It's 0300 and I have my eyes wide open !!! AAGGGHH ! It's the jetlag from my holidays in Tahiti that is taking its toll !
I get up, walk around the flat, read my few emails, make a last check at my suitcase, I add a few shirts and make sure I have all my paperwork for the trip. My cabin crew flying licence, my aircraft licences, passport and US visa in order. I watch some TV, I need to be in CDG at 0900 fo my briefing.
At 0645, I start to get ready, shave, shower, brush my teeth, smile in the mirror, hhhuuuhhh !!! Why did I get up so early ?!?
At 0730, I leave the house, make sure, the plants are watered, I am off for a long trip, 12 days ON ! I am due back on the 3rd. I lower the thermostat to save on the energy, make sure all the lights are off. I close the door and get down my 2 flight of stairs.
I do my usual 7 minutes walk to the train station in uniform with my suitcase... People are staring as usual !
I get to the station on time but decide to wait for a nonstop train to CDG rather than the "milk train" which stops everywhere !
0830 I am in CDG. I get my ID pass to show the security officer guarding the Air France crew city. I drop off my one suitcase and go fetch my other one at the baggage area. Get up to the first floor and sign in for the LAX flight, I say Hello to a few friends who are going to many different part of the world. I run up to the Americas, my network. I read the latest notes about Air France, the service, the new menus starting on February 1st and the usual unions' notes. I go past the office where 2 instructors are working, I talk to them about my log-in problems with the company computer system. I couldn't request my holidays, they'll do it for me ! Thanks ! Got to go, briefing starting soon !
I get to room 17, half of the crew is there, I introduce my self to the Chief Purser and Pursers, I've flown with the Chief purser before. A couple of minutes later, everyone is here, the 15 of us. The pursers do their briefing reminding us the safety features of the 747-400, what commercial actions we would take, the service order, movies shown, name of the flight deck crew. They give us our position for the flight, I'll work the galley in Business Class Main deck today. There is a bit of a friction concerning First Class where 2 girls are arguing who will do it. The most senior one gets it and we can hear them still complaining about it. The other difficult moment is to find a Galley person for Economy. No one !
At 0915 we are out to the crew bus, we pick-up our suitcases and we are off to the plane. It is F-GITD today and it will fly CDG-LAX AF062 with us and return on AF065 with a new crew. We are checked by the Gendarmerie de l'Air to see that we all have our ID pass and we are driving around the terminal. We can see all our European bound flights docked at terminal 2 halls B and D, A multitude of AF tails around with a few SN, SR and AZ.
The bus drops us off at the bottom of the plane, The big giant nose is right above us, loads of people are running around to get the aircraft ready for its departure. Around us are other AF long-haul aircrafts plus the usual friendly DL and CO 777's.
Climb the stairs, we are in the plane. We are taking over the aircraft and we have 15 to 20 minutes to get everything ready before boarding. Safety checks first, the axe, oxygen, demo kits, BCF fire extinguisher, first aid kit, life jacket, jumpseat's belts, flash lights, all is here, now the cabin, seats are clean, cabin looks OK, blankets and pillows on all seats, TV programs and magazines in the pockets, the safety card is the proper one. The Chief Purser puts on the safety demo video on to check that it works, It's fine. I start to count my meals, It is loaded full 28 meals for the main deck ! The Captain stops us all in our galley work, we need to start the common check-list. Its full emergency lights in the cabin, we all chack that every single light works, we check the seat belt lights are on, test the smoke detector in the toilets and crew rest. He makes an emergency call, everyone picks up the phone and introduces himself starting by the Chief Purser the 5L, 5R, 4L etc until the upper deck. He tries the evacuation alarm, it rings perfectly alright, I am nearly deaf !!!
I count my hot dishes, make sure they are the same as the menu's, I have my 2 choices of starters, the desserts are all here, the carts with the wine, champagne and other drinks are also here. My colleague, a girl today, is checking the snack in the first class galley, is folding table clothes, storing the toilets with the creams and usual toiletries and adding the chef's recommendation leaflet in the menus. I take the flowers out and put them on our 2 bars with the US newspaper, It's a beehive in the plane, OOOps the first passengers are at the door, Bonjour Monsieur ! Welcome aboard ! Cross the galley turn right you are sitting by the window, Good Morning sir, Your seat is in the upper deck...
People everywhere. boarding is always hectic, people standing everywhere, getting their marks, looking for papers, magazines, a spare pillow. I run around to get everyone's jacket and store them. Smile. I explain the seat to a few persons, Show them the video program, where are the headsets...
Boarding is over, on time, lets offer our customers a glass of champagne, orange juice or water ?!?
Newspaper, the plane is being pushed back, got to run to my door 2R to arm it, we confirm to the Chief Purser over the phone, The demos start on the video screens, we are on our way and I am sweating !!! I get the hot towels ready and I uncork the bottles of wine, make sure all is chilled. We had out the towels, 1,2,3,4,5... 23 passengers, its ok, not a full load after all, we have 5 spare seats.
Pick-up the towels, check the seatbelts, the captain announces take-off. I go and seat at my jumpseat, I checked the galley all is stowed and latched for take-off
The aircraft is running along the runway, these 3 minutes will be the only rest time I'll have for another 2 to 3 hours ! Seat belt sign is off, It's show time !!! We close the partitions between First and Business, and Business and Economy. My colleague is handing out the menus while I dress the drink table for us, I check that the liquors are all there, fruit juices, peanuts, glasses, ices, ok, we are rolling. Can I get you a drink before dinner sir ? will that be with Ice ?
