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Category Archives: Airlines

Hopscotching with Children: A Point of View from the Top

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Hopscotching kidsI recently read an article about flying with children that was hysterical. Written by a man, it was a fantastic and self-deprecating look at just how painful it is to make the trip to grandmother’s house in the woods via airplane. And as we all know, the pain isn’t centralized to the family traveling, which got me thinking.

With less than a year under my belt as a flight attendant, I often get asked by friends, family and acquaintances about my pet peeves or other ridiculous things that I see or that have happened while working at 35,000 feet. Sadly, a lot of them involve children or parents or a combination thereof. Here are some observations from the top, and some things to keep  in mind the next time you board a plane with your children.

Changing Diapers on the Seats or Tray Tables: You do realize, that seat is not your personal throne that you’ll take with you when you deplane. And contrary to popular believe, people do eat the snacks we hand them…wait for it…on the tray table! So for those people who change their child’s diaper there, here’s my question to you. Would you do that on your Crate and Barrel leather couch or your slab-granite countertops? No, you wouldn’t, so have the same respect for my “home” at 35,000 feet. And if you don’t want to, potty-train your kid earlier and take Amtrak where the waste falls by the wayside through the horror hole beneath the train.

Milk-less Mothers: Recently, I had a mom come to the back during boarding and ask me for milk. I gently explained to her that the milk we have is not refrigerated and it’s not something I would drink myself, but she was welcome to it if she wanted a carton. As she rolled her eyes at me, she asked for a pair of scissors to cut open the carton so she could pour it into the baby bottle she was holding. I don’t have scissors; they’re not allowed through security. She proceeds to ask me for another carton, and since I knew she was sitting in the front of the plane, I suggested she ask the flight attendant in the front galley. I could see the milk being sloshed up and down the aisle as she hurried back to her brood, and I didn’t want to smell that for three hours. As she’s headed back to her seat, she turns around to tell me she’s flying alone…with three children…as if this is going to elicit some sort of sympathetic response from me. Dear barker: wrong tree. First off, I wonder why you’re alone with that abrasive attitude, and secondly, our galleys aren’t a 7-11. They sell milk in the airport, and if you were a real “wondermom” like you claim, you would’ve packed your own, as that IS something they will let you bring through security.

Hopscotching children

Not Listening to Announcements: Okay, so this is a great time to remind everyone that flight attendants aren’t your personal butlers in the sky. We’re there for your safety, and that little window in front of our jumpseats isn’t a two-way mirror. We can see you rolling your eyes during announcements, pretending to sleep, etc… But I digress. On a recent flight after we landed, I had a mom who didn’t think my announcement applied to her. It’s pretty much common knowledge that you don’t get out of your seat while the airplane is taxiing, which we were. She got up and opened the overhead bin to retrieve a rollaboard suitcase. No, not a soft-sided duffelbag or a small purse. A rolling suitcase that she could’ve easily dropped on the people sitting below. Of course, I repeated my announcement that we were on an active taxiway, so she took the suitcase to her seat. During deplaning, the captain asked me if the woman coming up the aisle was the one who got up during taxiing. I said yes. He stopped her and asked her why she ignored our announcements, to which she replied in a snarky tone, “I had to get something for my son.” What she really got was a stern lecture from the captain who heard me tell her to sit down and watched the whole thing on camera from the cockpit (yes they have those).

Hot Laps in the Aisle: I get it…kids need to get up and move, but for the parents that let their kids do hot laps in the aisle from seat-belt-sign-off to seat-belt-sign-on, here’s some food for thought. This is when we do become temporary servers, and when we’re trying to serve drinks–scorching hot ones, full cans of baby-crushing Coke, etc…–we really don’t need two-foot tall speed-bumps slowing us down. Lets do a math problem: you’re two-feet tall, I have a tray of drinks in my hand and my face in an order tablet to see where I’m taking them, and we crash together ceremoniously in the aisle. Who wins?

