It was turning out to be another typical Friday afternoon in New York City. I had talked with my parents the day before, they live in Michigan, and they said that they where under a Tornado Watch until late Thursday evening. This news pretty much told me what my day was going to be like on Friday.
Thursday, at 1700, I had checked in for my assignment on Friday. The day before and usually around 1700 we are able to see what we are assigned for the next day. On Friday the 26th I had been assigned a reserve day. If you read my previous trip report you will know that I do call this house arrest. We are able to go about our normal lives on a home reserve, but we have to be able to make it to the airport with in 2 hours. My reserve day is scheduled to start at 1100 and run until 2300. They are 12 hour shifts for which we do not get paid for unless they call us in for a trip or to sit airport stand by.
I had been sitting at home for the past 4 days and hadn’t gone anywhere since my last SEA turn. Thus is the life of a reserve, we never know when or where we are going to fly. JetBlue has been hiring Flight Attendants like crazy to try and keep up with our expansion. They have recently reduced the number of new hires to just about 600 for 2006. Even though they are hiring like crazy, the new hires need to sit reserve while those who had put in their time got lines. JFK has so many reserve flight attendants right now that many of the reserves don’t get to fly a lot, thus is my case.
I was planning on enjoying a nice Friday afternoon at home, maybe walk down the street and catch a movie or go to the mall, I hadn’t decided much. However at 1245, 1hr and 45min into my reserve, I got a much needed call from our Crew Services. I had been assigned a trip. I knew that I wouldn’t be going far as I was only eligible to fly for 2 more days. We can only fly a maximum of 6 days in a row before we need 24 hours of complete rest. My crew scheduler told me that I was assigned a BUR redeye turn and the show time was 1545. Basically we would be flying out to BUR, leaving at 1645 and arriving at 1949, picking up a new load of customers and flying overnight back to JFK. I really like redeye flights as 99% of the customers are asleep. My biggest concern was going to be staying awake for the 11hour duty day. 7-11 stop for some Full Throttle!! I hung up the phone and proceeded to my laptop to see how many customers our flight was booked to, what gate we would be leaving out of, and where our aircraft was coming from. A few key strokes, a couple of passwords and login IDs and I’m in.
According to the computer, my flight to BUR is booked to 135, will leave from Gate 2, and the flight is coming from MCO. Uh-oh! I just heard some thunder and it’s now pouring out side my window. I quickly open another browser window and make my way to the Air Traffic Control System Command Center and look up the New York Airports. According to ATC, JFK arriving traffic is receiving 1hr30min to 1hr45min delays. I look back for my flight from MCO and sure enough it’s delayed. It was scheduled to arrive at JFK at 1600, now it will be arriving at 1648. No matter thought, we should be able to make up a good chuck of that time in the air, or so I thought.
I start to get ready; I won’t need my roll-a-board as I am just doing a turn. I don my uniform and grab my tote bag and make my way out the door so I can catch the 1445 shuttle to the airport. I make it to the airport by 1515 and start to head towards our crew lounge. Security is a breeze as I have gotten to know many of the TSA faces during my brief stay at JFK. Once in the crew lounge I head to a computer and log in to check my email for any important company news that may have come out, I also print out my pairing report and check my file to see if any new revisions, to my manual, have come out.
It’s now 1540 so I head out into the lounge area and start to look for the rest of my crew. I’ll be the number 1 on this trip so I’ll be in charge of the cabin. I’ve flown with the number 2 before and he is a great guy. We did a redeye flight to BQN a month or so ago. I hadn’t flown with the other 2 before but we all where badges and name bars so it’s easy to pick them out. We all grab a couch and I start to run through my briefing. It’s a pretty standard briefing, making sure everybody has all the required items, all manuals are up-to-date, customer service standards, as well as a safety question. We have about an hour to kill now since our flight is late so I tell the rest of the crew to meet at the gate at 1620, until then we are on our own. I head out to get myself a ham and cheese wrap and some pineapple to take onboard so I will have something to eat on the way back. Then I grab some pizza to eat now because I am hungry and don’t want to munch on chips all flight.
