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Come Fly With Me...


Kawika

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Some of you may or may not know that the only job I could land after graduating from UCLA (with a 4.0) was as a Flight Attendant with Pan Am... I really only intended to do the job for about a year until I lined up something better... but one thing lead to another and I stayed much longer than I planned... I met some great people and went to some amazing places... would I want to do it all again? No...no... and no... so enjoy... this is a rerun ... guess who is running behind on my new blog entry... if you guessed me you win a prize! Thanks for reading.

 

 

"Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts!"... following these simple seven words some of the most exciting adventures in my life began...
 
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The movie "Come Fly With Me" was based on a novel called "Girl On A Wing" written by Bernard Glemser in 1960 and was adapted into a screen play produced by MGM in 1963; the title was changed based on the popularity of the Frank Sinatra song of the same name... but sung smashingly by Frankie Avalon in the movie soundtrack. I just watched this again recently and was reminded of how much air travel has changed and/or advanced over the years depending on how you want to look at it. Today I'm going to share with you some of my experiences and knowledge I've gleaned in my many travels over the years... so sit  back and relax and enjoy the ride.

When I started flying air travel was much more exclusive and a bit more glamourous and thrilling than today as people dressed in their best to fly and behaved more thoughtfully;  the airports and actual flights seemed to crackle with energy and excitement with the anticipation of an adventure... but before I go back to a brief history lesson I'll share some secrets with you that you will likely find helpful in your future travels.

If you have ever been in a position to ease drop on the conversations of a cabin crew and wondered what they were talking about here is an explanation of some of the  lingo and  announcements made over the intercom of the aircraft...

Evacuation slides are stowed in the housing at the bottom of the aircraft door and are designed to deploy and inflate in an emergency but they only work if the door has been armed before take off and are disarmed to not open before the door is opened upon arrival... (it's usually done raising or lowering a lever on the door) if it's not disarmed upon arrival the gate agent who opens the door is going to get hit with an inflating slide... When you hear an announcement "Prepare doors for arrival (or departure) this action is taking place... when you hear "Cross Check" and "Cross Check Complete it's a safeguard that all cabin door safety procedures have been double checked by another cabin crew member... you might hear "Doors are armed and cross-check complete" that means the doors are armed and ready if an evacuation is necessary.... different airlines have different procedures for all of this sometimes it's done on the PA system and sometimes it's done more privately via the private intercoms and you might hear... "Stand by for all call"  which means the flight attendants call in from the intercoms from their various positions on the aircraft conference style... if you ever wondered what is being discussed on those intercom telephones it varies from, beverage and meal orders to the cockpit (where the captain and co-pilot fly the aircraft and sometimes called the flight deck)... passenger issues, lavatory problems, cabin temperature, wheelchairs needed upon arrival, weather or delays in the arrival city... sometimes especially during the Super Bowl and the World Series scores are shared with the cockpit crew via radio to relay to the passengers.

Here are a few more things you might not know...
 