Speaking of the Aisle: While this isn’t a personal story, it did happen to a friend of mine and is worth sharing to reiterate the importance of safety on board an aircraft and staying in your seats when we tell you to. Oh, and I’m most definitely talking to you, mom in the story above, who couldn’t wait to get her kid’s Teletubby out of the suitcase. It’s the same set-up: the plane is taxiing, only this time, a mother is letting her small child play in the aisle. My friend makes the announcement that everyone must be seated with their seatbelts securely fastened until we are parked at the gate. Crickets. So, they make a second announcement. Crickets. The kid continues to play in the aisle. Which prompts a third more specific announcement: “To the mother of the child in the pink shirt, please keep her on your lap until we are parked at the gate.” Not two minutes later, a plane pulls out in front of their aircraft, forcing the pilot to slam on the brakes. Said child in the pink shirt ends up face-down near row 1 (they were sitting in about row 9), teeth knocked out, mouth bleeding, and she got to deplane on a stretcher. This isn’t 3:47 minutes of free babysitting. Watch your kids or watch what happens.

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(Non) Rev’ed Up: A Trip Recap

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Paris Light

Paris Light

Despite almost not making the CDG–JFK flight last night (overselling is such an attractive practice), I’m back in the states and already down in Florida. JetBlue didn’t waste any time assigning me a trip. I landed and had a 5:00 a.m. report. Oh well, I commuted in from Paris for work; things could be worse.

Paris was like an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. With no real agenda to speak of while I was there, I kind of just walked around and did whatever I fancied. While I never got around to taking any cooking classes, I did manage to eat my way through the city and visit some restaurants that have been on my list for some time, and one that is just a perennial favorite. Take note: Verjus, Reed, and Fish La Boissonerie are three restaurants you shouldn’t miss in Paris. Just don’t. Take the time to make a reservation and find them, and then sit back for a culinary fireworks show. And yes, if you read my last diatribe, I did make it to Fish on my last day for lunch.

Tuesday, I spent the day in Strasbourg, which was an easy and excellent day trip from Paris. The TGV whisks you there in two hours, and it was this amazing collaboration of French and German influences, almost like they had a child together. I had lunch in an Alsatian restaurant (Le Gruber) that was outfitted in what looked like Bavarian décor, yet, I was ordering my food in French. It was great. I also managed to locate the historic wine cave under the hospital, which was something I had read about prior to arriving. While I wasn’t able to taste any wine that day, they do have a wine shop, so I procured three Alsatian wines (a rosé, a pinot noir, and a Chateauneuf du Pape) that I lugged back on the train to Paris, and then on the plane to the U.S. Despite carting my flight attendant costume with me, I wasn’t permitted to bring the wine through security with me. So, I checked the bag and prayed I wouldn’t be met with a soggy suitcase tumbling down the luggage belt like it was on a water slide. Lucked out there.

Cave Historique Hospices Strasbourg

Cave Historique Hospices Strasbourg

So, what’s up with this whole non-rev business? Well, for one, I now get why people tolerate the measly flight attendant salary. I paid $92 for my ticket over (JFK–LHR) and was put in first class on American. No, not business. First class. Pajamas, champagne and all. On the way back, the ticket was more expensive (maybe $150), but Air France was gracious enough to give me Premium Economy, which is almost like a junior business cabin. Yes, flying standby is not for the faint of heart, but if you are flexible like every good flight attendant is meant to be, you can see the world for pennies on the dollar and giggle about how much the person sitting next to you spent. I did that.

I don’t have any plans for my next trip (yet), but doubt it will be long before there’s something on the books. Any suggestions?

Order Up: London, Paris and Strasbourg!

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Cheeses of Paris

Fromagerie in Montmartre

To celebrate making it past the six-month probationary mark with JetBlue, I’m heading to Europe next week! At least I think I am. This will be the first time I tempt the non-rev’ing Gods internationally, so I’m hoping I can get a seat on one of the three non-stops from JFK to Heathrow. Then again, I’m just hoping I can get back to JFK for work at this rate. With Europe involved, I will find a way!

It always amazes me how quickly my trips come together. Brady encouraged me to go last Thursday, so I contacted my friends in London, rented an apartment via Airbnb in Paris, and bought train tickets to Strasbourg for a day trip. I’m also taking the Eurostar/Chunnel for the first time, and I can’t wait for the experience. It only cost a bit more to book in first class, so I figured, “Why not?” They give you a three-course meal, there’s free wi-fi so I can use my phone or laptop, and the seats are bigger. Perfect.

