Galley Gossip: Flight attendant interview – The pros and cons of speaking a second language and how it affects reserve

Dear Heather, I am hoping to become a flight attendant soon (have a face to face interview next week!) and have a question about reserve status. I speak Japanese fluently and was wondering how different things are for flight attendants who speak a different language. Are they on reserve for the same amount of time? Is anything different? – Natasha

For the first time in history being a flight attendant is considered a profession, not just a job. Fewer flight attendants are quitting, turnover is not as high as it once was, and competition to become a flight attendant has gotten fierce. Ninety-six percent of people who apply to become a flight attendant do not get a call back. In December of 2010 Delta Airlines received more than 100,000 applications after announcing they had an opening for 1,000 flight attendants. Even though it is not a requirement to have a college degree, only the most qualified applicants are hired. Being able to speak a second language will greatly improve your chance!

The only thing that affects reserve status is company seniority (class hire date). Seniority is assigned by date of birth within each training class. This means the oldest classmate will become the most senior flight attendant in your class. Seniority is everything at an airline, and I mean everything! It determines whether you’ll work holidays, weekends and when, if ever, you’ll be off reserve. So it’s important to accept the earliest training date offered.

While speaking another language doesn’t affect how long you’ll serve reserve, it will have an impact on your flying career.

PROS

1. MORE MONEY. “Speakers” earn more per hour than non-speakers. Unfortunately it’s only a few dollars on top of what a regular flight attendant is paid. Remember most flight attendants make between fourteen to eighteen thousand a year the first year on the job, so every dollar counts.2. GOOD TRIPS. Speakers on reserve are assigned trips to foreign countries where people speak their language. No offense to cities like Phoenix, Pittsburgh or Portland, but a layover in Paris is just a tad bit more desirable. Not just because it’s a foreign city with exciting things to do and see, but because international routes pay more per hour (on top of speaker pay).

3. DAYS OFF. An international flight usually ranges between eight to fourteen hours, while domestic flights rarely go over six hours. Because flight attendants are paid for flight hours only – all that time we spend on the ground is not considered flying time, which means the flight attendant greeting you at the boarding door is not being paid – it takes domestic flight attendants a lot longer to get in their hours each month. Flight attendants who work international routes work what is considered “high-time” trips and high-time trips equate to more days off.

CONS

4. BAD TRIPS. Speakers get what is called “bid denied”. What this means is they get stuck working the same trip until they have enough seniority to hold something else. I know a number of speakers who became so tired of working the same route week after week, month after month, year after year, they chose to drop their language qualification altogether. In the beginning of ones flying career, a thirty-six hour layover in Paris might sound great, but even Paris gets old after awhile.

5. LESS FLEXIBILITY: The best thing about being a flight attendant is the flexible lifestyle. Because we’re paid only for the hours we work, we’re free to manipulate our schedules however we like. We can work high-time one month and not at all the next month. We can also “back up” our trips. Most flight attendants are scheduled a few days off between each trip. By trading trips we’re able to adjust our schedules so that we can fly several trips in a row in order to get a big chunk of days off to go on vacation or just hang out at home. Speakers have a harder time doing this because they can only trade, drop, and swap with another speaker that has the same qualifications.

6. PROBLEM FLIGHTS: On domestic routes problem passengers have no trouble letting us know what’s wrong. At my airline international routes are only required to be staffed with one speaker per cabin. If we don’t speak the language, we have no idea there’s a problem or if we do know there’s a problem, we have no idea what the problem is, and the flight goes on as peacefully as it had been. Unfortunately those who do speak the language get stuck handling all the problems.

Photo courtesy of Dmytrock’s

Altec Lansing Orbit USB Stereo speakers deliver audio on the go

If you don’t want to settle for the speakers in your laptop, but do want something that is easy to pack, then a new speaker product from Altec Lansing may be just what you need. The Orbit USB Stereo builds off the success of their Orbit MP3 speaker (my first ever review on Gadling) but moves up from a single speaker to stereo speakers.

The design is pretty slick – the speakers attach to each other, and the USB and audio cord stores inside the rear end of each speaker.

