Tag Archives: aviation

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

 

A Plane for Everyone

A Plane for Everyone

In March of this year the Delta Flight Museum will display its newest artifact: a Boeing 747. If your idea of a museum object is fragile and dainty this will have you re-thinking museums. Born in Seattle in 1969, by the Boeing team lead by Joe Sutter, the 747 changed aviation. The litany of firsts associated with this aircraft has filled books. The museum’s ship 6301 is a first in its own right. Delivered to Northwest Airlines in December of 1989, it is the first -400 version of the 747. Often referred to as iconic, the Boeing 747 holds a special place in the hearts of passengers and crew alike.

boeing-747-rollout-commemorative-brochure-1968-7_37334-e1477322893406

(Credits: Boeing)

While airplane enthusiasts may speak of the runways that needed to be lengthened, and of the, as yet to be designed, engines that would carry the plane aloft, it is the space inside that deserves some attention. A space that was enviably inclusive and exclusive all at once.

To begin with the space was large. The 747 was the first aircraft to have two aisles. Early pictures from Boeing show passengers enjoying legroom that would have today’s first class passengers scrambling for a seat in the back. The sidewalls did not curve-in leaving the cabin feeling cramped, but went straight up, almost encouraging the tallest of travelers to stand. The dual aisle aircraft enabled passengers to move with more freedom than their single aisle counterparts. Bathrooms numbered in the double digits and were located throughout the airplane, not just in the front and back. The tray tables that were introduced on the Boeing 707 could be found at each seat so you could enjoy a meal along with your in-flight entertainment. Boeing’s hope was that the open space of the 747 would have passengers thinking they were in their living room.

The people filling the plane represented a broader spectrum of U.S. citizenry than ever before. The increased seating capacity allowed for lower ticket prices. People who were once excluded due to higher costs were now taking a seat. The aircraft designers considered the upper deck, or “bump”, on the top of the aircraft, as a place for the crew to rest. Juan Trippe, Pan Am’s founder turned it over to luxury travelers. The small cabin, accessible by a private staircase, maintained the exclusivity of previous flying. Many a flight attendant has had to say, “yes you can take a ‘peek’ but you will have to wait until we land.”

Crews loved the plane as well. Its multiple galleys had plenty of storage for catering and other items needed for the long flights. As a flight attendant you are constantly looking for ways to wow your passengers and the interior did some of the work for you. The galleys had been placed in the center of the aircraft, leaving the preferred windows available for passenger seating. Simply entering the 747 upper deck had the ability to make grownups smile. The space itself made them feel special. The enormous main deck interior was broken up into smaller sections for the comfort of the passengers, but for those working on the flight it allowed for quick and easy access to supplies. As a flight attendant the main deck was perhaps the only negative. I am not sure if I can express how intimidating it is to pull a beverage cart to the front of a cabin of this size and know there are 300 plus thirsty passengers awaiting your arrival. In each instance you just put one foot in front of the other and start. You try and do justice to passengers who are going on a once in a lifetime vacation, an important business meeting or simply to see friends and family. But on the 747 you also try to do justice to the many crews that made the plane the most elegant place to be, the sexiest place to be and the only plane to fly on during its time in the air.

img_3677

Ship 6301, N661US landing at KATL, May 2014 (Credits: AirlineGuys)

Lisa Flaherty is a career flight attendant and a public historian with a love of aviation stories

Inspired by a stranger

It’s funny how someone you’ve never met before can inspire you to do something; or to do more than you have been doing. Happened to me recently on a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles. After an early morning and somewhat busy day of work, I traveled to LA to meet a friend. Upon boarding my flight I found myself seated in an exit row middle seat. I’m not complaining as getting on this flight was touch and go. I made my way to the exit row and advised the gentleman in the aisle seat that I would be seated in the center seat. He stood up to allow me access to my seat when I noticed I had seen him earlier in the day while at work. Once I got settled I said, “You were at my job earlier today.” The gentleman works for a multinational company that designs, manufactures, and sells airplanes, rotorcraft, rockets and satellites. For most of the 4 hour flight we spoke about aviation, the aerospace industry, airplanes, and all that goes into designing, making and selling them. I learned a lot! To say I was on Cloud 9 would be an understatement. When we arrived at LAX we exchanged business cards and made a point to say we would keep in touch. To keep my word, I sent a follow up email letting him know what a pleasure it was to meet and that my trip to LA had went well (was attending a listening party for the singer/songwriter Seal). In keeping his word, he responded back. It was during his response that he mentioned he had visited the AirlineGuys website and noticed I hadn’t written anything in a bit. Color me embarrassed. I thank him for the reminder and said I would “get on it.”

