My First Layover Pt 1 – By Christina Ling

The other day I was posed an interesting question. “Why did you want to become a Flight Attendant?”. Interesting because I have never been asked that question before. After giving it some thought, it was an easy answer; People, Places and Planes.

You have all read about my experience with the airline hiring process and the Flight Attendant training. It’s time for me to share with all of you my wonderful and amazing life as a Flight Attendant.

I remember as a rookie Flight Attendant, we were all consumed with our first flight and our first layover. Would it be domestic or international? Remember that Gwyneth Paltrow movie View from the Top? First Class International! Every junior Flight Attendant’s dream.

Flight Attendants lead a very glamourous life, right? So of course, my first layover would have to be an exciting international destination. Well I hate to burst your bubble, but when you are a rookie flight attendant you are “on call” or as we say in airline lingo “on reserve”. Which means you are at the mercy of crew scheduling, and you go where they send you, there is no choice. But that was totally okay with me, I just wanted to fly. It didn’t matter to me where I went because everywhere you go in this life there is always something to see and learn.

It was my first day on reserve and I had received a call from crew scheduling the night before. Christina, we have you on the Amsterdam flight tomorrow departing at 1600 hours, check in is 1 hour prior to departure. While I like to consider myself a very calm, cool and collected person, I could not contain my excitement! “Amsterdam?!” “No way!” “Thank you, thank you Ian!!!”. I pretty much screamed into his ear, poor guy. I was really happy they gave me a fair bit of notice to prepare myself for this flight because when you are on reserve you could be called out at any given moment. My record was a call-out 30 minutes prior to departure to Toronto.  Guess what, I made it to the gate in 20 minutes. It does help to live close to YVR and have a super amazing Dad to drive you out there. Thanks Dad xo.

My dreams of seeing the world were coming true, I was on my way. My first international flight!  My first time on a wide body aircraft. Who would be on the crew? What would the passengers be like? What kind of service would I being giving to my passengers? The hotel?  Where would I visit? How would I get around?  My mind was racing! I tried to have a good night’s rest. Dad always instilled in me how important is was to rest as much as possible before a flight. It is important that Flight Attendants be alert and on at all times. He reminded me that Flight Attendants lose nights of sleep due to time zone changes and jet lag. Flight Attendants have a very physical job and it is paramount that we take care of our physical and mental health so that we can have a long, healthy career. Working on the ground is simply not the same as working in the air. Full-time is categorized as 40 hours per week, which is 160 hours per month, correct? Full-time as a Flight Attendant doesn’t work that way.  We could not fly 160 hours per month, we would literally drop from exhaustion. Flight Attendants fly and get paid anywhere from 70-120 hours per month. The latter figure is pushing it, you would be a walking zombie as far as I am concerned. The most I ever flew was 90 hours and that was pretty tiring.

But those numbers never daunted me. I was always up for the challenge and ready to fly at a moment’s notice. I am a firm believer in taking care of oneself physically and emotionally, especially when you are a Flight Attendant. As I mentioned before, it is a very physical job. You are on your feet for hours at a time, and the aircraft air is dry and dehydrating. Plus, with the time change you are tired much of the time. It is easy to get into a habit of consuming tons of coffee on-board the aircraft to stay awake. But caffeine is a diuretic, so it dehydrates you. Luckily, I am not a coffee drinker and I stuck to drinking tea and hot water with lemon. Thankfully, I think those two beverages saved my skin. Keeping your skin moisturized is an integral part of overall Flight Attendant wellness. Ladies, always remember to take your makeup off no matter how exhausted you are. Moisturize and moisturize with a hydrating night time lotion and for the daytime one with an SPF. It is important to protect your skin from the sun’s strong rays. Last but not least … fueling your body so that you have the energy to work those long hours. It is easy to get into the habit of grabbing that muffin and coffee and downing it in 2 minutes. Flight Crew are always on the run and we don’t have lots of time to sit down and have a proper meal. However, it is extremely important to fuel your body with the right kinds of foods that will give you the energy and stamina to work that flight. It may be several hours before your next meal, so it is important to make it count.  A muffin and coffee may be fast, but it will also give you a quick rush and you will crash immediately. A better choice would be whole grain toast and almond butter, an apple, cheese or a hardboiled egg. Take the time to pack some healthy snacks in your flight bag, it will save you during those times when you are so ravenous you could devour the entire galley! These kinds of foods will provide long lasting, sustained energy.  Remember Crew, you are what you eat, so make it count. So there are my basic secrets for a long, healthy career flying the friendly skies and keeping you “Flight Attendant gorgeous”.

Departure was 1600 hours (4:00 pm) airline personnel always use the 24-hour clock. I teach the 24-hour clock in our FA program, it’s fun to learn and super easy. Check-in is always one hour prior to departure. Well, for those of you who know me, being on time means being late.  I always check in for work at least 90 minutes prior, I can’t stand being late for anything, it’s too stressful. You cannot be late for your flight, airplanes do not wait for their crew!

Amsterdam is an approximate 9 hr and 40 min flight time from Vancouver, BC Canada (my home base). It is the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Our flights to Amsterdam were not direct, we had a stop in Calgary first. I checked in for my flight way early and checked my inbox for communications. Not gonna lie, I was pretty nervous. This was my first international flight and I barely had a couple of months of experience under my belt. But that is okay! It is okay to be nervous, it shows that you care and that you are passionate about your job. It is also okay to make mistakes, no one person is perfect and you WILL learn along the way. I leaned on my instructors, mentors, senior flight attendants and in-charges for their guidance. You quickly learn to adapt and find the right role models to create your own style. To this day, I can safely say that the Flight Attendant that I became was the direct result of a combination of so many of my mentors that I emulated and learned so much from.  And for that I am eternally grateful to all of them. I will for sure in the future write a loving tribute to all those who made such an impact on my career and my life.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for Amsterdam!

 

*Love this blog? Read these other blogs by Christina about life as a Flight Attendant:

Instructor Blog: My First Layover Pt 2 – By Christina Ling
Ever wonder how Christina Ling, our FA instructor became a Flight Attendant?
The Glamorous Life of a Flight Attendant. Part 1
Christina Ling, Flight Attendant – Pt 2

 

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