Sound from the Orbit USB Stereo is actually quite impressive — and certainly much better than you’d expect from something this compact. Because the speakers use a generic USB audio system, you don’t need any drivers either, simply plug them in and you are good to go.

While they are noticeably larger than a pair of headphones, once combined, the package really isn’t that big – and I had no problem finding a spot for them in my laptop backpack. Since they are USB powered, you don’t need to carry a power adapter or batteries.

The new Altec Lansing Orbit MP3 Stereo is available (and in stock) today for just $49.95.

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Gear: The sweetest-looking iPod speakers

For travelers who never leave home without their iPods, it’s an extra convenience when hotels provide in-room docking stations that sound better than anything your ear buds or your laptop speakers can pump out. In fact, for a certain class of boutique hotel properties, an iPod dock is almost expected on the list of amenities (along with the flatscreen TV.)

In the past month, two of the five hotels I’ve stayed at (the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the Kimpton-owned Hotel Palomar in Philadelphia) have all carried iHome docking stations. When I later searched for the model numbers online to compare prices and specs, I was surprised at how quickly those numbers are phased out and replaced with newer, sleeker models like the iP90 ($99.99).

If you stay in a hotel that doesn’t have an iPod dock, iHome makes a sweet set of portable speakers: the iHM78B ($49.99). The set, which debuted in January, sports a funky bubble design and is available in fun colors like red and blue. The accordion-like speakers pop up for fuller bass and swivel down into a compact capsule. Magnets at the ends keep the pair together in your bag, so you don’t have to root around for the other half.

But does anyone actually travel with portable speakers? I feel like I always get bogged down by all my cords and chargers. But after testing out this set, I have to admit that it’ll be hard to return to the puny sound. Whether the speakers were plugged into my iPod or laptop, I actually had to turn down the volume because it was way too loud. Note: There’s no master volume control on the speakers; you have to adjust the volume level from your laptop or iPod itself, but that’s a small annoyance compared to the huge sound you’ll get.

Luckily, the mini speakers are good enough to use in everyday life so it’s not some travel gadget you’d only use once a year. The bottom line? Sure, if you always stay in hotels with iPod docks, portable speakers won’t be as useful. For everyone else, the iHome speakers are a solid pair to make space in your bag for.

Take your music traveling

iHome Capsule SpeakersRemember when you used to see guys walking around the beach with monster stereos blaring on their shoulders? Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you were into that), those days are behind us. The advent of iPods and MP3 players has made traveling with music a lot easier — but it you want to have your music blaring for all to hear, you’re gonna need some portable speakers.

Fortunately, iHome has a whole line of travel-friendly speakers which fit iPods and iPhones and any player that works with a basic music cable. The speakers power your Apple accessories while they playing, and some are perfect for the beach: Splash-proof and battery-operated.

I’ve tried out several of the iHome products and actually use their Bose-rivaling speakers in my very own kitchen. I made it my mission to find out which products travel the best — check out our fave five in the gallery below.
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Product Review: iHome iP27 Portable Speaker System

If you’re tired of being reduced to earphones to get your iPod groove on while travelling, Apple has come up with a new solution. The iP27 is the newest version of the iHome speaker line, a docking station that plays music directly from your iPod.

The iP27 has a nifty alarm clock functionality that allows you to wake up to your favorite tunes, along with remote volume and play/pause control. The speakers themselves fold down flat and slide into a carrying case, so all in all, the system is really geared for travelers.

The cons to this system are that the speakers lack a lot of bass, compromising the sound quality; and as well, there is no radio function (for those few times you want to catch up on your foreign news?). I’ve also heard that some older versions of iPod aren’t compatible, but the Nanos and iPhones work just fine.

On the upside, the unit has an AA battery option and a downsized AC cord, so it’s a bit sleeker and less space-consuming than it’s iHome counterpart. Users of the iH27 probably won’t notice too many differences in the two units.

Rationally, I can’t think of any traveler that would actually use this unit, much less want to carry it around all over the place in their luggage. Definitely a geek-ified piece of equipment, but it will probably find its cult following.