Galley Gossip: Flight attendants, turbulence & scary flights

One of the scariest flights I ever worked also happens to be one of the first flights I ever worked for an airline called Sun Jet International Airlines. I lasted three months before moving on. Sun Jet is no longer in business. I’m going to guess this had a lot to do with gimmicky $69 flights to cities like Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Newark, and Long Beach. While cheap tickets attract a lot of passengers interested in saving a buck, they don’t always cover the cost of maintenance and upkeep of aircraft for smaller airlines. At least that’s what I assumed based on the fact that I quickly became accustomed to the FAA meeting our flight in Long Beach, California every Tuesday afternoon and taking the equipment out of service. And this had nothing to do with all those duct taped armrests or the black plastic garbage bags some passengers had to sit on after they discovered their seat cushions were soaked with urine. Because that’s what happens when you mix cheap tickets, a quick aircraft turn-around on the ground, and seventeen unaccompanied minors on a previous flight! Hey, better a damp seat than no seat. Unfortunately that was the only alternative most of the time, because our flights were always full.

I should have known when I boarded it was going to be a strange flight based on the aircraft lighting alone. Throughout the all-economy class cabin the side wall lights were on the blink and flickering in the dark. This made the airplane feel less like a disco and more like a haunted house. But it wasn’t until we hit severe turbulence half an hour before landing in Dallas that the creepy mood lighting actually became a problem. It started to freak the passengers out. At one point even I began to feel like I was starring in my very own Stephen King horror movie at 30,000 feet.

“Flight attendants take your seats!” boomed the Captains voice over the PA.Strapped into my jump seat, I noticed passengers clutching the armrests while others held hands across the aisle. I didn’t see any praying, but I’m sure there was plenty of that going on because with each dip there were moans and groans and even a few full on screams, making a bad situation sound even worse.

Keep in mind most of our flights were filled with first time fliers with little-to-no interest in racking up frequent flier miles, so a lot of these people had never before experienced turbulence in their lives and here they were experiencing it at its worst for the very first time! While it was my job to keep the cabin calm, there was very little I could do from my jump seat except reassure those sitting nearby that everything was going to be okay. It’s a fact that most injuries occur only when passengers don’t have their seat belts on. But with each bump, the screams got louder and louder until someone yelled out the unthinkable:

“I don’t want to die!”

For a split second all was quiet. That’s when I got scared.

Unpredictable behavior makes me nervous. I tell you this because the flight was a non-smoking one, but from my jump seat I could see a few passengers were lighting up. Great, I thought, because here we were on a flight so bumpy there was no way I could possibly get up and run to the back in order to grab a bottle of halon to fight a fire if I had to. Fire in the cabin, by the way, is about the only thing that scares me in flight.

“You need to put that out!” I yelled from my jump seat, but as soon as the words had left my mouth I regretted saying them as I imagined a cigarette being squashed into the fabric of the seat back in front of them.

Instead of doing as they were told, they continued to puff harder and faster as the airplane jolted side to side and the lights blinked rapidly on and off. This is when others began to join in. Someone seated close to me said something about smoking one last cigarette before the airplane crashed. That’s when I heard a familiar voice scream out again.

“I don’t want to die!”

Of course, no one died that night. But later on I learned there was a Delta flight in front of us that aborted landing. That, however, didn’t deter our Captain from attempting his approach. When he did finally manage to get the airplane on the ground, we landed so hard I thought the aircraft might split in two. There was thunder and lightening all around as we taxied to the gate. Passengers began jumping up out of their seats and rushing toward the aircraft door.

“Sit down!” I cried. “We’re not at the gate yet!”

“Hold the passengers back when I open my door!” a coworker barked at me. But my colleague never did get that door open because half a second later the Captain announced over the PA that the airport was closed due to thunderstorms in the area. Because of this there weren’t any open gates available. Airport traffic had come to a halt. That meant we were going to have to sit on the tarmac until the weather cleared with an airplane full of passengers on the edge of revolt.

“Let us off!” passengers demanded. We would have, if we could have, but there was no where to go! We were stuck. All of us together in a flickering flying tube.

After the flight I spotted the Captain standing outside of the terminal leaning against a brick wall. An older guy, the quiet type, he stood there with his pilot hat in one hand, a cigarette in the other, while waiting for the employee bus. Immediately I noticed his face looked ashen. Quickly he inhaled and exhaled, eyes on the ground, shirt drenched with sweat under the arms. I couldn’t help but think he looked a lot like those crazy passengers smoking on the airplane, the very ones who thought they were going to die. That’s when it hit me. Right then and there I realized just how scary our flight had truly been.

Photos courtesy of Satanslaundromat and Caribb

Philadelphia hotel fire is murder cover-up

There was violence at the center of a recent hotel fire in Philadelphia. A repeat guest of the Center City Omni Hotel, Patrick Brady was found beaten, strangled and set ablaze. The 49-year-old stayed at the property when in the area on business.

