For a change of pace, at the end of December I bid a three day trip. Now, as most of you know I usually only fly turns. I like being at home every night, in my own bed (soon to be upgraded to a queen from a full, mind you) but I have grown out of the “partying” on my layovers phase and in flying turns I can get my minimum hours in a short period of time.
Anyway, as I was explaining, I bid a three day trip with my two friends who you’ve all come to love Brad & Patti. This three day, wasn’t a normal one, by any definition of the word. We were working a round-trip charter flight to the Dominican Republic. Have you ever been? I’m wondering if my experience was normal or if we just had a plane full (both ways) some of the worlds most difficult people.
First of all, we were leaving from the East Coast at the end of December. That means snow and deicing. Two things I don’t usually deal with while doing my turns. As the plane was tugged over from a hard stand all we heard as the door opened was “Retard. Retard. Retard” over and over and over again. The plane’s computers were frozen and pilots nor the mechanics could fix the retarded plane until it warmed up. That took about 45 minutes.
In the meantime, the cleaners were prepping the plane and catering was delivering our food for the round trip, and we were learning the ropes as to how service was to be accomplished and what other differences there were from our normal ops and this charter flight.
After 45 minutes of thawing out and prepping the plane, the deicing truck arrived to partially deice at the gate to help us get in the air as quickly as possible since we’re now running late. A few things then happened: The truck ran out of fluid, then the new truck broke, then the even-newer truck broke too.
This morning wasn’t off to a good start. Once we get in the air, things have to be better, right?
Wrong. You should have known that was coming. At first the flight to the Dominican was cake. There was only 60-something passengers, how hard can that be? But as the flight soared across the sky about two hours into our journey, everyone decided to stand up. Everyone just got up.. stood in the aisles, paced through the plane, and decided to move into empty rows to sleep. One woman decided to move her children into the exit row so they could lay down. Patti then informed the woman that her kids couldn’t sleep there and the passengers response was: Well, I’m not moving them. Uh, okay. Patti, as graceful as she is, then explained why the kids weren’t allowed to sit there hoping that the passenger would understand where she was coming from. But no, she didn’t. I’m not waking my kids to move them out of the row the passenger said, even louder this time to Patti.
Finally Patti had to be a bit stern with the passenger and let her know that it wasn’t a request that the children be moved, it was required. After that, the kids were moved no problem.
That was the only situation we encountered on the flight into the Dominican Republic. Easy enough to the point that the three of us said we would bid this trip again because of the long layovers and the fact that the three of us could hold it and fly together. All of that, however, changed on the flight home.
Boarding was a mess. There weren’t any jetbridges and buses left our passengers on the tarmac while one lady verified boarding passes and passports allowing them to board one by one up the air stairs. Needless to say, this process took forever since 150 people had to board, we were full.
Keep in mind, flights from international destinations back to the US have that ‘stay in your cabin and use your own restroom’ rule. This little notation will come in handy.
Once inflight I quickly learned that one of the passengers in first class, 1A, had about 20 family members in coach, and though this was a charter flight, our food in coach is still “for sale.” So, she took matters into her own hands. She cut up her complimentary first class meal into 20 different pieces. Dessert and leaves of lettuce included, placed them onto napkins and started to distribute her food to her family. When I asked what she was doing she explained Well, my family has to eat too! Okay. It’s as simple as paying for a sandwich, but okay.
I walked through the main cabin to help Patti and Brad with the masses and the second I left the forward cabin 1A’s family decided to come up for a visit. I quickly went back to first class and explained that they weren’t permitted up there. They left. I headed back toward the aft, turned around.. they were back. I went back up there and explained again that they had to remain in coach class for the rest of the flight. They understood and returned to their seats. As I answered a few call buttons from coach and was preparing drinks for the passengers 1A’s family decided to play a game of peek-a-boo with me. I came out from behind the curtain to find a guy in his 30′s standing there talking to his relative in 1A. I barely opened my mouth to once again explain that no one was allowed up there when he said Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m not supposed to be here. So, shocked, I said So, why are you here? — Well, there’s more room to stretch out up here. Right, that’s why folks pay to sit here. I understand that Sir, but unfortunately you cannot stand in the forward cabin to stretch, please do that in the main cabin. He left.
This family put us through hell for 4 hours. Even worse, our tally showed we answered over 200 call button and passenger requests throughout the flight home.
The icing on the cake? As we passed out immigration forms for our entry back into the US 1A asked me for a pen (after I mentioned on the PA that, unfortunately, we didn’t have any) and I said I’m so sorry, but I don’t have any. Then she busted. First my family has to pay to eat, then they can’t come up here to visit me, now you won’t give me a pen? Do you know where I’m sitting? I said Yes, 1A.
That’s right. She said. First class, and do you know how much I paid for my ticket? I told her I didn’t and since it was a charter flight I didn’t even have a guess. I paid $79 for my one way and $100. ONE HUNDRED dollars to upgrade to first class — and you’re telling me I can’t even get a pen?
Yes, ma’am, sadly, the cost of a pen wasn’t included in your fare.