Once upon a time, a self-proclaimed Archaeology-Lifer got a job as a flight attendant. No one knows quite how it happened. Here's what happened next...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Airline Grooming Policies

When the show Pan Am came out (sadly it has now been cancelled) I noticed a flurry of comments and opinions on airline grooming standards.  Many seemed to find the way in which the flight attendants in the show were expected to adhere to strict policies surprising, and some thought that such a thing would never happen today.  Well... I can say that The Airline has never made me get one a scales, thank goodness (although I know other airlines that do include regular weighing schedules for their flight attendants).  However, while things are perhaps slightly more lenient these days, my grooming manual is still twelve pages long.  And I work for a relatively relaxed airline.

Out of interest, I thought I would share a few choice excerpts from the manual, including instructions on uniform and on appropriate self-conduct.

  • You shall be aware of the impact that you have on the public when wearing the company uniform.
  • You shall present an image of self-awareness and self-care with a professional look.
  • Personal variations or individual additions to the uniform are prohibited.
  • You shall carry a sewing kit at all times in order to ensure the uniform is in good repair.  (Personally I am not a huge fan of being instructed to carry a sewing kit.  While I see the sense in it, I feel like my next order would be to make a damned sandwich.)
  • The uniform shall appear freshly cleaned and pressed at all times.  (Fair enough, but then the material it's made of means that the second you sit down the whole thing creases to hell anyway.)
  • Good posture and carriage shall be maintained at all times.  (You try having good posture on the way back to the hotel after a red-eye then...)
  • Gum chewing in not acceptable at any time while in uniform. (The only bit that is bolded in the whole manual...which I find rather odd considering the following instruction prohibits consuming alcohol or going to a bar at any time in uniform...makes you wonder where the priorities lie....)
  • Re-application of makeup, or styling of hair, shall not be done in public view.  (Yes, this prohibits me from putting on lipstick in a public washroom...who the hell cares?)
  • When eating in uniform and in view of public, Flight Attendants shall be seated. (... seriously?)
  • Flight Attendants are required to conduct themselves in a mature and responsible manner in all dealings with the Company.  (This one actually makes me LOL)...
  • Conversation in the presence of customers shall give the impression that the Company is a professional and efficient organization of courteous and friendly employees.  \
  • Skirts may not be hemmed any shorter than 1" above the knee.
  • Hair shall be clean, neat, and dry and worn so as not to fall into your face ... Hair colouring should be well maintained (translation: No roots!)  ...trendy styles are unacceptable.  When tied back, hair shall not fall below the shoulder blades at the back (So if you've got super long hair, it's a nun-bun or the chop).
  • (Here comes my favourite... make up!)  The intent of cosmetics to improve one's appearance in the airline industry is to support an image of alertness and confidence which is important to passenger safety perceptions (There you have it, folks.  We are so concerned with your safety, even our MAKE UP is in on the game).  Moisturizer and foundation shall be applied prior to makeup application to help combat cabin dryness (The moisturizer, yes, but the foundation? Hells no). ....Heavy dark makeup is not permitted. (I used to be a huge fan of green eye make up on the red-eyes...because literally red eyes are not attractive and the green toned it down a bit.  Only with cool flight directors, though).
  • As a flight attendant, your hands may be seen by your passengers as often as your face.  Nails shall be well groomed and manicured at all times. (I got told off on a few occasions because I'm not really the get-a-manicure kind of girl.  Apparently having bare nails looks "cheap".  I had to bite my tongue not to reply that the lipstick on the accuser's teeth also looked cheap.)
  • Contact lenses are preferred to glasses... Sunglasses are not to be work in terminal buildings, hotels, on the aircraft or anywhere you may be in contact with passengers.  ...They may never be pushed up on top of the head.
  • ...all footwear must be approved by in-flight services.
  • Pearl or diamond stud earrings may be worn, provided they are are in good taste (How exactly does one find pearl or diamond studs that aren't in good taste?)
  • It is not permitted to wear a necklace at anytime (Absolutely NO ONE adheres to this rule).
AS FOR THE BOYS (yep, they have grooming rules too, although perhaps more relaxed than the ladies...)

