Well wonder no more, as we get the behind the scenes scoop from cabin crew member Rosie, who has been flying for just under 2 years.
Over to you Rosie!
Phase 1 – The Tiredness and Frustration
I wake up in a daze. Look around and see that I am in my own room (for a change). Then I ponder what day is it? And that day, is a flying day, my days off are over. I look over at my phone to check the time and my many WhatsApp groups from my friends based all over the world. 10.04am. I’m not happy. My check in for the busy JFK is not until 15.35. I went to bed late so I wouldn’t wake up too early. Alas, this did not work and I know I won’t be able to get back to sleep now. The kids next door are louder than ever and it being the summer holidays, a late morning nap is a no go, so I get up.
Phase 2 – The Beauty Salon
After a quick chat with my other housemates (living alone and paying more rent is almost criminal for a flight attendant, I’m rarely at home), a quick piece of toast from the 5-day old bread (no point in food shopping before a trip) and a 40-minute shower (the most relaxation I’m going to get all day) and I’m finally ready for endless cans of hairspray, hair pins, blusher and red lipstick. It’s an art getting ready for a flight. I need to look like I’ve made an effort without looking like a drag queen and I need to wear an acceptable amount of makeup, whilst still covering up the 5-hour sleep and the bottle of Pinot from yesterday evening. I take my time, each stroke of eyeshadow and each strand of hair is placed perfectly.
Phase 3 – The Commute
One last look in the mirror, a quick snap to my friends and many followers and I’m ready to go. Of course, I packed last night. I may be an expert packer but I still pack the day before to save time and most importantly, stress! Many flight attendants choose to live at home and have further to travel, I however live away from my family and just a 10-minute drive from the airport as I just love my bed too much. As I approach one of the many staff car parks at London’s Gatwick airport, I see the same plane spotters I see most weeks. It always makes me smile realising it’s not just people who work in aviation that love all things ‘planes’. Many cars leave the airport as I pull in; ground staff, security staff, duty-free staff, fellow crew and rival crew. It never stops.
Phase 4 – Greetings and Briefings
It’s time to check in, I walk into the crew room and see new and old faces. I shake their hands, triple check their names and says the obligatory, “I’m not good with names, I’ll know them all though by the end of the trip!” Questions about safety, equipment and medical topics are fired at all the crew in the briefing from the senior. Thankfully all the crew answer correctly and with our mind’s being refreshed from previous training topics, we head to security just like any passenger does.
Phase 5 – Checks, Chat and Food
Once on the aircraft, everything needs to be checked. There’s distinctive hello’s and goodbyes from the cleaners and caterers who have done their job for this 787-9 Dreamliner bound for JFK. I begin at my station; check the fire extinguishers, portable oxygen, first aid contents, megaphone and my favourite part of the aircraft – the crew rest. Everything’s in order and once the checks are done I know I probably have about 5 minutes before the people who pay my wages are on board. So, a coffee, catch up and a quick bite of a Kit Kat it is.
Phase 6 – Smile, Smile, Smile
“A thumbs up in each galley please if you’re ready!”, the senior PA’s. “Cabin crew take your boarding positions”, is his 2nd PA. The excited faces, the tired expressions and the stressed body language are just some examples of the passengers boarding the plane. Who are they? Why are they travelling to New York? Why did they choose today, our airline, that seat? These are all questions that go through my head when boarding. I listen in to their stories on why they are travelling to find out why. That guy on his own in 32C, he’s going to surprise his girlfriend who works in Manhattan and who doesn’t know he’s coming. That couple in row 28, they’re on their 50th wedding anniversary and he’s finally taking her away. The woman in 4J with her many papers, tablet and laptop, she’s nervous yet excited for the most important job interview she’s ever going to take in her life. “Hello, hi there, good afternoon, welcome on board” are repeated over and over. It sounds repetitive but I do not get tired of it. Passengers make the flight and I look forward to meeting them. Boarding is never smooth.
Today I have to deal with a mess up from the check in staff, a family have been separated and they shouldn’t be. Not much phases me, I deal with it even though the plane is full, babies are screaming and that guy in 40G still can’t get his case in the locker, even after my help and telling him to turn it around on its side! Now I have that little gap in between boarding and take off, while the welcome announcements and safety demo plays. Of course, only once everyone is settled, do I go for more Galley FM (crew gossip) and of course, more food.
Phase 7 – The Flight
Yes, crew are there for your safety. My 5-week training programme consisted of only 1 day of service training. Thankfully, in this modern-day of aviation, most of my training will hopefully never be used. So G&Ts, kiddie chocolates and chicken or beef is it! LGW to JFK is one of the shortest flights for myself and although I may not have as much as time as a Bangkok or a LA, I still build rapport with the passengers. Whilst drinks flow, airplane food is scoffed and children cry with boredom, the crew continuously serve, serve and serve. Everyone needs to be fed and watered, everyone needs to be comfortable and this is all down to the crew.
Throughout, problems occur; the wrong meal ordered, the seat back screen not working, a blocked sink in the toilet – everything must be resolved. I’m a good problem solver and that might be one of the main reasons that I got the job. Once the main service is done, half the crew have rest. The rest won’t be long on a JFK. Some choose to lay down in crew rest, some crew just stay downstairs and eat. After an hour, the crew swap over. After my turn of rest, I am in the back galley with a crew member who I have never flown with before. We hit it off instantly.