  • Jump seat is where the flight attendants sits during take off and landing and turbulence... when he or she stands up the seat automatically closes or jumps. There is another jump seat in the flight deck or cockpit for pilots or airline executives heading to the destination city or making a connection to another flight.
  • Bulkhead is the dividing wall at the front of each cabin or in the middle where the lavatories and/or galleys are located. Most passengers especially me appreciate this row due to the extra leg room.
  • Extender is a seat belt extension that gives larger passengers an additional 25" of seatbelt... these are what are used in the seat belt demo before the flight.
  • Demo is the safety demonstration before the flight takes off. (please don't talk and listen carefully)
  • Equipment is the word for the aircraft and type being used... if you hear  "We are being delayed because of equipment issues or failure it means something is wrong someplace on the aircraft... if you hear "Equipment Swap" it's likely to be a rather lengthly delay.
  • Spinner is a passenger who boarded late without an assigned seat and is told to find an available seat (he/she is spinning around looking for a seat)
  • Runners are passengers from delayed connecting flights who are running through the airport terminal trying to get to the gate and board the plane... you might hear "We are waiting for runners."
  • Manifest is the list of all passengers and any special needs before, during or after the flight.
  • Redeye is an overnight flight 
  • Deadhead is a crew member who is on duty  but flying as a passenger (this is often the case when a cockpit or cabin member is sick in another city and a replacement is being flown in)
  • Non-Rev means non revenue and is an airline employee or a family member who is flying but not paying for the seat (most of the flights I've taken in my life have been non-rev and it's by availability only and based on seniority... you can usually pick the non-rev people out as they are the last people to board and are usually better dressed, more behaved and polite than most everyone else aboard (airlines make non-revs follow a dress code and conduct guideline)... if a non-rev gets bumped it means a paying passenger or someone with more seniority bumped them out of their seat. Flying non-rev during the holidays or to popular destinations during the summer is nearly impossible or completely impossible to and from some cities... and the chances are very high you are going to get bumped.
and finally... the chimes you sometimes hear during the flight, depending on the number of dings means anything from the aircraft is going above or below a certain altitude or indicates air turbulence ahead.
The  Call Button is for if you need help or assistance but please wait for everyone to be served if you are only requesting another drink or additional amenities and if you let your child use it as a toy be prepared for the dirty looks from the passengers flying near you and the flight attendant who has to keep running up to see what service is being requested. If the cabin crew have been told to take their seats due to heavy turbulence please don't ring for them unless it's really an emergency... It's an important safety issue for them as well as you...

Probably some of the most important information I can share with you is...
If you are outrageously rude to a ticket or gate agent you will never, ever get an upgrade and will be assigned to a seat circled with children... and if you are a member of the airlines frequent flying rewards program you will be flagged in your profile as a "problem passenger."... using a cell phone or electronic device will not make the plane crash but can cause interference to the cockpit/air traffic control center radio system... do you really want the pilot distracted and /or irritated during take off and landing?... I thought not... Pay attention during the safety demonstration and know what exit is closest to you in case of an emergency evacuation... The cabin crew has been trained to evacuate the plane under ideal circumstances with sober, thoughtful people pretending to be passengers... in an emergency it's often dark, the cabin could be filled with smoke (count the number of seats to the door and use that has a guide in case you need to.... probably most importantly Do not try to get your carry on bags during an evacuation!... It's a matter of life and death to get everyone off the plane as soon as possible... the cabin lights are dimmed on the aircraft at night before landing in case there is an emergency evacuation after landing so your eyes will be adjusted to the dark.
 

There are so many germs on an aircraft you should always put your shoes back on if you go to the lavatory and not only wash your hands after you are through touching the flushing lever but also sanitize your hands after you have unlatched the lock on the door (because most people don't wash their hands)... the arms between the seats, the tray tables and seat cushions don't get cleaned and disinfected nearly as regularly as they should be so bring on some extra hand sanitizer and do it yourself (you won't be sorry especially if you are feeling under the weather or have a compromised immune system for any reason)... and I would not even think about putting anything that goes near your mouth or eyes in the seat pocket in front of you... and those blankets and pillows have been recycled and refolded and used by several people before you (I once saw a woman changing her baby on a couple of pillows and a blanket... I have not used them since) they are only changed with fresh ones in a provisioning city and are usually on the first flight of the day. (I have a travel Tempur-Pedic pillow  in my carry on and I dress in layers so I'm never too hot or cold)... I also carry an empty travel size thermos and fill it with coffee in the airport terminal after I've gone through security (think about it... the water to make the coffee in the galley is in a water tank under the aircraft and is probably stagnant or worse... it's the same disgusting water that comes out of the faucet in the lavatories ... trust me on this one)...

