Tag Archives: crewlife

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.

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(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.

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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

Coldplay and Song Airlines?

When Coldplay was announced as the halftime act at Super Bowl 50 I was excited to see the show, hear the songs they’d play. As it turned out they were headliners and joined (some would say eclipsed) on stage by Beyonce and Bruno Mars. There was even the popular actress who mistook them for Maroon 5 and sent out a tweet about it. Oops. From the first time I heard Coldplay, I’ve always been a fan.

Many years ago I interviewed for a startup airline within-an-airline. Eventually that airline became known as Song. At the time of the interview it didn’t have a name (code named FreshAir). We were brought in and told to be ourselves; that this new venture was all about self expression.

It was during our initial training that we were shown the video below. It featured an amazing voiceover and a very cool song I had never heard before. I was totally drawn in. The song was Clocks by Coldplay. Ever since then whenever I hear this song I’m reminded of Song. During my years as a Star (that’s what we were known as; we were also referred to as Talent) I learned so much about myself, so much about customer service, so much about what it means to work in an environment that was inclusive, supportive. For 3 years I lived what going to work should be like. Song gave us all the opportunity to shine, to blossom.

Enjoy the video!

#TBT Memory – Song Airlines

Many airlines have in place a system in place whereby crew members can be rewarded or recognized for providing exceptional customer service. But did you know my former airline, Song Airlines, had a system in place whereby crew members could reward passengers?

One such innovation was rewarding passengers for good behavior or good deeds with round trip tickets. That’s right. During this particular campaign each FA (we were called Talent) were given 4 roundtrip tickets to travel anywhere on the Song route map. At the time we flew from the Northeast (NY, Boston) to Florida (FLL, PBI, MCO, TPA), from the Northeast to the West Coast (LAX, SFO, SEA, LAS), and from Florida to the West Coast. Not sure if any other airlines did or do this. It was truly unique. Due to our size (approximately 1100 crew members and dedicated ground staff) and culture we were able to implement, test and try many things. Will share more things in future posts.

Here’s how the campaign worked: If you as a crew member observed a passenger doing a good deed: helping fellow passengers, assisting you or other crew members, or just plain being a thoughtful, caring human being, you as the crew member could reward the passenger with a roundtrip ticket. There were no stipulations placed on the deed being done by the passenger. Each crew member had free reign to do what they wished with their 4 tickets. Once you gave out your tickets that was it. I can tell you passengers were really nice to the crews because they knew we had tickets!

Good times. Good times indeed.

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.

 

 

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.

I saw myself…

Even though I gave up flying 7 years ago, I thought I saw myself working the flight the other night. No, I wasn’t hallucinating. However, the young male flight attendant working the cabin reminded me so much of myself that I had to do a double take. It was like being in a parallel universe.

As I boarded and got settled in my seat, he breezed by and said “Hi Sly!” For a moment I thought “How does he know me?” He looked slightly familiar yet I couldn’t recall his name or how we had met. As boarding progressed I noticed that he was engaging, smiling, and proactively assisting customers with their carry-on bags as they settled in. He seemed to really enjoy himself. Even during the live safety demo he was having fun. During the beverage service he made chit-chat with customers he interacted with. When he was within earshot I heard him say to the passengers he served, “my pleasure.” It was pure, genuine, and heartfelt. When he got to me I received the same level of customer service delivered to those before me.

Upon arrival, I made it a point to wait until all passengers had deplaned to speak with the flight attendant who had truly caused me to take notice of his customer service skills. As I approached he said “Hey Sly! You taught my Service From the Heart class.” That was the missing clue I was looking for. I went on to tell him that I enjoyed the flight and that I had noticed his ability to deliver great customer service. I gave him specifics: his smile, approachability, eye contact, his genuine use of the phrase, “my pleasure.” He thanked me and said, “this means a lot coming from you”. He told me that he had never considered being a flight attendant until I spoke of my time as a flight attendant during a class I was facilitating and he was attending. He said he was happy he became a flight attendant and enjoys his job. I was moved, flattered, and felt grateful to have been on this flight. I was also moved in that I had touched someone’s life in such a positive way.

I hope his career as a flight attendant shapes up to be everything he wants it to be. May his level of professionalism and passion for the job inspire someone else to raise the bar on delivering excellent customer service.