Ok... please see previous post about my lack of sleep before you proceed and think I am a giant biotch :)
Ahhhhh. The summer travel season. Full flights. First-time fliers. Extreme heat in the greenhouse that is our concourse at O'Hare. Thunderstorms. Infinity small children.
It's glorious. In the completely seniority based system that is working for an airline, you probably have to have 35-40 years with the company to have a vacation in the summer. The senior peeps HATE to work in the summer. Why? It's way harder. But it shouldn't have to be!
Here is my top ten list of things anyone can do to make traveling easier:
1. IF YOU NEED IT, BRING IT YOURSELF
This is my golden rule of travel. Don't ask me if we have pretzels. The little monitor that was in the gate room told you that the service would be beverage only. We don't have free food anymore on most airlines (hell, US Airways was charging for cokes for awhile there!). Please also don't tell me you NEED a blanket. First of, the airline blankets in economy class are NASTY, but that's a whole 'nother rant. Secondly, if you NEEDED it, you would have brought your own. The same goes for a cooler for your insulin, a whole bottle of water, a microwave for your baby's bottle, pillows for your aching back and toys/cards for your children. And when I tell you, politely, that we don't have what you supposedly "NEED", don't roll your eyes at me. I'm not being rude, I frankly just don't have it. I will do my best to help your situation but airplanes don't come stocked with fridges, microwaves, and endless supplies of everything.
2. NEVER EVER EVER TRAVEL WITH A BABY (or multiple children) BY YOURSELF
Seriously people, don't do it. Find a way and bring a friend/parent/spouse/whoever. I am not kidding when I tell you I can't step off the plane to help you fold down your stroller while holding your child and the 32 bags you decided not to check. It's FAA rules, baby. It may be harsh, but I'm telling you these things for your own good. Bring someone with you. You will thank me later. I could go into greater detail about how you should never travel with a baby, period and expose them to the myriad of disease available aboard an aircraft, but I'm really trying to be less judgmental about this.
3. IF YOU CAN, JUST CHECK YOUR BAGS
99.999% of the time, they don't lose your luggage. If you can, just check it. Don't try to pack for a 10 day trip (because in fact, most people pack what they need for about 6 months instead of 10 days) in a carry on bag. Which leads me to...
4. YOU PACKED IT, YOU STOW IT
Another little gem that I'm not kidding about. I cannot help you with your carry-on bag. First of all, if you need me to "help" you with it, it's probably way too heavy. I'm also not really tall enough to stow my own sparsely packed bag, but at least if I hurt myself doing that, the airline will take care of me. We were expressly told about 600 times in training not to ever pick up anyone else's bag since we are not eligible for occupational injury coverage if we get hurt. I'm sorry, but my meager paycheck is more valuable to me than helping you with your way too heavy bag. Harsh, but it's the way it is. However, I will be more than happy to gate check your bag that is either too large or too heavy for the overhead bins. (Sidenote: if you bring on two huge bags or more than two bags, I will be so angry at both you and the gate agent for allowing you to board with your grotesque amount of stuff.)
5. IF YOU ARE TRAVELING WITH FIDO, LEAVE HIM IN HIS BAG/KENNEL
It's great that you think Fido or Fifi or Barney the cat is the cutest, best pet in the world and want to show him/her off. It's unfortunate that he/she hates being "all cooped up" for hours, but remember, YOU did this to your pet when you chose to bring them onboard. Take them to a vet, get them a tranq pill, and LEAVE THEM IN THE DANG BAG.
(I once had a flight where this crazy lady actually took her dog into the lav where he poo-ed on the floor. We don't have the capability to clean feces up onboard so we have to lock off that lav for the remainder of the flight. As if we didn't already have lines at every bathroom anyway. Thanks, lady. You officially earned your idiot card.)
6. WHEN THE FLIGHT GETS DELAYED PLEASE DON'T ASK ME ABOUT YOUR CONNECTING FLIGHT EVERY 5 MINUTES
So important for so many reasons. First of all, you probably booked your flight on hotwire.com where they love to provide people with 15 minute connection times. Laughable! Second, unfortunately, I don't have a super secret computer in the back galley where I can email the gate of your next flight and have them "hold the plane" (btw, we RARELY hold planes anyway). Try to sit there and relax for the remainder of the flight. There is not a whole lot we can do while we're still in the air. I'll be happy to take your credit or debit card and bring you a vodka tonic if that's what you need to relax.
