Not really a trip report but I thought this would make some interesting reading and I really enjoyed the Easyjet Cabin Crew version.Well done that man!
It's 0430 and my alarm makes me jump out of my skin. Looking around the dark room my eyes adjust and brain kicks in to tell me to get to work. The thought of walking or cycling to work in the dark and in minus temp just makes me cringe. This is how your average morning starts when your working as a aircraft dispatcher.
I arrive at work to meet with 12 other dispatchers. We sit down and have a chat about the daily schedule or anything that we need to talk about which may be effecting our day. This can include the staff which we have on shift, we have to make sure we can cover all our customers flights, the weather is a huge part and we will discuss any problems we see or forecast. Its not the easiest thing discussing important things at 0500 in the morning. I'm working 13 hours today and I can see my day consists of dispatching British Airways, KLM, Finnair, V-Bird and Easyjet. This morning we discuss a few things including possible delays into LHR due fog.
We have a very good communication system which we sign into every day. Today's mail warns me of a catering strike. It tells me that all the flights should be round trip catered from there departure station. As soon as I'm reading this I'm knowing I will have problems with those which do uplift catering here.
My first of today is British Airways
Its a Airbus A320 aircraft and one of the old Bcal ones G-BUSE. The first thing I'm doing is preparing the mountains of paperwork which I will need to compose for this flight. The departure time is 0710 and its now 0530. The flightplans have started to print out via SITA, Today there is 3 flight plans as the crew are going to MAN and BRU after this sector. Accompanying each flightplan should be a notam, met brief and company brief (Which included Metar, Taf and Wind charts) Along with every flight we have our own company brief. We have to keep records, comments, times as if anything goes wrong (Which it does) we can show the management the evidence from our times or comments etc
Today's crew are looking stunning and as they arrive in the airbridge I acknowledge to myself why I love this job. Around 5 different perfumes mix the air and lots of white teeth smiles as I wish them good morning. However its not all about the glamour *yeh right* and off I go to do my job. A quick chat with the cabin crew briefing them on anything I have and them its off to the flight deck. Today we have a slot due to early morning fog in LHR. The landing rate has been reduced to 32 per hour due to low vis and fog. Our flight will depart 1 hour late due to a slot.The captain and I chat about the expected payloads and the EZFW's as he wishes to take some extra holding fuel. Today the flight is only half full and there is only a small amount of cargo expected. In theory he can take a high amount of fuel but he wishes for just 8 Tonnes. Fuel is called and somehow arrives very late to the aircraft. As I'm talking with the captain I can hear behind me cabin crew testing equipment, fire evac alarms and talking with each other. Its noisy and crowded now as I have a engineer, fuel man and a horney No1 wanting to talk with the captain,
Before the passengers board I have to check a few things as soon as possible. The configuration of the aircraft, the C and Y classes has to be set correctly by the divider and on this aircraft the seats have to changed from xxx xxx to xx xxx to allow extra room in C class. The food on board has been brought the previous evening from LHR due to the catering strike. We have been catered full for C and Y classes which thankfully wont cause any problems and its now 1 less problem I can forget about.
Thankfully we decide to board the passengers 20min before departure, We wont tell them there is a delay. Why? Well as soon as you tell them there is any delay many of them despite you asking to stay in the gate go away to shop, eat breakfast or complain at the ticket desk. And in aviation a slot time can change very quickly and if we are missing passengers because 1 went for coffee we have a problem. The rules say you are not allowed to send a aircraft with the passengers bag still on board. Its called unaccompanied baggage. If this happens we stand to lose a slot and could have many problems finding the bags and wasting time.
Its now 0700 and 10 min before departure time, thankfully because the flight is not full there is very few problems except 1. Today I have dangerous goods on board. Dry Ice, Of course each dangerous good item has to be indicated to the crew via a declaration form. Today's paperwork is fine but the actual box has been marked in error with a different label. Its time for me to go outside and check. Thankfully the loaders who are VERY switched on noticed it and drew it to my attention. The rules say if its not marked 100% its off. So in short I offload and change the paperwork.
Photo © Europix
Going into the bridge I see there is no passengers in line anymore. I'm hopping that the gate staff will tell me everyone is on board. No sooner have I though of it a radio call comes in " A passenger has lost his passport in the terminal, He has 3 bags and is going onward to LAX" After all that hard work I find we are let down due to a passenger. Luckily we have the delayed departure time because of a slow but I cant take any chances because it could improve and if it does and she is looking for a passport we are in trouble. The loaders are passed the baggage tag numbers and because she is making a short connection we know which hold to look for her baggage. I see from a update to the computer we have had a slot improvement and we are clear to go.Its now 0720 I instruct the gate staff to offload the missing pax and then the rat race begins. The pax list is printed for the crew and the missing pax baggage is offloaded from the aircraft and the system. We exchange paperwork on the flight deck in a mad rush, start the apu and disconnect ground air. We close the door and remove the airbridge and somehow thankfully we make our slot and the aircraft starts its pushback.
Photo © Europix
The flights not finished as I have to update the loadsheet for the capt. He will not depart airborne until I do so. A cross check with the loadingplan confirms everything is ok and loaded correctly. Entering this into the computer I must be thinking clearly and make no mistakes. We are sending the loadsheet via ACARS today *Not my preference* so i complete it and send off to the aircraft.
Of course part of being a dispatcher is helping your other fellow crew, today's gate staff are 2 young but experience girls. I heard a commotion and allot of shouting. You got it! the pax has found her passport and arrived at the gate. Screaming her head off about its all our fault there is nothing you can do except let them get it out there system. Once they have finished they usually feel stupid but taking them to the window and pointing to there aircraft usually reassures them that they were to late anyway.
Breakfast time and after a mind crushing flight its time to have coffee and do it all over again!
Of course being a dispatcher is fun but you it really takes a lot of physical and mental torture when its busy and you have problems. Your are the 1 point of contact any anything to do with the flight no matter how small is your business. You are there to make sure the customer is happy, the flight is safe, the rules are followed and to chat up the nice looking girls.
Its around 3pm now and after 4 flights of mixed airlines, systems and procedures its time for easyjet.
The aircraft lands and docks on stand. I drive the airbridge on and knock on the door for the all clear to open. The crew open and here is a young No1 and the first thing he says "Where have you been all my life" Welcome to aviation
Photo © Europix
Thanks for listening, I hope you enjoyed a small incite. Its fun and outrageous but its hard work and your let down by the public all the time.