Monday, July 13, 2015

The "Dark Side" of being a cabin crew - Part 2

Below are the experiences from one of my reader who is currently flying with a major airline base in asia

The noisy compartment handle continues to make a ruckus as the plane goes through a moderate turbulence. The galley is cold but we are not allowed to switch the chillers off, or put a blanket over us.

My colleagues are talking about something I couldn't understand because although I'm Chinese, I was never interested to learn the language as a kid. So here I am, sitting in the galley, pretending to be busy with my own thing, so much for being an "International Airline"!

Just another 16 hours flight from New York. It was great to have 2 full days in New York, I went to watch some of the latest movies which aren't even out in Asia, yet. Had a delicious meal in Korea Town near my hotel, shopped in Times Square and if it weren't for the rain on my second day in New York, I would've gone for a picnic in Central Park and just enjoy the summer weather.

These are some of the perks of being a cabin crew, all paid expense trip, as I like to all it. Hotel and allowance are taken care of, you don't have to worry about a thing.

Each month, I can easily get at least 10 off days to spend time with family or to have mini trips with friends! Best part is, I only pay 10% of my flight fare when I travel with my airline or other airlines which are under the same alliance. I think my company is pretty generous, we are allowed to pick a companion (e.g. boyfriend or husband) and two family members for the same travel benefit too.

In the beginning, I felt like one of the lucky ones out of a hundred candidates who were selected. I've heard about all these wonderful things from my aunt who was an ex-cabin crew with the same airline I'm working for right now. Either she was sugar coating some of her experiences or perhaps the information she shared to me were a little outdated.

Do note that what I'm about to share, possibly only applies to my airline and it is not to discourage you from becoming a cabin crew. Because if anything, these information may be beneficial for you aspiring cabin crews, you wouldn't be too shocked when faced with any unpleasant experiences and you may have a rough idea on what to expect and is expected of you from seniors and passengers.

1) Repetitive job *yawn*

You do the same damn thing on every flight, just like any other office jobs. I initially thought that I would have a different routine and experience for different flights, but I was wrong. After working for close to two years, I realize how incredibly boring this job is, you work in an almost robotic manner. You do the same service, deal with the same in-flight situations. The only different thing is the passenger profile and your set of crew which is always different from one flight to another.

It really is not all that challenging, I don't know what new skill I have acquired by being a cabin crew. Other than my abilities to pour juices and serve food at a fast pace. Also, my very basic safety skills. As I have encountered a fair share of medical emergencies on board, I know how to give a proper CPR, and I have used a defibrillator (AED) on a passenger who had a heart attack. I guess this skill might come in handy if somebody passed out in front of me one day *touch wood*.

2) Crazy Passengers *ugh*

Annoying passenger comes in many different categories. There are those who love to challenge you, those who are thirsty for attention and/or recognition, those whom I can't communicate with, those who thinks they are gods/goddesses and treat you like flunkies.

Last but not least, those who are downright unhappy with their life, they would yell at you and start complaining about the littlest thing. But thankfully, even when faced with a passenger who has lost his/her temper, I'm able to smile to them and talk calmly.

Thus making passengers around the area to understand that the angry passenger is crazy, and then that angry passenger would just keep quiet throughout the flight. I've had a few passengers which threatened to write a complaint letter, to which I replied, "Please do, sir. My name is .....", with a smile. In the end, I haven't received a single complaint letter. So it's all just big talk, no need to be afraid and apologetic when you didn't do anything wrong.

Those with lots of baggage, no wait, those who comes late with lots of carry on bags and expects you to stow their heavy bags into the overhead lockers!!! Hello, if I were to do that to you, then the other 300 passengers on board would expect the same thing from me!! I think I would potentially break my spine before the end of boarding period!

And those bags obviously exceeded the carry on baggage limit. I recently sprained my left shoulder blade during boarding when helping an old gentleman to stow a big heavy luggage because he let go of the bag before it reached the overhead locker. I had to support it or it would've fallen on his wife!!