As far as culinary things go in Paris, I’m booked in for two great dinners at Verjus and Reed, and I’m definitely visiting The Gallery Museum Baccarat this time. Evidently, it’s a sight for sore eyes, and there’s a particularly eye-catching bathroom that shouldn’t be missed. I’ve booked myself in for lunch there too at the Crystal Room restaurant. I’ve been on the hunt for cooking classes, but haven’t been able to match anything with my schedule. If you’re up for a hilarious story regarding a cooking class inquiry gone awry, you can read about that here. A word of advice: learn the difference between “forward” and “reply” when it comes to business emails.

There’s still time for a class to work out, but if not, there are dozens of other culinary-related items I can get myself into. You can make a day of snacking on delicious cheeses like the ones in the photo, chatting with bartenders about wines, and eating a Berthillon ice cream cone as the world walks by. I’ll report back as the trip rolls on.

Wheels Up in Less than a Week!

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Dorm Microwave and FridgeOne week from today, I’ll be sitting in sunny Orlando at our first day of JetBlue training. I’m in the process of getting organized and not the least bit worried about packing, which is why I have time for this blog. Yes, this is abnormal for most females, but I packed in a carry-on for three months when I went to Europe for Culinary Hopscotch. I figure this should be a drop in the bucket.*

The thing that has me the most perturbed isn’t what I’ll wear on the first day of school or if I’m going to forget all of the airport codes when I get there. It’s how I’m going to eat for three weeks. You didn’t think I’d let this get too far from Culinary Hopscotch’s original roots, did you?

Here’s the deal. Breakfast is included at the hotel, but we’re on our own for lunch and dinner. Seems fine, but I refuse to subject myself to Tony Romas and other airport-adjacent chain restaurants for 21 days. My waistline and palette can’t handle it. And when you factor in that our rooms only have a microwave and a fridge, I get a familiar, September 1998 feeling, like when I flung open the door to my UCSB dorm for the first time.

Drastic times call for drastic measures, so I’ve conjured up a manual, we’ll call it, to help me think of things I can easily prepare with these rudimentary appliances. Hop into the suitcase, PETA’s Vegan College Cookbook…you’re coming to Orlando with me! Turns out that finding a microwave-friendly cookbook is, ironically, kind of a PITA.

While I won’t “Let PETA turn (my) room into the campus destination for amazing vegan food” (it seriously says that), I’m hoping that the “on a budget” and the “most complicated kitchenware you’ll ever need is a microwave” advertisements pan out. Screw the parts about stocking my mini fridge with things that never had a pulse and not putting metal in the microwave; I’m appliance-challenged, not an idiot. Or maybe I am. I spent $10.50 of my hard-earned American money on a book with a recipe called “Brainy Bac’n Cheese Toast.” Top one slice of bread with tomatoes, fakin’ bits, and cheese. Microwave and top with the remaining slice of bread.

Here’s hoping I don’t toss PETA in the trash on my way to a heaping plate of Tony Romas’ ribs. Or worse, use the book as a placemat.

*I’m also checking bags for the first time in about five years thanks to a business-casual dress code

Such Great Heights

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Kyle McNichols, JetBlue Inflight CrewmemberLook inside that tiny little airplane window. If you squint, you’ll see me sashaying up and down the aisles, delivering Terra Blue Chips, PopCorners, and hopefully drinks with ice that is neither too cold nor too plentiful. Seriously, people complain about that. With reclining leather chairs and DirecTV, it will be like my own little living room in the sky, and I’ll be the hostess. Well, air hostess, like they call them in the UK.

Still not following? What I’m trying to tell you is that I’ve given up my sea-level office and swapped it for one at 35,000 feet. I’ve been hired as a JetBlue Inflight Crewmember!

In a few weeks, I’m taking off for training in Orlando, and from there, I’ll be criss-crossing the country and Caribbean, delivering the JetBlue experience to passengers just like yourselves. It’s been a lengthy hiring process, but I did it, and I am really excited!

For the chance to see me in action, you better grab yourself a seat on JetBlue…see you in the skies!

Why Social Media Counts, or How 140 Characters Scored Me 20K JetBlue Points

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As a Culinary Hopscotch reader, you may be wondering why you’re reading a blog post on social media. Trust me…read on and you’ll see how this all comes full-circle. You may also dart to create your own Twitter handle.

