At 4:05 am, my alarm spears into my sleep. I’m momentarily confused about why I’m getting up until I see my smoothly-ironed flight-attendant uniform. It’s time to fly a trip again. Today, I’m going to Johannesburg. It’s about an 11-hour flight, but I’m one of many flight attendants who add hours to their working day by ‘commuting,’ meaning I take a short-haul flight to my base airport.
Arriving at the Flight Attendant Home Base
I arrive at Heathrow at around 8:30 am. After my second round of security for the day, I head towards crew check-in. Walking through the airport invites endless questions from confused travelers who swoop on seeing a uniform – anything from ‘what gate for Flight XYZ’ to ‘where can I buy nail-clippers.’ Today though, I survive unhindered.
Flight Attendant check-in for the trip
Like passengers, the crew arrives two hours before departure. Our check-in area is a private zone with sofas, tables, computers, conference-rooms, and epic runway views. While here, we read notices, choose working-positions and catch up on company gossip before having a 30-minute pre-flight briefing.
Boarding at Heathrow
Despite misconceptions, the long-haul crew doesn’t clean the aircraft, (ever!). When we board, cleaning and catering teams have already been on and worked wonders. After completing pre-departure checks, my colleagues and I prepare welcome drinks for first-class passengers, then I quickly grab a sandwich from the crew-food-cart (sounds nice but really, it’s a soggy egg wrap) before boarding begins.
Publisher note: If your flight attendant friend says “come fly with” me, don’t expect to see your friend much while inflight. Jasmine explains why:
The first few hours after take-off are a non-stop flurry of drinks, dinner, duty-free, tea/coffee, Wi-Fi help, and so on. Once the rush is over, I have dinner from passenger leftovers (leftover catering, not leftover from someone’s plate!) which, as standard, is interrupted by a call-bell from someone needing a G&T.
Then, it’s break time – anything from a twenty-minute sit-down to a three-hour sleep. Unlike fictional depictions of labyrinths of rooms, the crew-rest area is an impossibly compact space fitted with eight narrow bunk-beds, most of which require some amateur contortionism to get in/out of. Today’s break is a blissful 2.5 hours, for which my feet are supremely grateful.
Afterward, I head to the galley for a strong coffee and to hunt for leftover desserts – yum, sticky-toffee-pudding. The next couple of hours pass by chatting to passengers, making more drinks, and setting-up the final service. Once everyone is fed and watered, again, we secure for landing and sit down.
What a landing in Johannesburg looks like for the pilots (video)
Deplaning in Johannesburg
When the aircraft door opens, warm fresh air wafts in and after a few-hundred byebyenowthankyou’s, the crew disembarks.
Our Johannesburg hotel is grand and luxurious and one of my favorites. However, on this trip, I won’t spend much time here as I’m going on an overnight safari. When I get to my room, showered and into bed it’s 2 am.
Publisher note: Now, if you initially wondered why you agreed to come along when your flight attendant friend said “come fly with me”, here’s where things pay off for you:
The layover safari
For the safari, I and a colleague are getting collected at 5 am – luckily, we’re experts at surviving sleep-deprivation.
Throughout the safari, I see elephants, zebras, lions, a cheetah, and even a black rhino. It’s phenomenal. In these moments, the occasional 4:05 am start pales into insignificance.
We return to our hotel around 1 pm the next day, just in time for a nap, before starting all over again on the 11-hour shift back to Heathrow.
What do you think?
Flight Attendant Jasmine Parker has just given you a glimpse into her usual “a day at the office” routine. What do you think about the lifestyle of a flight attendant? If a flight attendant friend says “come fly with me sometime”, would you accept his or her invitation? We love your comments, so please let us know what you think here.
Featured image: CaptainJetson.com.