Twenty years ago, when my life was at a turning point, I applied to all the airlines and, a few months later, I was officially flight attendant. I loved my new job, and it came with a New and exciting life.
But I didn’t sign up for what travel it’s like this summer.
The pandemic has changed flying more than any event I have experimented in my career. If 9/11 changed the way we board planes and enter airports, COVID-19 changed the live totally on the plane. This created tension and made everyone nervous. It brought politics into a realm that shouldn’t be politics.
In the early days of the pandemic, the Airlines companies tried to save as much money as possible. They allowed early retirements and laid off many employees; besides that, many more employees leave to be with their family. We now have a shortage of employees. Once the mask mandate was dropped, passenger numbers began to increase faster than airlines could handle. Now we are understaffed and overworked. Not just pilots and flight attendants, but on the ground crews. You might not think of ground crews, but without them there’s no one to park planes, drive jet bridges so you can plank and get off, load your bags and collect them, or scan the boarding passes.
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What is not common knowledge is that flight crews have time limits on how long they work, usually 12 to 16 hours at a time. Besides being dangerous, it is illegal for us to fly longer than that. If your flight crew is delayed and hits at this time, it doesn’t matter if you have somewhere to go, we’re done when we’re done. As things stand, there aren’t many backup teams, so your flight can be cancelled.
Travel is good for the soul. This revitalizes us and allows us to refocus. Sometimes you need to feel sand under your toes, smell cool pine trees, or immerse yourself in the sounds of a new city just to remind yourself that you’re still alive. But the key this summer is to travel smart. Eliminate as much stress as possible travel you can by planning ahead and being prepared. Here’s my best advice based on two decades of working at 30,000 feet.
If you are going on a cruise, leave the day before. Count it as part of your holidays. Stay in a hotel in a new city and explore. Have a nice dinner and a glass of wine and have fun. Wake up slowly, grab some coffee and pancakes, and head leisurely to your boat. The extra money is worth the peace of mind. I recently worked on a flight which was delayed. A family of eight missed their connecting flight to Rome, which was the only flight of the day. They were going on a cruise they were now going to miss. (Buying travel insurance isn’t a bad idea, either.)
Always fly straight
That way, if you’re running late, you don’t have to worry about your next flight. If you cannot avoid the connection, do not book the shortest stopover, as you will increase stress and the possibility of missing your flight. A one-hour stopover is no longer enough. Thirty minutes, not a chance. In most cases, three hours is safe.
Fly as early in the day as possible
The first flights of the day rarely cancel. Thunderstorms form as the day heats up, flight crews reach their duty limits later in the day, and traffic increases at busy airports. Yes, this may mean an alarm at 3am, but if your early flight is canceled there will be more options to book another flight.
Download the application of the airline you are traveling with
These applications contain valuable information. They’ll save you from having to wait in incredibly long lines or trying to get someone on the phone if things go wrong. You can track your bag and your arrival plane, and in some cases you will know that a flight is canceled before the flight the crew even knows. The app can also guide you through rebooking a new flight if needed.
Think twice about the cheapest fares
The flights are full. If you buy the cheapest seats, you may not be able to sit with your family. This is indicated when purchasing your ticket. Flight attendants aren’t there to rearrange the whole plane just so you can sit together because you tried to save money on a third-party website. Also be aware that if a flight is oversold and no one volunteers to step aside, the first to be kicked out will be the family that saved a few bucks using a bargain website.
Don’t be “that guy”. don’t hold back boarding because you have your extenders open until they burst and you don’t know how to fit your bag in the overhead.
Bring a sweater
here is a flight attendant secret: We sometimes keep the plane cold on purpose. For people who struggle with airsickness, heat makes it worse. We don’t want anyone using these sick bags.
Don’t tell a flight attendant they look tired
We are and we know. You can make us cry in the kitchen.
Be nice. Our common goal Airlines companies is to get you to your destination. Stay positive – at least you’re not at work.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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