Please keep in mind that the crew only get paid once the cabin door is closed and the aircraft pulls away from the gate... so all the running around they do helping you board and helping you stow your luggage (and in first-class) serving beverages before take off is being done as a courtesy... so please be nice and pleasant and remember that the FAA makes the rules and regulations for your safety... not the airline or cabin crew... always keep your seat belt fastened when you are in your seat... if you loose pressure or hit turbulence unexpectedly you will be safer strapped in tightly and run less of a risk of hitting your head and being thrown around like a rag doll... and in the event of a crash landing you are four times more likely to die if you are not wearing your seatbelt.
 
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I used to have so many of these Pan Am Bags... I'm down to two... I've said it here in the past I really miss Pan American Airlines... I've probably flown more flights with them than all the other airlines combined... I still call it the Pam Am building whenever it's discussed or I see it in midtown Manhattan... I'm sure Met Life wishes I would grow up but c'est la vie...
 
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There are a few airlines that are also no longer around and flying  the friendly skies....
 
National Airlines merged with Pan Am and gave them the domestic routes they wanted at the time.
Western Airlines and Northwest (which used to be Northwest Orient) merged with Delta Airlines.
TWA merged into American Airlines
Piedmont, America West and Pacific Southwest (PSA) all merged with US Air that recently merged with American Airlines.
Continental Airlines merged with United.
 
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There have been others but Pan Am, Eastern, Braniff and Varig and Air Australia just went out of business and ceased to exist  unlike Swiss Air that reopened with most of  the aircraft and employees as Swiss International Airlines (Swiss) 
 
Many of the amenities and services that I once took for granted no longer exist either...
 
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A coach meal on Pan Am from the 60's through the early 80's was a hot meal served on tray with a cloth napkin on china, actual metal flatware and glass beverage glasses... and it was actually pretty good... (I remember marveling once being served a hot breakfast on a really  short flight from Memphis to Chicago in coach on Northwest)

This is what you get now in coach but usually only on overseas or long flights... (do you think there is enough starch?)
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At Pan Am there were fresh cut flowers on each tray in First-Class through the 70's... and carved meat meal service...and eggs to order on breakfast flights served on china with fancy folded napkins... sometimes vintage Champagne was served in a crystal glass from a silver tray with caviar before the meal...
 
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It was typically a seven-course meal and there was a period when Maxime's of Paris was the airline caterer... later when I was flying you had a choice of lobster tail or fillet mignon in first.... As a passenger I think my favorite aircraft is the 747... but as a flight attendant if it was a full or nearly full flight it was a nightmare to complete the meal, beverage, movie snack and hot towel service during the duration of the flight and if you had to do Duty Free Service it was even more of a drama... even though I liked sometimes working in the lounge on the upper deck because it was usually a pretty festive and fun atmosphere... someone seemed to always have too much to drink and got hurt falling on the stairs or because of turbulence.
 
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Some of the other changes included that seat size became much smaller... economy class seats used to be 34" across... they seemed to get smaller as most people started getting bigger for the simple reason that the airlines could put more people on a flight if the cabin seats were reconfigured.

I was one of the last people I  know to stop smoking but what a difference  a smoke free cabin made on not only the air quality of the flight but how your hair and clothes smelled afterward. Not only do I remember lighting up the second the the no smoking sign was turned off... I remember when the airlines passed out complimentary cigarettes and a deck of playing cards to pass the time on long flights... I also remember when complimentary Champagne was served in economy... now you are lucky to get it in first-class and usually only on long or international flights.

The uniforms used to be really something... and were designed by notables in the fashion industry like Pierre Balmain, Jean Cacharel, Emilio Pucci...but my absolute favorite were the Balenciaga uniforms for Air France from 1968 until 1978! At the time in the US the uniforms designed by Halston for Braniff International were the envy of every other cabin crew... their redesigned all first-class cabins were treated with the same luxurious fabrics and color tones.
 
