Well....thought some of you might want a trip report from this September 11, the first anniversary, as well as one from a crewmember's point of view.
On Wednesday I was scheduled to work a three-day paring, AirTran Trip #A3725 which operates (on the first day):
ATL-MKE 1225 1318
MKE-ATL 1355 1648
ATL-BOS 1730 1958
BOS-BWI 2035 2207
Although I was scheduled for an 1125 AM check-in, I elected to headout early, and take part in the company's Moment Of Silence on the concourse, which was scheduled at 0846. Arriving via MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority), I traversed the North Terminal and entered the secured area through ATL Employee entrance. It was readily apparent this was not a normal travel day....one could have fired a cannon in the terminal, and not scathed a soul.
I arrived in AirTran's Crew Lounge on the lower level of the C Concourse at around 0815. I checked in for the trip, gathered the needed info (i.e. gates, aircraft tail numbers, scheduled pax loads, msgs, etc.), and chatted briefly with our inflight management team. They explained they would also be holding the moment of silence in all employee areas, and aboard all aircraft. Promptly at 0846, an announcement was made in all public and employee AirTran areas asking every one to take "a moment to join the 5,000 professionals of AirTran Airways as we remember the tragic events which affected our nation and the world one year ago today".
The crew room, which had been loud and bustling (as is typical during the 8-9A hour on any weekday) immediatley fell silent as everyone took a moment to reflect.
Following, I went up to the concourse and killed time chatting with agents and other customer service personnel who didn't have much more to do than hold up the gate podiums due to the deserted concourse.
Around 11A I returned to the crew room, and met with the rest of my crew who was checking in by this point. As the Flight Service Manager for the trip, I sat down with my cabin crew for a quick crew briefing. Lori and Lisa, the two girls I would be flying with, have both with been with the airline as long as I have (7 years). I know both well, and looked forward to another uneventful trip. I shared with them the trip info I had compiled and explained we were scheduled to keep the same aircraft (ship 763) all day long (unusual). The loads were light, and the aircraft would be arrving from HOU at gate C18A at about 1115 for our 1225 departure. We agreed to meet at the aircraft around 1130.
At 1130 we met on the aircraft, had a crew briefing with our Captian and First Officer (Ed and Randy, respectively), discussing emergency procedures for evacs, hijacking attempts, and the usual dissemination of weather at destination, info, security password for flight deck admission, time enroute, etc. We would be flying with these two pilots for the entire day (also unusual).
Cleaning and catering came and went, and the aircraft was ready for departure.
At 1200, we began boarding flight 604 to Milwaukee.
FLIGHT AIRTRAN AIRWAYS 604 ATL MKE
AIRCRAFT - BOEING 717-200/SHIP 763
ETD - 1225
ATD - 1224
ETA - 1318
ATA - 1319
PAX LOAD - 14
Pax loads were to be light throughout the day, and this was no exception.
After we had boarded, and still had 15 minutes until departure time, I decided to offer pre-departures to all pax in both cabins, not just the lone business class passenger. People were surprised, and pleased. I decided right then to offer pre-departures in both cabins on all flights for the day, as well as comp all alcohol.
With only 1 person in business class, the captain then advised we would need to move 4 passengers up for weight and balance. There were 4 gentlemen seated at the emergency exit rows, and since they were the furthest back, we offered the upgrades to them first. Two accepted, two declined. Since there were 12 seats in business class, only 14 pax on board, and two said they didn't want to sit up front, I then told everyone that anyone who wanted to sit in business was welcome. Seven passengers moved forward.
We closed the door five minutes prior to departure, started the engines, and powered away from the gate one minute early. I made all announcements, Lori and Lisa completed the safety demos, and we were off. We were number two for departure, and were airborne shortly there after. We then turned the aircraft toward Wisconsin, and the trip had begun.
We landed at General Mitchell Field approximately five minutes prior to arrival, and taxied to the gate, arriving one minute late. I advised the ground staff they need not worrying about aircraft cleaning or stocking due to the light load. Lori, Lisa, and myself cleaned up the cabin, and walked up to the gate, where we chatted for a moment with our passengers headed out with us.
