Sunday, August 02, 2009

Crew Briefings from "The Flying Pinto"

As a frequent Twitter user, I have met many new people in the airline industry who have been exchanging "tweets" with me. One of the more interesting people I have met is Sara Keagle, a 16-year flight attendant for a major airline who publishes her own blog at TheFlyingPinto.com. With authorization, I am republishing the first in a series of her "Crew Briefings," which should be of interest to most of our readers, especially our aspiring flight attendants.

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CREW BRIEFINGS
by Sara Keagle

I'm starting a new series called "Crew Briefings." I'll be interviewing Flight Attendants from all airlines, starting with my friends at Twitter. Brad is up first, (he actually gave me the idea after I did my interview with Shelby on the fourth of July) I love my first "Crew Briefing." Brad has a great lifestyle as a Flight Attendant and a Culinary Arts student. I think you'll really enjoy learning more about him.

The Flying Pinto: What is your story? How long have you been flying? What did you do prior?

Brad: Well, after high school I was waiting tables because I thought I was smarter than my parents and decided to move out on my own and not continue my education. Well, after about a year of waiting tables, my next door neighbor told me American Airlines was hiring Passenger Service Agents, so I applied, with a good recommendation from him and my other AA neighbors, and off to Flagship University I went here in DFW. After 2 1/2 years of moving around different departments/jobs at DFW Airport I ended up with a micro manager I couldn't stand, and being only 21, I thought I knew it all, and quit without notice by handing in my keys and badge, and the next day went back to waiting tables at one of the chain restaurants I had already worked at, so I could just get back to making money. That same day I quit, I decided I wanted to be a FA, and applied to every airline out there, some obscure, and some not so obscure. At the time, in early 2001, everybody was hiring doing "cattle calls," and hiring as fast as possible because of the boom in air travel. I drove to Tulsa to interview with Continental the day before my 22nd birthday, spent 8 hours there interviewing, interviewing and interviewing, went home and a week later, got the dreaded, "Thanks but no thanks." A few days later, I drove to Houston for a U.S. Airways interview, and didn't even make it past the first group interview. I also did many online applications and sent resumes to airlines such as Hawaiian, Aloha, Skywest, United, Northwest, etc. I couldn't apply for Delta, because until 2002, they had a policy of nepotism, and my Dad was still working there as a line mechanic. I remember applying for Jet Blue in April 2001, and within 3 weeks, I was being contacted for a phone interview with no other than Laura Knopka, our manager of hiring at the time. I still remember the article from, "Airliners" magazine that I picked up to read about her flying the Concorde. After about 20 minutes, she invited me to a one on one interview in NYC, but I had to get there on my own, because JetBlue didn't fly to DFW. It wasn't a problem because I still had my dad's Delta Buddy Passes. JetBlue did things differently, and you had a one on one interview with Teressa Demare, who has since moved back to Canada and is working for West Jet in Calgary. If Teresa liked you she invited you back to the JetBlue Review," which was the group. Who knew an airline could and would do things backwards. After the review, after Mother's Day 2001, I got called 4 days later and was offered a job.I was at work at Chili's Bar and Grill, and I literally hit the ceiling when I got off the phone! Two months later, they paid for a ticket on Air Tran from DFW to MIA (where we had training back in my time) and the rest is history. I just completed my eighth year on 7/16/09, and still LOVE the job and LOVE the company!

FP: Wow! That's a great story..why do 21 year olds think they know everything? I was the same way, luckily I didn't get hired as a FA until I was 23, or I probably would have quit or been fired! And, why do the airlines "hire by intimidation?" I love that JetBlue does it different, sounds like you fly for a great company! I love the flexibility of our job what do you love about it? What keeps you flying?

Brad: I hate to admit it, but I think the one attraction of the job IS the the flexibility and you can really create whatever type of life you desire. I know a few of my classmates use this as their permanent income, and fly 140-150 hours a month and make 65-70k a year. I also know many people who fly part time, and have another career that they focus on, but use flying to "get out of the house," or "travel the world."

Having been raised in an airline family, I grew up traveling, mostly to places to we had family, but we always had the yearly trip to OGG specifically, Kihei, Maui with the grandparents. I still consider that my second home, because I can drive the island without having to consult a map...it's like second nature. I love being able to hop on a plane at a moments notice and go where ever there are open seats.

Also, the flexibility of the job allows you to live anywhere there is an airport. After commuting from DFW, I decided to move to the City of Lights: La$ Vega$! I lived there for a year, and realized I loved to gamble, so when we opened our base in LGB (Long Beach, CA) in 2004, I moved to California and lived and ran a crash pad. Back in 2007, I moved back to DFW, as this is where I was raised and feel more at home here.

