I woke at 1100, having had a quiet night's sleep. I had been on a standby the day before and had not been called, so much of my time has been spent in bed. I've been doing this job for a while, but part of me has never gotten used to the working hours, the early/late pattern and the tiredness that ensues. Not fatigue - far from it - but one does develop an appreciation for sleep and an awareness of one's own limits.
I popped into the kitchen to put the kettle on - this was day six for me, my final working day before three days off. Most crew opt to follow the company standard roster pattern, which is three early duties, then three late duties, then three days off. Early duties can start as early as 0500, and lates can finish as late as 0100. As this was my last day before a day off, I could not be rostered to finish past 2330, otherwise I would have "worked into my day off" and so the company would owe me another day. Similarly, on day one, I cannot be rostered for a report time any earlier than 0600, as this would go into the previous day off.
My roster is up on a noticeboard in the kitchen, and I had a look to see who my crew were. A nice enough bunch, I had flown with two of the cabin crew before and had a vague idea of who the captain was. This was a big shock when I first started the job - every day you fly with different people. Coming from an office background where I saw the same people day in, day out, it was odd working with a mix of new crew, people you had flown with many times before, people from other bases etc. Every day is a new mix of personalities, new conversations to be had, introductions to be made.
The crew seemed to be nice enough anyway, and after a quick shower and shave I got myself all uniformed up. On top of the usual shirt and trousers, I decided on my gilet as opposed to my fleece, as it didn't seem all that cold outside, and threw on my duffle coat - a bright orange Paddington-bear style affair. It looks a bit stupid but hey, it keeps me warm. Bring on the new uniform is all I can say though - it will be a nice change having suits, ties, etc.
After another cup of tea and a few cigarettes (bad habit, I know) to get me ready, I checked my crew bag, making sure I had the essentials: passport, hi-vis vest, money wallet, calculator, ice tongs, emergency nightstop items (spare uniform, toiletries etc), PA/paperwork book and cabin crew safety card (a quick reference laminated card with emergency procedure information on it in abbreviated form). Everything was there, so off I went, remembering to pop my ID on on the way out.
I arrived at the crew room at 1250. My report time was 1330 (STD -60), but I always like to arrive early so I have time to have a few cigarettes, grab a coffee, run up to the terminal to get a newspaper/magazine etc. I met the senior cabin crew member for my flight in the smoking shelter and we caught up on the latest gossip - things going on at the base, her new boyfriend, the usual.
We headed up to the briefing tables for 1320 and all the crew were there so we started the briefing early. The SCCM introduced everyone, pointed out our captain and first officer at a table across the room, and confirmed we were working EZY687 LGW-GLA, EZY688 GLA-LGW, EZY5495 LGW-PRG, EZY5496 PRG-LGW on G-EZBF, one of U2's most recently delivered A319s.
Photo © Terry Figg
Photo © Alberto jori
She went on to confirm that we were all fit to fly, current on type, had all the required items, had checked in on the crew computer system, had checked our level one and two notices to crew (the former being changes to our manual, the latter memos), our drop files, and our crew email. We all answered affirmatively and the SCCM asked if we had any vegetarians or people with allergies on the crew. I confessed to being a "veggie" and the SCCM noted this so I would be given the vegetarian crew meal. We then decided on working positions. Since I knew the SCCM quite well, I asked to go up front as CC4. As CC4, I would be sitting on the forward inboard jumpseat, responsible for door 1R, the forward lav and the forward galley. The other two crew decided between themselves who would work as CC2 and who would work as CC3. CC2 is responsible for door 2R, the rear galley and the bar paperwork. They sit on the outboard side of the rear double crew seat. CC3 is responsible for door 2L, the rear lav, and they sit on the rear single crew seat (conveniently located right beside the toilet door - not too pleasant).
Photo © Tomasz Janiak (EPGD Spotters)
Photo © Jean-Luc Altherr
Pics showing the front and rear of the cabin, including galleys, jumpseats etc...
Photo © James Herbert
My seat for the day on the right, showing the FAP, forarwd lav and door 1L...
We were then asked one SEP (Safety and Emergency Procedures) and one first aid question each to ensure we have sufficient knowledge to operate safely. For our SEP questions we discussed emergencies on the ground - how we might be alerted, what we should do, what the evacuation signals might be and how we would direct an evacuation. Our first aid questions were related to heart attacks, strokes and panic attacks.
Having completed this, the SCCM gave us the catering information - how many sandwiches and hot options (all day breakfast toasties) we would be getting, which bar we would be using (each aircraft has two bars loaded overnight - bar 1 for the early crew and bar 2 for the late crew), what our spend-per-head target was and our crew catering. On all duties the company provides bottled water for the crew, and on almost every duty you'll get sandwiches, hot meals and snacks (crisps, chocolate, fruit etc). On particularly long duties you also get hot snacks such as paninis and soup.
