One of the funniest things I noticed when I started flying, is that flight attendants never refer to their jobs as jobs, or use common phrases such as, “time to go to work,” or “I loved working with you,” or “How long have you been working with (insert generic airline name here)?” In the airline industry, those words are all replaced. I mean, who wants to remind themselves that they are going to work anyway? Instead it seems that as flight attendants we refer to work as “flying,” and whereas the normal person would use the verb “to work”, we seem to have replaced it with the verb, “to fly.” Meaning, it is typical for a flight attendant to say such phrases such as, “I am leaving for my trip now, be home Sunday,” or “It was nice flying with you!,”, or even “How long have you been flying?”
But verbs, nouns, and other literal elements aside, what really fuels a flight attendants schedule, also known as their line, are their trips. Trips have the ability to take a flight attendant to new heights, (clever, aren’t I?), bring them places they would have never imagined going to in their wildest dreams, or some trips simply satisfy their niche (see my blog post, TT for IFS Only to learn more about finding your niche).
Like people, trips truly come in all shapes and sizes. While some trips are designed by the devil himself, others are so easy that you think some one is playing a trick on you, tempting you with an easy couple days of flying. Like most United States carriers, my airline offers the generic turn, (where you can drop your kids off at school, fly to Chicago, fly back, and be there waiting to pick your kids up in the schoolyard at 3pm), two day trips (which are my personal favorite if I’m forced to fly domestic against my will), three days, and an occasional four day. Actually as I write to you now, I am beginning a four day trip. Well technically, at this point due to a late arrival of the inbound aircraft, it has in theory became a three day, but who’s counting? The trip I embarked on tonight generally departs New York at night, flys a redeye to Rio De Janeiro, lays over for 35 or so hours in Rio (can you say party?), and then works a redeye once more landing in New York on the fourth day first thing in the morning.
When you are a flight attendant, trips define your lifestyle. Every month we bid for our schedules for the next month, and based on seniority order you get what you can hold. And at my seniority, that’s usually what’s left. All the bids everyone else skipped over because there were too many legs on the trips, or not long enough layovers, or layovers that are too long, or trips that are not commutable on any end, or whatever reason the senior mamas and everyone else in-between them and me had, gives me what’s left. And sure, usually I have to work a trip that endures a Port au Prince turn at the beginning of it before I can layover in Cancún, or a trip that has a Santo Domingo turn tacked on the end of it, but hey at least I’m eventually ending up in Curacao or St. Kitts & Nevis for a day.
But most importantly, it’s not so much the destination, pairing, sequence, aircraft type, or position you are, it’s the crew you are flying with and your overall compatibility, or as my sister would call it, “chill factor.” It’s knowing that you can fly a trip with people that share common interests with you, have the same no-stress mentality as you, and generally are just easy to get along and bond with. You see, our job is very unique in the sense that when your duty day ends you don’t always get to go back home and sleep in your own bed; and some times you don’t get to do that for days on end. So the crew that you are flying with will be your best friends for those few short, or potentially very long days. Crews sometimes attempt and try to do things together on layovers such as sightseeing, happy hours, dinner, and sometimes even hitting up a nightclub together if the layover is long enough to allow it. And often times, it’s because of these crew members and the bonds that we create, that make the best memories of some of my favorite trips, regardless of the final destination.
And if you just so happen to be as lucky as myself, sometimes you create such a unique personal bond with a crew member that you become friends with in “real life”, and buddy bid for the same trips every month, so that you can constantly fly together, and that alone guarantees that no matter how awful a trip I may have to fly is, that I get to fly it with the company of a good friend. It’s knowing that, that makes a trip so much more enjoyable. Not to mention my buddy bidder and I share a lot of the same interests such as crew rest, art history, and spiritual retreats, which always gives us days of conversation pieces.
But all and all, a trip is a trip. And sooner or later, for better or worse, it will be over. As much as you’d liked to imagine a good trip never ending, or a bad one not ending fast enough, it is only a tiny filament within a greater collection of fragments that build the person you are.
And as I sit in the dark silence, hearing only but the engines humming in the background, I can look back and reflect on my last two years of trips, and how each and every filament has added to the development of my character. While some trips provided an exponential amount of development, such as deep cultural immersion, linguistic analysis, spiritual journeys, and historical context, and others left more to be desired; however, it is about engaging in the present moment and making the best of any trip, regardless of any misconceptions you may previously have had.
So you see, a trip has the ability to be very personal to a flight attendant. It has the ability to change or redirect your life in so many ways you may not have thought were possible.
Until next time, XOXO.