So, here I am writing to you because a stranger inspired me.

Happy landings,

Sylvester

We were there!

Yesterday was April 15. Waxing poetic about Tax Day is not what this post is about. April 15, 2003 was the day Song Airlines took to the skies. Each April 15 it’s nice to remember the good ole days. Song was around for 3 years and had a huge impact on who we are today. Ahhhh…memories.

 

 

Collecting experiences never gets old

While waiting on my flight I bumped into a former colleague. During our chat he asked “And why would you do that?” and my response was “Because I can. I like to collect experiences.” And he wasn’t the only asking why I would fly roundtrip over the Atlantic ocean to spend 4 hours in another country. Now before your mind starts to wander, please know this was a legitimate journey. No shenanigans planned or expected.

As the youngest of 9 children I used to dream of doing things like this. Experiencing something like this helps me bring my existence full circle. As a kid growing up in rural Florida I used to dream of hopping on planes and flying around the world. Those dreams have come true and are still coming true. Why this trip? Well, let me tell you about the trip.

The 747, The Queen of The Skies, is rapidly approaching her last coronation. Many of the world’s airlines have retired or are retiring this majestic machine. What started as a dream for the Boeing designers ended up changing the world. The original “jumbo jet” made the world a smaller place.

Every now and then you can catch a 747 operating on a domestic route. Most 747s ply the Pacific or are freighters. As part of the summer schedule, Atlanta and Detroit receive daily 747 service to Amsterdam. With Spring Break winding down, and summer travel not here just yet, the loads look great for NRSA travel. Let’s go!

When flying NRSA you have to be strategic and most importantly flexible. Flying  to Detroit to take the daily 747 to Amsterdam was the better option because loads were extremely favorable. Hopped a flight to Detroit and had several hours to spend enjoying the airport. When boarding began I kindly requested from the gate agent seat 1K., if available. Wanted to be at the “pointy end” of the plane. Sitting in Row 1 puts you further forward than the pilots. I think most people would prefer to sit on the upper deck. However, I had sat on the upper deck of a 747 before from Tokyo to Detroit a  few years back and wanted to experience something new.

unnamed

Ship 6308 DTW – AMS

While sitting in my seat I took in the lines, the curves, and the essence of this magnificent flying machine. Thought about all the talented men and women who put her together. I wondered how may times she had flown around the world, who she had carried to far off destinations, what her last flight would be, where and when she would be retired. Spent the flight enjoying some tasty foods, drinking fine champagne, watching movies, looking out the window, and having brief conversations with the crew. The crew was very nice and took great care of me. While sitting there I couldn’t help but think this is exactly what I had imagined my life was going to be.

We arrived early in Amsterdam. Checking in for the return flight to Atlanta was quick and efficient. The Delta and KLM agents were most friendly and helpful. Now I had about 4 hours before I headed back to Atlanta. What to do? People watch of course. And buy some stroopwafels to bring back home.

The boarding process was a bit hectic as the nonstop 747 to Atlanta was very full. The company which handles security for my flight were efficient, thorough, and very friendly. There were the usual questions (“did anyone give you anything to carry?”), however, there was a difference in how they did their jobs.

Ship 6308 AMS - ATL

Ship 6308 AMS – ATL

I was pleased to receive a seat on the the flight in the “pointy end” of the plane on the main deck. Just before pushback the flight attendant was able to move me to an open window seat at 9K. For the next 8 hours and 49 mins I was again taking it all in. Had some terrific food and drink, watched a couple of movies, shared pics via twitter and instagram (thank goodness for inflight wifi), and had great conversations with the crew. Speaking of the crew, they were most excellent. They treated the whole cabin with kindness and respect. They were attentive, efficient and smiled a lot. I felt grateful to have such a wonderful crew on this special trip.  Some of the same thoughts I had on the DTW-AMS flight came to mind. In addition I started to think about experiences.

As I get older I have begun to collect less things and more experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I still have lots of airline stuff (writing this while sitting in 747 seats from NWA). However, things are things. They accumulate. They collect dust. We store many of these things and then rarely think about them. Experiences on the other hand are with us at all times, no matter where we are. The slightest thought, sound, or smell can trigger a memory that is as vivid as when it first occurred.

Also on this flight I’m transported back to the little kid who dreamed of getting away, seeing the world, experiencing new things. As Annie Lenox sang, “Sweet dreams are made of this.”

unnamed

Sylvester

airlineguys™ Community builders. Aviation enthusiasts. Experience in airline operation/leadership/PR/. Former cabin crew. Discerners of excellent customer service.

Marry me, fly for free – Is this still a thing?