  • Hair shall not fall forward and shall not conceal the top of your ears and appear unkempt.  The back of hair shall not touch the top of the collar, but not to be so short as to show scalp....Hair shall be kept clean, neat, dandruff free and conditioned regularly.  (The dandruff bit is another LOL).
  • Sideburns shall be no longer than mid-ear level...they shall be trimmed frequently to avoid the appearance of being bushy.  Moustaches shall not extend below the corner of the mouth.  The upper lip shall be visible and false, waxed or curled moustaches are not permitted.  Full beards are not permitted.
So there you have it, choice excerpts from the Grooming Standards of The Airline.  And I even cut out the boring bits!  And, so you have a visual, here's me in my uniform last year.  This was a skinnier time, so the uniform got a little loose.  Also, please ignore the fact that it's a lame "take a picture in the mirror" kind of shot. 


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Flight Attendant's ABCs - F (foxtrot) is for...

  • Ferry Flight - One of the most exciting things for an FA to see on the schedule.  A ferry flight is basically a flight which serves to position the airplane from one place to another...WITHOUT PASSENGERS.  It's like free money.  You get paid to sit on a plane for however long, and do whatever you feel like.  Some particularly mean Flight Directors (see below) may make you work during this time, cleaning the aircraft and such, but for the most part it is widely understood that this time can be reserved for sleeping, reading, or other general relaxation activities.  I personally enjoy to spend the whole time in the flight deck, picking up tidbits of information and storing them away for future use.
  • Final Approach - A time during which the aircraft is lined up with the runway and about to land.  It's a time during which everyone is supposed to be seated with their seat-belts secure.  Flight attendants included.  So don't get mad if you're ringing the call button and we don't magically materialize at your side.  And no, it's probably not the best time for you to get your bag out of the overhead bin, either. :)
  • Flight Director - (also known as In-Flight Director, Purser, etc).  The lead flight attendant on any flight.  Apparently someone has to be in charge, and since the Pilots are locked away in the flight deck, one flight attendant takes charge of the rest of the cabin crew.  Some are wonderful and friendly and have a decent work ethic, and so your flight will be relaxed with a good "team spirit".  Other Flight Directors....well let's just say that they are type who will write you up for wearing more than one ring on each hand or not having lipstick on.  In most cases I often find that the Flight Director sets the tone for the whole trip.
  • Flight Attendant - 
Next time... G (golf) is for... 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In Which Hannah Gets Her License and Drops off the Face of the Earth...

Dear Readers,

My sincerest apologies.
I suck.

If you have ever had some sort of writing commitment such as writing a blog or keeping a diary, perhaps you will be familiar with the following sentiments.  Sometimes it feels there are too many things happening at far to quick of a pace to be able to even keep up with it yourself, let alone be able to write it down for other people to follow as well.  That has been precisely what the past six months have been like for me.  I have been so busy and had so many things happen that the idea of writing them all down is very daunting, and I procrastinate like any student and just leave it and leave it until there is too much to catch up on and I just panic.

If you read that strange journey into my mind and are still with me then I am very surprised, but grateful.

Well, I believe when I left off in July I was just working up towards my first cross-country flight (and was apparently in a slight feminist rage).  Well, plenty has happened since then, so let me try and give you the Coles Notes version.  The basic idea is that last semester was ridiculously intense, academically speaking, and with that and my job I literally didn't even have days off.  So with little time and lots to do, a lot of my personal hobbies fell by the wayside.

In July and August I did my first two cross country flights with My Instructor, and then moved on to do two more by myself.  No great catastrophe occurred.  I found my way competently enough from Ottawa to Kingston and back, and then a trip from Ottawa to Cornwall and then Brockville before heading back to Ottawa again.  At first, the idea of doing a cross country by myself was terrifying, but I sucked it up and got on with it, and somehow pulled it off.  Overall, the idea of cross-country flight proved to be a thrilling experience.  I got a chill of excitement the first time I left CYOW heading for Smiths Falls - it was a completely different feeling to be flying myself to another place, instead of the usual out to the practice area and back.

