Following on from Speedwing's excellent report on his/her role as LH cabin crew, I thought I'd let you guys have a taste of how different life can be working for a UK charter airline, as opposed to a German scheduled airline!
For a start, during the winter season we don't work as hard as Speedwing, but during the summer (01 May - 31 Oct) we work equally as hard (I would never say harder!).
At the moment my roster is showing just over one flight a week, a total of five flights this month. However, during the summer we may work 4-5 flights a week. Such is the way of charter airlines!
I've chosen my most recent flight, which turned out to be a typical day at work for the crew!
Flight number: BY034A.
Route: STN (London Stansted) - TFS (Tenerife South).
Aircraft: Boeing 757-200, G-BYAE
I was allocated this flight during a period of five days on standby. Crewing phoned me on the first day of the standby period and gave me almost 24 hours notice of the flight - which was nice!
For a 14.05 departure the crew were required to report to the crew room at 12.50. I arrived at just before 12.30, and today I was the first of the crew to arrive, followed very shortly afterwards by the Captain - the first good point of the day, as it was my favourite Captain at the base. A real team motivator, who helps the cabin crew with their duties on turn around, makes tea for the entire crew, and makes us all feel valued by introducing us all by name on his PA's. (The Captain and Cabin Manager really set the atmosphere for the day, and today it was to be a good day!)
All the crew had arrived well before our report time of 12.50, and dead on time we sat down to commence the briefing. Today, in a very unusual occurrence the number of male crew exceeded the number of females! We had 1 male pilot, and 3 male cabin crew, and one female pilot with two female cabin crew. I was the youngest crew member, at 20.
The first disappointment of the day was that on today’s flight we were only operating with minimum cabin crew, which for our Boeing 757-200 is 5. On such a flight during the winter season we would expect to operate with 7, so 5 was quite a shock. One crew member had gone sick, but that’s the reason I was called from standby, so for some reason the flight was only crewed with 5 cabin crew. Never the less, we all agreed that 2 crew down or not, we would not let it affect us or the enjoyment of our passengers! Aren't we good!?
At the briefing we discuss the nature of the flight, the flight times inbound and outbound, the expected passenger loads (today we had 225 outbound, and 235 inbound), any special needs or special requests from passengers, the catering, in flight entertainment, the service delivery order and anything else relevant to the flight. We are also asked safety related questions by the cabin manager, and must answer correctly in order to be allowed to operate the flight.
One burning issue today was that the runway at Stansted was due to close at midnight for routine maintenance. It would not be kept open any later than midnight, and diversions were expected to go to Luton. We were scheduled in as the last flight of the evening, at 23.55
Another thing that the crew are often keen to discuss is who will operate in which position that day. The cabin manager always operates as the "number one", and the two senior cabin crew decide between themselves who will operate as the "number two", and who will be the "number three". The juniors (me included) then decide who wants to operate as each of the numbers "four", "five", "six", and "seven". On today’s flight there were no senior cabin crew, so out of us four juniors, the most experienced two had to fly as the numbers 2 and 3. This was quickly decided, leaving the other two of us to fly as the 4 and the 5.
Today I was the number 5, meaning I would be in charge of doors 3, and seated at door R3, knee to knee with the passengers who had paid £30 extra to sit in row 32DEF, at the emergency exit!
At 13.05 we made our way out the very short distance to our aircraft, B757-200 G-BYAE, one of our more elderly old ladies, still proudly wearing the slowly disappearing old Britannia livery.
Photo © Shaun Grist
Photo © Mike Moores
The aircraft had night stopped, so it was
B) Very cold!
The first thing we do on boarding any flight is check our safety equipment is still there and working correctly. This is done quickly, after which we check every seat pocket for security reasons, but also remove any rubbish which our truly fantastic cleaning staff somehow missed! We also replenish the toilets, and again, clean any rubbish "not seen" by the cleaners!
When all the ground staff other than our dispatcher have left the aircraft we carry out security checks, to make sure none of the little darlings have left us any special little packages, and then we can give the go-ahead to commence passenger boarding. This sounds a lot, and it is, but we only get around 15 minutes to do it! (5 cabin crew, 235 seats, 4 toilets, 2 galleys, 41 rows!)
