German high-speed trains too hot to ride

Germany’s Inter City Express (ICE) high-speed railway system is suffering a major scandal as thousands of people have had to seek medical attention from overheated trains.

Temperatures on some trains have reached as high as 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) thanks to malfunctioning air conditioning. More than 2,200 people have had to go to hospital after their sweltering rides. Train operator Deutsche Bahn has paid out 500 euros ($645) and a refund to each as compensation.

Deutsche Bahn is blaming the company that built the trains, but the railway industry says poor maintenance is to blame. In other words, nobody is taking responsibility.

Photo courtesy Sebastian Terfloth via Wikimedia Commons.

Six disastrous consequences of fighting flight attendants

The Association of Flight Attendants has been leaning on Congress to amp up counter-terrorism measures in the cabin. After all, the security teams in the airports haven’t exactly impressed over the past few years. So, what happens to the passengers and crew when some scumbag finds a way to tote a gun, knife or oversized bottle of shampoo on board? The flight attendants’ union believes it has the answer: hand-to-hand combat. Whether it’s a killer choke hold or a beverage cart to the ‘nads, they’re ready to take charge.

Well, the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents more than 55,000 employees at 20 airlines, actually has a four-point plan to increase cabin safety, but most of it is pretty boring. The group proposes communications devices to help them speak directly to the pilots when an emergency breaks out, standardized carry-on luggage size (to make it easier to spot the suspicious people with oversized bags) and the terminating of in-flight wifi during periods of peak terror risk.

And, the grappling, kicking and boxing.

Someday, this will probably be remembered as one of those “What the hell were they thinking?” moments – if it’s remembered at all. But, for now, it’s something that the flight attendants’ group has plopped on the table, and it strikes me as unlikely to make a difference. Why?

Here are six reasons to get you started:1. It hasn’t made a difference so far
According to Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the association, combat training is currently optional for flight attendants, and those who pursue it have to do so on their own time. If this train is so important, I’d think that making it mandatory would be unnecessary, as such skills would already be common. If I thought there were a substantial threat to my safety every day at work, I’d commit to staying safe. Also, I haven’t seen any reports lately of a flight attendant, trained in the ways of the warrior, rescuing passengers from evil clutches. I applaud those who pursue it on their own but don’t see a whole lot of reasons for passengers (or taxpayers) to pick up the tab on this one.

2. It isn’t as simple as it sounds
Basic hand-to-hand combat may not equip a flight attendant to take on a wizened warrior who’s spent time in a terrorist training camp or battled the Soviets for a decade. It may work; it may not. But, this is hardly a silver bullet. Further, an overzealous flight attendant combatant could make a bad situation worse (e.g., a hostage situation that is not destined to end in a mix of suicide and homicide). If I have a chance of getting out alive, I’m not sure I’d welcome some sort of flying drop kick from the FA.

3. Why not go straight to guns?
If the point is to neutralize or eliminate a threat, why screw around with fisticuffs? Let’s bring some heat to bear on the situation. Flight attendants could board strapped and ready to rumble. If this sounds absurd, it’s a matter of degree. Mandatory and-to-hand combat training entails equipping flight attendants to use force to solve a problem. Any weapon, from fists to firearms, brings with it a certain set of risks (e.g., being overpowered, misuse of training). So, if we don’t trust flight attendants to don shoulder holsters, we should probably think about other forms of violence, however justified.

4. Terrorists have been stopped without this training
We saw this only a few months ago, with the Christmas bomber’s unsuccessful attempt. Also, the “shoe bomber” didn’t get far. Both incidents do raise the issue of whether better screening, observation and identification measures are needed on board (ummm, yeah), but these are the scenarios in which fists would fly, and ninja flight attendants weren’t necessary.

5. There’s a role for judgment
This one worries the hell out of me. Thinking back to the orange juice debacle on American Airlines, I’m not sure I’d issue rules of engagement that involve ass-kicking. What ultimately led to an FAA warning for the passenger (and PR disaster for American) could have been a bloody mess. Well, that’s assuming the other FAs didn’t come to the passenger’s aid, triggering a fight to the death in the first class cabin. “Hold my Blackberry and pass me the nunchucks.”

6. Who makes the call?
Violence for the sake of safety, I believe, is best left to trained killer. I choose that expression carefully, referring to people who know how to apply force and in what amounts to remove a threat. Military personnel, police officers, Blackwater consultants – these folks don’t just learn how to execute a hold or squeeze the trigger. They learn about situations and conditions in which it’s appropriate. As early as basic training (now a long time ago for me), I remember having rules of engagement drilled into me. Ultimately, a lot of people would have had to make a lot of decisions in order for me to send a round down range. On a plane, would it be any flight attendant’s decision? The most senior? Or, would it have to come from the cockpit? If we can’t trust a soldier to inflict violence without a hefty amount of forethought, I’m not crazy about an FA having that sort of power.

