flight attendants

Summer Reading: Flight Attendant Tell-Alls

Beach read alert! If you're looking for a travel-themed tell-all that spills the beans on the friendly—and sometimes frisky—skies, pick up a copy of not one, but two eye-opening flight attendant memoirs. 

In the tradition of 1960s bestseller Coffee, Tea or Me?, Mandy Smith's no-holds-barred memoir, Cabin Fever: The Sizzling Secrets of a Virgin Airlines Flight Attendant, recounts stories from love affairs to mid-flight scares over 12 years as a Virgin Atlantic flight attendant. Frequent fliers may find the content a little too close for comfort; for example, she shares her opinions about Premium Economy passengers:

People who can't quite afford Upper Class but feel they can click their fingers and demand the world, simply because they've paid a few hundred quid more than an Economy passenger for a little extra leg room and a slightly bigger seat. That's why we nicknamed them the Gin and Tonic Brigade; they believe they deserve as many freebies as they can get their hands on, which most often results in them drinking the complimentary bar service dry.

Smith compares her job with that of a waitress, nurse, therapist, policewoman and negotiator combined. I enjoyed her account of maintaining her cool during a stressful situation; I guess I'm not the only passenger who takes her cue from the flight attendants:

I was fully aware that every single person in the cabin was scrutinizing my demeanor with anxious eyes, making sure I was not wearing an expression that screamed, "We're going to crash." We know the score: watch the air hostesses, and if we're not panicking, you know everything is okay. That's why we look so bloody cheerful all the time. Anyone who thinks being an air hostess is all about serving tea and coffee and looking pretty is kidding themselves. It takes stamina, patience, commitment...and a whole load of acting talent. 

Moving across the pond from the UK to the USA, veteran flight attendant and media maven Heather Poole's bestseller, Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feetdishes on everything from finding love to first-year wages that qualify flight attendants for food stamps.

If you've ever been curious about grooming standards—for a profession that requires at least one-inch heels for women—Poole tells this story:

Lipstick, at flight attendant training, was serious business. It had to be worn at all times. "Why?" asked a classmate who had dared not to wear the color my airline had recommended that year, Clinique red..."So passengers can read your lips during an emergency," said an instructor, matter-of-factly. None of us knew if he was serious. 

And if you've ever wondered what kind of crazy behavior flight attendants have seen, Poole gives this shortlist:

In flight, I've seen passengers get naked, attempt to open an emergency door in order to get off the "bus," reach inside a first-class meal cart and eat leftover food from a dirty plate, and get hit on the head by luggage—then threaten to sue the airline because the injury had affected their psychic abilities. Once I watched an entire group of passengers traveling to Haiti put a voodoo curse on a coworker...and I've seen a woman try to store her baby inside an overhead bin.

A flight attendant's first priority is passenger safety. So, be nice! Even a smile and a few kind words can set you apart from other passengers, and that—according to the experts—is the best way to score a blanket or an extra snack.

This post is written by Trip Styler's Assistant Wayfarer/Editor Heather.

Beach Reads
Virgin Diaries :: Sky-High Skincare
Virgin Diaries :: Facing the Sky
Virgin Diaries :: Airtight Hair

[images via penguin and harper collins]

Fashion Friday :: Like a Virgin

[trip style = any]

{Fashion Friday posts are published on the last Friday of every month by fashion blogger Heather.}

I think my favorite expression is "Bananas!" I blame Rachel Zoe and Gwen Stefani. Speaking of bananas, did you hear the big news in travel fashion this month? {Sadly no, a law banning pyjama pants in airports has not been passed, despite my letters to international airport authorities.} Banana Republic has redesigned the uniforms of Virgin America's flight attendants and pilots. Virgin, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

In order to drum up excitement for the redesign, Banana Republic put its designers in teams for a design challenge à la Project Runway, with Virgin execs choosing the winning looks and Virgin teammates weighing in. The final looks, described as "utility chic", mirror the airline's branding and cabin aesthetic.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdI-XBgJLqE&w=500] {Can't see the video? Click here.}

The new uniforms take flight next month, just in time for the airline's fifth anniversary. But wait! There's more! Like what you see on your crew? For a limited time, variations of some items will be available in Banana Republic stores and on Virgin America flights. It might not be high fashion, but it's definitely 35,000-ft-high fashion.

PS. Virgin isn't the only airline marrying fashion with function; Toronto-based Porter Airlines flight crew sport uniforms designed by Pink Tartan, while Korean Air flight attendants sport Gianfranco Ferre.

Trip Styler Tip: Flying through San Francisco? Be sure to fly out of SFO's Terminal 2, home to Virgin America and American Airlines. It not only has a yoga room and a Kiehl's, but also hip and healthy food choices like The Plant Cafe Organic, Pinkberry, and Cat Cora, where on my last trip a Virgin pilot serenaded travelers on a baby grand piano. It also has a wine bar if that's your version of yoga...

More Fashion Friday
Celeb Travel Must-Haves
Airport Style
Summer Style With Heidi Merrick
Oh Mr. Sun

[collage by @heatherlovesit & photos via virgin america]

Travel Trends :: Retro Travel

longing for retro travelRecently, I've seen a lot of attention paid to retro travel. I'm not sure if it's always a hot topic, or just top-of-mind as people long for the Coffee, Tea or Me? era. Nowadays, if you pine for all things retro travel {sans the in-flight smoking}, you have to book a first-class ticket on Singapore Air to get the gist of flying's yesteryear allure.