Saw a t-shirt recently that read: “Marry me, fly for free!” Made me wonder, is this still a thing?!

There was a time in the not-so-distant past that free travel may have been a draw to marry someone in the airline business. The benefit of travel is a wonderful thing. To the non-airline person, thoughts of day trips to NYC for shopping and weekends in Paris is alluring. Before companies began offering benefits to same-sex couples, I was approached by someone that wanted to marry me so she could fly for free. Her partner worked for an airline, and at that time her partner’s airline didn’t extend same-sex couple travel benefits.  Imagine that! Someone was willing to marry me, not because I can offer a lifetime of love and great memories, but because they could fly for free. True story.

After many takeoffs and landings later, let me say the benefit of travel is still a wonderful thing. Looking back on all the places I’ve been is simply amazing. And there are plenty more places to visit. As we know, the world of aviation has changed in so many ways. It’s a very cyclical industry. Years of flying high and record profits can change overnight.

Ok, back to “Marry me, fly for free” being a thing. With high load factors (81% in 2014. A recent LA Times article reported a record number of people traveled by air in 2014. According to the DOT, 848.1M traveled by air in the US), weight and balance issues, payload optimized flights, competition to get a seat from commuters, active employees, retires, and buddy pass riders; it’s a wonder anyone looks to marry an airline employee for the benefit of free flights. Once you factor in not getting a seat for several flights, paying to eat at the airport, sleeping in an airport or paying for a hotel room, and missing days from getting to your destination; airline employee travel is hardly “free”. Some airlines subtly discourage relying solely on travel privileges; if you want to get there buy a ticket.

I’ll say it again, the benefit of travel is a beautiful thing. Wouldn’t change it for the world. As for marrying an airline employee for free flights, marry them because you love them. And according to my mom love ain’t enough. Before marrying someone you should know you like them. And what’s not to like about airline folk? Airline people are some of the quirkiest, funniest, thoughtful, helpful, compassionate people that I know. And THAT should be reason enough to marry one.

Sylvester

airlineguys™ Community builders. Aviation enthusiasts. Experience in airline operation/leadership/PR/. Former cabin crew. Discerners of excellent customer service.

5 Reasons You Should Book The “Pan Am Experience” Today

Stepping onto the Pan Am 747 named Juan T. Trippe was amazing. Every detail, from the stewardess uniforms right down to the galleys, was just perfect. No, we weren’t dreaming, we were getting ready to embark on the “Pan Am Experience”. There has been much written about Anthony Toth, his love of all things Pan Am, and how he partnered up with Air Hollywood to recreate the passenger experience on board a Pan Am 747. Here are the Top 5 reasons you should book a flight on the “Pan Am Experience” today:

5.  If you love all things Pan Am – Pan Am was truly a pioneer. If you’re into waxing nostalgic about the “good old days” of Pan Am, you’ve come to the right place. Be prepared to walk down memory lane and be transported back to a time when flying was considered glamourous.

4. If you like to time travel – Being on board for Pan Am Experience was truly like stepping back in time. Every detail was meticulously recreated to give you the sense of what it was like to fly on a 747 back in the 70s. The seats, the galleys, even the clipper appliqué on the wall.

3.  If you’d like to meet a real Pan Am stewardess – On our flight was Barbara. She flew with Pan Am during the heydays. She was there to provide background and answer questions from the passengers about Pan Am. She was lovely and shared stories from a wonderful time in aviation history. We even played a game of “do you know…” And she knows someone that we know, who is a former Pan Am stewardess. The world is truly a small place. The “stewardesses” who served us were models, actresses, and dancers. In other words, they have day jobs. They were a fun bunch and brought lots of good energy to the experience. This is something that they do because it’s cool and allows them to experience something different. This era of flying was at least 25 years before they were even born.

2. If you’d like to meet someone who has taken “avgeek” to another level – Anthony Toth served as the “Captain” of our flight. This captain worked behind the scenes assisting the stewardesses in providing a seamless experience. Not only was he in the galley preparing meals, he answered questions after the flight. Anthony has over the years put together a huge archive of Pan Am memorabilia. He informed us that his collection now has upwards of 50,000 Pan Am items. A good selection of the collection was on display in the lobby of the “terminal”. The majority of the collection is kept behind the scenes and is used during the flight.

1. Because it’s “AirlineGuys-approved” – The reason you should book today? As the AirlineGuys, we approve of this message. And we’d never steer you wrong when it comes to aviation 😉

Barbara, Darin, Sylvester, Rachel

Barbara, Darin, Sylvester, Rachel

Sylvester & Darin

To see more pictures from our flight, click here.