Drinks are over, while Souad, my colleague, is clearing the cabin from empty glasses, I turn on the ovens, and dress the food trolleys, they need table clothes, wine, and bread. The rest is inside the trolley.
The menu for today is as follow :
Choice of Hors d'Oeuvre :
Mixed salad acccompanied by a duck terrine with morel mushrooms, carrot julienne, celery and emmental
Frisée salad with mushrooms, dill-marinated crayfish, zucchini and bell pepper julienne
Choice of Main Course :
Pan-seared lamb chop with shallot butter, potatoes au gratin, cherry tomato and sweet peas
Roast loin of veal with Rosemary sauce served with a creamy cheese polenta, steamed green cabbage and a glazed shallot
Fillet of Salmon trout, cream sauce with chives and savoie white wine, saffron basmati rice, spinach flan with cranberries
Our Special Selection of Cheese :
Camembert, Reblochon and Tomme de Savoie
Assorted Desserts :
Nougat cake with apples and walnuts
Blackcurrant, chartreuse or apricot flavoured sorbets served with cookies
Coffee, Grand Jardins Teas and Herbal teas.
We are off to dress the tables and offer lunch to our customers. They are all satisfied with their choice, no one is missing its preferred starter. We follow soon after with the main course with wine refills and bread in between.
Cheese as got less success, dessert is the usual winner, coffees and teas, a liqueur perhaps sir, I have some Armagnac, Cognac, Calvados, Chartreuse, Bailey's, Pear Williams ?!?
We clear the remaining items of catering and we follow soon after with the duty-free articles from our "Boutique de Paris".
It has been 2 and a half hours that we have started the service, the bars are dressed with drinks, magazines, games and sweets. We will put the sandwiches, fruits and cookies later during the flight. The economy class crew has finished at the same time as us. We serve a few glasses of water and it's time for us to have our lunch. 10 minutes and I swallowed a 3 course meal ! standing up ! In between passengers asking for a glass of Pepsi !I leave Souad in the galley and go to rest in the crew bunks. 3 hours of sleep, much needed !
WHAT ?!? Is it time already ???!? OK ! Let me get dressed and look like something ok. There is 8 of us in the crew rest area trying to change back into our uniforms.
RUN !!! I speed towards the Business Class toilets where I freshen up. In the galley Souad is waiting for me, she tells me that everything went OK, most passengers are sleeping or restin, the buffet is out and nearly empty, I still have loads of fresh fruits for them though. She folded more table clothes and swopped the lunch trolley's with the snack ones from the First Class Galley.
I take over the guard duty, she goes to rest. I start filling out the paper work for the US customs concerning my removable stores containing alcohol. I fill out my paper work for immigration and customs for the US. I get the seals ready to close the drinks trolley.
It's time to load the ovens with the snack plates that need to be reheated. Open a few more bottles of wine, I need more water, I go and steel some from Economy.
The ovens are on the bars are cleared the buffet stored back, the crew will soon be up and we will have to serve our last meal for today.
The trolleys are ready when Souad arrives, She goes and freshen up in the toilets while I put the lights on in the cabin and pick-up any catering items.
And we are off with the trolley. Would you like your snack sir ? A glass of wine perhaps ?
In less than an hour its over. Souad takes over the cabin I need to tidy the galley and seal the trolleys. She is handing out landing forms and customs declarations. We start our descent to LAX. In 30 minutes we will be on the ground. The galley is checked and secure, we remove all the amenities from the toilets and clear the cabin getting it ready for landing. The seat belt sign come on, the annoucements are made. We hand back all coats and bid farewell to all our passengers in the cabin. They loved it. They are satisfied.
The landing gear is down, we are a few minutes from landing. I check my watch, bad thing, we are 30 minutes early ! We will have to wait for our parking stand to come free. Landing. Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to Los Angeles ! We taxi towards our gate which is taken. We are assigned another one.
The plane come to a stop. We are towed in.
We disarmed the doors. The door opens, and we let the First and Business Class passengers out first, Aurevoir, aurevoir, nearly 300 goodbyes ! I am thirsty !
let me see, I need a bottle of water for my room and all my stuff, oven gloves, corkscrew etc...
We check if anyone has left anything in the plane, No ? well its our time to get out of the plane. The cleaning people and caterers are all here, waiting to get in and turn the plane around for its journey home.
I go through immigration, get my passport and customs form stamped. A random check ?!? AAGGHH ! I am tired I want to go, OK, let me open my suitcase. I chat with the customs people, they tell me about the stuff they find sometimes in people's bags, WHAT ? a dried human hand ?!? They must have enough stuff for a full museum in those backrooms. I am clean, and ready to go. The crew bus is not here, the place we usually park in is being redone and the driver is nowhere to be seen. I run up to AF and they call him. Someone comes with us to find our bus. Hurray we find him ! Off we go, loading our bags, and seat . Hotel is in another 50 minutes. We stay in NewPort Beach, too far, I'll listen to some music.. I want to get there, fast.
Sutton Place hotel, we are finally there. Get off the bus, get our bags, the keys, say good-bye to the crew as Souad, Marine and I are going to Tahiti and we will fly with a Tahiti based crew. We are flying on Thursday night on AF070. I have half of that crew for friends. It's great. Tonight we are going out to dance a little bit of Salsa and tomorrow we will stay in the hotel and rest.
Thursday is another day, right now I am tired after AF062. I'll take a shower and have a nap before going to the Salsa.
AF Cabin Crew.
Photo © Alain Mengus
For those of you who want, I have pictures of the Tahiti crew. Send me a mail and I'll send you the pictures by email.