With pizza and cold sandwiches in hand I make my way to the gate to see if our cockpit crew is sitting around so they don’t think we forgot them. I’ve also had the pleasure of flying with the captain before as well. He is an awesome guy and really tries to take care of us in the cabin. I find the Captain and First Officer and introduce myself. I hide myself behind the podium so that I may eat my pizza. JetBlue is really picky about what our customers see us do. We aren’t suppose to walk and talk on the phone, incase a customer has a question we are suppose to be available for them to ask us. Same goes for eating and drinking in view of our customers. I really don’t mind it as I think we are suppose to be open for our customers to approach us, plus it still makes the Flight Attendant job look really glamorous. Once done eating I decided to head outside to catch a last bit of fresh air. I still have plenty of time as our gate is still occupied by a late MCO departure. ATC weather reroutes where starting to play with our on time stats this day! I’m away from the gate for a good 15 minutes and when I come back in, the MCO flight is still there! It’s now 1620 and our flight will be arriving any moment, actually it is on the ground awaiting the gate to be cleared.
1630, 1640 come and go and the MCO flight is still there. I don’t know what was going on but we where now going to be really delayed. Finally system operations changed our gate to gate 1 since that aircraft was pushed back and it wasn’t being utilized at the moment. Our flight from MCO finally arrived at 1645 and the customers started to make their way off. After that flight had deplanes, my crew jumped onboard and helped the departing crew clean up the aircraft. Man did that aircraft need cleaning. MCO aircraft are usually always dirty, what with all the children and all but this plane was horrible. It looks as if several rows had decided to play a game of, let’s see how far we can get our animal crackers and potato chips to fly when we open the bag. I never understood how parents could let their children do this on a plane. If it was your house, or your work, or your friends house you would be on the floor so quickly cleaning up the mess and apologizing profusely. What is it about and aircraft that changes the equation? An airplane is my office and I have to come into my place of work and see it totally destroyed! I could write a whole nother trip report that would be filled with little customer quirks that are a bit irritating, but I digress.
Photo © Stephan Tophoven
Aircraft: N547JB “Forever Blue”
Flt 357 – 130 customers manifested – 1 wheelchair
With the aircraft cleaned and now being catered we where ready to start boarding. The gate agent said that we would be having 130 customers joining us for our trek to the west coast, what she forgot to tell me who would be accompanying us to BUR.
I was at my usually station, at the front boarding door greeting the customers as they walked onboard. We where about halfway done with boarded when I turned to put an orange juice can back in my juice cart when a customer asked if the flight was full and if it would be alright for him to sit up front instead of the back as he was in row 24. I turned my head to the side to answer with out looking as I didn’t want to lose a finger in the drawer. I told him that we where booked to 130 and he may sit in the first row unless some other customers come on and they are in those seats. He thanked me as I stood up and turned around and when proceeded to ask me where I was from. I was still not facing him and was about to turn and look at him, this all happened in a matter of 10 seconds, as I told him that I was from Michigan I started to make it as far as asking, “Where are you fro…..oh Hi!” Staring me back in the face was none other than Alec Baldwin, Alec Freakn’ Baldwin. I was shocked to see him onboard with us. He shook my hand and said thank you for letting him sit upfront instead of in the back. He and I both knew that if we sent him walking down that small aisle, we where going to have a riot on our hands and we would never make it to BUR. Again this was as long as nobody else was in the first row. He sat down in 1C and asked if he could trouble me for a bottle of water. I said no problem and grabbed him a bottle. I asked him how he was doing and told him that I just flew his brother, Stephen, out to BUR about a month ago. He told me that Stephen usually flies on JetBlue a lot as we fly right from New York to Burbank and they usually don’t have hordes of people flocking to them as in JFK.
