Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Flight Attendant Chronicles: Part 1

I have been a flight attendant for nearly 10 years and with the exception of a couple of my blog readers (hi Amy and Jill!), most people know very little about what it's like to be a stewardess... er, flight attendant. It is a difficult lifestyle to understand and it is definitely not for everyone, but I truly enjoy my job... yes, even being away from home for a few days. Does this make me a bad wife and mother? I don't think so. In fact, I've figured out after my last trip, it probably makes me a better wife and mother. Being a flight attendant isn't just what I do, it's what I am. Yes, I may be gone for a few days at a time, approx. 9 days a month will be my average, but I'm home the other 20+ days. Rick is amazing at taking care all things house and kid related while I'm on the road and we have a wonderful nanny who comes to the house while Rick is at school. She has two kids of her own (and one on the way), that she brings with her and the kids love it (hi Sarah!).

A few basics first, I am based in Oakland, California, so every time I go to work, I have to fly to Oakland (OAK) first. We have AM trips (that start in the morning and end in the afternoon) and PM trips (that typically check-in late morning or afternoon and finish late at night). So, if I work and AM, I commute to OAK the night before and PM's I can commute in the day of the trip, but then have to stay the night in OAK before I can commute home the next morning. We fly for free (yahoo!), but only if there are empty seats on the plane. During busy seasons (spring break, summer, Christmas, weekends, etc.) commuting to work can be STRESSFUL! Probably my least favorite part of the job is the commuting aspect. Worrying about if the flight has room, if it's on time, if I'll make it, etc., can really wear on a person!

It works out best for our family schedule to fly Thursday, Friday, Saturday trips, so we're only paying for childcare 2 days a week and not giving up our entire weekend together as a family. I have Saturday nights at home and all day Sunday to go to church and have some quality family time. Works out well because I have pretty decent seniority after 9+ years, so I can hold great weekend trips. The one I just flew is a great example of the kind of trip I would love to fly every week. The only thing it was lacking was an In N' Out Burger near the hotel in San Diego!

Now, here is a rundown of my most recent trip:

Wednesday night:
Flight to Oakland. The flight was suppose to leave Portland (PDX) at 9:30pm and get into OAK at 11:15pm. It was running an hour late, so we didn't pull in to OAK until after midnight. Ouch! It was too late to justify getting a hotel room (for only 5 hours), so this was my resting place for the night...

Two chairs pushed together at the airport... not the best night's sleep, but whatever!

I checked in at 6:40am for my trip and made my way up to the gate. One schedule for the day, working two flights to Indianapolis (IND). OAK- Chicago's Midway Airport (MDW), then MDW-IND. First stop before the gate:

Nothing like a little Starbucks Iced Skinny Vanilla Latte to get the morning started!

After replacing a leaky toilet and taking a 30 minute mechanical delay in MDW, we made it to IND and one of my favorite hotels to stay at. The hotel used to be a train station, with some rooms actually being old train cars converted to rooms. It's in downtown IND, right next to the old and new Colts stadium.

This is the inside of the hotel and those train cars are hotel rooms. So fun! I've never gotten a chance to stay in one of the train car rooms, but I ask every time! Hopefully someday...

This is what is left of the old stadium the Colts played in, they apparently imploded it in January and nobody was allowed outside in the area for 4 hours after they did it. I took this picture about 3 steps outside of the front door of our hotel- close!

This is the new Colts stadium- it's really pretty in person. All brick and very state of the art. I took this picture on the corner right next to the hotel, great location!

As tired as I was after a long day of flying, I made myself go down and walk on the treadmill for 35 minutes. I met another flight attendant for dinner, showered, and then found my self having serious trouble falling asleep. The 3 hour time difference and knowing my alarm was going off at 1:30am Pacific time was really messing with my head. I think I finally fell asleep around 11:30pm, getting only about 5 hours of sleep... two nights in a row of little sleep.

My bed for the night... it's not at home with my husband, but comfy nonetheless!

My uniform, all pressed and ready for work the next day.

Ugh... alarm at 4:30am (1:30am my time). Dressed and in the lobby by 5:20am and our wonderful captain for the day bought me Starbucks at the airport, this time a hot Skinny Vanilla Latte. We had a long day ahead of us, four flights to San Diego (SAN): IND-Kansas City (MCI), MCI- Dallas Love Field (DAL), DAL- San Antonio (SAT), SAT-SAN.

The sight of a completely full flight from the back galley.