This past weekend on a rainy morning in Scottsdale {more on this next week}, I pulled February's Travel + Leisure out of my hotel room's magazine pile. Bonus! The perfect read to go along with my just-brewed Nespresso coffee. One of my favourite articles in the magazine was Last Days of the Stewardess because it was a gripping tale of flight attendant history, and I'm overly fascinated with all things retro travel, including tiki everything. Below are some fun facts about retro travel based on what I learned in the article...

Fun Retro Travel Facts {via T+L} 1930s Sky Girls, some of whom were initially registered nurses, dressed in clinical whites or military uniforms. They served meals, soothed nerves, pointed out highlights below, bolted seats to the floor and occasionally refueled the plane.

1940s Stewardess charm farms created a fleet of ladies with matching hairstyles and teeth ground into even smiles. And just like in Hollywood, there were height and weight requirements for the role. There was also a mandatory retirement by the age of 32. Ah!

Little Black Books Eastern Airlines provided men with little black books to collect stewardesses' phone numbers.

Designer Designed In 1965, Braniff Airlines' new uniforms were designed by Emilio Pucci. Now, uniforms look like they sound, bland. With the onset of celebrity chefs and celebrity everything, couldn't an airline partner with Heidi Klum's Project Runway to get stylish new uniforms? Turns out it's already been done by Project Runway Australia for Virgin Blue!

1980s After years of lawsuits, flight attendants won the right to gain a few pounds, let their hair go grey, get pregnant and be men.

2011 Aside from the still semi-glam Virgin, Emirates and some Asian airlines, the price of travel and cost of doing business in that sector has "forced flight attendants to get you from A to B safely and at the cheapest cost possible to you and the company," according to an open letter to the flying public written by a flight attendant.

Is Retro Travel Coming Back? I wish, but it's likely the majority won't pay the associated price tag, and those who do fly private jets or retreat to lounges prior to dashing into their first-class skybeds. Given that North American aviation has become very public transporty, complete with online ticket purchasing, computer check-ins and in-flight meal ordering via your personal console, I think people may start springing for mid-range niceties like upscale economy. For shorter flights, I bet most people will stick with bottled water and Starbucks lunch pack they buy before the flight.

I wish time travel was a trip style. I'd love to be beamed to 1960 and take a Braniff or Pan Am flight and experience the difference between then and now. As someone who mostly flies coach, I think I may want to stay in the 60s, but only if I could bring my husband, family, friends, pup, computer, iPhone and the Internet.

[photos via multiple web-based sources]

Flight Attendants or Safety Attendants?

'Grupo TACA' A321 Cabin In the wake of airlines trying to stay afloat in a discretionary spending market, I've noticed a major shift in the verbiage and attitude of flight attendants.  What I mean by this, is ever since things like having a Sprite or mini package of too-salty nuts became an in-flight luxury, airlines' announcements have changed from "please let us know if there's anything we can do to make your flight more comfortable" to "we are here for your safety..." with no mention of service.

The Chicken or the Egg Has this shift in focus become more and more accepted and evident in the wake of 9/11, or is it due to less service offerings on the flight so attendants can focus more on safety? Or both? I'm not sure, all I know is that a monumental shift has occurred and if you travel in both economy and business class, the shift is all the more pronounced. On some economy flights I've taken, the feeling like flight attendants are only "there for your safety" rings very true. As in, the focus on safety is so strong, there can be a serious lack in service--and not just because I have to pay for a water. On the flip side, when traveling business class, the service side of airline travel is still alive and well.

The Same Plane This is what the service and safety breakdown 'seems like' between economy and business class: Economy = service 10% / safety 90% Business or first class = service 90% / safety 10% I know you get what you pay for, but really, it's the same plane, so why is the safety message so much stronger in economy?

First Line of Defense I have a friend who used to be a flight attendant with Air Canada. During her rigorous training my inquisitive nature and fascination with all things travel came out, and I'd always get the "411" on the ins and outs of her training. As a frequent airline passenger, I'm happy to know that her training was very safety-intensive. Because flight attendants are the first line of defense, I know their roles are an invaluable to travel. And I also know they put up with a lot.  Among other things, it's not easy to calm someone down or deal with a 'situation' in front of hundreds of people.

Safety has Always been Important It's not like all of the sudden airlines decided to focus on safety in the New Millennium, it's always been important. My concern is that a PR-esque change has taken place, and I wonder if the 'new focus on safety' has given some flight attendants a carte blanche to forget about the needs of passengers?  There are ways of still having a service-oriented attitude even if the airline has completely stipped the in-flight services.

Updated Announcement? I know this could be a controversial post.  Let me be clear; I have a deep respect for flight attendants.  I am the type of passenger that abides by the golden rule and values both the safety and service parts of their roles.  I wonder if in the constantly evolving aviation field, perhaps the in-flight announcements should say something like "We are primarily here for your safety...and...please also let us know if there'a anything we can do to make your flight more comfortable. Thank you for flying with Awesome Airlines, we hope to see you again soon." This message would hopefully remind passengers and airline staff about the balance of priorities while traveling.