Tag Archives: air travel

She’s #1: Meet Mary Ann

I recently met the #1 Flight Attendant at Delta Air Lines. In the recesses of every flight attendants mind I’m sure they think, “what would it be like to be Number One?” Think about it. Seniority means everything in the airline business. It determines what you fly, days off, vacation time you get, and how much you get paid. To say I was in awe of meeting Mary Ann would be an understatement.

Me and Mary Ann – #1 Delta FA

It happened like this: The facilitator was asking the group about seniority. As they continued to ask “who has more than 20 years raise your hand…who has more than 30 years?”, slowly the hands raised started to lower. Well, at 50 years someone’s hand was still raised. Turns out Mary Ann had been flying for 59 years! Thunderous applause erupted and she got a standing ovation. At that moment someone leaned over and said “She’s #1”.  I knew I had to chat with her.

The next morning I had a chance to sit and chat with Mary Ann for a few minutes. She has a presence that is calming and reassuring. Definitely traits needed to be a flight attendant. She is a stewardess. When I mentioned the term stewardess and asked if she minded that I refer to her as a stewardess, she didn’t object at all. To me a stewardess is a flight attendant who is regal, self-assured, gracious, kind. well-put together. And Mary Ann exhibited all of these qualities.

Mary Ann was hired as a stewardess with Pan American World Airways in 1957. She told me how she loved it. She also spoke of how local station managers of other airlines would speak to the young ladies in an attempt to get them to come be a stewardess at their airline. It seems as though she was wooed by someone at Northwest Orient Airlines and began flying with them in 1959.

Surprisingly, when I asked her where she grew up she said “Atlanta.” I almost fell off my chair. Not that there’s anything wrong with Atlanta. I live in Atlanta and it is a nice standard of living. I almost fell off my chair because I saw nothing “southern” about her. One of the other flight attendants at the table said, “You don’t have an accent.” She then said she grew up in what would become known as Midtown, near Ponce de Leon Avenue. Then she went in to her Southern accent and demeanor and wowed us all. Scarlett O’hara has nothing on Mary Ann! After graduating from high school she left Atlanta for New York to attend college. She says her Southern accent reappears around family.

We spoke about world travel of course and life lessons you learn when being out in the world. What we shared in common was the notion that through travel you not only learn about other cultures, people, food, living conditions, etc. You also learn a lot about yourself. And in order to learn you must take the time to stop, listen, and be in the moment. She agreed that everyone has a story to tell and that in order to hear it you must truly listen.

Throughout the day many approached Mary Ann to say congratulations and to be in her presence. Kind, gentle, authentic, real.

Mary Ann is Seattle-based and flies Shanghai route.

Sylvester

 

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Product review – Journey Pillow

Several months ago I met Anthony Williams (clinical neurophysiologist)  and Candace Williams (industrial engineer). They are a brother and sister duo who hipped me to a product they said would revolutionize how people traveled. As someone who travels frequently, of course I was intrigued. We sat down and they demonstrated their prototype traveling neck pillow.

Before I give you more details, let me inform you that I have used plenty of neck pillows over the years. The inflatable type. The one filled with buckwheat. The rolled up blanket. The passenger next to me. The sidewall of the airplane. All have their degree of usefulness, but none quite works the way it is designed. The inflatable type loses inflation. The buckwheat variety can be noisy with all that buckwheat moving around inside, and they retain body heat. When it comes to using airplane blankets, if it’s not sealed in plastic I certainly will not use it. My seatmate’s shoulder is a last resort option. If I’m really tired all bets are off so be forewarned if you find yourself seated next to me! And the sidewall is just downright uncomfortable.

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Candace demonstrated Journey Pillow and I was intrigued with the design features of the pillow:

  • ergonomically designed
  • filled with memory foam
  • non-slip clips that attach to your belt, seatbelt, or waistband
  • straps – the straps, along with placing the pillow over your head, reminded me of donning a life vest (“Place the vest over your head and attach the straps to the front of the vest”)

I’ve used Journey Pillow on a few domestic flights and can report that the pillow lives up to its claims. Journey Pillow cradled my neck comfortably, didn’t retain as much body heat as the buckwheat filled travel pillow can, and overall was more effective than the inflatable travel pillow. Journey Pillow travels well and fit neatly inside my roller bag. One minor issue I encountered were securing the  clips to my waistband. Wearing shirts that were untucked was a bit problematic. I had to lift my shirt to attach the non-slip clips to my waistband. This caused my shirt to ride up, bunch up, and wrinkle underneath the straps. Other than that the pillow delivered on its promise. Using Journey Pillow did garner some stares and a few questions from passengers. I’m traveling to New Zealand in late October and looking forward to testing out the pillow for long-haul travel.

Anthony and Candace have developed a travel pillow that offers many advantages over other types of travel pillows. Check out their video describing Journey Pillow in detail:

http://www.journeypillow.com

Sylvester

 

When is an emotional support animal not an emotional support animal?

ESA. Emotional support animals. So many things have been said and written about this topic. Conversations around those gaming the system as a way to not pay for traveling with their pets in the cabin has reached a fever pitch. As a former flight attendant, I assisted numerous passengers with disabilities who traveled with their service animals. These companions, life savers for many, provide an invaluable service. And as we know passengers with disabilities have the right to travel with their service animals who assist them with their daily needs. As for passengers with emotional needs, emotional support animals are a necessary companion to function in everyday situations. Let’s be clear: there is a distinction between service animals and emotional support animals. According the ada.gov site:

“Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.”

According to Wikipedia, the definition of an emotional support animal states:

“An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal which provides therapeutic benefit, such as alleviating or mitigating some symptoms of the disability, to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. Emotional support animals are typically dogs and cats, but may include other animals. In order to be prescribed an emotional support animal by a physician or other medical professional, the person seeking such an animal must have a verifiable disability.”

Back to the feeling amongst many that the emotional support animal situation is “getting out of hand.” Just today the following tweet was posted and has garnered lots of attention:

Things have gotten so far “out of hand” that Florida makes it a crime to register your dog as a service dog when in fact it is not. Those caught being dishonest are subject to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. This new law does not apply to those passengers traveling with emotional support animals.

Again, many things have been written and said about emotional support animals. One day, while facilitating a FA continuing qualification course (annual re-qualification class), the subject of emotional support animals came up. Some in the class had very strong feelings about those passengers who are dishonest with their pets. As the facilitator I remained neutral, allowed conversation to proceed, keep class on track with facts around passengers with disabilities and important it is for us to care for them. After some discussion, one of the FA in the class shared that her daughter travels with an emotional support animal. She also shared that hearing some of her colleagues speak in unkind terms about those with emotional support animals was appalling. You could have heard a pin drop.

As a matter of law, those traveling with disabilities, thank goodness, have rights governed by the Air Carrier Access Act. Legislation of this nature comes around because people with disabilities were not (and in certain circumstances, still not) being treated fairly with dignity and respect.

So, what is the “solution”? How do you determine who’s being dishonest? What impact does this have on those with a legitimate need to travel with an emotional support animal? Or should we just mind our own business?