Great Moments in the Sky

There are plenty of things I love about being a flight attendant: I love being up in the air, soaring through the clouds, and spending time exploring new cities. But the best part of my job is meeting so many new and interesting people on each flight. So, in this month’s post I’d like to share some of my favorite on-the-job stories.

As a flight attendant, it’s my job to help ensure that customers have an enjoyable travel experience. I find this begins with my giving them a warm, welcoming smile when they board. I try to wear an expression on my face that communicates, “We’re going to have a great trip today.” Throughout the flight, I and the rest of the inflight crew continue to assist passengers and do our best to anticipate their needs. There are seemingly little things we do that make passengers feel particularly comfortable, whether it’s offering a complimentary beverage to celebrate a special occasion, helping a mother with her baby so she can go to the bathroom, or something as simple as having a conversation with someone who is traveling alone and seems nervous. There’s no better feeling than the pride that comes when customers deplane and tell us they had a wonderful flight.

Although I always try to go out of my way to help travelers, there are a few particularly special instances that I will never forget:

Going above (well, below, really) and beyond
During my first year as a flight attendant — let’s just say, many years ago — I had my most interesting customer-service experience while waiting to board a commuter plane home from Pittsburgh. I was still in my uniform from a flight I’d worked earlier that day, but I was off the clock at this point and really just wanted to get home. It was a hot summer day and there were only 19 passengers lined up to board the plane, including me. The plane was far too small to even have a flight attendant working it; in fact, while the commuters lined up on the tarmac to board, one pilot was in the cockpit while the other pilot was loading our bags.

To board the plane, passengers needed to walk up a steep flight of stairs that folded out from the side of the aircraft. I stood at the back of line, seeing everyone else climb up and onboard. They all passed right by an elderly woman who stood off to the side, unable to reach the first step, which was very high up from the ground. Finally it was just the two of us left waiting to board. Not knowing any other solution, I got down on my knees on the hot pavement and interlocked my fingers to make a step to boost her up. I can honestly say I’ve never had to turn myself into a “human stair” before or since that day, but it’s definitely a moment that remains fresh in my mind.

The crew that flies together . . .
About five years ago there was a huge snowstorm in Boston, where I was scheduled to depart on a red-eye turn, a trip that flies from the East Coast to the West Coast and turns right around after spending only 40 minutes on the ground. In New England, about two inches of snow were falling every hour, and a trip to the airport that would usually only take 30 minutes took about four hours that day. Airlines were canceling flights left and right, but wouldn’t you know it, I was on the only flight that was still scheduled to depart.

After a five-hour delay the inflight crew was informed we had been cleared to depart, although the flight manager told us we didn’t need to make the grueling trip if we weren’t up for it after the day’s events. While we appreciated the offer — and trust me, conditions like that are not the most fun to fly in — my colleagues and I said we couldn’t accept it. Without a full crew we couldn’t fly, and we were all in this together. We knew that 60 people had risked their lives getting to the airport that day and had waited five hours to get on a flight to Seattle, so we wanted to make sure we brought them there. Our crew came together and discussed how we could accomplish our task safely, and then we boarded the plane and took off for the West Coast. It was a tremendous feeling knowing we had made a great impact on these travelers, and all by simply being dedicated to our jobs.

Brotherly love
About eight years ago I was working a flight out of New York when I saw two little boys on board, unaccompanied minors crying their eyes out. The boys, brothers, were shoving each other out of the way to see out of the window. I sat down beside them to try to see what they were looking at, but I couldn’t spot anything. The older boy whimpered and told me he was trying to see his mom because they were leaving her. The boys told me she was being deployed to Iraq and they were traveling to stay with family while she was gone. While checking in with the pilots I saw a woman in the terminal, clearly their mother, who was trying to wave to her sons, but neither had a clear view of the other. I explained the situation to the captain and asked if the boys could come into the cockpit while the plane was still boarding so they could see their mother before takeoff. With his permission, I brought the boys to the front of the aircraft and watched them wave and blow kisses to their mom, who did the same back.

I can promise you there was not a dry eye among the crew. What we did had such an impact on these two young boys and their mother, and it was equally moving for all of us.

The greatest part of my job is being able to help customers. Whether my gesture is big or small, I’m always happy to know I helped make someone’s flight better, and whenever I do, I feel better, too.

Have you ever gone above and beyond to help a fellow traveler during a flight? Share your stories in the comment section and follow me on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy) for more.

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