FLIGHT AIRTRAN AIRWAYS 605 MKE ATL
AIRCRAFT BOEING 717-200/SHIP 763
ETD - 1355
ATD - 1356
ETA - 1648
ATA - 1640
PAX LOAD - 23
We actually had 8 passengers scheduled for business class on this flight, so I couldn't do my "anybody who wants it can have it speech", but we still offered full pre-departures for both cabins....again pleasently surprising folks in coach. Two ladies in row 14 ordered coffees, I offered our new flavored creamers (hazelnut, french vanilla, amaretto, irish cream), and I thought they were gonna kiss me - has it really gotten that bad that people are surprised when flight attendants are nice to them?
Because we were ready to go so early, we carried on some light hearted banter with the ground crew, almost forgetting about departure time (i.e. the one-minute late departure). We completed the demos and were off, this time number one for departure. Once we were airborne, and had completed the bevereage service (full cans and lots of seconds and thirds to anybody who wanted it), I decided that instead of making the connecting gate assignment announcement over the P.A., I would give each person the downline information personally.....again much to the surprise of the passengers.
The flight was quiet and uneventful. Chatting with a couple of the business class passengers, it turned out we had an employee on board that we didn't even know about...our Manager of Internal Audit. He and I discussed the state of the airline for a while, and our thoughts on it's future and the future of the industry. Before long, we were descending into ATL.
I felt less like I was working, but rather more like I was on a road trip with a big group of friends.
We touched down on 26R and made our way to gate C11, arriving 8 minutes early. Passengers deplaned, and cleaning and catering boarded to prepare the cabin for our departure to BOS. At 1700, we began boarding.
FLIGHT AIRTRAN AIRWAY 290 ATL BOS
AIRCRAFT BOEING 717-200/SHIP 763
PAX LOAD - 63
Due to the higher passenger load, we were unable to offer full pre-departure drinks in both cabins, but I did offer drinks up front, and asked catering to leave extra liquor and beer kits. Business class was full, and most passengers in the main cabin spread out. Lori went through with blankets for everyone, and Lisa passed down the aisle with a trays of ice water in lieu of our pre-departures in coach. We were advised approximately 15 min prior to departure that an inbound flt from DFW had been delayed and that there were 13 connecting passengers. They were due in any minute, and ops advised us to hold for them. By 1725, all but one of the connecting pax was on board. After numerous announcements in the concourse, we finally shut the door ten minutes past departure, and pushed off the gate 11 minutes late without our missing connection. The whole airplane seemed to have been pulling for the passenger to make it, and I think we were all dissappointed when we finally had to go. The agent had advised before closing the door that the pax had not checked bags, so we wouldn't have to hold due to positive bag match.
We completed the demos on push back, and were off....this time number six in line for departure. They passed quickly and we were airborne for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
After two beverage services offering cans each time, and numerous snack services, Lori, Lisa, and myself settled in the back, occasionally walking through for trash, and to check on people. While we sat in the back, we all remarked on two things...that the day just felt "different"...almost calm, peaceful. Kinda like that feeling you get when walk you outside on Christmas Eve night, and it's cold and crisp, and every thing just seems right. Secondly, we were all glad we were flying....and were really enjoying ourselves.
The captain called me at approximately 1935 to advise that there was a backup going into Logan, and we had been issued holding instructions over PVD. We finally started in, and after a VERY long approach, we finally landed at approximately 2005. However, as we taxiied toward our ramp, the aircraft came to an abrupt stop. Ed came on the P.A. to announce that another aircraft (from another carrier) had been in the process of being towed when their tow bar had snapped right in front of the entrance to our alley way. It had apparently damaged the tug as well. They were waiting for another tug and tow bar. After about 25 minutes, we began moving again, I never did find out what carrier it was (I forgot to ask), but did glance out my peephole of a window as we enterd the ramp and saw an American Airlines tug slowly pulling another tug - however the second tug didn't appear to be an AA tug, and I couldn't make it out....so still not certain who it was.
We finally pulled into the gate just about the time we were scheduled to depart for BWI. When I opened the door, I asked the jetway agent how many they had left for us. When I had checked loads earlier in the day, we were booked for a whopping 13, however, this flight usually loses pax, as another flight to BWI departs one hour earlier, and pax tend to show up and get on it. Tonight was no exception, they had FOUR passengers left for us. Since we were all anxious to get on our way on our last flight, I said to send them down as soon as the last passenger stepped off, and to tell them all to sit in business class. After the last pax deplaned, we hurriedly tidied up business class, but left coach a mess to save time, especially since nobody would be sitting there.
