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Published: November 22nd 2009
From the 'office' in Vienna
a cold early arrival into VIE
I’m definitely getting into the swing of the airline lifestyle now. Nearly every pen I have has got some obscure hotel logo on it, and my notice board consists of many memos, reminders, phone numbers, etc scrawled on napkins from the galleys. My watch is always on the wrong time zone, my suitcase is never unpacked, my thighs are bruised from passenger’s elbows and I swear I have more currencies in my wallet than destinations we serve. I’m already at the stage of referring to the cities by their 3 letter codes and have almost forgotten my room number and which floor it is on several times. I am probably not too far from having to use the hotel stationary to work out which city I’m in and will probably soon start eating my dinner from a tray on the kitchen worksurface before shoving it into a cupboard and kicking it shut a la galley style.
Kuala Lumpar and Bali is one of the flagship routes for the crew here and I was lucky enough to get in within 5 weeks for flying. It is a six day tour of duty in Asia with a 24 hour layover in KL,
2 days off in Bali followed by another 24hrs in KL. Needless to say, it’s not hard to work out why it’s such a sought after route. The layovers in Kuala were not very eventful as we were all saving money and energy for Bali, plus the fact that the hotel in KL is beside the airport which is over an hour drive from downtown. It was so close to the airport that the control tower was outside my bedroom window. Soon enough we were back on the aircraft going to Bali and after a good flight we arrived at the hotel. I bumped into my flat mate, Dan, who had exactly the same roster, but 24 hrs ahead of me. It seemed weird to be thousands of miles from Doha and see your housemate like this, but that is another one of the anomalies of this lifestyle.
After a quick shower and change most of the crew and the pilots headed into Denpasar for the night. We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe before continuing on to the clubs. The next morning we went on a package tour to a Safari Park about 2 hours drive away
A little imagination was required
if you look very hard, you can see... cloud.
where we saw all the various Safari animals and later on we went up into the mountains to see ‘a very impressive volcano’. As you can see on the photo on this page, a little imagination was required as we were in thick cloud. Visibility was about 15 feet and it was very cold, rainy and windy. At least the restaurant there served very nice local food which made the 5 hour round journey in a cramped minibus not a total waste of time! On the way there, we also stopped off to see the rice fields on the mountainside which was very impressive, but the camera cannot do the sheer vastness of the area any justice as there’s very little perspective.
When we arrived back into Kuala, Dan was there again as one of the crew taking over the aircraft to head back to Doha. The flight is operated Doha-KL-Bali-KL-Doha and some passengers disembark and board during the transit stop in KL, but most remain on board. The transit stops are more work as we have to ensure all passengers that are supposed to get off do get off - more on that later though. We also have
KLIA control tower
view from the hotel on Kuala Lumpar's tower
to identify each bag to the passengers and that is when language barriers can become a problem.
Following a nice rest in KL and one of the nicest buffet lunches ever (for 10 USD) we began the long flight home. After takeoff, once the crew had been given the all clear to move around the cabin, we began the service. At this point the passengers are required to remain strapped in, but we are allowed to move around. I was just getting a blanket out of the overhead bins when we suddenly hit severe turbulence. I was able to wedge myself against the bin and floor whilst the girl next to me held onto me. We had three huge buffets and several passengers were screaming. After that we made a dash for the nearest available seat. I had just got to an empty passenger seat when we had two more buffets. It threw me into the seat, but the other girl near me wasn’t so lucky. It threw her about 6 feet down the aisle and she landed on her front. Apparently another crew member in the galley hit the ceiling during this too. The rest of the flight
Welcome to the future
A very modern skyline in KL
was fairly rough and we spent a lot of the time in the jumpseat. It sounds like an easy flight sat in the jump seats, but it is very difficult. Due to company regulations, we are not allowed to eat, drink, sleep or read on the jumpseats, so in a quiet dark cabin, it is very difficult to remain alert and awake. We eventually arrived in Doha feeling very tired, but had a great tour of duty.
The next few flights saw me go to places as exotic as Iran, Bahrain and Gatwick and although the destinations were not great, the crew were very good on all three which made the flights much more fun. It’s incredible how much difference the crew can make to a flight. Sometimes it’s a positive effect, other times it’s negative though.