7. USE THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT CALL BUTTON WISELY
Please don't ring it 2.5 seconds after the captain has just made an announcement to the effect of "Flight Attendants, be seated." That means it's going to be bumpy and I'm most likely not going to disobey the captain to get you another glass of water that you can spill all over yourself in turbulence. This also goes for 2.5 seconds after take off or before landing. I need to be seated for those important things too. And if the button is on your arm rest and you are pushing the one with the person on it and there's an annoying bell ringing over and over, yep, IT'S YOU! And everyone on the plane is trying to figure out who you are so they can punch you in the face! (This also goes for children who think it's funny to push the button over and over. Newsflash: it's not cute. Make your kid stop it.)
8. PLEASE LEARN HOW TO READ SIGNS BEFORE APPROACHING THE TERMINAL
Guess what people?!? Gate B4 is probably between gate B3 and B5 and you know what else? There are HUGE signs everywhere that tell you how to get to the B gates, C gates, BFE gates, Baggage Claim, usually a few restaurants, Red Carpet Clubs, etc. Just because I'm walking through an airport in my uniform, does not mean that I'm familiar with it or have ever even been there before. The aforementioned eye-roll when I tell you that I'm sorry but I don't know how to find whatever it is you are looking for is totally unnecessary. OH, and there is an airport diagram in the back of that magazine in your seat pocket if you are going to a large airport that you are unfamiliar with. As always, you can take that fabulous magazine with you if you need further reference.
The same goes for baggage claim. As working crew, I can't check my bags (99% of the time I don't know my final destination for the day) so I have no idea what carousel your bags will be appearing on. What I do know is that there will be a LARGE sign that says our flight number and where we came from and it will generally be above the carousel that your bags will appear at. Usually, there are also several announcements made to help with that. It's amazing how that works.
9. PLEASE DO NOT PARTAKE IN THE GALLEY OLYMPICS
This is one of my absolute favorites! Do you know how much of a tool you look like doing your calisthenics in the galley? As soon as you leave, I will be mercilessly making fun of you, especially if it's on a 4 hour or less flight. How do you sit through movies, plays or sporting events (the latter having MUCH less comfortable seating than an airplane)? I've been to many of the above activities and I can't remember seeing anyone doing little exercises during intermission or on a beer/bathroom run. I also will make fun of you because, in general, you are coincidentally the biggest douche-bag on the aircraft. Sit down and take a nap. Flying makes people tired. Trust me on that. You will enjoy your trip much more if you just rest and relax.
10. IF THE SEATBELT SIGN IS ON, YOU SHOULD BE IN YOUR SEAT WITH YOUR SEATBELT FASTENED
Ahh, the best for last. I completely understand your burning need to use the lav. I realize it's been about 25 minutes since you boarded. I can tell that you apparently have a bladder the size of a pea. BUT, I still have to, by law, tell you that the seatbelt sign is on. Because, you know, it's easy to miss the 50 million or so lighted signs all throughout the aircraft. If I don't tell you that it's on and you get hurt, guess who gets in trouble... ME!! Um... no thanks.
SO... here's the deal and I'm gonna make this really simple for you. If I tell you that the seatbelt sign is on, that is your cue to evaluate the necessity of your bathroom needs and either sit down or get in and hurry up. I don't really care for accidents of any kind, even if you are a grown man or woman and should have the ability to know better. Sorry to use a sickening pun, but I know that shit happens. If you gotta go, you gotta go. If you don't, get back in your seat and we'll try again in a few.
NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ask me if you can go to the bathroom or try to have a 10 minute conversation with me about why the captain hasn't turned the sign off yet. I'm just going to keep telling you, "Sir (or ma'am), the seat belt sign is on. Sir, the seat belt sign is on. Sir, the seat belt sign is on." Because that is what I have been trained (legally) to say. It's non-negotiable so I really don't want you to look at me with a puppy dog face and beg to go to the bathroom. I can't assess your urgency, but I'm not going to give you permission. If you need to, get in and take care of business and then get your butt back in your seat.
Basically, if you take one thing away from this rant... ok, I'd rather that you take two things away from this rant...
1. Contrary to the words above, I don't hate my job (most days, anyways). I also don't mind the average traveler. I just believe that...
2. YOU have a HUGE influence on how your airport experience is going to play out. If you prepare well and go into it with a good attitude, you'll be fine. I have limited resources and lots of rules that govern what I can and cannot do. If I tell you no, it's not because I am being cranky, it's because I have a good reason. Of course, no one can control things like weather and planes are exactly like cars and have breakdowns now and again, so the best laid plans are sometimes foiled. But 9 times out of 10, trips are uneventful and, dare I say, pleasant, if you follow my simple rules and just chill out. If it takes a vodka tonic and/or a prescription medication to get you to chill out, I suggest you order one/bring some meds. I realize that not every gate agent or flight attendant is nice, but kill them with kindness. It's harder to be rude to someone with a genuine smile on their face. Good luck and safe summer travels!
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