What’s truly disconcerting about the scheme is a remark by Caldwell: “We are not taking on more responsibility.” Really? She continues, “We just want more tools to make the plane safer,” but it seems like that isn’t possible without taking on – you guessed it – more responsibility. If you’re going to clock a passenger in the jaw, you need to be ready to own the decision. If it’s truly justified, there’s nothing to worry about.

Galley Gossip: Advice for flight attendants in training


I have been just recently hired as a flight attendant for a commuter airlines called Colgan Air. I am just emailing you to ask for some advice on starting out, tips of the trade! I hope to hear from you soon!




Even in this day and age of travel when being a flight attendant isn’t quite as glamorous as it once was, airlines receive thousands of applications each month from people who are interested in the job. This means competition is fierce. Airlines choose only the best candidates. That, Leilah, says a lot about you. Congratulations!

When it comes to flight attendant training, as well as those first few months on the job, my advice to you is simply this, do not quit! Trust me, at some point you will want to. I’ve been there. We all have. Just remember that no matter how frustrated or tired you become, do not give up. Training will only last a few weeks and when it’s over you’ll have a lifetime of adventure ahead of you. No matter how much you miss your friends, family, and loved ones, do not throw in the towel. Stay focused. Think about all the great places you can take your family and friends once you get your travel benefits. No matter how much someone misses you and begs you to come home, don’t quit. Just think about all those days off (at least twelve of them) that you can spend with them when you’re not working a nine to five job – Every. Single. Day. No matter which crew base you’re assigned, do not make any rash decisions. The job is flexible and in time you will figure out how to manipulate your flight schedule so that you can be exactly where you want to be whenever you want to be there. Remember, the job is unlike any other job, so it only makes sense that it will take some getting used to. Eventually you will figure out how to make the job work for you.

While I know the job is not for everyone, I just want to make sure you give it enough time before making any drastic decisions. Because it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle, a very unusual one. I say this because years ago I had a crash pad roommate who, after eight months on the job, decided to quit. She wanted to become a hairdresser. Two years later she wanted her old job back. So she reapplied, scored a few interviews with different airlines, and, as far as I know, never did get hired again.

As for flight attendant training, it can be overwhelming at times. In fact, I found the seven and a half week course at my airline to be tougher than four years of college. Not because it was hard, per se, but because there is a lot of information to absorb in a short amount of time. On top of this, there will be late nights and early mornings with very little sleep in between. You will, at some point, feel exhausted. You might also find yourself having trouble thinking clearly, or even thinking at all! Then when classmates begin to suddenly disappear, you may become paranoid. I know I did. At one point I truly believed that the salt and pepper shakers in the cafeteria might be bugged. I mean why else were classmates going POOF! during a five minute bathroom break, never to be seen or heard from again?

Now mix it all together; all that new information coming in at once, the exhaustion, the paranoia, not to mention feelings of homesickness, and you’ve got a trainee reacting in ways they might not normally behave. Perhaps by pushing trainees to their breaking point the airlines believe they will observe how future flight attendants might react in less than desirable situations at 30,000 feet. Maybe this is just a way an airline can filter out the weak since a big part of the job is remaining calm under pressure.

A few other tips…

1. Don’t be late. The airplane doesn’t wait for anyone, so why would your instructor? Unless a flight is understaffed, an airline will not delay a departure in order to wait on a flight attendant who is running late. If you’re late to class be prepared to leave your flight manual by the locked door and return to wherever you came from.

2. Get lots of rest. Nodding off in class is another way to obtain your walking papers. Flight attendants must stay awake during a flight unless it’s a long haul flight overseas with scheduled crew breaks. We are to remain alert at all times in order to handle in flight emergencies quickly and swiftly. Caffeine is your friend.

3. Beware of flight instructors. Do not get confused and think you’re friends with a flight instructor. Oh sure they might be nice, at first, but it’s their job to make sure that only the best flight attendants graduate. Trust me, they’re just looking for a reason to get rid of you, so don’t make it easy by letting your guard down.

Hope that helps, Leilah, and good luck to you!

