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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beginner's Wings

Gosh, it's been a while since I've had to.  But I sort of remembered how.  And I think it went okay.  You see, for the first time in three years, we are hiring new flight attendants.  Two classes of 55 in each class.  After 9-11, the airline industry went into the hole.  At one point, there were 100,000 jobs lost in the airline industry.  It's come back, to some degree.  We are successful -- dare I say, one of the top-notch in the industry when the financials, on time, awards by various groups, and customer service pieces are included.  Combined with the fact that we have been understaffed for a year or more, it is definitely time to hire.  Our reserve flight attendants have been completely overworked, used, abused, and reused.  We have junior assigned senior crews far more than should ever be necessary.  (Junior assigning is when the company catches you at the end of a regularly scheduled trip and tells you that you're being junior assigned to work on your day off....you don't have a choice....you are required to go.)  We have quite a few people out with serious illnesses such as cancer and our on-the-job injury rate isn't great because of lifting heavy passenger bags and turbulence injuries.  All of that to say, our staffing is not where it should be....and so the new flight attendant classes are in session.  Thankfully. 

I was asked to help teach in the new class this last Thursday.  Services training.  All about the food, drinks, beverage carts, napkins, coffee, using a beverage tray, making cocktails, all of that crap.  The stuff I've been doing many times a day for 16 years.  It is so embedded in my life now that I forget that this is a whole new world for these new kids on the block.  But they aren't really kids.  They range in age from close to 21 up to....oh, maybe 50 something.  Guys, gals, the whole works.  All dressed up and playing nice -- because they have to.  They are being watched, evaluated, like hawks.  Attitude, smiles, what types and how many questions they ask, negative attitudes, tardiness back from lunches and breaks, talking or texting during class...it's all being recorded.  Everyone is in dress attire.  No one is late.  It's not permitted.  They are studying every night for five solid weeks.  And they do training flights on the weekends.  Like today ----

So, this morning, my buddy Todd and I just happened to be the working crew from Seattle to San Jose -- 1 hour 33 minutes at 35,000 feet.  I was the Senior Inflight Service Director Stewardess working First Class.  And we had two of our new trainees assisting us on board the flight.  Barb came to help me work First Class.  Grace worked in the back cabin.  They were awesome.  Didn't miss a beat.  They did their equipment preflights to make sure that things were working -- like oxygen bottles, evacuation slides, whether we had over water rafts on board or not, flashlights, life vests at each jump seat, etc.  I mean, seriously, this was Barb's first time ever working First Class...and she did it like a champion.  Didn't miss a beat.  Smiles, organized, drink orders taken, food delivered, refills, trays picked up, pilots fed and watered, announcements made, doors open and closed appropriately, lights on and off.  All perfectly.  I was so proud of them.  It's a huge, steep learning curve.  And it takes times like these to remind me of how far I've come.  It's so good to have freshness.  Newness in our lives.  The energy of younger, newer, people.  It felt great. 

I hugged them both goodbye and told them what a great job they had done.  And that I was looking forward to seeing them "On the Line" as we say.  We all need new experiences in our lives, new challenges, new education, new activities, reminders to keep things alive and fresh.  What a nice reminder for me today.  My wings occasionally get tarnished a bit.  Their wings will be sparkling, pretty and brand new. 

8 comments:

Stephen said...

I bet you are an excellent example of grace under pressure.

BosGuy said...

I never worked in the airlines - I'm not made of that kind of mettle. However, my other half did work for UAL for 9 years, and I can remember him talking about new staff and going back for his annual training.

wcs said...

It's nice to be reminded every once in a while of how things are at the beginning. We tend to forget.

Annie said...

Brother? I'm very glad you took the extra time to give them kudos. If more of us got that, the world would be a tiny bit prettier. I love you!

Rick said...

That's a good sign the economy is coming back.

Ur-spo said...

Everybody needs mentors and experienced folk to teach them the way. They are fortunate to have you.

Cubby said...

Really good post today.

Bridge Journey said...

few things have made more of a difference for me throughout my life than people taking time and energy to mentor me! Really invaluable! And also, on the giving end, it's good for all of us to give the old wings a polish once in a while by taking others under our own. <3