Tips from a flight attendant to survive the trip now

Twenty years ago, with my life at a serious crossroads, I applied to every airline and a few months later I was officially a flight attendant. I loved my new job, and it came with a whole new and exciting life.

But I didn’t sign up for what it’s like to travel this summer.

The pandemic has changed flying more than any event I have experienced in my career. If 9/11 changed the way we board planes and enter airports, Covid-19 changed the experience on the plane entirely. He created a tension and made everyone nervous. He took politics into a realm that shouldn’t be political.

In the early days of the pandemic, airlines tried to save as much money as they could. They allowed early retirements and laid off many employees; On top of that, many other employees quit to be with their families. Now we have a shortage of employees. Once the mask mandate was removed, passenger numbers began to grow faster than airlines could handle. We are now short-staffed and overworked. Not just pilots and flight attendants, but also ground staff. You may not think of ground crews, but without them there’s no one to park the planes, drive the jet bridges so you can board and disembark, load your bags and retrieve them, or scan boarding passes.

Something that is not common knowledge is that flight crews have time limits on how long they can work, usually 12 to 16 hours at a time. As well as being unsafe, it’s illegal for us to fly longer than that. If your flight crew is delayed and arrives at that time, it doesn’t matter if you have to be somewhere, we’re done when we’re done. As things stand right now, there aren’t many backup crews, so your flight may be cancelled.

Historically, summer has always been a difficult time to fly, but this summer it’s even worse. There have been thousands of cancellations and delays every week, and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight. I have seen many people miss important things like weddings, cruises, international connections, and even funerals. The tears are very real, for very real reasons, and there is nothing I, as a flight attendant, can do to help.

Traveling is good for the soul. It revitalizes us and allows us to refocus. Sometimes you need to feel sand under your toes, smell fresh pine trees, or soak in the sounds of a new city just to remind yourself that you’re still alive. But the key this summer is to travel smart. Take as much stress out of the trip as you can by planning ahead and being prepared. This is my best advice based on two decades of working at 30,000 feet.

If you are going on a cruise, leave the day before. Count it as part of your vacation. Stay in a hotel in a new city and explore. Have a nice dinner and a glass of wine and enjoy. Wake up slowly, grab a coffee and pancakes, and head leisurely to your boat. The extra money is worth the peace of mind. I recently worked on a flight that was delayed. A family of eight missed their connecting flight to Rome, which was the only flight of the day. They were going on a cruise that they would now miss. (Buying travel insurance is also not a bad idea.)

That way, if you’re delayed, you don’t need to worry about catching your next flight. If you can’t avoid the connection, don’t book the shorter layover, as it will increase stress and the possibility of missing your flight. A one-hour layover is no longer enough. Thirty minutes, not a chance. In most cases, three hours is safe.

The first flights of the day are rarely cancelled. Thunderstorms build as the day gets warmer, flight crews hit their work limits later in the day, and traffic picks up at busy airports. Yes, that could mean a 3am alarm, but if your early flight gets cancelled, there will be more options to rebook a different flight.

These apps have valuable information. They will prevent you from having to wait in incredibly long lines or trying to reach someone on the phone if things go wrong. You can track your luggage, your incoming plane, and in some cases, you’ll know a flight has been canceled before the flight crew knows. The app can also guide you to rebook a new flight if needed.

The flights are full. If you buy the cheapest seats, you may not be able to sit with your family. It says so when you buy your ticket. Flight attendants aren’t there to rearrange the entire plane just so they can sit together because they tried to save money on a third-party website. Also, keep in mind that if a flight is overbooked and no one volunteers to give up their seat, the first to be moved will be the family who saved a few bucks using a deal website.

Don’t be “that guy”. Don’t delay boarding because you have your extenders open until they burst and you don’t know how to fit your bag on the roof.

Here’s a secret from flight attendants: Sometimes we intentionally keep the plane cold. For people who struggle with motion sickness, the heat makes it worse. We don’t want anyone using those sick bags.

We are and we know. It may make us cry ugly right there in the kitchen.

Be good. Our goal at all airlines is to get you to your destination. Stay positive, at least you’re not at work.

Kristie Koerbel is a longtime flight attendant who previously shared her tips on Facebook.

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