Saturday, October 3, 2015
My "Jenna" Moment
When flying the A zone galley Flight Attendant position on the 787-8, there are few things that can disrupt the great vibe. You are responsibe for only 12 high-value customers, you have the assistance of a dedicated aisle Flight Attendant, everything you need to provide the high-quality product we all strive to produce is reliably provided, logically placed, easily reached. The small galley becomes the artist's palette from which to choose just the right tones to achieve just the right result. Occasionally, an HNP (high-need pilot) will intrude into the idyll. But the logistics of 21st century commercial flight limit the intrusion measurably. All is well in paradise!
Until you discover that operations require that Door 1 be used for boarding (rather than the more conventional, rational, workable Door 2).
The tranquil, controlled environment suddenly becomes the meeting place of the world: airplane Babyl. Pilots, Flight Attendants, Customer Service Agents, Catering Representatives, Cabin Services Agents, Aircraft Fuelers and the occasional unannounced Flight Deck Jumpseat Rider all converge on your ever-shrinking idyll in a short period of time, rendering it anything BUT idyllic. Ultimately, passenger boarding begins and the true convergence of anxiety-prone humanity begins in earnest. On a dual-aisle aircraft, approximately half of our nomadic population will turn right upon entering, bypassing the galley proper, in order to find their way to their allocated cabin and seat. Of course, that means that the other half MUST traverse Nirvana to access the OTHER aisle in order to reach their cabin and seat. Sufficient space for the one task is not even close to sufficient for several, being attempted simultaneously.
Knowing ALL THAT ^^ in advance, I took pre-emptive measures and completed the "heavy" part of galley preparation prior to the start of passenger boarding. Any task that would require me to cross back-and-forth across the path of passenger flow became my highest priority: transferring service equipment from between the forward and aft galley lobes, loading crockery (plates, bowls and coffee mugs) from their storage carts into the appropriate ovens, shuttling glassware out of the line-of-fire which is the boarding process and setting up a pre-departure station as inocuously as possible. I was largely successful in avoiding the onrush of the herd. I was also ahead of the preparation power curve and was available to assist the aisle Flight Attendant with her welcoming duties.
Toward the end of boarding (the flow had reduced to a dribble), a rather large, distraught-looking, youngish couple (man and woman) arrived in my idyll. I overheard the woman conversing with the door greeter Flight Attendant as they entered, something about having seats that were separated. I was feeling that I had my primary duties under control, so I ventured, "Step over here into the corner and let me see if I can help you." (It was a nice thought to think that the 3 of us (I was the smallest and I am NOT small) could fit into the galley corner, out of the way but we tried to do just that.) Thrusting their 2 boarding passes in my direction, the woman spoke, "We weren't supposed to be on this flight. Something happened with ours and we were re-routed at the last minute. We couldn't get seats together."
I had just used my handheld device, LINK, to open my liquor inventory and it lay readily at hand. I opened the "Customer Info" app and noticed a smattering of available seats in Economy but no two together. Nor were seats adjacent to those assigned (both middles) showing available. I showed the couple the seat map when my eye stopped on a potential solution. "It looks as though 36D is available. That is our bargaining chip! Either of you can ask the aisle-seat passenger next to you if they would mind moving to 36D, leaving their seat available. It isn't a perfect solution but I think it will work." They seemed dubious (truthfully, so was I) as they left to continue their pursuit.
Fast-forward 10 hours...
In Sao Paulo, we parked as far from the customs hall as is physically possible. At this airport, that is so far that one might need additional protein intake for the walk!
Toward the end of our trek, just at the top of the escalators down to the Arrivals Hall, I heard, "Isn't that him?' I turned to see my distraught couple looking back at me, inquisitively. I moved toward them and took a risk by asking, "Well, how did it work out?" They were effusive, or as effusive as they could be after flying all night, "Your suggestion worked perfectly! The lady sitting next to my husband was travelling with a friend in 36E, so she was happy to swap!" What are the odds? Less than 50/50, in my experience! "We didn't have high hopes but we HAD to get here today. We were resigned to sitting separately and counting our blessings."
I'm a bit of a purpose-seer, to the point that I can often see purpose in events that are basically, pupose-free. So, I ventured, "You know, for the last 2 to 3 weeks, things have just been going that way around here! Why don't we ascribe your good fortune to the arrival of a new boss at the airline?" Of course, they had NO idea what I was talking about (reminder: I'd been up all night, too!).
"Ever since Mr. Munoz arrived at the CEO's office, things have seemed a little brighter, things just seem to go a little better. I'm very happy it worked out for you. I'll forward your thanks to the man who's creating an atmosphere for happy endings. Thank you for flying UNITED."
Mr. Munoz, this "Jenna" moment is for you! Godspeed.