The Trials and Tribulations of Economy Class

Feb 27, 2011

For those of you who are going to think negative thoughts about the venting that may follow in this blog: For the record, I'm not complaining about my job. I like my job. I'm just trying to paint a realistic picture of it. Like every job, there are good days and bad days. I'm not sugarcoating it to make it seem like I'm living a fairytale life. And on that note... off to London!

Another day, another can of hairspray keeping my french roll firmly in place, and I was off to work. I wasn't thrilled to be going to London, particularly on the busy afternoon flight. I'd been spoiled with beautiful calm trips for the majority of the month and this was sure to be a shock to my system. I was correct in my assumption. There are days that this job is glamourous and fun, but that was certainly not one of them.
Serving 427 hungry economy passengers can be quite a stressful task. First, we must deliver the special meals. On this flight we had 135 of them, all waiting to be hand delivered. After we'd finally finished and I'd had my daily workout, it was time for the main service. Sure, it sounds easy.... give everyone a meal and a drink. Realistically speaking, my semi-stupid (kidding) 16 year old brother could do this job. The problem arises when you run out of one of the meal choices. Politely asking passengers if they will eat the chicken instead of the fish is often met with reactions you'd expect if you were asking them to give up their first born child. Don't get me wrong, I'd be peeved too. When I have my heart set on fish with mashed potatoes, chicken curry just isn't going to do the trick. However, when you are left with dozens of upset passengers who are all holding you personally responsible for the lack of their preferred meal it can be a tad bit overwhelming. While I can give my heartfelt apologies, there is often nothing more that can be done. At 40,000 feet in the air it's tough to find extra meals. On this particular flight, we dealt with the situation and eventually everyone had a meal. It might not have been the one that they'd hoped for, but everyone was fed regardless. Myself and the rest of the crew took a sigh of relief once we'd finally finished clearing the trays from the cabin.
As it was mid afternoon and everyone was wide awake, the call bells rang non-stop. Each time I'd bring one passenger a drink, I'd return to the galley with 10 more orders. It's often intimidating going into the cabin. All eyes are on you as you walk down the aisle, you try to remember what you are going to get as more people raise their hands to signal that they are trying to get your attention. I'd finally attended to all of the call bells and reached the safety of the galley without another drink order. I closed the curtain behind me in hopes of finally eating something. As I quickly ate whatever I could find in the vicinity, I received a call from the front galley informing me that we'd be starting the second service in 20 minutes. "You have got to be kidding me", I thought as I began to prepare the carts with the other tired crew members.
Fortunately, the second service was a light snack and far easier than the previous one. With only one meal choice you can avoid a great deal of excess drama. We had finally finished both meal services and it was almost time to land. I could picture myself walking into my hotel room and plopping into my cozy bed, and the vision kept me motivated as we scrambled to secure the cabin and clean up the mess in the galley. For some reason, once the seatbelt sign turns on everyone suddenly has the urge to use the lavatory. I sent them back to their seats, explaining that we'd be on the ground in 10 minutes. After 7 hours on my feet, I finally sat down in my jumpseat. Landing time is always a happy time!
I put on a smile as the passengers disembarked. Despite the chaos and the fatigue, once the flight is over you can relax. Another day of work has ended.
The rest of the crew looked just as burnt out as I was as we got on the bus and drove to the hotel. Some made plans to go for dinner, but I didn't have the energy to do anything other than put on my pyjamas and dial up room service.
I'd snuggled up into bed and decided upon a dinner of French onion soup. You can imagine my frustration when I was unable to get through to order it. I tried both phones in the room. On the first one, it would ring a few times and then automatically disconnect me. On the other, it would ring and ring but nobody would ever pick up. I tried several times to no avail. I even tried calling reception, but no luck there either. Sure, I could have went to the restaurant downstairs and ordered something, but that required far too much effort on my part. Ignoring my hunger, I went to sleep.
The next day I woke up extremely early. I was starving! I remembered that I had a pack of Pop Tarts in my suitcase (bought in the US import section of my local supermarket... yummy!) and I quickly devoured them. On every layover I go out and make the most of my time in whatever foreign country I happen to be in. The afternoon trip to London is my only exception. Since we arrive at night it's too late to go to the city, and the next day there isn't much time to spare. It was a rainy, miserable looking day, and I was content in the warmth of the hotel.
I decided to do something that I rarely do despite always saying "I should" or "I will"... I put on my gym clothes and went to the fitness centre for a good dose of cardio! Feeling great, I decided to continue my healthy day and set out in search of some place to buy lunch. I borrowed an umbrella from the concierge, put on my Ugg boots, and ventured into the rain. At the mini mart down the street I grabbed a sandwich and some fruit and returned to the hotel.
I knew that I should attempt to sleep before the long night flight back to Dubai, but the sound of planes taking off at Heathrow across the street combined with the constant slamming of doors in the hallway made doing so quite difficult. I was annoyed with the hotel, in particular the housekeepers who chatted loudly in the hallways and constantly ran into the walls with the vacuum cleaner. Eventually I gave up and decided to just get ready for my flight.
The return flight was a stark contrast to the one a day earlier. The fact that we were delayed by an hour meant that there were a few grumpy people, but with only half of the seats occupied and a night time departure, it was a quiet journey back as the passengers slept. We met a few interesting characters including one man who found it necessary to give us his life other words, brag about the fact that he was poor but now makes a great deal of money. As I tried to attend to call bells he continued to go on about his fantastic life and I tried my best to seem interested in the conversation. I was incredibly excited once we finally reached Dubai. I fought to stay awake as I waited for my suitcase, and happily climbed the stairs to the bus. A year ago, reaching Dubai meant the end of a great layover and often made me unhappy. These days, it means bed, pyjamas, and unlimited Facebook!
Another trip is over, but I get to do it all over again in just a few days!


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