money into a pay phone at an airport. A couple of times I offered to buy lunch for those I’ve seen in uniform waiting in line at food courts located at airport terminals. It’s the least I can do. They always decline with a blush and then they thank me for thinking of them.
One passenger who went out of his way to thank a serviceman on board an airplane is my friend Will. Here, in his words, is what happened on a recent flight from Dallas to Oklahoma City.
Last evening while standing by the gate and waiting for boarding to commence, I noticed a military serviceman in uniform approach the line, look at his boarding pass and walk to the back of the waiting area – nothing I haven’t seen before.As I sat there on the corner of the room speaking with my kids on the cellphone, pre-boarding was announced for all customers with disabilities or special needs as well as any military personnel in uniform. A few folks boarded but not the soldier.
As a perk for flying a “few thousand” miles a year with American Airlines, I’d been upgraded from coach to first with its wider seats, more legroom, free drinks and more. Sitting in 3E, thoughts about my wife and children ran through my head. As I remembered our recent phone call my heart tightened. It had been only four days since I’d seen my family but it seemed like a month. Just a few more hours… it didn’t seem like much longer.
Boarding continued for another twenty minutes when suddenly I observed the same serviceman from earlier. He was the last one on. Holding his backpack slightly crooked over his right shoulder and a boarding pass on the left hand he quickly went by me towards his seat in coach.
That’s when it clicked.
I stood up, took a couple of steps back towards the soldier, and gently tapped his left shoulder. As he turned around I simply requested his boarding pass. To my surprise he promptly handed it over. A simple gesture of appreciation: the palm of my left hand showing him the direction to my seat. Shocked, he cracked a smile and politely declined the offer by stating I would not enjoy his seat. It was “the worse seat in the plane” – he said.
After insisting a bit, he accepted my offer and took his new seat but not before his smile stretched across his face like a child on a Christmas morning. As I went towards seat 18F (a middle seat) the pride and satisfaction of being able to sincerely thank a man, whom along with thousands of other brave and dedicated soldiers choose to sacrifice their lives so that my children may sleep safely every night, was indescribable.
Sitting in that middle seat while the plane took off, I realized that it felt different: it seemed wider; there was more legroom; it was more comfortable. Was it? No… it was the same as always, but the circumstances were different.
After takeoff I succumbed to my usual ritual of lowering the tray table and hunching over for a quick nap. I was tired… it had been a long day. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my left shoulder. To my surprise, it was the soldier. Extending his right hand as if a handshake was imminent. I responded with the same gesture.
“Thank You” – he said – while leaving in the palm of my hands a coin, which read: PRESENTED BY THE CADET COMMAND – COMMAND SERGEANT MAJOR – FOR EXCELLENCE.
As I nodded in acceptance my eyes suddenly drowned in tears of appreciation and pride. He went back to his seat, leaving me speechless and transformed.
It’s unconditional commitment, bravery and immeasurable sacrifices shown by all of our service men and women that makes it possible for each one of us to sleep by our children and loved ones at night.
Most people do not have a first class seat to offer up as a special thank you to those who serve our country, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to simply showing thanks, letting others know you care and that you notice what they do and appreciate their hard work. A thank you costs nothing but time. By just thinking about how grateful we are for what someone has done for us only benefits us. This kind of satisfaction doesn’t last long and does nothing to change the world. By giving thanks we give others a momentary respite from their daily lives and their own journey through life becomes relevant to the lives today. Don’t wait until people are gone to honor and thank them for being a part of our lives when we can tell them personally how we feel. Thank a soldier today.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to be served by flight attendants that are actually excited to come to work? Yes, safety training is important. But there is no reason to believe that a fit and alert 29-year-old should perform less safely in an emergency than a weary, overweight 60-year-old.” –Bill Frezza, Forbes.com
If you want to talk safety, Bill, let’s talk safety. But what’s with using “weary” and “overweight” to describe 60-year-old flight attendants? Maybe the point you were trying to make in your article about airline bankruptcy is that new labor is cheap labor. What you’ve seem to have forgotten is times have changed over the last thirty years and some airlines now deliberately hire older people in an effort to save money on retirement and pensions. And did you know new flight attendants start out making between $14,000-18,000 in the first year? Each year we’re given an across-the-board raise with most flight attendants maxing out around the 13-year mark. Flight attendants don’t cost the airlines half as much as the airlines would love the flying public to believe.
Going back to safety, Bill, let’s ask the passengers on board US Airways flight 1549 how they felt about the crew who evacuated a plane full of 150-plus passengers after the aircraft ditched into the Hudson River. The entire crew of the “Miracle on the Hudson” (including Captain Sullenberger) was over 50, leaning closer to 60. I’d say they did a wonderful job of getting passengers out safely. Personally, I’d be more concerned with my fellow passengersmoving quickly than I would be about flight attendants of any age – after all, we are only allowed to work if we can pass a yearly recurrent training program. Passengers just have to buy a ticket.