FP: You are lucky to have been raised in an airline family and had the chance to travel! I never did, and I hope my daughter enjoys her benefits...and appreciates them! She has her passport and has traveled about fifteen times in her two years! Mostly to visit family all over like you...I am going to try to plan a trip at least once a year where we go someplace completely new. I too LOVE that we can go anywhere at a moments notice...with seats available of course;-)...and, you ran a crash pad, that may be another interview!

What kind of schedule do you hold, what kind of trips do you like to fly?

Brad: I was fortunate enough to get hired during JetBlues hiring boom and even after 9/11, we kept on hiring and getting new planes. My seniority (relatively speaking) company-wide is 218 out of about 2500, and in my base, I'm 17 out of 180. So, I can hold trans con turns, but I chose not to bid them, because of my commuter status. I prefer to fly really high time 3 day trips, usually worth 22 plus hours. Being based out west, all of our trips usually start and end on a trans con, which is an easy 12 hours. I'm not a fan of short haul, up-and-downs, because it's more demos, more cleaning, and the worst part, more boardings.

I tend to stick to the same cities when i bid, mainly because we don't get much variety being based out west. Our typical layovers are Indianapolis, New York, and Boston, which is fine by me.

FP: 17 out of 180...lucky! I complete my 16th year August 1 and my system wide seniority is 3,784 out of 9,257 and my base seniority is 1,080 out of 2,830! I need about six more years before I can hold turns! I'll have to meet you in Boston sometime...that's my home town and I was a tour guide there before I started flying...I drove the sight seeing trolleys, so if all else fails I have my CDL...I can be a truck driver...LOL!

What is your biggest passenger pet peeve? How about biggest crew pet peeve?

Brad: I actually have several pet peeves, and I'm sure anybody who has IFE on their planes can agree with me: keeping the headphones on as I am talking to a customer. I can be standing in the aisle, with my order pad in hand, a stack of napkins, and they stare at me like I'm nuts! Just take off the headphones and listen to what I have to say. It could be more important than, "can I get you something to drink?" (And yes, WATER is a drink!)

As for my crew pet peeve, I tend to fly F1 (Lead, Purser, Head Honcho, Pit Boss, etc) and other than take-off and landing, I'm alone in my galley up front. I tend to be overly organized and clean, and keep only the essentials out on the counters and shelves, and keep everything up in my bin until I need something. When I walk to the back, I see the two people working back there take up residence, with their bags all over the place, bags on the jump seat, cushions, computers, etc...it's ridiculous, and I would hate to hit clear air turbulence and not have a place to sit down. If anything, keep the jump seat clear of everything. It's just common courtesy and knowledge!

FP: Yes, the headphones are a big deal...especially during the beverage service and I'm with you I like a neat and clean galley. I just flew a trip where I was FC aisle and my galley girl was a mess...loved her...she was just messy.

As you know I've had some strange happenings on my flights, what is the most bizarre thing you have seen on a flight?

Brad: In all my years of flying, I can honestly say I really haven't had anything strange on my flights. I'm the King of not having medicals, and in all of my years, I have never had a cancelled flight! That's right, in EIGHT YEARS, I've never been cancelled. Only back in May did I actually have to divert to Dayton, OH for a precautionary landing, which we had to sit on the plane, with customers, for 4 1/2 hours, before we could continue onto Las Vegas. At least it got us a 14 hour layover in Las Vegas, at our NEW hotel, and one leg home. I actually got to commute home almost a full day early!

FP: Wow...how boring...just the way we like it!!! I flew in on a red eye this morning and we had a medical emergency 15 minutes from landing! A woman passed out in the aisle, just forward of the aft lavs. By the time I came to the back she was conscious and there was a Dr. assisting her. We gave her oxygen, took her blood pressure and re-seated some passengers in the back so she could lay in a row for landing.

FP: What can we find in your carry on?

Brad: Well, I carry the typical things in my carry on. I am a minimalist though, and carry as little as possible, because I *HATE* to drag those bags in and out of security, up and down stairs, in and out of bins, etc. I carry my required items in my tote, along with my textbooks for school (which are heavier than everything else I carry.) My roller contains the one outfit I need in case I have to leave the hotel, changes of the underclothes and t-shirts, and a pair of flip flops, along with my toiletries. I also carry an Ebags lunch tote with my food for the trip. Since I'm actually in Culinary School, there is never any telling what I might be carrying in my lunch. I've been fortunate that many of our hotels have refrigerators, which allows me to save money by not having to pay hotel or airport prices for food, but sometimes, I can't resist some of the choices
at JetBlue's T5 at JFK.