On Saturday, the local fire department was called to the hotel because of an eighth-floor fire. It was put out quickly and limited to Brady’s room. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told the local ABC affiliate, “The fire was probably set to cover up the homicide. That’s not all that unusual in cases like that.” Information about the suspect hasn’t been released.

[photo by Edward Vielmetti via Flickr]

Photo of the Day (8.31.10)

I think that the best travel photography is the kind that captures a unique instance of the human experience and opens it up for further discussion. It intrigues the viewer to ask questions, to delve deeper and to examine the unfamiliar. It refuses to let you look away or ignore the subject. For me, this moment captured by e.r.g.o in Sri Lanka does exactly that.

The festival being photographed is called the Esala Perahera (festival of the tooth), which takes place in the city of Maha Nuvara (Kandy) in July or August. The man seen here is swallowing a burning coal as a display of relentless faith.

The image is part of a series from e.r.g.o during a three year stint in the South Asian island country. He notes “This project is my farewell to Sri Lanka. Of the six images, some are pretty and nice, while others are ugly and harsh. This has been my Sri Lanka experience.” The full series (with a couple extras from Melbourne) can be viewed here.

Do you have a story to tell with photos to prove it? Submit to our Gadling Flickr Pool & it could be tomorrow’s Photo of the Day!

Count the doors between your room and the exit – Hotel tip

After checking into your hotel room, go back out and count the doors from your room to the nearest stairway.

In case of fire, the stairway may be the only way out. If you had to crawl under a blanket of thick smoke, you could just feel the doors and count down until you know you have reached the safety of the stairway.

Don’t forget to pack your trusty flashlight, in case you need to exit during a blackout.

Five Valentine’s Day deals in New England

Nothing says “romance” like a roaring fire on a chilly evening on Valentine’s Day. Through the windows, you can see snow-laden trees and pure white landscapes. From the warmth of your room, you can enjoy the winter wonderland outside, as you settle down for the perfect evening with the perfect person in your life. If this is how you envision your Valentine’s Day this year, turn your thoughts to New England this year. There are plenty of deals at your disposal through the New England Inns and Resorts Association, and a tough travel market is leading many properties to put together some amazing deals. Here are four to get you started.

1. Diamond & All Engagement Package (Kennebunkport, Maine)

Is this Valentine’s Day going to be the first day of the rest of your life together? If you’re planning to pop the question, let The Kennebunkport Inn give you a hand. This unique package includes robes, a four-course chef’s dinner with wine pairing, and an in-room couples massage. Your Mansion room will be adorned with three dozen roses, which you’ll enjoy while sipping champagne by the fire. Oh, and then there’s the one-carat diamond ring, which comes in a customized chocolate box created by the chef. The package starts at $6,500 for two nights … but that’s to be expected.2. Arts for Sweethearts Valentine’s Weekend (Chatham, Massachusetts)
The Chatham Wayside Inn will welcome you with two arrival cocktails (hot toddies or champagne cocktails) and a coupon gift back from local merchants which includes two $25 gift cards to attend the local Arts for Sweethearts art show. You’ll spend two nights in a room decorated with a red rose bouquet. A continental breakfast is served every morning, and you’ll enjoy a candlelit dinner for two at the Goose Tavern. On Sunday, dine on a Valentine’s Day brunch for two. Rates start at $429 a night, but you can add a third for half price.

3. Menage a Trois (Newport, Rhode Island)
Don’t worry, the Ocean Cliff Hotel isn’t as racy as you might think. For $225, you’ll get a night in a deluxe guestroom and enjoy the “Aphrodisiacs Delights Dinner Menu for Two.” The meal comes with a bottle of Folie a Deux Vineyards Menage a Trois wine and chocolate covered strawberries. If one night isn’t enough, you can book another for only $89.

4. Valentine/Presidential Weekend Value (North Conway, New Hampshire)
Spend three nights at the Buttonwood Inn, and you’ll be treated to a full breakfast every day, afternoon tea service and a dinner for two at a local, premier restaurant — including a bottle of champagne or sparkling cider. Top off the meal with handmade local New Hampshire chocolates, and retire to the “Hot Tub Under the Stars.” The package starts at $509, but you can save an additional 10 percent if you book by the end of the month.

5. An Affair to Remember (Boston, Massachusetts)
The Liberty Hotel in Boston wants to make sure you remember this Valentine’s Day. For $295 a night, you’ll frolic in luxury, enjoy champagne at check-in and receive two tickets to the pre-Valentine’s Day party on February 13, 2010 — where you and your sweetheart will each receive psychic reading. A copy of “An Affair to Remember” will be waiting for you in your room, should you choose to enjoy it. Add a bit of decadence to your stay at the Liberty with the “Guilty Pleasures Romance Package. At $435 a night and up, you will sip champagne that’s brought to you in your room, snack on chocolate-dipped assorted fruit and have breakfast at CLINK or in the privacy of your own room. An intimacy kit will be provided … and the details aren’t being disclosed.