Heather Poole

** ATTENTION FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: Share your flight attendant training stories below – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Photos courtesy of Jfithian and Jfithian

Galley Gossip: Lawyer wants to become a flight attendant

Dear Heather,

I am an attorney, but I stopped working to go back to school for a tax-law post graduate degree and learned so much in school about flight attendants – weird right? Well it’s not really that weird because my professor used to work as a tax lawyer for an airline, so income tax and flight attendant benefits were a big topic! It really got me thinking… wait a minute… this could be an AWESOME way to see the world and have fun being in customer service. I’m a pretty personable person and love meeting people and helping them out. Does it take a certain type of person to be a flight attendant? I just really want to have some fun and adventure. I know there is a lot more to the job than that, but is there ENOUGH fun and adventure to make the not -so -glamorous parts of the job worth it?


Dear Claire,

Believe it or not, you’re not the only attorney interested in becoming a flight attendant. One of my colleagues who works part time for the airline owns his own law firm in Boston. There’s a reason he still flies when he really doesn’t have to. That’s because the job is still filled with enough fun and adventure to make the not-so-glamorous parts of the job worth it! But it’s up to each flight attendant to make the most of the job, to focus on the positive and take advantage of the flexibility and flying benefits. You’d be surprised to learn how many flight attendants don’t do that. Otherwise it becomes just like any other job. And remember no one ever becomes a flight attendant for the money, but you probably already learned that in tax-law class.
Most of the letters I receive from those interested in becoming a flight attendant are from people who are trying to decide between attending college or a flight attendant training school. I always advise them to go to college first and to avoid the training schools altogether. No need to waste money when airlines train you once you’re hired.

These days the airline industry is not stable. Most airlines are either cutting back or going under, which is why it’s so important to have an education or something to fall back on in case the job doesn’t work out. It’s only because you, Claire, already have an education, as well as a rather impressive career, that I say go for it! Why not? If it’s not the job you’ve always dreamt about you can always quit and go back to being a lawyer. Or better yet, do both!

The biggest problem you may have is actually finding an airline that is hiring. Check out for a list of airlines now accepting applications. Corporate flying is another alternative. I’ll write more about that in an upcoming Galley Gossip post. Until then, good luck!

And keep me posted!

Heather Poole


Have a flight attendant question? Send an email to

Photos courtesy of Dmytrok and Morberg

Galley Gossip: A question about becoming a flight attendant and job security

Hello Heather,

I love your site! I actually got signed on with an airline and waiting for my training date. My first concern is the job security and wondered what you think about the future in the airline industry as a flight attendant. I have waited for my son to grow up and now he has, my husband was laid off last year and still hasn’t found work.

I’m in retail and have a pretty decent job, but I just want to fly. I’m so burned out on retail. I finally have a chance and I wondered also how to handle all of the “unknowns”. Where will I be based and how do I even relocate? Do you stay with other flight attendants and room together? How much $$ can I get by with?

As far as the training, I’m really nervous about what’s involved, like memorizing the airport and city codes. I don’t want to miss this opportunity! I have to pass, because if I don’t, I’ll loose everything, my dream, my home, etc. My training’s supposed to be around the end of April. I had to pass up the training that was offered to me in January. This is my last chance. Any advice would be so much appreciated!



Dear Lorelei,

Whenever anyone shows interest in becoming a flight attendant I always tell them to do it. It’s a great job, especially if you have a tendency to get bored with the 9 to 5 thing, love to be on the move, and enjoy meet interesting people. However, if you’re not flexible, the job is not for you. The airline can reassign you at moments notice, flying you into a day off, and you’ll probably get stuck working holidays for quite a few years. And then of course there’s reserve, which is not easy on anyone, including the families of flight attendants. That said, I’m a firm believer in going for your dreams, experiencing new things, and not being afraid of failure. The fact that you got hired by an airline, especially in this economy, is an amazing feat. Thousands of people apply with the airlines each year and only a select few get chosen. That says a lot about you.

I must admit that when I first read your email I had to sit down and think about what I wanted to write, and I never have to think about what to write! I just write. I almost advised you not to do it, even though you are burned out in your retail job, because a job is a job and you’ve got one that pays the bills. I even called my mother who is also a flight attendant to get her thoughts on your situation. I’m sorry to report that she doesn’t think it’s a great idea, not with what’s happening to airlines and flight attendants these days. Keep in mind my mother is the kind of person who has a tendency to play it safe, the kind of person who almost didn’t go for her dream – to become a flight attendant later in life. Believe it or not, I’ve got more seniority than her.