FP: I LOVE the Ebags lunch tote!! I bring it everywhere...even when I'm not working! I have fruit and snacks in it all the time.

Can we find you at the hotel bar or are you a slam clicker? (slam clicker is a FA or Pilot that slams their hotel door, clicks the lock and we don't see them until check in in the lobby)

Brad: It's amazing how you grow up in the airlines. When I started flying at 22, I was definitely the first one down at the hotel bar. I could be in my room, changed, and back downstairs in two minutes, and finished with my first drink before anybody else made it down. i always had time for at least one drink, and there were even times if our hotel didn't have a bar in it or nearby, we would travel with our own six packs and bottles of booze. (I know, it's sad)

After going into kidney failure back in 2006. I had to quit drinking cold turkey and haven't gone back to it since. i actually like waking up without a hangover, and realize now at thirty, my health is definitely more important than adult libation. For my 30th birthday, my family took me on a Caribbean cruise, and the day before we spent the night in SJU, and went to Senor Frogs for lunch, and they (the wait staff) forced a tequila shot down my throat. OMG, I wanted to PUKE!

So, in more than one word, I'm definitely now a slam-clicker, eating in my room, sleeping, and of course Iming and Twittering to my wonderful friends.

FP: Wow Brad! It's great that you found out you can't drink at an early age...sounds like a blessing in disguise!I can go either way, it really depends on my crew. I am just as happy on my computer (yes! so many wonderful people on twitter) in my hotel room and a clicker all to myself!

What is your favorite vacation destination?

Brad: I have been fortunate enough to travel all over the world, with my dad working for an airline as well, and I was also a foreign exchange student in Germany when I was in high school. Having lived in Germany for a year, allowed me t travel all around Europe on the many school breaks we had. Some notable places I've been are Prague, Czech Republic, Budapest, Hungary, and Moscow, Russia.

However, if I had to pick ONE place to go the rest of my life, it would be Mana Kai Maui, in Kihei, Maui, Hawaii. We've been going there since I was eight years old, and the same two ladies have been working the front desk since I was eight. It's been fun going back as an adult with my friends from JetBlue, because she remembers me and my brother from our younger years, and always takes GREAT care of us. (They also give a GREAT airline discount!) Tell Jenny I sent you and I'm sure she'll give you some great help!

FP: You have been extremely lucky that travel was always a part of your life! I guess Hawaii will be my next vacation...I'm calling Jenny! How does your spouse/partner feel about you flying?

Brad: Well, my current LH (Loving Handful) is also a flight attendant, but for a different airline based in Phoenix. He loves to travel too, but unfortunately, he's a junior reserve, so it's rare that he gets to go anywhere exciting, except when he is fortunate enough to pick up a Hawaii layover, which, if I'm able, I'll go. (Yes, I'll non-rev eight plus hours to Hawaii for a 32 hour layover!) It works well though, because he can bid his days off around my schedule and we can have time at home together. As many of you know, we just moved in together here in DFW, and after some headaches, it seems to be working now.

FP: I think having a spouse/partner working for the airline is great! You can travel together, and you both have flexible schedules! My husband is not with the airlines but he is a Fire Fighter/ Paramedic and has five days off a week so it's almost as good! I absolutely would go anywhere for a 32 hour layover...most "civilians" don't "get" that...even my husband doesn't...I'll invite him on a layover and he thinks it's too much work for very little time.

What is your best travel tip?

Brad: I'm a firm believer that you should ALWAYS get to the airport for the first flight in the AM, and pack snacks. Airport food can be quite expensive, and although it is a pain in the rear to go through security in your uniform to bring those damn liquids through, I highly recommend it, so you can save money to spend on other things like hotels and rental cars. And, my newest love, is my Kindle 2 which i have yet to have the pleasure of traveling with, but I know it's going to come in handy when I return to work in two weeks.

FP:I know I hate non-reving in uniform...I change right after I get through security!! For those of you who are not airline and didn't know...when in uniform we are exempt from the liquid rule. Brad thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! Good Luck, I'm sure you are anxious to get back to flying and good luck with Culinary School too! You live a charmed life...keep enjoying it!

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Sara Keagle is a 16-year flight attendant for a major airline. She publishes a flight attendant blog called The Flying Pinto and is a frequent Twitter contributor at Twitter.com/theflyingpinto.

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