FLIGHT AIRTRAN AIRWAYS 463
AIRCRAFT BOEING 717-200/Ship 763
PAX LOAD - 4
With 3 gentlemen and 1 lady aboard in a matter of moments, we assumed we'd be out of there lickety split. Whoaaa......not so fast. Just as I was taking out a tray of evening cocktails for our 4 new guests, I heard the captain saying they needed ballast since the aircraft was so light.
As I returned from cocktail delivery, I met the ramp agent heading into the cockpit to advise the captain, that they had used the last of the station's ballast on earlier flights. Ugh..... So as Ed and Randy crunched the numbers, and spoke with dispatch, we waited. I elected to not make any announcements, but instead speak directly to our four passengers...advising them of the flight time and that we were going to be delayed a bit longer because of the weight & balance issue. S.O.C. (System Operations Control) and Ed finally decided to carry a heavy fuel load for the weight. The fuel truck was called back, and advised to put 24,600 lbs of fuel on the aircraft....as this was being done, Ed came out and spoke with the passengers, just explaining the process, apologizing for the additional delay, and that we'd be in BWI before they knew it.
The fueler then came aboard the aircraft, and advised that he was having trouble and needed his supervisor. Again, we waited. The supervisor arrived, and fueling proceeded (apparently it was operator error). I took the opportunity to remind our four passengers that due to the date, there was extra security at the Washington area airports, and that a restriction was in place during the last 30 minutes of the flight prohibiting anyone from standing during that period.
By this time Lori and Lisa were also sitting down in business class, and the mood was very casual. The seven of us joked, and agreed there would be no mad dash for the lavs during the descent. I explained Ed would announce when we were 30 min out. I went back to the galley and emerged with another round of cocktails for the four, and shortly thereafter, our ops agent arrived to take the paperwork....W&B and fueling competed, the door was closed... and we were FINALLY off.
Two UA aircraft were coming into the alley behind us, and we had to wait for them to get to the gate. We pushed back, and I provided the safety demos to our four passengers (and Lori and Lisa much to their amusement), while giving them the safety speech in more of a "conversational" manner, rather than a teacher/student role. I think they enjoyed it. I can honestly say it is the first time that EVERY passenger on a flight paid attention to my safety instructions. It was very casual.
Despite the 40 minutes of hemming and hawing at the gate, we were number one for departure and were off. The cocktail tray emerged twice more, snacks joined them, and by now, the seven of us were old friends. Our female passenger said she felt as if she'd won a private airplane - the three guys agreed. By this point nobody even cared that we had been delayed.
Soon, Ed came on and said the "30 minute rule" wasn't far off. I'm glad he gave a bit of warning....after all of the cocktails, two of our guests needed to partake in the facilities. Soon, however, we were descending into Maryland, touching down at Baltimore/Washington, and parking at gate D21.
Our little quartet deplaned, each one shaking our hands, and wishing us good night. The agent came aboard and asked for my daily liquor deposit, I grabbed a liquor envelope....scribbled my name and employee number on it, and in the TOTAL DEPOSIT area, I wrote "Zero - all comped. September 11". I handed it back to the agent. She looked at it, looked back at me and said "Good for you".
Lori, Lisa, Randy, Ed, and myself grabbed our bags, and wheeled our way out to the curb, to await the van to the hotel. Randy and Ed would be leaving around noon the next day to go to FLL and then back to BWI, so we wouldn't be seeing them, while Lori, Lisa, and myself would be leaving at 1400 to work our way to BOS, and eventually down to MCO.
We all knew the next day would be back to the same old same old, but that today had been different...almost special.
At 2315, 15 hours after I had arrived in the crew room in ATL to start my day, I finally got to my hotel room. I thought I'd be exhausted, I wasn't.
I had had no intention of working September 11 this year. I didn't want to be anywhere near an airport. When I had bid my schedule, I had simply bid trips that didn't fly Tuesdays, since September 11 was on a Tuesday right? Uh, whoops, genius....that's a Wednesday this year, so I had gotten "stuck" with a trip flying on a day I didn't think I wanted to fly on
My memories of September 11, 2001 are filled with horror, confusion, anger, fear, and sorrow. Had I not worked this year, I would have been inundated with media sensationalism, images, and tributes which would have brought so much of that darkness back.
Instead, this year I gained memories of a September 11 that were peaceful, calm, kind, and filled with people just happy to be here.