Twitter is one of those things that has been around for awhile now. You have probably seen the icon on webpages begging you to follow along, but you might not fully understand what Twitter is, how it’s useful, and why you should be on it. Facebook seems to reign supreme, and the young, old, and everyone in between know how to use it. To boil it down, Twitter is another platform where people can connect with messages that are 140 characters (letters and spaces) or less. Today, I want to share a personal anecdote about why social media is increasingly important, and how Twitter helped me score 20,000 JetBlue “Trueblue” points.

I follow @JetBlue on Twitter. Why? Because once a week on Tuesday they release their JetBlue “Cheeps,” or cheap airfares that are only advertised on Twitter via their handle @JetBlueCheeps. I follow both because I like to travel and don’t want to miss any deals that might apply to me. I’ve been following them both for a few months now, but haven’t interacted with either account at all. Until yesterday.

Two days ago, there was a CNN travel article about Twitter and how airlines are using it effectively to resolve customer service issues, complaints, reschedules, and so forth. In some cases, it’s an easier and quicker method of getting in touch with an airline than standing in line at the airport. I let my Google Reader stalk the CNN travel section for me (yay technology), so of course I read this article. They mentioned that JetBlue and Virgin America are probably the best Tweeters out there airline-wise, and that JetBlue specifically has resources dedicated exclusively to social media (i.e. there is a person manning the @JetBlue handle on Twitter).

So yesterday, I’m thumbing through Twitter on my iPad, and I see a message from @JetBlue about their CEO @DavidJBarger conducting an in-air contest for 20,000 “Trueblue” points. He was on a flight from JFK to somewhere, and this contest was taking place at their cruising altitude. “Rad!” I thought, and wished I was on that flight. I replied to the Tweet and said “Maybe you should think about having this same contest on Friday during your flight from LGB–PDX at ohhh, 3:10p.m.,” a flight I’m going to be on. @JetBlue responded to me and said “Did you pull that flight out of thin air? Thanks for choosing JetBlue but we don’t think the CEO normally flies that route.” Clearly, this Tweet was just for me, and that was very cool. I wasn’t after a handout, and was happy that what I had read on CNN was true: they do monitor their Twitter account and they respond.

I’d learn the next morning that their social media staff aren’t the only ones who monitor the @JetBlue account. When I woke up, I had an @message from the CEO himself telling me he had copied the Director of Customer Loyalty via Twitter and asked him to deposit 20,000 “Trueblue” points into my account. I then had a follow-up message from @Tremdave requesting my “Trueblue” account number, which I gave, and less than 10 minutes later, the 20,000 miles were in my account, I was thanked for being a loyal JetBlue customer, and wished a pleasant journey on Friday. Now that’s what I call customer service!

There are a couple of things to garner here. First, why would JetBlue do this? They’re in the business of running an airline, not giving away free flights for no reason (the points they gave me are equivalent to two roundtrips, by the way). It’s actually genius psychological marketing. Yesterday, there I was with 228 “Trueblue” points in my account thinking, “What am I going to do with these? It’s going to be years before I collect enough points for a free flight.” Now, I have more than enough for a couple of flights, and I’m inclined to fly JetBlue so I can continually add to my balance. Plus, they’ve shown me that they do listen, they care about their customers, and they are interested in maintaining my loyalty. I like that. And they’ll like the cha-ching they get each time I book a flight with them from here on out, my plugs for them via Twitter, Facebook, this blog post, etc…, and the windfall of additional business that may come their way as a result. That’s how and why social media works; it’s a way to ensure your brand is consistently on the mind of consumers, that you organically pop up first when people Google your name, etc…

Before you rush out and create your own Twitter handle and try to pilfer miles or points from any airline, do realize that this was likely an isolated incident. I was at the right place, at the right time, and said something that resonated with someone who could make things happen. I don’t maintain that this is the norm, and I doubt it will ever happen again. Ironically though, I received an email yesterday from a friend offering to give me additional Russian cooking lessons at her home in New York, home of @JetBlue and the place where all of this originated. If nothing else, with a short 140-character message, Twitter helped to condense my world a bit; I’m thinking of using these gift flights to reach my next few cooking classes for @CulinaryHScotch. Are you following me yet?

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…