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... subsequently the uniforms being worn now have come full circle from where they started as military inspired and crisp and austere but also to be comfortable and fairly easy maintenance.

 
 
The rules and regulations that female flight attendants worked under have luckily been relaxed since the 60's when she could only work from the age of 20-32, she had to be single and her height  had to be between 5'2"-5'10" and her weight had to be in proportion to her height from 105 pounds and could not exceed 130 pounds... many of these regulations lasted into the late 70's... including that it was mandatory to wear a girdle under the uniform... (they actually checked)
 
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When I was hired you had to be a college graduate, speak at least one foreign language, with weight in proportion to height (no taller than 6'1") men could not have hair longer than their collar, sideburns could be no longer than mid-ear, mustaches could not extend past the corners of your mouth, no goatees or beards. (I remember you had to send two photographs with your initial application; one a facial close up and another a full body shot) Each airline had their own idea of what they wanted the crew to look like to reflect the airline image; but most all looked for someone poised, polite, well groomed with straight white teeth and good posture with clear speech and excellent communication skills who were professional and friendly. When I interviewed there were about 70 people in the morning at the initial interview broken into groups of 10 and there were about 8 or 9 of us who were asked to return after lunch for the second interview and about 4 hired from the final interview... At the time it gave me a steady pay check with the freedom and flexibility I needed to pursue other interests... and I worked with some really nice people; some of whom I'm still in touch with... some memories include...

I never actually unpacked my suitcase and I learned to look fresh in my uniform after wearing it five days in a row (you use a blow dryer to blow out any odors and steam it in a hotel bathroom while you shower and press it with an iron on low to medium heat)... I was convinced for a while that turbulence had nothing to do with clouds but the aircraft reacting to the movement of meal carts or pouring hot coffee... It was fun to hop on a flight to London for the weekend or go to Hawaii or the Caribbean for a few days if I needed to work on my tan...  it was a great perk to to be able to go to London or Paris to shop for clothes or Rome to buy shoes... I gave away more bottles of Champagne to honeymooners or really pleasant and/or fun people than I can remember... and was given almost as many for being a model passenger...  I still  wish that nice passengers with good manners out numbered the rude and unpleasant ones...(sigh)


Here is a little history of cabin crews...

The first flights carrying civilian passengers was about 1914 and the co-pilot often served the passengers  and tended to their needs... The UK started having Cabin Boys or Stewards in the 1920's. Western Airlines was the first to have men in the cabins in the US. In the 30's Boeing started hiring nurses to be on the airplanes with the cabin boys as air travel was quite different and air sickness was very common and people seemed to be reassured by having a nurse on board. The first female stewardess was Ellen Church  hired by United in 1930 as she had been trained as a pilot but was also a registered nurse. In 1936 Eastern Airlines  had an all male cabin crew but with WWII the men and the nurses were needed by the military and woman filled the roles in the cabin. By the 50's most US carriers no longer hired men to work as cabin crew. In 1967 Celio Diaz sued Pan Am for discrimination using the 1964 Civil Rights Act and won his case and was the first male cabin attendant for Pan Am in that era.... by 1971 men were about 15% of the total workforce on flights in the US.

I've met a lot of interesting people flying including one of my best life long friends... some of the better flights have included meeting and/or having conversations with some of the following people...
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton...
Geraldine Chaplin...
Horst Buchholz...
Faye Dunaway...
Sam Elliot...
Cary Grant...
Francesco Scavullo...
Issey Miyake...
Audrey Hepburn...
Robert Redford...
Farrah Fawcett...
But hands down the nicest and most charming person I've ever met on a flight or anywhere else is... Angie Dickinson!

