The Mile High Club Sucks: 5 Things Flight Attendants Know
Once the crowning achievement of all human endeavor, air travel today is a soulless enterprise designed to cram as many humans as possible into the smallest space possible for the most money possible. But most of us get to see air travel only from the perspective of weary passengers. What must life be like for the people who call an airplane their office? We spoke with three flight attendants -- Lisa, Kelly, and Ben -- to learn the realities of life in a giant airborne tube of circulating farts.
The Job Is Full Of Scary Moments And Close Calls
On one of Lisa's flights, the pilots noticed a warning light telling them the front landing gear was leaking hydraulic fluid. They were experienced pilots, so they figured they'd probably be able to deal with it, but there was a chance the gear would flip back up into the plane during landing, and it would nose-dive into the tarmac. They called the flight attendants back and explained the issue. They would need to brace for landing and be ready to help any injured passengers. Fire trucks would be waiting on the runway just in case. However, they were not to tell the passengers. People get stupid when they panic, and an airplane in an emergency situation is a bad time to be whippin' out your stupid and spraying it all over the place.
Opening this door mid-flight is impossible, but it's still bad for morale
to watch some panicked passenger try.
In-flight emergencies are rare for most flight attendants ... except Ben. "I'm the magnet for medical emergencies. I have them all the time. ... Difficulty breathing is common. People who use oxygen don't bring it or request it. Then you get up to altitude, and suddenly they want it."
Something about being able to French-kiss the stratosphere reminds people
that doctors typically know their shit.
Not all drama happens at 30,000 feet. Ben's most frightening moment occurred during takeoff. He was in the jump seat (which has no windows), and the plane's wheels had just left the ground. He heard a loud thump at the front of the plane, then two more crashes on the wings. The wheels slammed back on the ground, and they were skidding to a stop. "I'm a pilot myself, and I know you should never land a plane right after taking off, so I knew we were in serious trouble."
Reasons you shouldn't land a plane right after takeoff: A) You're near the end of the runway, and B) commercial planes take off with 80,000 pounds of fuel, which is too heavy to land. If they do try to land with all that fuel, their brakes might burst into flames.
Luckily, they managed to stop before the trees at the end of the runway, and the brakes didn't catch fire. When Ben got outside, he saw the problem: The plane had hit 30 or so geese. "Blood was everywhere. The engines were ruined, their fan blades all bent up." Planes should be able to handle hitting a couple birds, but an entire flock proved too much for this one. Both engines were destroyed. "The plane was dead in the water. ... I hold that captain in high regard. ... He saved our lives."
He is, however, universally despised by goose-kind.
The Plane Is Disgusting
People are gross. Some people actually take their shoes off and go into the toilet barefoot. A chemical toilet. On a shaking plane. That's biblically nasty. That's like the ninth circle of nasty.
Unless you want your little piggies to mutate into 10 tiny, grotesque Bebops,
slip your goddamn shoes on.
Flight attendants have only half an hour to turn over a plane between rounds of passengers. They try to keep it clean, but they can't wipe down every tray table. "Tray tables are filthy," Kelly says, "but people will pour their peanuts right on them."
All the flight attendants we spoke to have had dirty diaper run-ins. Kelly points out that every plane has a diaper change table in at least one restroom, but people will change their babies right on the tray tables. (Seriously, just leave those tiny pretzels in those impossible-to-open bags.)
"What's the deal with all this E. coli?"
She's found dirty diapers abandoned in the seat pockets and on the floors. Lisa's passengers were slightly more polite, in that they asked before handing her fecal matter. Naturally, she told them she'd have to go get a bag. "I handle food," she said, as if Shithands McGee was only asking because they were unaware of that fact.
And then there was the little gift that Lisa and her co-workers discovered on the bridge. "There were no dogs on that flight," she notes. Apparently, someone didn't feel like using one of the many toilets available in the airport and relieved themself on the bridge just a few feet from the plane.
As anyone that's jockeyed for position near an airport terminal power outlet can attest, travelers are a bunch of goddamn animals.
Passengers Are Not So Big On Sex, Are Very Big On Drinking
Not many people try to join the Mile High Club. Kelly hasn't noticed it at all. Ben hasn't caught any couples in the bathrooms -- but that's only because people usually get funky right in their seats. Sex might not provide much drama, but drinking does. One time Ben cut off a drunk guy, and he got angry. He decided to speak to the captain and tried to kick in the cockpit doors. Some football players had to restrain him in his seat, and the plane had to be diverted.
This bullshit would never have happened on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's watch.
Lisa was on a flight with a woman who was terrified of flying. She ordered several drinks, all from different flight attendants so no one would catch on. When she was good and wasted, she wandered back to the galley. A tall man was hanging out back there because the seats cramped his legs. The woman chatted up a storm, then grabbed a cookie and tried to force-feed it to him.
At least she didn't make him eat it from the tray table.
That's first-degree cookie assault, and it is not OK.
Flight Attendants Deal With All The Same Problems As Customer Service Reps
The most annoying passengers are the entitled ones. Lisa has had people come on the plane and ask (in front of all the other passengers) if they can just have one of the seats in First Class.
Some things you can get just by asking. Those things don't run the company thousands of dollars.
Ben once had a disabled passenger who requested the front-most seat so his service dog, a German shepherd, would have room. FAA rules said he had a right to the seat, but the guy who originally bought the spot became irate. He argued with Ben and said, "Well, I guess I'm going to have to become disabled." He started pretending his leg was broken.
"Looks like I'm not the only bitch on this flight."
He didn't get to keep the seat.
Flight Staff Get Bored And Mess With Each Other, Like In Any Other Job
Just like any workplace, staff members on planes will inevitably get bored and start messing with folks. If it's almost drink time, passengers need to clear out of the aisles and let flight attendants do their thing. Ben solves this issue by calling up the captain and requesting a little turbulence. Ding! The seatbelt sign is on, and everyone goes to their seats.
One time, while Ben was resting on an inactive and darkened plane, the pilot woke up from his nap and decided to play a trick on the first officer, also napping. He reached over and tested the "stick shaker," which is a thing that vibrates when everyone's life is in immediate danger. The first officer jerked awake, slammed the throttle forward, and attempted life-saving countermeasures. It was probably more hilarious than it sounds.
Apparently, babies aren't they only ones shitting their pants up there.
Lisa's instructors like to prank each other too. Normally, you do that little safety pantomime demonstration with a deactivated life vest. For laughs, one instructor switched the demo vest with a live one. The vest popped open and inflated, forcing the other instructor to finish the safety demonstration looking like a post-gum Violet Beauregarde.
"The captain has turned off the seatbelt sign so that you may more freely laugh your asses off."
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