New Bird.

Year Two. Month Three. #ONT.

The first day of July was supposed to go so well.

We had just received delivery of a new fleet of brand new airplanes, Embraer 175s, or "the ERJ" for short. This delivery was the first three of fifteen to eventually be put into service. I had toured the new bird a few days before in preparation for her maiden revenue flight on July 1.

New airplanes are a joy for any flight crew. This was not only a new piece of metal, but a totally new aircraft for our Seattle base. More seats, a real first class, multiple galleys, ovens and a whole new step up for our little regional airline. Big deal stuff.

I had worked on this particular aircraft before, but in a different base and for a different mainline partner. As a regional airline, we wear a lot of hats (and memorize a lot of different announcements). Having contracts with five completely different airlines means representing a uniquely different brand every day. If it seems confusing, it's because it is!

Before work, I had studied my new announcements, watched online service tutorials and made sure that my uniform was freshly pressed. I arrived at the airport two hours early and met up with my equally excited crew. I knew that we were going to have an awesome flight.

But, as always, the airline world is an unpredictable one. Who knew that a jetbridge issue would cause such a delay? By the time the customer service agent let the crew onto the plane, we were already behind on boarding. I did my preflight duties, hoping to have an extra few minutes to explore the dimensions of this plane.

No such luck. As soon as I finished my required safety checks, the passengers came flowing on the aircraft. I smiled, masking my nervousness. I am someone who likes to feel familiar in my space, and here I was, having a crisis about the location of pretzels in the aft galley.

Boarding completed quickly and I rushed through the cabin, marking the passenger count on a piece of paper. Several higher-ups from our mainline partner stood near the aircraft door, silently hurrying me along. I focused on counting, but I have never had so many people in suits watching me do math.

In this job, you have to be able to block out people rushing you and do your job well. I finished the count, and we closed the door.

Feeling frazzled, I walked back through the aircraft, checking passengers for seatbelts. Once in the back I took my jumpseat and paused.

The hum of the engines vibrated through the fuselage, quieter than our old planes. The back galley lights were off, just a single stream of golden sunlight snuck in through the tiny window in the R2 door. The two aft doors were chunky, each holding a high-tech emergency escape slide. I snuck a glance down the center aisle and saw twenty rows of passengers facing forward, ready for take-off. I breathed in deeply. 

New plane smell, I thought. I felt proud of this bird.

I opened my book to the new set of announcements and picked up the interphone.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to welcome you onboard our brand new airplane."

Let's go places.


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