At -45 we made our way out of the crew room, downstairs, and through crew security. Once we were all through, we all put our hi-vis vests on before venturing out. As our first flight was domestic it would be departing from pier one. Where flights are leaving from pier two or the pier three satellite, we get a bus to the stand, but because pier one is so close we walk. On a nice day you can walk along the ramp outside the terminal, taking in the view and the fresh air. It was quite rainy though, so we all ran around to the access door, tried to hurry up the crewmember swiping their ID and entering their PIN, before getting into a nice dry stairwell. We went up to the passenger area and walked down to gate 10, passing our passengers before braving the elements again as we ran up the steps and opened door 1L.
As the aircraft had arrived in quite a bit earlier, there wasn't a previous crew to hand over the aircraft, so we had to do full SEP equipment checks. I did a check of the PA and interphone system, made sure we had a full complement of extension seatbelts, crew lifejackets, fire extinguishers, emergency torches and portable oxygen bottles, that the first aid kit at the front was stocked properly (sealed with a green "good to go" seal) and that the demo kit up front was all in working order.
After the SEP checks, I went to security check my rows (as CC4 I was responsible for rows 7-13). Starting at row 13 and working forward, I checked for lifejackets under each seat, and checked the tray tables, overhead bins and floor area. I then checked each of the galley stowages, the toilet bin and other little hiding places in the toilet. With that done, I passed my checks to the SCCM and soon after the CC2 came over the PA saying "SEP and security checks complete at the rear."
I asked the SCCM if she'd like me to board or prepare the galley. She asked me to board while she prepared the galley (unsealing our bar, checking all stock is there and that catering equipment is in working order, and putting toasties in the oven). The dispatcher came on and on his way to the flight deck handed us the manifest, which gave us a passenger figure of 144+2 - 144 adults/children and 2 infants. The SCCM passed our SEP and security checks to the captain who told us to go ahead with boarding. The dispatcher called the gate agents and the passengers started to board. I put on some boarding music (always calms people down) and using the FAP (forward attendant panel) touchscreen I set up the audio system to play English boarding PAs. Usually the CC2 does these from the rear but I knew she'd be busy getting her galley ready.
The dispatcher came on after the last passenger and told us that was "all on". The SCCM asked me to do the headcount so, as she guarded the forward door, I took her clicker and walked down the cabin doing the headcount. I got to the rear, and asked the CC2 if there was anybody in the lav. She told me there was one adult and one infant, so I added an extra two "clicks". I checked the clicker and it was showing 146, which was correct (144+2 = 146 heads). CC3 had just finished briefing the passengers sitting by the overwing exits and had gone up front to start closing the overhead lockers.
I started closing them from the back, walking forwards, and we met half way. He continued down to the back to prepare for departure, while I went back up front and confirmed the headcount with the SCCM and dispatcher. The SCCM passed this on to the flight deck and we were told to close up. As the captain began his pre-flight PA, the SCCM handed the dispatcher a permit card allowing the steps to be removed (a safety initiative started by the company because of fears that the steps might be removed without crew knowledge) and closed door 1L. I started laying out my demo kit on the floor at row 1 - safety card, demo seatbelt, oxygen mask and lifejacket. Once the steps had been removed, the SCCM called the CC2 and asked the crew at the back to arm their doors. She then asked me to arm my door. I armed door 1R and crosschecked door 1L. The CC2 called and confirmed that the rear doors were armed and crosschecked, and the SCCM confirmed that the foward doors were armed and crosschecked, all doors were showing as armed on the FAP and that we closed on 144+2.
As this was a domestic flight, there was no foreign language safety demo to play, so the SCCM went straight into her welcome PA as I took my demo position at row 1 and CC3 took theirs at row 13. The SCCM introduced us all by name, informed the passengers of the flight time and other relevant information, before asking for everyone's attention for the demo. The demo runs as follows:
- Safety card (hold up and point out brace position).
- Exits (point out rear doors, overwing exits, forward doors)
- Emergency lighting (point out)
- Seatbelts (fasten, adjust, unfasten)
- Oxygen masks (demonstrate mask falling from panel above pax head, pulling on it to start oxygen flow, placing mask over nose and mouth and using the strap)
- Lifejackets (U2 have a unique way of doing this. The lifejacket is rolled up and to demonstrate, we hold the lifejacket up in one hand, and allow it to drop and unravel. From there it's the usual - lifejacket over head, tapes around waist and clicked, adjust, toggle to inflate, manual inflation tube, light and whistle)
We pushed back just before the demo finished, and once the SCCM finished the PA I went to secure my rows (7-13). When securing, I check that bags are stowed correctly, seatbelts are fastened with the buckle the correct way round, tables are up, seats upright, armrests down, blinds open, no electronics on and nobody has headphones on, amongst other things. I go back up front and ensure that all latches are in place to stop trolleys/canisters from moving, and then check that nobody's in the lav before locking it from the outside.