The next big flight was back to Kuala Lumpar, but no Bali this time unfortunately. When we arrived in KL we did the head count to ensure all the passengers had got off, but counted two too many passengers. Another PA was made reminding all passengers that were going to Kuala to disembark. Another recount produced the same number, and this
Chilling on Bandos Island
Vienn... I mean Maldives.
process went on for a while until two very red faced Brits suddenly shot out of their seats and swiftly moved off the plane to the applause and laughter of the rest of the passengers! Jolly good show chaps! The crew were excellent again on this flight and we had a good few days off in KL going into the centre, seeing the Petronas Towers, relaxing in the hotel, and trying all the local foods. One of the days I very nearly tried to get into the room I had when I was previously at the hotel one week earlier. I got off on the wrong floor and was half way to my old room when I realised. Realising was one thing, but working out which room I was actually in was a whole different matter. Fortunately I didn’t have to do the walk of shame to reception and ask, so disaster was averted.
The following day I was back in the air again, this time heading to the Maldives. There were four of us working in economy on the A320, a South African, a Canadian, a Chilean and myself. We all had a great time on the flight
Arriving on to Bandos
Bandos Island, Maldives
and the passengers and crew were very happy. We spent the spare time on the flight sorting out the itinerary for once we arrived. Once we had checked into the hotel, we arranged to meet in 45 minutes armed with sunglasses and sun cream. We booked a boat to take us to the Island of Bandos where we stayed for the whole day and came back at sunset. The island was incredible and it is the whitest sand and the most turquoise sea you could imagine. We went snorkelling with the fish and saw many of the cast of Finding Nemo swimming around. We saw a shark get quite close to us (the waiter later assured us it was a friendly one!) and two got extremely close to a sting ray. It was impressive to watch just how quickly they can move around the sea.
I had a few days of standby next, so was innocently chilling at home, checking the online crew rostering when I suddenly get a notice of a roster change... I was very happy to see I’d got Vienna with a 36 hour layover in the city. It was an A320 aircraft, so there were
One of the many narrow streets near St Stephen's Cathedral
only six crew onboard which often makes the flight more enjoyable as there is usually less issues, better teamwork and more fun. The flight was 5 hours each way, so one of the longer sectors on the smaller aircraft, but soon enough we were in the 2 degree heat of Vienna. During the day two of us just walked around the city taking in the scenery and went to visit Schönbrunn Palace, but the palace was a lot of money to see not a lot of stuff, so a bit disappointing. In the evening, all of us went out to a beautiful underground steakhouse for dinner and a few pints of good old ale!!
With the standbys not over yet, I still had one more evening of uncertainty ahead of me. As the hours drew closer to midnight, I became more and more certain of a quiet evening in. That was until the phone rang at 11pm. As the guy from rostering so nicely put it; ‘I’m going to ruin your evening,’ and I was pulled for possibly the biggest waste of a call out ever. It was the infamous Bahrain night-stop so we get paid for a 90
Dinner at the underground steakhouse
minute round trip which actually takes about 9 - 10 hours from pick up to drop off at the apartment. The crew were great and the passenger load was 27 people going and 40 on the return leg. Quite why I was called from standby will remain a mystery as the loads were so light with a full complement of crew.
There are certain things that flying does to you, some are good and some are bad. For example, you quickly learn to not bother too much with time zones and the like. Within reason I eat when I’m hungry and sleep when I’m tired. Time of day doesn’t have too much importance to me anymore. Without going into the finer details, it’s also amazing how stereotypical many nations really seem to be and can have a huge impact on the enjoyment of the flight. The British Brits for example are fairly hard to please in the flight as they do (rightly) expect a lot of service and quality, but keep ‘em plied with enough red wine or Gin Tonic, and they’ll leave the aircraft very happy and are on the whole polite passengers. Other nationalities can come across
as very rude and arrogant, whilst some can be so polite and helpful that they don’t seem like customers at all.
Next month’s roster is my first ‘proper’ one featuring some gruelling turnarounds and quite a lot of standbys. I’ll do my best to get that one up quicker than this entry took. But the first flight of the month is to Maldives with two of my batchmates, so happy days.
Don't forget to scroll down to see more photographs
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