10 Confessions From Flight Attendant Heather Poole

Heather Poole, who just wrapped up the book “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet,” recently dished in a Mental Floss article on the inside world of the airline industry and on how flight attendants act when things get turbulent (or when they catch someone trying to join the mile-high club). It starts:

1. IF THE PLANE DOOR IS OPEN, WE’RE NOT GETTING PAID.

You know all that preflight time where we’re cramming bags into overhead bins? None of that shows up in our paychecks. Flight attendants get paid for “flight hours only.” Translation: the clock doesn’t start until the craft pushes away from the gate. Flight delays, cancellations and layovers affect us just as much as they do passengers – maybe even more.

Airlines aren’t completely heartless, though. From the time we sign in at the airport until the plane slides back into the gate at our home base, we get an expense allowance of $1.50 an hour. It’s not much, but it helps pay the rent.

You can read the rest of the article over on Mental Floss, and see other stories from Heather’s adventures over at the Galley Gossip column on Gadling.

[Photo by Chalmers Butterfield, Wikimedia Commons]

You've Got Heather Poole

Galley Gossip: Snacks on the plane

“Diet Coke,” says the passenger after I ask him what he’d like to drink. While I’m filling a plastic glass full of ice, he asks the question I hoped he wouldn’t ask, “Can I get a sandwich?”

“Oh…ummm…I’m sorry.” I make a face, the I’m-sorry face, because I am sorry. Really, I am. I’m sorry I have to say I’m sorry all day long. “We ran out,” I continue, and before I can tell him that we actually ran out of anything and everything edible on the airplane, he asks “What else do you have?”

I take a deep breath, because I really don’t want to tell this guy we have nothing, not one thing, so I make the face again, the I’m-sorry face, and decide to make light of the situation. “Diet Coke. Sprite. Diet Sprite. Pepsi. Diet Pepsi. Orange juice. Apple Juice.” He’s looking at me like I’m crazy, so I make the face again, oh you know the one, and say, “I’m sorry, but we ran out of everything. There’s no more food.”

“What do you mean there’s no more food!”

“We ran out of food,” I say again, as I oh so gently place a can of Diet Coke and a glass of ice on his tray table. What I don’t say is that we ran out of food hours ago, due to the fact the passengers were starving because of the hour and a half weather delay we took on the ground. What this passenger and I do not know, and will not know for another hour, is we’re going to have another hour and a half delay in flight because the airport in New York is closed due to more bad weather . “Sorry,” I say again, and I am, sorry I’m forced to say sorry all day long.

“This is ridiculous!”

I agree, it is ridiculus, but that’s the way it is.

Last week Iva Skoch wrote about Passengers Revolting on a flight out of Beijing that was canceled due to weather. Fifty-two pasengers refused to leave the aircraft, so they slept on the plane for over twelve hours. “The biggest irony,” Iva wrote, “And something I can’t see happening on America’s cash-strapped airlines, the flight attendants kept serving food and drinks to the protesters.”

Well there are two reasons you won’t see flight attendants in America serving drinks and food to “protesters” onboard a canceled flight throughout the night until the wee hours of the morning, when the airline is finally able to get people onboard another aircraft.

  1. No food. At least there’s not enough to serve to everybody onboard. Sorry. These days flights aren’t catered full. Why? Don’t ask me. I’m just the messenger. But I’m sure it has something to do with those silly fuel prices. But who wants to eat airplane food that’s been sitting on an airplane for hours anyway? We’re talking astronaut food, people! We’re talking there’s a reason the fruit in first class doesn’t turn brown by the end of the flight.
  2. No money. Flight attendants aren’t making a dime until the aircraft door has been shut and the airplane has backed away from the gate. Now keep in mind we’ve already worked the first hour of our day for free, which is by far the most chaotic part of flight – boarding. And you’re right, we did agree to work that first hour for free when we took the job, but there’s no way, no freakin way, we’ll work one hour more. Would you?

Which brings me to the point of this post (there is one, I promise) – snacks. I’m talking food. You should bring some the next time you travel. At least something. Anything! An apple, a cereal bar, instant oatmeal, whatever.

I know exactly what you’re thinking. Why should you have to bring your own food when you paid for a ticket? Because you paid for a seat. That’s it. And as soon as you realize that, the better your flying experience will be. I’m sorry (always sorry) but that’s the reality of the situation. Unfortunately traveling today is like a real life episode of Survivor. You never know what’s going to happen next and you never know when you’re going to eat again.

Oh I know it’s inconvenient to pack food. Trust me, I’m right there with you, carrying a white plastic grocery bag full of Jiffy peanut butter to-go, a brown banana, two slices of multi-grain bread, and an old package of instant oatmeal, as I undress my way through security and make my way through the terminal – Just in case! Forget the clothes, the books, the DVD – pack the food! Mechanicals, weather delays, and cancellations do happen, and they happen often.

Take my five hour flight yesterday that turned into seven and a half hours of starvation for the people onboard who didn’t bring food, or purchase food when they had the chance. Me, I had a chorizo and egg breakfast burrito from La Salsa at the San Diego airport early that morning and I was STILL starving by the end of that flight! I actually got down on my hands and knees and dug through a dirty first class cart looking for something, anything, to get me through the last hour. But there was nothing – not one thing to be had. Which is why most flight attendants I know always – ALWAYS – bring their own from home.

Oh hold on a sec, my cell is ringing… “Hello?”

“Flight Attendant Poole?” asks the stern voice on the other end.

Oh no. The company. What now? “Yes, this is flight attendant Poole.”

“Your flight to San Francisco tonight has been delayed.”

The Most Mentos Geysers Ever

If you’ve been to Cincinnati, Ohio, you’ve probably seen Fountain Square. The fountain in its center is my favorite of all fountains. I always loved going here as a child and whenever I see it, I think of my grandparents and summer visits. Fountain Square is in the heart of the downtown and is generally an elegant place, but here’s a video of downright silliness. Not long ago it was the centerpiece of the mentos geyser world record breaking event. More than 500 people showed up to partipate by dumping mentos in bottles of Diet Coke. Notice the raincoats. This is a real hoot. If you’re at Fountain Square from now until the 20th, stop by to watch the Office Olympics.

Friday Funny: Diet Coke and Mentos: The Fountain Opera

Once again for today’s Friday Funny I have to depart a bit from the theme of travel. I apologize, but I came across ths video over at Revver and I was just too impressed and blown away NOT to bring it to the attention of a wider audience. So, dear Gadling readers, take a look at this wonderful soda symphony, the wonderfully entertaining efforts of several geeky looking fellows who take two simple ingredients: Diet Coke and Mentos, and come up with one of the finest fountain scenes this side of Ocean’s Eleven. Talk about giving new meaning to the term soda fountain.