After the cross country flights, it was time to start polishing.  My Instructor and I spent a lot of time working in the circuit and out in the Practice Area trying to perfect my air-work and such.  Some time around the end of July I got the Transport Canada written test for my Private License done and passed, and then My Instructor and I did my first Pre-Flight Test.  In order to be recommended for a flight test, the Instructor must be confident that you would indeed be able to pass a flight test, and so in many cases you do the Pre-Flight Test.  The PFT is basically a mock-up of a flight test.  You do the entire process of the test, from ground briefing to finish, with the instructor, and they grade you as you would be graded in the real test.  My first PFT wasn't brilliant, but it wasn't too bad either.  There were a few items I needed to work on, and others I performed quite well.  So I went back to work on fixing things up a bit.

At one point half way through August My Instructor offered to book my flight test, but for some reason I really wasn't feeling confident yet, so I told him I wanted more time.  At the end of August I had two weeks off from school, which, in theory, I should have used to practice.  Instead, The Airline popped up with some flight attending for me, and I jumped at the chance to make some extra money (this flying stuff isn't cheap...).  I rounded off two weeks of pairings with a nasty bout of food poisoning, and all of a sudden it was September and the new term of classes was starting.

Once I was well enough to fly again, things got serious.  I did another pre-flight test, and then we finally booked the day.  I booked the flight test examiner for September 28th, and studied my face off.

It was time for THE FLIGHT TEST *duhn duhn DUHN!*

The morning arrived, and unfortunately the weather was not great.  Still I did the prep, and when the examiner showed up I ignored the sensation that someone was tap-dancing in my stomach as best I could and got on with it.  We did the entire ground briefing for the flight, and I performed pretty well.  I got stumped on one or two questions, but for the most part I had it down.  However, when we finished up and checked the weather we discovered that the wind had picked up and there was definite rain on the radar.  We called it off.

To be honest, this came as something of a relief.  Breaking it up felt simpler to me than having to do the whole ground briefing AND the flight portion on the same day.  That being said, this led to the most stressful ten days of my life.  I must have booked and had to call of the flight portion three times thanks to horrible luck with the weather.  I was absolutely nuts by the time I finally got a halfway decent day in order to be able to do it.

The test itself was a bit of a blur.  I remember pulling off a SPECTACULAR power-on stall, which was fabulous, but the I also remember forgetting how to count and determining that I had a ground-speed of approximately 45 knots despite a tailwind...so, uh yeah.  High points and low points basically....

Anyway, we landed for the final time and taxied back to the flying club.  I had a feeling that I hadn't passed.... I knew I hadn't outright failed or the examiner would have stopped the test, BUT I thought I might have failed an item or two and would have to repeat them.  So as I shut down the engine and packed away I mentally prepared myself for the worst.

The examiner started talking and I didn't take it in too well.  He said something about a few mistakes he wanted to discuss but overall I had passed.  I blinked and paused for a moment.
'I passed?' I asked, in disbelief.
'Yes,' he replied.
'Like, pass passed?'
'As in I-get-a-license-now passed?'
'Uh yeah!'
'Holy sh*t'.

The examiner packed up and headed inside before me, leaving me to gather my flight kit...or perhaps just giving me the privacy to have a complete meltdown from relief.  Honestly the feeling that came over me then is unlike anything I've felt so far.  Such a rush of relief and joy.  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I did a fair bit of both.

I spent the rest of the day (during which I worked a full shift at work) alternately bouncing around with joy and telling everyone EVER that I had just passed my flight test, and having to excuse myself to have a meltdown in the ladies room.  It was THE MOST exhausting day.

Anyway, after that happened, I had to catch up on a lot of schoolwork that had taken the back-burner due to my flight test preparation.  For the rest of the fall I did a little flying - mostly working on my checkout to fly the Cessna 172, and a little bit of night flying.  Then exams came, and then Christmas, and on New Year's I took a work trip to Chicago for two weeks... and then all of a sudden I was back at school and back at work, and now it's the second week of February and I can't even say I have flown this year.  Epic fail.

Anyway, I have lots of other things to write about, but this was meant to be a bit of a catch up post, so at least you all know I am still alive and still working on my flying!  Better than that, I'm a license pilot now!  What a strange and wonderful thing to be able to say!  I certainly never would have predicted that in my future five years ago.  Hell, not even three!

Keep an eye out for more!