Not 5 minutes later I notice another familiar face standing in front of me. This one was going to take a while as I didn’t recognize her at first, then it came to me. It was Pamela Bach-Hasselhoff, well former Mrs. Hasselhoff, and I have to admit that she looked pretty darn good. I would go another 5 minutes before I would receive my next surprise. Mean while during that time, poor Alec was bouncing in between seats in row 1 as customers started to fill it up. A nice lady in 1F caught my attention and mouthed the words, “Is that Alec Baldwin?” I just smiled and nodded. By this time the rest of the plane caught wind of our special customer and started to stand, with cameras in hand hoping to snap that elusive picture.
5 minutes later I would receive my last and final surprise for the evening. I was starting to wonder if we where running a charter to BUR for a film premier! One of the last to board was a famous TV star, Mr. Ken Howard. He was a bit before my time, but I saw him in a recent episode of The Ghost Whisperer and Conviction. He was sitting in seat 1A. Now poor Alec was squished in 1B, which according to him was totally alright, first off the aircraft in BUR.
I made my pushback announcement and said that we needed to have everybody seated before we could leave for BUR. Several people didn’t want to listen as they still wanted Alec Baldwin’s picture, but my trusty fellow Flight Attendants where quick to respond. With the cockpit and main cabin door closed, my other 3 flight attendants scattered themselves through the cabin to conduct the safety briefing while I stood and read it. Unlike the E190s the A320 does not have the prerecorded safety briefing so the number one has to read it while the other 3 demonstrate it. I pretty much have the PA memorized so I like to stand and be in full view of the customers while I recite it. My number 2 is stationed just in front of row 1, my number 3 is stationed at the overwing exits, and my number 4 is about row 18. All though out the briefing I was amazed to look down and see that I did have the full attending of Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Howard. This was something that I really wasn’t expecting to have as I’m sure they fly a lot probably don’t pay attention. After I was finished with the PA, I was caught off guard by the clapping of my 2 VIPs in row 1. It brought a smile to my face as I said thank you. I walked through my section of the aircraft to conduct my safety compliance checks. Now, back at the front of the aircraft, I repick-up the handset and announce my sincere apologizes for our delay and that because we where now about an hour late that the Inflight Movies would be free for all customers. So now they will be able to watch 4 hours worth of movies and the flight would go much quicker.
We where ready to push back by 1715 but because an Air Canada E170 had just pushed out of Terminal 7 and was blocking the alley, we where stuck. Luckily we are not late enough that we will miss the international departure rush. There is a brief wait for a takeoff spot as it appears that JFK is on single runway operations due to the storms in the area.
Behind a UAL 757 and an AAL A300 we lifted off into the mid afternoon, storm filled, and bumpy New York sky. Our flight would take 5hrs and 47mins and would take us over Canada, south of MDW, north of DEN, south of SLC and down to BUR. Once we reached 10,000ft our Captain gave us the signal and we began our work for this afternoon, I read my PA while my number 2 got up and unlocked the recline switches on the exit rows so they could recline comfortably. Our long haul product is a bit different than most the of legacy carriers. First we start off with a full beverage and snack service. Once we are done with our first service we set up a snack back with bottles of water in the back galley. Many inflight crewmembers will also grab a few snacks and bring them forward and set up a mini snack bar in the front galley for those that use the front lav. We do encourage our customers to get up and come visit us in our galleys, talk with us and grab a snack and something to drink. On a long haul JetBlue flight, if you leave the aircraft hungry it’s your fault. We want you to eat until your hearts content. Would you like 10 bags of Blue Chips, go right ahead and help your self! About half way through the flight we do come around with a bottled water service. You can still request a pop if you wish, but most people need some water at this point in the flight. Then about 1 ½ hr before landing we hand out our cheese and crackers snack pack and follow that quickly with a full beverage service.