This is the reason why I sometimes hate helping pax who pretended to be weak, I end up hurting my self and had to continue working for the next 15 hours with a throbbing shoulder blade! Oh and some mainland Chinese passengers who have the audacity to command me to stow their bags to the overhead locker, I would tell them to stow their sh*t alone and simply walk away.

3) Old cranky seniors *groans*

They're everywhere! But I think it depends on which airline you work for. Since my airline is an Asian based airline, naturally, the asian culture plays a big part in seniority. We're taught to respect those who are above us in age or experience/rank.

There's even a seating hierarchy in the crew bus, most junior are seated at the very back of the bus, in the crew bunk, you have to squeeze yourself or try your best to climb into the bunk while the senior would have bunk which are located at a more quieter area and wouldn't require them to climb on or off the bunk. Some may be racist, some are lazy, some are just angry for no apparent reason.

If you're lucky enough to get a nice set of crew, expect a smooth and happy flight! If one or more of the new set of crew is a sourpuss, get ready for some heated working environment, it's a sure stressful flight!

I once had a senior who kept telling me and my classmate to check in the toilets because we're of different nationality to her and the other two crews who were working in the same galley. Another senior once yelled at me, "Why do you always ask stupid questions?" because I asked her about the service flow, and that was my first few flights. Her name was Iris, and whenever I'm the only one in the galley with her, she would slam on the compartments while working just to show her dislike towards me.

Actually, not jut seniors. I remember this particular bitch who is the same rank with me, purposely tried to give me hell because ever since briefing she already had a 'black face'. Throughout the flight she would purposely talk to me in chinese during the service, just to confuse me.

When we were done with the service, she whispered to another crew as she stared at me from across the galley, the other crew looked at me and laughed as well. Then for the rest of the flight, even though there were 5 crews in the galley, I was being ignored because that bitch turned everyone against me. It was without a doubt, the worst flight I've ever had.

4) Cheap-skate company *sigh*

I'm always embarrassed whenever I serve the meal trays to the passengers in economy class. They certainly didn't get what they paid for. The food is far less than appealing and the seats are cramped together in order to make enough space to install an extra row of seats.

During the fuel crisis, just last year, the company made a quick decision to cut down on a lot of things. No more children activity packs, desserts are changed into a small packet of kit-kat bar. The entertainment system on board would often break down, even though most of the aircrafts I'm flying with are recently bought or upgraded. Not only we get endless complaints from passengers, we would have to frequently go and reboot the entertainment system. No wonder my passengers and some of the crews went crazy over the years.

After comparing with different friends from another airlines, I have come to realize that we are often understaffed! For example, a certain aircraft would require 14 crews to operate, for my company, they'll only put 12 people to work. This means that there's more work for us to do! The thing is, my company made a lot of money, their anual net profit is like a lot more than any other major airlines, because we charge passengers a lot but give very little.

One of the senior crews shared with me that during the SARS outbreak, business was really bad! She only had less than 10 people travelling on her flights during that period, everybody were worried that they might get laid off. So then my company told all the employees that even though business was bad, they'll be able to run as per normal for the next 3 years without any proper income. That's how filthy rich this company is, just by cutting on little things here and there. More money for them, more work for us. It boggles my mind how we're always under the top 5 airlines rank in the world, maybe we pay for this rank? Well, for as long as they pay my salary, I'm happy :D

I'm actually writing this in-flight on my iPhone. I'm waiting for the other crews who are taking rest to return. Another 1.5 hours to go and I've been here in the galley and patrolling the cabin for 3 hours now. Aah yes, the joy of flying long haul flights.

So bottom line, this job isn't what it appears to be. Being a cabin crew is great, the lifestyle is incredible..but sometimes you'll get bored of the flight routine, you're just tired of having to unpack and re-pack your bag for another flight.

You'll meet mentally deranged crews or seniors and life will test your wits by adding 300 more people to please in a little confined tin can! These are just my personal experiences, it's not always bad and honestly, you'll forget all the bad experiences at the end of the flight :)

Click here to go to Dark Side of being a cabin crew - Part 1 or more stories at Life of a cabin crew

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