Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Magical Reunion

25+ years ago, magic happened!

In 1986, Continental Airlines opened a satellite of the Los Angeles Flight Attendant base in Honolulu and an eclectic mix of 300 or so  seniorities, agendas, personalities and motivations headed to the Pacific to nest.  We were a VERY diverse group on every level but, together, we coalesced into something greater than the sum of its parts.

Our pay was notoriously awful.  At times, what little we were supposed to get was delayed on the "pony express" from HQ and the rabble gathered at Honolulu ticket counter in protest (it made local news)!  To supplement our meager pay, we received a $300 cost of living allowance which, after taxes, was a little less than $150 a month.

Our flying was a mixed bag:  day turns to the Mainland and Vancouver, 3 & 4 day trips "down under", "Guam bomb" 14-hour 3days, and the infamous 8 and 11 day 38 flight hour trips to Tahiti or Paris (no duty rigs to offset the lack of productivity).  There was something for everybody and we all quickly found our niche.  Of course, niches were usually determined by seniority and a new person to the base could be quickly seniority-stratified by what trips s/he held.

Our operation was directed from our Texas-based headquarters by a cadre of individuals who had little experience with an international operation (most were survivors of the Continental/Texas Intl merger which saw many of the former Continental folk depart when HQ moved from Los Angeles to Houston).  One of our DC10-30s lost an engine to a birdstrike departing Aukland one day.  It survived the incident due to a masterfully executed air return to Aukland.  The crew, stranded with the disabled aircraft, were incredulous to learn that the "powers that be" instructed that a spare engine be TRUCKED over from SYD!  Apparently, those powers had not yet consulted a world map when that decision was made!  Geographic knowledge can be so important when directing a worldwide operation:  the Tasman Sea is a formidable obstacle to a truck.

Our living conditions were seldom what one would consider optimal.  Often, as many as 7 (or more) of us would crowd into one small apartment...and most were NOT commuters.  It was helpful if roomies shared flying preferences to stay on the same side of clock.

While we weren't a particularly religious group, we always attended services.  Whether it was "sunrise services" on Tumon Bay in Guam or "midnight mass" at HULA'S, you could be sure that a reliable, substantial contingent of CO "hostesses" would represent.

We had our stars and more than our fair share of BIG personalities!  Rocco Piganelli, for example, was a regular in our ads on Australian television, usually surrounded by a bevy of lovelies as he steered his vintage white Cadillac convertible down Kalakaua Avenue, full of youthful swagger (he flies for Southwest these days, astoundingly still full of youthful swagger).  Several of our comrades-at-arms were prominently placed in the feature film NORTH SHORE.

We had our own NOTORIOUS news journal, COUNTRY CLUB CHATTER.  There was much debate about its authors and editors but NO DEBATE about its cutting edge, biting commentary and editorials!  COUNTRY CLUB CHATTER will live in infamy (especially at HQ whose residents took more than a few of its "best shots") along with equally renowned publications like BETTER GALLEYS AND GIRT BARS (IAD, I believe.)

Romances, entire love lifes, were born and died during the 7-8 year run of the Continental HNL base.  Some survived in the aftermath.  Many withered as quickly as they bloomed, as ephemeral as a hibiscus blossom.

Proportionately, we suffered more than our fair share of loss during the HNL days.  AIDS, in particular, took many of our shining stars and we will always remember the JOY they brought to our lives with a smile and a tear.  It simply would not have been the same without them!

But friendships, antipathies, and, most of all, GREAT MEMORIES linger still, in tribute to a truly magical time in the lives of most who were there!

We were the "Proud Bird of the Pacific", happy in the knowledge that, when all else went awry in the Continetnal world (and practically everything did), the Pacific operation was our breadwinner.  (Well, it was until one day in August 1993 when the discovery was made that, due to accounting errors, the Pacific wasn't as profitable as thought and the decision was made that HNL would close at the end of October!)

At Christmas 2013, 5 alumni of Continental's HNL base joined for breakfast at a round table in Amsterdam, none with pre-knowledge or thought as to how momentous yet mundane an event it was.  In retrospect, our time together in HNL was just as fleeting as that breakfast was in Amsterdam.

But it was oh-so-special!  Savor every moment life brings you...

(L to R:  Tony Reece, Chris Schaeffer, Roxanne Hoye, Philip Sanchez, & Salvador Morales in B zone, B777-200ER)

Annette Clayton and Philip Sanchez in A zone, B747-200

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