We where passing about 40 miles south of GRR when I rang the guys up front to see if they wanted to come out for a brief break. They did so I told them to give me a second and I would be right up there. FAA regulations state that 2 people must be in the cockpit at all times so I head up front while the FO heads out into the back to use the lav and grab a pop and some snacks. The captain and I talk up front for 10 minutes or so while to FO is in the back. We get handed off the Chicago Center where we report in. As the captain is reporting in he tells the controller that we are experiencing Light Chop. The controller tells us that we can expect that light chop to continue all the way to Iowa City at all flight levels. So the captain thanks him and tells we will just stay at FL360 for now. The FO returns and the captain heads out into the back. This FO is a bit more of a stickler for the rules, so the entire time the captain is out of the cockpit he stays on his supplemental oxygen, where the captain just wore it while the door was open. I do have to say that the Airbus smoke and oxygen masks look pretty funky. Suffice it to say the FO didn’t have much to say to me. He just asked me if we (cabin crew) where doing a turn or lying over. He was a great guy, just followed the rules to the letter. The captain returned so I told them I would check up on them in an hour to make sure everything was Kosher.
Everybody was settling in pretty nicely in the back. Most customers where taking advantage of the free movies and either watching Big Mama’s House 2 or Imagine Me and You. No we weren’t playing anything with Alec Baldwin in it! Speaking of my 2 VIPs up front, they pretty much sat and talked through the whole flight. They would occasionally stop to watch a bit of TV. Mr. Howard kept drinking Bloody Mary’s where as Mr. Baldwin was all over the board. He started with water, then had a Club Soda, then had a Diet Coke, water, and finally some coffee. I joked with him and told him that he just might as well sample our entire soda and juice cart. He laughed and told me that he might take me up on it. Just as we entered Colorado the captain turned on the fasten seatbelt sign just as we starting to get some light bumps. Back at the gate I told the captain that we would take care of all the announcements in the back because it interrupts the TV programming and the guys up front tend to get long winded, “uh, ladies and gentlemen…uh…we’ve turned on the fasten seatbelt sign so….uh…if you could please return to your seat…uh…we are…”and so forth! Where as we, in the back, won’t even make an announcement. We will just walk through the cabin making sure that everybody is seated and buckled in. No TV interruption, with little fuss from the customers. I took my jumpseat by the 1L door and made sure my waist belt was at least fastened. I felt there was no need for my shoulder harnesses. I looked out through my little viewing hole in my door and saw some massive thunderheads off to the south. I had a good reason that they where the cause of our northerly deviation and the culprit behind the fasten seatbelt sign.
The seatbelt sign went back off around Telluride (TEX) so I rang up to see how the boys where doing. They said they would like a potty break so I made my way back up to the cockpit. The FO was the first to leave so I asked the captain if my suspicion about the thunderheads was correct, it was! I saw where we where and the Captain said that his family was down fishing on one of the lakes that was to our left (south). The FO returned and the Captain left. The same situation played out as before. The FO stayed on his supplemental oxygen and said very few words. The Captain returned and said that they should be alright for the rest of the flight, but I told them anyway that if they needed anything to just give us a shout.
We just entered California when we started our cheese and cracker service. We where starting to fall behind in our race with the sun, as it was starting to get dark outside in the western sky. As I was going through my section with the snack packs I had one gentleman stop me and ask me if this crew was California based. I told him that we weren’t. I said that I was BOS based and the other 3 where JFK based and asked why he asked. He then proceeded to tell me on the flight out he had 4 crewmembers that where California based and they weren’t very friendly and that this crew was the best he’d flown with in quite some time. I told him that I was sorry for his bad experience on the way to JFK and if he ever needed anything to just give me a shout, even though we only had about an hour to go in the flight. I then filled all my drink requests and ran through the cabin with a couple of trash bags. When I was up front cleaning my galley my 2 VIPs stood and came into the galley and asked if they could stretch and hang out for a minute. I told them that I didn’t foresee it being a problem and just continued to clean my galley and prep it for landing. My number 2 joined me and helped put the finishing touches on the galley just as Mrs. Bach joined the 4 of us up front. The 5 of us sat around and talked for about 20 minutes. We talked about their recent productions, how life in general was, any future projects that they may be working on.