Today boarding started on time at -40 (40 minutes to go until STD, which was 13.25). During boarding the cabin manager sorts out paper work and prepares the galley in the front, the number 2 does the same in the rear galley, and the numbers 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 stand either at the entry doors being used, or in designated areas in the cabin to greet and assist passengers. With just 5 crew on board today’s flight, I stood by the toilets in between rows 31 and 32, whilst my colleagues numbers 3 and 4 stood at door L2, which is the door we always use to board passengers, in between rows 11 and 12.
With boarding complete, we were able to shut the doors and push back on time, if not slightly ahead of schedule.
Our Captain introduced us all by name, and explained that we would be working incredibly hard today as just five of us were doing the work of 7. He kindly asked passengers to bear with us if they were kept waiting for longer than normal, then requested everyone’s full attention to the safety demonstration.
On Britannia, happily the safety demonstration is in the form of a video, and all we as crew have to do is point out the exits, then walk away.
As soon as the safety video was finished I started from row 41 checking what we call 'cabin secure' - which is to make sure all passengers have their seat belts tightened, etc etc, there are 13 things we look for, but I'm sure you get the idea!
I took my seat at door R3, and informed the cabin manager via our interphone that the cabin was secure.
Take-off was from runway 23, a very short taxi distance from our stand B21. The runway at Stansted is very long, and take-off was leisurely as usual. The weather was dry but very very windy, and as such the climb was considerably more bumpy than usual.
When we were allowed out of our seats the first thing I did was check on a lady seated in my section of the aircraft who was an extremely nervous first time flyer. The initial turbulence during the early part of the climb hadn't exactly helped her situation, but she was feeling OK.
Myself and my colleague (also friend) at the back, worked quickly to start the in flight entertainment, offer passengers headsets, and prepare and start a drinks service. Our three colleagues at the front worked just as quickly to do the same.
After drinks we served meals to the passengers who had chosen to pre-book them, whilst offering those passengers who had decided against a meal the option to purchase more drinks or sandwiches / snacks.
We then did everyone’s least favourite service, clearing in!
Followed by a Britannia promotional scratch card sale, with money going to Britannia’s charity, the Born Free Foundation, and instant win prizes for passengers.
Then we did a duty free service, selling cigarettes, alcohol, fragrances and gifts.
This was followed by another drinks service.
Somewhere we fitted in a very quick break when we had the opportunity to pull the curtains separating us from our passengers, sit on the jump seats in the rear galley, and scoff some delicious crew food!
Flight time outbound was 04:10.
We arrived in Tenerife slightly ahead of schedule, and said goodbye 225 times!
Then we got off the aircraft and enjoyed a leisurely week in Tenerife......
Oh no... sorry... that was in my dreams...
What we really did then was security check the aircraft again, and welcome on board our team of about 10 cleaners.
We re-check every seat pocket again, replenish toilets again, grab 5 minutes for a drink and a snack and a chat with the pilots, say good bye to our cleaners, security check yet again, and start boarding!
TFS - STN
In Tenerife we had no jet bridge, so we were connected to two sets of steps, one at door L2, and one at door L4. Passengers boarding at door L4 have to walk through our galley, so we can't work in the galley during boarding.
Because of this, the number two stood at doors 3 where I had stood for boarding on the outbound sector, and I stood at the top of the steps at door L4, smiling my cheesiest grin and saying 'hello' around 120 times.
Again, we shut the doors and pushed back ahead of schedule.
We repeated the same services inbound, minus one drinks service due to a shorter flight time. (Only 03:45 inbound).
Most passengers chose to sleep as it was a night flight and they were tired after their holidays. Due to everything going our way, an excellent highly motivational Captain, a hard working crew, a lot of luck, and passengers playing the game, we made it back to Stansted at 23:15, 40 minutes ahead of schedule, and with a lot of time to spare before the runway shut!
We were connected to a jet bridge at Stansted, and I stood at doors 3 again for disembarkation saying good bye and STILL smiling hard!
No sooner were the passengers off, than we were, but not before security checking one final time!
A quick hop onto the crew bus, back to the crew room to count and bank the money, on the staff bus to the car park, and home and in bed by 01:30!