Year Two. Month Three. #YYC.

It had been a long day.

I woke up on Sunday, ready for an amazing day. I was going to get to work with my favorite pilots in the whole world, a Captain and First Officer couple who lived down the road from me on Whidbey Island. Our trips together usually started with laughter and ended with us fighting over who was going to buy the first round of drinks at the bar on our layovers.

I drove my car down the delightfully empty Sunday morning highway, blasting some old school TLC and sipping my iced coffee. Today was going to rule.

I got to the airport early and texted my pilots, offering to buy coffee for the crew. Once on the plane, we caught up and I met my co-flight attendant, a sweet new hire named Patrick. We did our briefing with the pilots, chatted about how we wanted to do service, pre-flighted our equipment and got ready to welcome our passengers on board for a quick Vancouver, B.C. turn.

Except that it didn't turn out to be quick.

The twenty-five minute flight to Vancouver went smoothly enough. Once on the ground in Vancouver, we quickly cleaned the plane and boarded up once again. The fifty-nine passengers onboard were mostly New Yorkers, all hoping to get to Seattle early in order to run over to their connection to JFK.

The mood quickly turned tense.

"When are we going to land? What gate is my connection at? Why haven't we left yet? I have a really tight connection, you know!"

We hadn't even done the pre-taxi announcement yet and already the crowd was getting unruly.

An impressive amount of luggage slowed down our ramp agents, who were visably sweating out in the breezy Canadian spring weather.

I walked up and down the aisles, passing out reassurances to my passengers, letting them know that we had a tail wind, we would do everything possible to get them connection information upon landing, etc.

We finally got the luggage loaded up and the main cabin door closed. Patrick and I breezed through our walk-throughs and began our pre-departure announcement. Upon taking our jumpseats, the PA crackled to life.

"Well, it looks like we have a power problem, folks. We will be having maintenance over to see if it's a quick fix."

A chorus of groans ensued. I winced, knowing that this could mean a lot of missed connections.

Ten, twenty, thirty minutes went by. I walked up and down the aisles and tried to reassure people as best I could. The Captain made updates. The passengers became angrier, and louder. One older woman stood up in the aisle and shook her fist at me. I ducked into the galley and asked Patrick what I should do.

"Pass out water?" he suggested, pushing me out into the aisle before ducking back into the galley.

The Captain came back on the loudspeaker: "Well, it looks like the power situation is not able to be fixed. We will deplane and customer service agents will be available to discuss alternate options for getting to your final destinations."

Now there was actual yelling. An older gentleman asked me what I was going to do about his missed connection. I apologized, and offered him what I could offer him: a bottle of water.

After the passengers left, I flopped in a seat and sighed. I felt ... drained. I hated not being able to help my passengers. I felt truly sorry for them, and even though it wasn't my fault, I wanted to be able to offer more than just reassuring words.

Ten minutes after the passengers had deplaned, collected their carry-on baggage and checked luggage had been off-loaded, maintenance made a surprising announcement: The plane was now fixed.

If the passengers had been angry before, it was nothing compared to the rage now felt radiating throughout the cabin as they re-entered the aircraft. They had all now missed their connections. They were having to go through all the motions of boarding again. And none of them felt great about an airplane that had been considered "broken" ten minutes prior.

Patrick and I hurried through our pre-departure announcement and walk-through once more, and sat down, eager to get these folks to Seattle and off of the stuffy, frustration-filled cabin.

Once in the Seattle, passengers seemed to suddenly relax. As they left the airplane, we apologized and tried to direct them to the closest customer service counter. Some of the people actually thanked us, and a few actually smiled.

Exhausted, we asked the pilots what we were supposed to do next. We had a Calgary turn on our schedule, but with a plane with a deferred maintenance issue on its record, it seemed unlikely that we would be working the next two legs.

But of course, Dispatch found us another plane.

Grumpy, we rushed over to our next gate, to a crowd full of equally grumpy passengers who were now delayed.

"At least we have a working airplane," I thought.

Or at least, so I thought.

We boarded up, did our safety announcements and demos, and took off. Patrick and I plastered smiles on our tired faces and completed our services, locking up the carts right as our descent chimes sounded.

"Just one more leg," I whispered to myself.

Once on the ground, we deplaned and started cleaning the plane. Just then, the Captain came out of the flight deck, concern on his face.

"We might have a problem," he said.

Something about the oil temperature and the right engine. It was a no-go item. Maintenance was coming over, but unless we fixed the plane, boarded up again in the next twenty minutes and somehow avoided all the flow issues into Seattle, our hardworking pilots would "time out."

And then there was the issue of the "ninety minute" rule in Canada. If the aircraft and the crew sat on the ground for more than an hour and a half, everyone would need to deplane and go through customs.

What a mess. The maintenance guys worked as hard as they could, Patrick and I cleaned the cabin and were ready to hustle the passengers on board if needed and the First Officer went through her check-list ... but it happened. We timed out. The pilots were about to go past their twelve hour mark and all of us were nearing the allotted ninety minutes on the ground.

And so we had to cancel. And stay in Calgary.

Sometimes, being a flight crew member is all about realizing that you can't really plan your day. No matter how hard you work, there will be upset passengers, there will be maintenance issues and no one has any real control over the weather. Stuff happens, and you just have to go with the flow.

Our crew dragged our suitcases over to the hotel, defeated. We were beat.

Once in the elevator, we stood silently, wondering what tomorrow would bring.

"Meet in the hotel bar in ten?" The Captain offered tentatively.

There was a pause. And then we all smiled, knowing that even though the day had been tough, we had made it through because of each other. Five seconds later we were cracking up, fighting over who would be buying the first round.

If you've got good people around you, you can make it through anything.

Here's to all the amazing crews in your life, on or off the plane.


Popular Posts