June 6, 2009

The Glam But Exhausting Life of Cabin Crew... Plus Recurrent!

Ok, so my life isn't ALWAYS glam, but sure, some of the good things about my job, most people would consider 'glamorous'.

Glam- Wearing a nice uniform & having people look at you in the airport.

Not Glam- Wearing said uniform over a 6 day trip & having to wash bits of it in the sink (because hotel laundry is waaaaay too expensive to use on a daily basis)

Glam- Getting to see all sorts of interesting and cool places

Not Glam- Spending all of your layover in those interesting sleeping because you're so darn tired.

Glam- Serving in First & Business class, with all the high rollers, and using REAL glass, people!

Not Glam- Having to clean up the mess you'd be astounded to know people in Business & First class make.

Having said that, the good still outweighs the bad in my job, so until that changes, I'll stay. I've had some pretty good crews over the last few weeks. One flight, I flew with a guy who I only knew through other cabin crew friends, and who also regularly popped up on my Facebook updates & news feed. I knew he had made the switch to my airline, and I was glad to see his name on the crew list for a particularly icky red-eye flight. We had great fun, even managing to take a few happy snaps on our break. He's a real character, and so fun to work with. Plus, we are both single, so having fun scoping out boys for each other :P

My onboard managers have been really great too. Usually, they are a bit of a mixed bag, but lately all of them have either been brilliant, or managers who I really get along with. I wasn't feeling so great on a recent flight, so for the return leg (it was a turnaround) the supervisor let me take care of the premium passengers on my own, and went to work in economy on a cart. (Unheard of in some crew bases!!!)

I really enjoyed doing this, it reminded me of my days as a cabin senior, which sometimes I do miss. We also had a really good chat about our careers & he gave me some advice. Our company is shuffling some crew to new basings, and he said that he was hoping to stay as is, because he is settled where he is & enjoys living there. I hope it works out for him, he is a really lovely guy and someone who is a pleasure to fly with!

Had to make a trip to the doctor, as I started feeling dizzy and just generally blah. I figured either I was low in iron again, or tired. Turns out I was tired. Really didn't want to call sick as I needed my hours, but I had to, as I figure my health is more important than losing a day's worth of flying pay. It was nice to have a rest, and while I'm not 100% yet, I'm good enough to fly and I feel much better than I did.

I should mention during this whole process that I was in the middle of recurrent emergency training, so the added stress didn't help. I always freak out before SEP, but I needn't have worried; I got 100% on every test except one, where I got 98%, plus I did well on all of the practical assessments.

I even had to play the supervisor in one scenario, as there were no supervisors doing SEP in our group. It had changed a bit since the last time, as the company has had some new safety procedures in place, but it was good, as they make things much easier to remember and clearer what to do when there is a problem. Always a source of confidence.

The most interesting part I think was decompression, as we did this during ab-initio training, but they changed the simulator since then & it's much more realistic now. We had to simulate explosive decompression and the noise of the explosion scared me so much I actually jumped, even though I was expecting it!

Also it got very cold, and misted all through the cabin. The rushing air noise was quite realistic (imo) and the auto announcment kind of makes your adrenaline go! Cool though, because it means if it really does happen one day it won't be sooo scary because we have some idea what it is like. We also ran the decompression simulation with some of the crew incapacitated, so not only did we have to look after our 'passengers', but we had to assist the cockpit crew with getting one of their unconscious members onto oxygen.

Of course, a lot of the gossip lately is about Air France 447, and while we don't know the actual cause, and may never know exactly what brought it down, I do think that the weather played a big part.

It was weird, knowing that while I was flyiing merrily along, doing my job, they were potentially fighting for their lives. I'm sure the AF crew did everything they could to avoid the tragic outcome that we have all seen on tv. I hope they find the data recorders soon, so that the families can have a bit of peace knowing what really did happen.

Rest in Peace, crew & passengers of AF447.

(Pictures: Slide: Google Image Search, Oxygen: Seattle Times, Newspapers: LA Times.com, AF Crew: Airfrance.com)

EDIT Media are now reporting that the first of the lost passengers of AF447 have been recovered from the ocean. RIP :(


  1. even though I work for the airline that I work for, it's nowhere near glam (hahaha!) but its still a great job nonetheless! The great people alslo definitely helps!
    Your decompression sim sounds uber cool... we had to pretend for ours, but we were on a live aircraft.. at 2am. in a deserted airport. FUN.

  2. TT I was so totally absorbed in this blog of yours. Loved it!! The Glam and Not is an eye opener for us passengers lol. Glad you are back to normal, and that your training was super. I hope I never have to go through a decompression. And if you recall I always joked that turbulence used to put me to sleep. After AF 447 I won't be falling off to sleep so fast now. May they all RIP!

  3. Hey great post as usual, really does make we want to be cabin crew. Just wondering, what is the difference REC and SEP? Are you graded on each section (evacuation, first aid, etc.) seperately, or is it one huge test? And if you fail a section (first aid for example) do you have to retake the entire test, or just that section? And if you fail twice or more, what happens? Thanks!

  4. Hi there, Anonymous!

    It depends on the country you are in, as there are different regulations for re-sits. Generally though, you have to get 80% or more on each exam, unless a re-sit in which case you have to get 100%.

    SEP, or EP, is the initial training (or ab-initio as some call it) and Recurrent is the yearly (or more often depending on airline) training that you do to make sure you still know all that you were taught in Initial training. Basically, it's a refresher to make sure your skills are still there. (Is still important though as you can still fail this one)

    My company did things in sections, with progress exams/test along the way and then a final exam at the end of each unit. Practicals included the simulator exercises (evacuation, ditching, decompression, first aid, fire drill) then theory covers such things as the types of aircraft you fly on and the service side of things, Standard Operating Procedures and so forth.

    Each company is different, but the basic components are the same.

    If you wan't to know anything else, just ask. Great question by the way!


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