Galley Gossip: In Defense Of Old And Weary Flight Attendants

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 passengers moving 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.

Now, as for being excited to come to work, it’s true that sometimes it’s hard to love passengers who verbalize how miserable they feel about flying, especially when these same passengers go on to wonder why we aren’t younger and prettier. Last time I checked, flight attendants were people, too. I know it’s hard to believe but we, too, are allowed to grow old just like passengers. I’m talking to you, Bill!

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?

[photos courtesy of santheo and alexindigo]

Galley Gossip: Why flight attendants might not open an emergency exit during an evacuation

The first thing a flight attendant does before opening an emergency exit during an evacuation is assess the conditions outside. This is one reason why some airlines require passengers seated in the exit rows to keep their window shades up during takeoff and landing. The last thing you want to do is escape one bad situation only to find yourself in an even worse one. Think fire. Water. Captain Chesley Sullenberger.

BRACE FOR IMPACT!

That’s what everyone on board US Airways flight 1549 heard right before Captain Sully ditched the aircraft into the Hudson River after experiencing a double-engine failure while in route to Charlotte, North Carolina January 15, 2009. There were 150 passengers on board and 5 flight crew.

Flight attendant Doreen Walsh did exactly what she was trained to do. After unbuckling her belt and jumping out of her seat, she looked through the tiny porthole window to make sure it was safe outside to open the door. This is when she noticed they hadn’t landed at an airport, and that there was water outside! For a split second she wondered if maybe, just maybe, she could get the slide raft inflated before the water became too high to safely do so, but then quickly realized it was already too late. Before she could begin directing passengers to another exit, a safe exit, the window exit only a few feet away, passengers pushed Doreen out of the way and cracked the door open. Water began flooding inside until it was all the way up to their necks. With only a few seconds left to escape, Doreen ordered everyone standing in the aisle to crawl over the seats.

Three years have passed since the Miracle on the Hudson flight crew gave their testimony to the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation. And yet I just saw the video for the first time last week. I’m a flight attendant for a major US carrier. I write about travel. Usually I’m up on these things. So if I missed the short clip of the flight attendants detailing their experiences, chances are you probably did, too. That’s why I’ve posted it here.


Flight attendants go through weeks of intensive training. We’re also required to attend a yearly recurrent training program. During this time we role play medical scenarios and practice our emergency evacuation procedures. While we’re yelling our commands, our instructors keep us on our toes by throwing things at us like fire, exits that won’t open, slides that won’t inflate, passengers too afraid to jump, which causes us to go into a whole other set of commands and procedures. Because of our training we’re prepared to handle just about anything, including an evacuation in the Hudson River. Trust me, we’ll ask for help if we need it. Until then please refrain from pushing us aside to open a door we would never in a million years open.

Photo courtesy of PhotoGiddy

Top 10 ways Hollywood could make Sully’s movie more kickass

Samuel L. Awesome
As you’ve surely heard, Hudson River hero Captain Sully has been awarded the ultimate American prize: a movie deal. You know how sometimes people ask you “who would you want to play you in a movie?” Well, Sully is full-on asking himself that question for real.

We were discussing the movie and came up with one irrefutable problem: landing a plane in the Hudson River, while certainly impressive, does not a 90-minute film make. In fact, our resident pilot Kent Wien published a hilarious story just last month on what is surely the crux of the plot: avoiding the birds. Trying, then failing to avoid birds doesn’t really sound like a feature-length story, does it? Kent’s idea was to try and film it from the birds’ perspective, “Sort of like Jonathan Livingston Seagull but with a tragic ending.”

That would work, but it doesn’t make a hero out of Sully, and that is surely the point. We have faith that the masterminds in Hollywood can make a whopping three hours out of it if they put their hearts into it.

In case they have any trouble, though, here are some ideas.

Top 10 ways Hollywood could make Sully’s movie more kickass:

1. An epic bloody bird bonanza.

The moment the birds hit the engine is key. We’d like to see this achieved on a billion-YouTube-hits, Texas Chainsaw Massacre level. You know what would make it even better? Two words: 3. D.

2. Aerosmith.

This will be a hero movie, and every hero movie needs a power ballad. Perhaps Aerosmith could simultaneously release a music video of themselves headbanging and playing the song spliced with clips of the aforementioned bloody bird bonanza. Suggested title: What Goes Up Must Come Down.3. Emotional foreshadowing from friends and family.

Foreshadowing is essential to this genre of film, and pretty much all dialogue leading up the disaster should have enormously foreboding ramifications. We’re talking teenagers yelling “I never want to see you again!” and wives saying “I still get nervous every time you fly. Every time.” Bonus points if they have a pet bird that won’t shut the hell up.

4. Birds. Everywhere.

Another important foreshadowing element is the presence of birds in everyday life. Not only should there be a pet bird in Captain Sully’s home, but we’d like to see at least one avian actor in every shot. In the best case scenario, the birds would all be looking at him, all the time, Hitchcock-style.

5. Teaser in-flight malfunctions.

The flight is doomed from the start and everyone knows it, so there should be plenty of nefarious bumps and turbulence-related accidents leading up to the actual bird massacre.

6. The moment someone realizes the plane’s going down and gravely says “It’s birds.”

Picture this: no one can figure out what the problem is until a flight attendant sees blood spattered on the windows toward the rear of the plane. She walks briskly to the cockpit and bursts through the door. “Captain Sully,” she says, with the weight of the world in her eyes, “It’s birds.” Did this really happen? Definitely not. Does it matter? Definitely not.

7. Samuel L. Jackson rescues the hell out of everybody.

Truth: the plane landed in the water and a ferry going by helped the passengers to safety. Obviously, the main ferry passenger leading this effort should be played by Samuel L. Jackson, who specializes in ridiculous airplane films. If he’s busy, they should get Leonardo DiCaprio, who should at some point reach his hand out to a frightened woman and say, “Do you trust me?”

8. An arguing couple on the flight falls back in love.

To illustrate the point that all arguments seem petty in the face of danger, there should be a loud, arguing couple on the flight. By the time they are being ferried to safety, they should definitely be making out. This is Screenwriting 101.

9. The plane explodes.

In true blockbuster fashion, the story must end with a bang. We see this being best achieved by the plane exploding, preferably seconds after the final passenger disembarks — with her baby.

10. The hint of a sequel.

What? A sequel? That’s right. All good movies hint at a sequel*. Hudson River 2: The Reckoning (or whatever it’s called) should be hinted at by the glint in the eye of a nearby bird who just watched his broheim slaughtered. Can they get the bird to cry a tear? We hope so.

*false

[Photo by Sebastian Derungs – Pool/Getty Images.]

“Miracle on the Hudson” plane up for auction

The plane that Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed safely in the Hudson River just over a year ago is going up for auction. Chartis Aerospace Insurance Services is accepting bids on the plane, which is described as “having severe water damage throughout the airframe and impact damage to its underside” according to USA Today, though March 27.

Unfortunately, as celeb-gossip site TMZ points out, the survivors of the harrowing water landing won’t be able to take home a memento from the plane. The plane is being auctioned off in its entirety so those hoping to snag just a small piece cannot do so. Looks like they’ll have only their memories. The survivors recently got together on the anniversary of the crash landing and toasted with champagne and Grey Goose vodka (a nod to the flock of birds that downed the plane) at the moment of impact.