The great thing was, because of the time change back to Pacific time, we landed in SAN just after noon and I was sitting in my hotel room by 1:30pm- 12 hours after I woke up! :) I love San Diego and our hotel is right on the water- we even got water view rooms with balconies. It is my favorite place to run and although I'm not in the shape I used to be, I still attempted my 5+ mile run down the harbor and back again. I made it 4 of the 5 miles, not a bad start! I can't wait to get there again and improve on my time and make the whole 5+ miles!

The view from my room's balcony, just as a cruise ship was pulling out of port.

After my run, I met both of the other flight attendants and we walked about 10 minutes up to Little Italy and had dinner a little hole in the wall called Filipi's- great Italian food and great conversation. I was lucky to fly with two really incredible people and I get to fly with one of them again in just a couple of weeks. We had all gone for a run along the harbor after getting in and noticed there were quite a few homeless people along the way (if you have to be homeless, San Diego has great weather for it I suppose). Without refrigerators in our rooms, leftovers don't stay too well, so all three of us walked along the harbor until we found a homeless man and offered him the food, then made our way back to the hotel.

My bed for the night.

The sunset from my balcony.

I was exhausted after an early morning, a long day at work, a 4+ mile run, and yummy ravioli, but it was only 6pm, way too early for bed. So, I worked a crossword, watched television, and did all I could to hold out on sleep until after 8pm. Talked to Rick and the kids on the phone and was out by 8:30pm. The best thing about this trip was the schedule set for Saturday...

We didn't have to be in the lobby until 8:15am... a rare late start for an AM trip. I set an alarm for 6:30am and slept the entire 10 hours... it was heaven. Had a leisurely start to the morning, taking my time to get ready and eat breakfast in the room (instant oatmeal). Our schedule for the day was EASY- we had two working legs, SAN-OAK and OAK-PDX.

A picture of Crater Lake, taken out the window between OAK and PDX. I love sightseeing out the window when I can, but the flight was full so a passenger took this photo for me!

I felt like a new hire, all excited to get my picture taken in the flight deck! :) I promise this was taken on the ground and not while flying!

Our last scheduled flight for the day was a deadhead (flight crew speak for a leg you are paid to be on, but you are not working the flight). We are now able to waive our deadheads, which means I didn't have to take the last flight from PDX-OAK. For those people who live in OAK or somewhere else, they would take the deadhead to get home. The beauty of this deadhead was, I live in Portland (PDX), so I just got to drive home!!! Remember when I said my least favorite part of my job was commuting? I didn't have to commute home from OAK this trip and it was wonderful! It is rare to find trips with PDX deadheads like that, but all my trips for the month do, so I will only be commuting one way all month. I love it!

A Southwest plane landing in PDX. I took this from the employee parking lot as I was getting into my car to drive home!

Hightlights of this trip:
The amazing crew I worked with, getting to talk to Riley and Tyson on the phone, the fun hotel in IND, working out both days, especially running along the water in SAN, free Starbucks from the captain, 10 hours of uninterupted sleep in SAN, not having to commute home/waiving the deadhead, and the hugs, kisses, and excitement I received from my family when I got home. I love my job...


Amy Williams said...

GREAT job on the Chronicles Brooke!!! I haven't been off for a year and I don't know if I could do as great of a job if I had to!! Great pics! I have an 18 hour SAN overnight on Monday....CAN'T WAIT!!! I look forward to seeing you online..I'll add you to my buddy list so you can "stalk" me! :) What's your employee # again? :) J/K...How could I forget!!

Jamie said...

That was really interesting! Thanks for taking the time to record that.

David said...

i got exhausted just reading about your schedule!

Newsletter said...

VERY interesting...didn't know. Since I've had so much experience flying lately, which I HATE, I certainly appreciate you guys for what you do. When I'm clutching my arm rests in fear, I am relived by the calm faces of those who fly all the time. We're all watching you! :) Fun post. ~Heather

Lisa said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing. Being just a passenger, I must admit I always thought of the stewardess' jobs as ultra-cush! It's neat to see the ways I'm wrong. What happened to the days of suits with skirts and heels!? I am glad you still give kids wings, though! We always flew Delta when I was a kid (ATL and all) and I was so sad when I was too old to get offered the wings anymore.

I HAVE to go to Indiana now to stay in that hotel. I have a train fetish or something close to it!

A little advice from my dad who travels for a living. A little benadryl or ny-quill or a Rx for Ambien and you won't have any trouble sleeping in strange beds in strange time zones. Just make sure you have enough hours to devote to sleep so you don't need a VENTI Latte for your hangover!