As a flight attendant... the worst passenger is a tie between Lucille Ball and Ryan O'Neil... As a passenger I've flown with or close by a lot of other people who were not so charming or nice and it's too long of a list but included... Diana Ross, Jerry Seinfeld, Joanna Carson and Zsa Zsa Gabor; my issue with them is more the way they treated the cabin crew or the people sitting next to them... I've always followed my hard and fast rule of not engaging with celebrities unless they initiate the conversation... I think most celebrities, musicians and athletes travel by private jet  or charter these days... I've only done it a few times and as far as I'm concerned... "It's the only way to fly!" but meanwhile if you are traveling on a commercial airline make the best of it... travel light... arrive hours ahead of schedule to deal with security checks and know what you can and can not bring in your baggage before you leave your house and if you have a health issue or for some reason require privacy you are allowed to ask for a private security screening after you have walked through the metal detector and your bag has gone through the x-ray machine if the TSA agent warrants additional screening and searches (it takes longer) but usually worth the extra time and trouble it takes under special  circumstances and conditions.... pay to go into the first class lounge before take off, wear comfortable clothing and shoes and drink a lot of water to keep yourself hydrated during flights... the cabin pressure is the same as being in the desert... and keep in mind that odors are intensified on an aircraft due to being pressurized; so be clean and as fresh as possible and don't wear too much aftershave or perfume.... I wish you clear skies and happy landings wherever your future travel destinations may take you... and always consider what I do every time I take off or land... "Get ready this could be the start of most exciting day (or night) of my life!" (depending on what time zone I'm in or where in relation to the International Date Line!)--- I remember leaving Tokyo one year at 3:15 pm on 24, December and arriving in New York at 2:45 pm on 24, December... it was fun celebrating the holidays twice!

I hope you will join me next week when I'll be talking about some of my favorite holiday traditions 

 

Edited by Kawika

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bakersman94

Posted

hey Kawika, what a great and interesting way to learn about flying. i have had some interesting experiences myself, but i doubt any compared to any of your experiences!! Thank you so much for sharing my friend, with love from Wes!! Hugs!!! 

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Kawika

Posted

1 hour ago, bakersman94 said:

hey Kawika, what a great and interesting way to learn about flying. i have had some interesting experiences myself, but i doubt any compared to any of your experiences!! Thank you so much for sharing my friend, with love from Wes!! Hugs!!! 

Thanks for reading Wes... I would love to hear about your experiences if you want to share some of them. Me ke aloha!

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bakersman94

Posted

7 hours ago, Kawika said:

Thanks for reading Wes... I would love to hear about your experiences if you want to share some of them. Me ke aloha!

i`ll start writing them out when time permits. and share them with you!! with love from Wes!! Hugs!!! 

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Kennibrew

Posted (edited)

Wonderful✈️article!  I entered University of North Dakota in the fall 1997 as an Aviation major, and I have loved the cultural significance of it and how it contributes to living a good and varied lifestyle.  

The Department of Aviation was top flight at UND. 🛫🌎👩‍✈️

🥂Here’s to the skies!💨

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Edited by Kennibrew
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Kennibrew

Posted (edited)

This clip reminded me of my first International flight from JFK to Tegel/Berlin in the summer of 1997 on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, my favorite airlines for a long time thereafter.  But, when school started at UND that year, I learned from my South African friend, who spoke Afrikaans of their Dutch Heritage, hence the KLM connection (HOLLAND). 

 

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Edited by Kennibrew
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Astroboy55

Posted

Thanks for a fascinating article.  I’m a long time Qantas Flyer and can remember the early days of the 747 when the upper deck was a lounge.  Only got there once but loved it.  Flying has been going slowly downhill ever since.

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Kawika

Posted

23 hours ago, Astroboy55 said:

Thanks for a fascinating article.  I’m a long time Qantas Flyer and can remember the early days of the 747 when the upper deck was a lounge.  Only got there once but loved it.  Flying has been going slowly downhill ever since.

Thanks for reading... Qantas is my favorite air carrier after Pan Am... a few of the Pan Am crew from Honolulu were hired by Qantas to work the routes... I decided to go back to school... never regretted the decision.

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