But Bill is not alone.Chicago Sun-Times columnist Joe Crowley one-upped Bill with a few sexist tweets about flight attendants, female pilots and pretty much women in general after he became upset that his flight was delayed due to the crew being illegal to work (apparently he and Bill have differing feelings on weary flight attendants). He tweeted something snarky about the flight attendants’ mandatory crew rest followed by, “I’m more likely to see a Squatch before I see a hot flight attendant. Then again, I think the airlines are hiring Squatch’s to do that job.” Wait, it gets better. He added, “Chick pilot. Should I be OK with that or am I just a sexist caveman?”
I’m going to have to go with sexist caveman. Of course Cowardly – er, I mean Cowley, deleted his twitter account soon after he got into it with a female journalist over the comments.
In my book, “Cruising Attitude,” I mention that ageism is not only alive and well at 30,000 feet but those who still hold these outdated beliefs have no problem expressing them to the very people they’re talking about. Once, right after I told a passenger that my mother was also a flight attendant (she’s “junior” to me, meaning she started flying AFTER I became a flight attendant), he informed me he found it unsettling to stare at postmenopausal women pushing beverage carts for three hours – as if buying an airline ticket entitled him to eye candy. Of course, he wasn’t much to look at either. But I’d take nice, thoughtful passengers over good-looking, younger ones any day!
Bill wraps up his outdated rant against flight attendants with this: “Take a good look at the superannuated attendants next time you board a legacy airline. They are as tired of flying as those of us that have been doing it for thirty years, but it’s the customers who pay the price.”
Maybe it’s the recession, because people always find this one tough to believe, but it’s the customers who are NOT paying the price, since ticket prices are cheaper than they were twenty years ago. This is why service has gone downhill. This is also why there are less flight attendants on board to help passengers. And if I or one of my more senior colleagues looks tired or weary, I apologize. Keep in mind it might have something to do with the airlines cutting back to save money. They’ve decreased my layover time in an effort to save money on hotels. Most domestic layovers average 9-10 hours these days. Add a delay and it’s 8 hours behind the locked door. That’s barely enough time to eat, sleep AND shower. Personally I think it should be illegal to work flights that are longer than our layovers, but hey, that’s me. What do I know?
In a magazine I read years ago, a bigwig working for an international Asian carrier was quoted stating, “Passengers wouldn’t dare yell at a flight attendant wearing a dress.” It felt like a snide remark directed toward flight attendants in the United States who prefer to wear pants. Instead, it just demonstrated that he hadn’t spent much time with U.S. passengers, who are non-discriminating. They are happy to yell both at flight attendants wearing dresses and passengers wearing dresses.
That’s a quote from my book “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 feet.” I’m only sharing it with you because there’s been a lot in the news lately about Asiana Airlines. Its flight attendants are upset because they aren’t allowed to wear pants (or even glasses!). Their union recently filed a complaint to the human rights commission of Korea. The airline claims the uniform was designed based on hanbok, the Korean traditional dress. The flight attendants understand the airline has an image it wants to pursue, but they also believe the most important function of their job is to assist passengers.
I prefer to wear my skirt over the uniform pants and dress. In fact, I’ve only worn the pants a handful of times during my career — and I’ve been a flight attendant for 17 years! At first, it was the big bulky pleats with the high waist that was a problem for me. Now that the pleats are gone, the pants fit lower on the hips and the ankles aren’t tapered, it’s the material I have an issue with; it’s so thin you can practically see through it!Last week a reporter for a well-known newspaper told me she had recently participated in what sounded like a flight attendant training program being offered to journalists and frequent fliers. She learned all kinds of interesting facts, including what not to wear on the plane in case there’s an emergency evacuation.
“Which is exactly what most flight attendants are wearing, right?” I asked.
There was a long pause before she replied, “Now that you mention it…”
The point I’m trying to make is this: it actually makes more sense for flight attendants to be wearing pants. I’m not saying we should wear pants. I’m not even saying I want to wear pants. I’m just saying that having the option might be nice. As long as we look and feel good while doing exactly what we were hired to do – assist passengers – does it really matter if some of us are more comfortable wearing tailored trousers opposed to pencil skirts? If designed right, both can be equally stylish.
Come on, Asiana. Loosen up. Times have changed. Passengers have changed. Why can’t the uniform also change to reflect the modern times? If some flight attendants want to wear pants, let them wear pants!
Am I wrong?
Don’t answer that. Only because I can hear it already: “QUIT YOUR JOB IF YOU WANT TO WEAR PANTS!”