Orders from the passengers still flood in, it’s a busy flight but we still have time to chat and giggle in between orders. One passenger comes to the galley to stretch his legs and he sees our crew camaraderie. It pleases him that the crew are doing their work whilst still clearly enjoying it. It’s one of the most sociable jobs in the world if you embrace it and that’s why I do it. Once all crew have had their breaks, second service must be done.
It’s not long now until we’re landing and everyone seems tired. But the show must go on. More meals are served, more drinks are poured and the parents are still trying to get their children to sleep. The crew banter with each other and the passengers whilst on the trolleys in the cabin. My main outlook is that we are all on this plane together so why can’t it be fun? Service over, bellies full and crew are finished – almost. Before landing, I still need to check all passengers and the cabin. It’s never easy, we’ve all been on this aircraft for over 7 hours and in that time, bags, waste and sometimes even shoes are just flung everywhere!
Coming into land, I see the bright lights of New York City – my favourite skyline in the world. I cannot help but think how lucky I am. Yes, I’m tired, yes I’ve had to top up my makeup 5 times to cover the tiredness and yes my feet even have their own pulse now from the miles walked on this flight, but, I’m happy. I am content and I am nearly in New York City for goodness sake!
Phase 8 – Get Me To The Hotel
De-boarding is taking place. Many passengers are tired, many are excited, many are stressed regarding connections and their offspring! Thank you’s are thrown around left, right and centre and once they’re all off, a last-minute check of the cabin from the crew (a digital camera is found at 18H, it’s amazing what people leave behind. It’s passed to lost property) and everyone is off. Passport control is surprisingly quick for JFK and then we collect our bags. Walking through the airport after a 12-hour duty day, we all get stared at, and you know what, I love it. We all do. Yes, we have one of the coolest jobs in the world, yes it was hard to get and yes, we all still look fresh as a daisy. I know I work hard and there is still some glamour left to the job. A lot of time and effort was spent to look this good after a long shift, I still don’t mind people staring. One little girl looks at us in awe, the way I did when I was younger. As my heels click on the arrivals floor and my case rolls beside me, I give the young girl a wave and a smile. Who knows, maybe she’ll go home when she’s 11 too and say to her mum, “I know what I want to do, I want to fly around the world for free and I want to see it all”.
Crew in the van, bags in the van and bags from under the crew’s eyes also in van; the Manhattan hotel awaits. I get a second wind, all crew do. I think how tired I was during the flight and how low my bank account is; but of course, I instantly change my mind when the crew bus radio is on and everyone’s singing. I’m getting to the hotel, having the quickest shower, putting on more lippy and going down for landing drinks. I mean, I am in New York.
Phase 9 – What Happens Down route Stays Down route
You can spot crew a mile off. The different cultures, ages and interests. All sitting around a typical American bar in NYC having a well-deserved drink. We’d never normally mix but we’re having the best time. Pinot is poured, family are called and Galley FM hits again. The gossip from a previous or even the most recent flight can be fickle but most take part. Instagram pics are uploaded and check-ins on Facebook are apparent. Some of the singletons swipe through Tinder and Bumble to check out the local talent. Many don’t, but some crew do like to have a different partner in every city! I choose not to, I would rather chill with my friends and talk about rubbish. As some crew venture to their beds, some venture into yellow cabs to meet potential dates. I choose to finish the bottle with one old friend and one new one. All three of us get on well, just like we did on the flight. I’ve made friends for life with this job.
In the morning I’m awake super early, 6am to be precise. It’s 11am back home and I’m still in European time. Shower, breakfast and the meeting at the lobby are all done by 9am. It’s time to explore NYC. It’s not the first time I’ve been here, it’s not my last but I’ll never bore of it. Some crew are tour guides, some are lazy and want a taxi everywhere and some need to stop at Starbucks every 5 minutes for their ‘fix’. I however, go with the crowd. I’m just lucky I’m here. It’s all done; Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, Central Park, The Empire State Building, Times Square, and of course an America restaurant for burgers, hot dogs and sundaes. No more alcohol – we’re flying in less than 12 hours so Bud Lights are a no go for us.
Back to the hotel, a nap will be attempted and a long shower will be apparent. The first few phases of my ‘getting ready schedule’ happen again. I get ready whilst my speaker plays my favourite songs (quietly of course, I know the frustration of trying to sleep in noisy hotel).
Phase 10 – Honey, I’m Home
It’s all done again but this time it’s a night flight back to LGW so nowhere near as busy but all the services and safety checks still need to be done. As I look out of the window on landing, my jet lag is setting in and I see the green grass and grey skies of the UK. I love it. I love travelling but home is home. This trip was only a one-night layover, sometimes it’s as many as 6 but I still love coming home, no matter how long I have been away and am always thankful that I’m back safely – you never know when your last goodbye to your family may be, as morbid as that sounds. Hugs and kisses are exchanged off the aircraft. The passengers, crew and trip were wonderful and it ends on a high too. As I exit the car park, I see many people starting work, just like I did a couple of days ago. Music on, windows down, I drive home.
Case is dropped in my room, shower then PJs, takeaway is ordered and I cuddle on the sofa with a film and my housemates who have also just got back from a trip. It may be 2pm on a Wednesday, but I have no idea what time zone I’m in. I am in and out of sleep, in and out of my food and just enjoying being back after a great trip. I have a few days off to recover, catch up with friends, exercise then wash clothes and pack them all over again before my early morning Boston in a few days’ time.
The link to the original article can be found here –