Having done this, I took my seat and strapped myself in before passing my secure checks to the SCCM. Soon enough the CC2 called to confirm that the rear galley and cabin were secure. The SCCM then phoned the flight deck to confirm the cabin was secure for takeoff.
We had to queue for a while before we turned on to 26L and started our takeoff roll. Once airborne, the exit signs turned off and a chime sounded indicating the gear was up and we could relax in our jumpseats. Soon after, the flight deck cycled the seatbelt signs off and then on again, indicating that we could get up. The SCCM made the after takeoff PA, warning that although the cabin crew were released to commence their duties, the seatbelt sign was still on. She also pointed out where the toilets were, and mentioned that we would be passing through the cabin shortly with the easyKiosk food and drink service.
While she was doing that, I turned the oven back on to finish heating the toasties, turned the brewer on and made my way down to the back galley to get some ice. It takes a while to get used to walking down the cabin whilst climbing, and after getting an ice bucket I went back up front (good exercise - like walking up a hill) and helped the SCCM set up the trolley.
Once the seatbelt signs were switched off there was the inevitable rush for the toilet. We took the hot water pot out of the brewer and started serving. We brought our trolley to row 5 and the SCCM started serving from rows 1-5 while I started at row 6 and made my way back. At the back, the trolley was brought to row 21, with CC2 serving from 26-22 and CC3 from 21 forward. By the time the SCCM had finished serving row 5, I had got to row 10. We moved the trolley down to row 12 with the SCCM serving rows 11 and 12 and me working backwards again. The other trolley had also been moved towards the centre and we soon "met", meaning that all rows had been served. We brought the trolleys back to the galleys and stowed them. I made a quick PA advertising the scratch cards that we now sell before walking through the cabin offering them. At the same time, CC2 and CC3 were setting up the gift shop trolley at the back. Once I got to the back the SCCM made the gift shop PA, advertising certain products, offers etc. CC2 and CC3 then brought the trolley up to the front and started working their way down the cabin. The gift shop service was quite busy, and while they were doing that, the SCCM and I had a sandwich and some tea in the back galley. Almost at the exact same time the CC2 and CC3 were finished the gift shop service, the flight deck made the ETA-10 PA, advising us to prepare the cabin for arrival. CC3 and I went to do a "gash" (clear in), walking down the aisle with an orange bag collecting rubbish, empties, newspapers etc.
Photo © Graeme Bolton
Once done, we placed this bag into a fire retardant bag and put this into the rear lav for landing. We then went out and secured our rows, galleys and lavs just as for takeoff. We landed a few minutes later into a windy and rainy Glasgow. Taxi time was quite short and we were soon on stand with the
engines shut down and the seatbelt signs off. The SCCM made a PA advising the cabin crew to disarm doors for arrival. I disarmed 1R and crosschecked 1L, the CC2 called confirming rear doors disarmed and crosschecked, and the SCCM confirmed the forward doors were disarmed and crosschecked, all doors were showing as disarmed on the FAP, and that we would be getting steps at 1L and 2L. She then called the flight deck who confirmed once again that all doors were disarmed and advised us that we were cleared to open doors. (This three-level confirmation process - crosschecking, checking on FAP and checking with flight deck has greatly reduced the number of slides accidentally deployed on the U2 Airbus fleet). The steps were positioned and the SCCM opened 1L, followed by CC3 opening 2L. The passengers were then allowed to disembark.
Once all the passenger were off, I went to tidy and check my rows. This involves crossing the seatbelts, tidying the seat pockets and making sure the contents are in the right order (safety card, retail brochure, inflight magazine, sick bag),
picking up any leftover rubbish and performing security checks. I also stocked up the lav, emptied the lav bin and the galley bin. As the galley bins on the A319 can't be removed with the door closed, I cracked open 1R to allow me to take it
out and check in the bin stowage. Because of the safety issues of opening the door with no steps there, most U2 A319s have the galley bins sealed. This is a bit of an annoyance for the crew, as we have to either leave the rubbish on the galley worktop or put it into the lav bin.
Once the checks were done, we called for the next lot of passengers.
I won't bore you with too much info on the other flights that day, as they're all essentially the same. On the last sector we counted the bars and the money, and sealed the bars.
Once all the passengers were off after the last sector, we security checked the aircraft again, and the cleaners got on to clean the aircraft for the next day. The catering company also came to 2R and started unloading the bars to take back to the bonded warehouse where they would be counted and restocked. We were parked at stand 18 (pier 2) so a short bus ride
later we were back in the crew room. We banked the money in the crew room safe and debriefed. I made a beeline for the smoking shelter to get my post-flight nicotine fix before hopping on the bus to the car park and going home.
I hope I haven't put you all to sleep out of boredom - if you have any suggestions for future TRs, comments or questions,
I'd be happy to hear your feedback.