Everybody took their seat as we started down for the BUR area. BUR was pretty foggy as the marine layer was well entrenched in the area. We made the typical BUR landing, hard, full breaks, and full reverse at 2032. As is usually with BUR we where at the gate by 2034. We where going to be late leaving but hopefully it won’t be a too long of a delay. As like most of our out stations, it really helps that we deplane from the front and back of the aircraft. Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Howard thank me and my number 2 for a wonderful flight and wish them well. The FO jumps out of the cockpit and races off the plane because he is going to go and get some burgers for us. The burgers at BUR are awesome and I always try to get one every time I’m here.
With all the customers off the aircraft we head out in the aisle and start to clean the aircraft. It is a typical scene onboard for such a long haul flight. It takes us about 6 minutes to get the seatbelts crosses and all large major scraps of paper up off the ground. The nice ground service agent, whom seems to be the only one working, emptied our trash bins, filled our water and vacuumed the aisle. The FO returned with the burgers so we sat and ate quickly while the agent finished vacuuming. When she passed by me I asked her if we where still booked full and she told me that we had 149 onboard with no specials.
Photo © Bruce Leibowitz
BUR-JFK 05/26/2006 – 05/27/2006
Aircraft: N547JB “Forever Blue”
Flt 358 – 149 customers manifested
The new pilots came onboard and introduced themselves as we did our quick briefing. I told them, as the other crew, that we would handle all the announcements in the back so we would not awake our sleeping customers. Boarding commenced at 2045 through both the front and the back. These customers knew that the flight was late and most of them wanted to just sit down and go to sleep. Boarding went off with out any major issues. 1 customer had a middle seat in the back of the aircraft so I told her could sit in either 1D,E,or F as all 3 seats where open.
With the cockpit and cabin door closed by 2120 we where all buttoned up and ready to go. I went through and introduced the cabin crew as well as the flight deck crew for the 4hr and 50min flight back to JFK. Following that we went right into the safety demo. We had to take on some extra fuel due to the weather enroute as well as in JFK for the morning so we sat at the gate for an extra 15 minutes, nobody really seemed to notice. With full afterburner we rocketed down the runway and launched into the foggy Burbank sky at 2141. We completed the standard hard right turn on departure, to avoid rearranging the rock formations on the departure end of the runway, and made our way back across the country. The ride out was a lot bumpier than it was on the way in but we where still able to get through the cabin with our wonderful JetBlue/Bliss Spa kits. 90% of the aircraft donned the eye mask and earplugs and went sound to sleep. It started to get pretty bumpy as we where about to begin our service so we held off for an extra 15 minutes.
I had a pretty light drink and snack request as most where sleeping. I was able to make it through 13 rows of snack requests with only 1 basket. Some times we will try and only use 1 basket as this saves the guys in the back from having to refill all 4 baskets. With the first snack and drink service completed I rang the guys up front to see how they where going up front, and of course they wanted to come out and use the Lav. I headed back up into the cockpit and was talking with the Captain about our arrival time. He said we where scheduled to arrive into JFK at 0530, and that was all dependent on the weather. He said that the TAF (Terminal Area Forecast) for JFK was showing fog with ¼ visibility and ceilings at 300ft. I have yet to have a diversion and so I start to hope I don’t break that streak on this trip. The FO returns and the captain heads out to stretch and use the lav. Again we are around the TEX area and I told the FO of the ride that we had coming in and how we where further south this time. The FO turned on the WX radar and showed me the line of storms that we dodged on the way in and where dodging at this point. The captain reentered and as I was leaving told me that if any of us needed a break that we where more than welcome to sit in the cockpit for a bit and rest. It’s always nice of them to offer than to us, but I have yet to see a flight attendant take them up on it.