No one can tell you what to do, Lorelei. Only you know what’s best for you and your family. What I can tell you is that if it were me, I’d go to flight attendant training, but my husband still has a job and I’m a bit of a gambler. Gambling, as you know, is not always a great idea. Anyone will tell you that. You can’t count on job security at an airline, not when many airlines aren’t doing well and quite a few of them are currently cutting routes and furloughing flight attendants as I type. Yet every time a flight attendant gets furloughed, the majority of them always come back when given the opportunity to return, even though there’s that chance they’ll get furloughed again. There’s just something about flying that gets into the blood.

Because I do not know which airline hired you, I have no idea what your base options may be, but I have met very few flight attendants who have been based out of training in their home states. That means you and your husband might have to move. Or you could do what I do and commute to work. But that can only happen if your airline (or an airline that has commuting privileges with your airline) flies from your home to your base city. Don’t forget if the flights are full there’s a chance you might not make it to work. There’s always the option of taking the jumpseat, but I’m sure there will be many other flight attendants waiting for that same jumpseat.

Commuting is not easy. After two flights to New York had canceled, I recently found myself number 99 on the standby list with seven flight attendants ahead of me for the jumpseat. There were only four more flights to Los Angeles left that day, so I shouldn’t have gotten out, but I stayed at the airport anyway and not only did I get on a flight, I got on the very next one. Just goes to show you never know! I’ve even made it onto flights after gate agents had begged volunteers to give up their seats because of a weight restriction when that weight restriction was removed seconds before departure.

While commuting can be stressful, flight attendants do it all the time. We get creative and find ways to make it work. During holidays, before 9/11, I used to commute from New York to Dallas through Toronto. The flights were open and I always made it home. Now that I live in Los Angeles, I commute to New York. If for whatever reason I couldn’t make it from Los Angeles to New York (hasn’t happened yet), I’d probably try to connect through Dallas or Chicago, and I might even be forced to fly all the way to San Francisco or Boston just to get back to base. Hey, it happens. Which is why the job is always an adventure.

Flight attendants who commute usually stay at a crash pad. A crash pad is an apartment that several flight attendants share together. A crash pad costs about $100-$200 a month. For that price you’ll get a bed in a room that you’ll share with several other flight attendants who are all female, all male, or a mix of both. There were six of us new hires in a room at my first crash pad located in Kew Gardens, Queens. The room was in a house that had five other bedrooms, each of those bedrooms also housing several flight attendants, bunk beds lining the walls. Each day we’d sign up for showers on a sheet of paper that had been tacked to the bathroom door. Talk about being in college all over again. There are even cheaper crash pads that have “hot beds.” This means you have to take your sheets off the bed whenever you’re not sleeping so other flight attendants can use the same bed. Here’s an article about a crash pad for pilots featured in The New York Times.

No one in their right mind becomes a flight attendant to make money. While a good number of flight attendants do make a good salary, those flight attendants have been flying for many years and work for a major carrier. My first year of flying I only made 17K. That’s it. And that was before we took at 30% pay cut after 9/11. After 14 years of flying my colleagues with the same seniority aren’t doing so bad, but many of them still pick up trips to make extra cash in order to survive. Some even have second jobs. While my friend Grace just flies her schedule (80 hours a month) and teaches yoga on her days off, my friend John is a Spanish speaker who flies over 100 hours a month in the lead position on international routes. He gets paid extra money for 1. working high time. 2. being a speaker. 3. working international routes. 4. flying the lead position. While there are several ways to make extra cash, only you know how much you’ll be able to get by on.

As far as flight attendant training goes, you can do it, Lorelei. I know you can do it because you want to do it. Yes, training is hard, but that’s only because it’s exhausting. The information you learn isn’t difficult, but a lot is coming at you at once in a short amount of time. My training lasted seven and a half weeks. Even though I went to college and graduated with a degree in psychology, flight attendant training was much more stressful and by far the longest seven and a half weeks of my life. If you’re worried about airport codes and airline lingo, you can study that online before you leave for training (click here for the website.) to get a head start.

The best advice I have for you right now is if you do decide to go through with flight attendant training, do not, I repeat, do not turn down another training class. Everything at an airline is based on seniority and seniority is determined by your training date. I’m not just talking about holding the best schedules and getting holidays off, I’m talking about base options and whether or not you’ll be furloughed in the future. Here are a few other Galley Gossip posts that might help you decide what you should do…

If you do decide to go through with training, GOOD LUCK! It’s an amazing experience, one you’ll never forget. Just make sure to write back and let me know when those wings are going to get pinned to your lapel.

Happy travels,

Heather Poole


Have a question? Email me at

Photos courtesy of (Lufthansa crew) Nicholas Macgowan, (red flight attendant) JasonDgreat, (yellow flight attendant) Solomonic, (slide) JFithian-