Monday, November 15, 2010

Questions from the Curious

Being a flight attendant is akin to being a circus animal - when you are working you take center stage. It's even worse if you are a regional flight attendant like I am because there is no audio or video on the plane to distract the general public from us. Like it or not, we are constantly being stared at and questioned. Since my jump seat is sandwiched between the aisle seats in the back row I'm constantly fielding questions from travelers which range from the mundane to the bizarre to the just plain idiotic. So if you've ever been curious to ask a flight attendant a question, let me go ahead and answer the most common ones we receive for you:

1. Is this your normal route? - Regional flight attendants do not have routes per say. We are given our schedules a month in advance and where we fly varies monthly as cities are added and service is taken away or bumped up. For example in the winter we do more flights to Aspen because the demand is up. As far as having a place where we constantly fly to day in and day out there's no such thing for those of us living in larger domiciles where the routes themselves fluctuate.

2. Does this job pay well? - When I first interviewed for my job I was shown a pay scale so I knew exactly how much I would make from year to year with the company. In theory the starting salary sounds great - $17.80 an hour. However, what you don't realize is that the pay is based on flight hours. I like to tell people we get paid like taxi cab drivers, from the time the airplane door closes until the time it opens. Beyond that we make a per diem of $1.65 an hour which is non-taxed and added in to our paycheck. When you first start the job you are guaranteed a minimum of 75 flight hours that we will work yet we could be away from home as much as 300 hours. So no, most of us start out at poverty level wages working more hours than we are getting paid for. All that time delayed in the airport due to bad weather? Yeah we aren't happy about it either because we are getting paid that some $1.65 whether we are relaxing in the hotel or waiting for mechanics to fix our plane.

3. Am I going to make my connection? - I would say more than half of the general public really believes flight attendants are super humans who have the capability to predict a multitude of things ranging from weather to whether their plane is going to be on time or not. In actuality we have no way of knowing whether you will make your flight or not, if they will hold it for you, when the next one leaves, or what's going to happen if you make it but your bags don't. We have no way to find out nor do our pilots. Can you imagine if every airplane in the sky clogged up the radio asking if so an so's flight would be waiting for them or not?

4. Do you like your job? - This is a loaded and unfair question really because does anyone really like their job? It can be fun and exciting but like anything called work, it can also be emotionally and physically exhausting. Our passengers, our fellow crew members, the airplane we are working on, the cities we fly to, how on time or delayed we are, all of these can contribute to a good or nightmarish day and not one of these things do we have any control over. Unlike most jobs, we can't always just take a time out and walk outside for some fresh air. So depending on the day you will get a thousand different answers for this one.

5. Is this flight going to be full? - Flight attendants hate this question more than any other and we receive it from just about everyone boarding the flight every time we fly. In truth we are given an idea on our trip sheets when we check in for our duty day about how full the flight is going to be. But delays, cancellations, people wanting to jump on an earlier flight, stand-bys, and a variety of other reasons can cause our flights to be more or less crowded than expected. We know you want to know the chances of anyone sitting in front, beside, or behind you but in truth what does it matter really? Most flights are full these days and that's just the way it is. If you like flying solo do everyone a favor and charter a private jet - you'll be much happier.

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