By this time the cabin is pretty dark as most are sleeping. There are the occasional scattered personal reading lights but for the most part all is quite. About another hour into the flight the captain rings the back and tells me that aircraft are reporting some good sized bumps over Iowa, Iowa again, you know for a pretty flat state they sure can hold their own in the turbulence department. He goes on to say that if it gets too bumpy that we should just sit down. I thank him for the heads up and inform the 2 crew members in the back of the situation, as the seatbelt sign is not yet illuminated. I then grab the pop requests and make my way up to partially secure the front galley. Once completed I sit down and fasten my lap belt as we are experiencing some pretty descent bumps, but nothing to call home about.
About 10 minutes later I get another call from the cockpit. The captain called to tell me that the ride is about to get a whole lot worse and we should secure the galley and strap in as he will call us when it is safe to get up again. He asks if he should make an announcement, but I ask him how long do we have to prepare. He said that it would start in about 3-5 minutes. I told him not to bother with the announcement as we would just make a quick run through and check on seatbelts. I thank him for the heads up and then call the back to tell them to secure the galley and do a real quick seatbelt check as it is going to get a lot bumpier. Once finished with the checks they should strap in and not get up again until they hear from me. My number 2 secures the galley as I walk out into the aisle looking for seatbelts. I only had to wake 1 person as most people are wearing their seatbelts while seated. Just as I make my way into the galley we get our first real jolt. It’s enough to push me against the cabin divider but nothing too major. My number to and I take our jumpseats and strap in with our lap belts and shoulder harnesses. The captain wasn’t lying when he said it was going to get worse. We where getting tossed around pretty good in the front so I can only imagine what it was like in the back. The tail of the 320 is usually more susceptible to turbulence than the nose. I would have to say it was about moderate turbulence and it lasted about 15 minutes. It was enough to wake up several customers but for the most part it went as unnoticed as a 4.0 earthquake in Southern California.
After 15 minutes of the bumpy ride the captain rings in the back and says that it’s over and it will be a pretty uneventful ride from here on out. I thank him for the update and the give the back a ring and tell them they can get up if they would like and that I was about to go though with a tray of water. Most are still asleep but those that are awake take the water and quickly fall back asleep. By now we are over Southern Michigan and looking at about another 1hr and 20 minutes to go. By now we are starting to catch up in our race with the sun, of course we cheated and took a short cut, but there is a faint show light on the horizon.
As we exit Lake Erie and enter Pennsylvania we are now ever so close to our destination. My number 2 and 4 run through the cabin with cans of Orange Juice and bottles of water. By now more customers are starting to awake from their slumber. We are still unsure if we are going to be able to make it into JFK but the pilot is determined to give it a try. As I hang up the handset I tell him to give me a call if we are going to change destinations, he laughs and agrees.
Soon after we start our descent into JFK and in order to allow our customer the most sleep time, I decide to skip out initial descent and just combine it with our final descent announcement. Once we hit 10000ft the other inflight crew members head out into the aisle to pass out our hot towels to those that are awake, by now it’s a vast majority of the cabin. I make my announcements and then head out with a garbage bag and attend to my customers. I ask them to put their seats up and stow their luggage. Most of the traveling public knows the routine, but we still get customers who are totally oblivious to the announcements.
By the looks of it we are cleared straight in for the ILS approach into a very foggy approach into JFK, but it looks like we are going to make it in. We finally land at 0526 and the captain trades jobs with Mario Andretti and we speed our way for Gate 6. We block in at 0533 and start to let the customers off as some have some tight connections. All connections are made thanks to our small terminal! The main reason that I like working redeye arrivals into JFK is that we don’t have to clean the aircraft. With the last customer off the aircraft I grab my tote and say goodbye to my fellow crew members and make my way to the front of the terminal to catch the shuttle back to my crashpad to get some much needed rest.
I really wasn’t going to write a trip report about this trip as it was just a redeye turn but with the turbulence and the late flights and the VIPs I thought that it would be somewhat interesting to read. I’m off now until the 1st when I’ll be in BOS to start my trips from there so look for my reports next month!