iFly Blog

 

You’re boarding the plane, and the flight attendant’s voice pipes through the overhead speaker with that rarely-listened-to phrase…

 

“Ladies and Gentleman, as you board today, please move into your row before stowing your bags to allow the passengers behind you to board.”

 

Five minutes later, the same voice (a bit less patient this time) comes over the PA again and says, “Ladies and Gentleman, there are several other passengers standing in the jetway, please step into your row before stowing your bags, as this will expedite the boarding process…”

 

Now, you have two options…you can stow, or step in your row.

 

Let’s say you decide to step into your row.

 

Surprisingly enough, this has some negatives. As you obey the rules, the other passengers put their bags in the overhead above YOUR seat, thereby taking your overhead bin space and subjecting you to the dreaded and despised realm of gate checking your bag.

 

Also, you have to maneuver your overstuffed bag into the row, which means you have to pick it up and put those wheels in the very seat you will be sitting in for the next 5 hours. This of course, after you have just rolled it all over the airport, and through a petri dish of unknown flora and fauna…otherwise known as the airport bathroom.

 

And what if you were just lucky enough to be the first person in your row? Now you have to either put your bag BACK into the aisle to allow your row buddy in, or you have to contort yourself by flattening your body like a gecko against said bag to allow passage into your row. Hopefully, you and your row buddy have “compatible dimensions” or this maneuver can become very interesting….

 

Meanwhile, some of my flying partners (because I would NEVER do this) are standing in the back galley, watching it all unfold and biting the inside of their cheeks to keep from laughing hysterically at the scene. We, I mean, “other” flight attendants only do this for a minute or two before fighting our way upstream (Alaskan Salmon style) to come help with the stowing process.

 

Is there any hope? Why do airlines even ask passengers to do this? How can we, passengers and crew, work together to improve this process?

 

To put my two cents in, I want to give you some background information to consider…

 

 

In initial training, we saw this chart, which was based on FAA studies about the stress levels of crew during pre-departure activities. For some reason, even after over a decade of flying, the memory of this chart has never left me. Here is my interpretation of what I saw so many years ago:

 

 

 

What? That doesn’t look official to you?

 

As you can clearly see, your crew doesn’t enjoy dealing with bags just as much as you don’t. If we had it our way, there would be enough overhead space for everyone’s bags, umbrellas, coats, gifts, sombreros, pets, golf clubs, kayaks, kitchen sinks and whatever else you passengers feel like bringing onboard.

 

But alas, we don’t.

 

So to make things go a little more smoothly, you can try boarding like crew members do when we are using the travel benefits our friends are always asking us to share. Here is what I do…

 

  1. Pre-boarding prep:  As soon as you line up to board (when your section is called of course) remove the stuff you need from your carry-on, and hold it in your hand.
  2. When you get to your row, toss said stuff in the seat, and in the same motion, toss bag into overhead bin wheels first, and quickly step into your row. Whew…now you’re out of the aisle.
  3. If you have two carry-ons (GASP!) Place the smaller of the two under the seat in front of you. Don’t be a bin-hog. Next time, if you can, just bring one.
  4. Sit down, close eyes, wait for movie and vodka cart, beverage cart.

 

That’s how I do it…when I am off-duty of course.

 

If you are really interested in this stuff, take a look at this link about airplane boarding, it’s pretty informative.

 

Safe travels!

 

 

To Lean or Not to Lean…Should there Be a Question?

 

I have to admit, I really can’t stand it when someone leans his or her seat back onboard an airplane. When I am traveling in economy and seated in front of someone, I rarely do it…when I do, I do what I call the “press-n-tap.” Simply put, the “press-n-tap” is when I press the little silver button, tap back on my seat lightly and whatever I get is whatever I get. It usually gives me a few microns of recline.

 

However, if you are the leaning type-and you have every right to be-here is what your crew is thinking about when we tell you shortly after takeoff to “sit back, relax and enjoy your flight.”

 

First, we are hoping and praying that you don’t really, “sit back”.

 

We hope this for a number of reasons. The main reason is a little something I call “passenger harmony”.  We don’t expect every flight to include a rousing rendition of Kumbaya and group hugs, but we also don’t need anyone getting angry onboard. This probably goes without saying, but post 9/11 we are extremely cautious about passenger behavior. Some may say overly cautious, but I don’t care…I believe it is better to err on the side of extremism in this area. Take a look at these links for seat recline rage stories…

 

http://gerryairways.blogspot.com/2012/04/seat-recline-and-air-rage-my-story.html

 

http://www.airfarewatchdog.com/blog/10832646/its-my-right-to-recline-my-seat/

 

http://www.bellenews.com/2012/01/12/world/europe-news/two-passengers-had-a-fight-on-a-a380-after-one-reclined-his-seat-as-the-man-behind-was-about-to-eat/

 

 

We also don’t want to have to ask you twice to raise your seat. Twice, you ask? Yes, because when we get close to landing, we will politely ask you to please, “return your tray tables and seatbacks to their full upright position.” Some of you will do this, some of you won’t (you know who you are).

 

Then, we tell you “flight attendants will be coming through the cabin to complete their final safety checks”(yes, another cue). Some of you will take heed, some of you won’t. And of course, if a passenger happens to be sleeping, the wake-up process necessary to complete this safety check is a completely different matter…

 

Your flight attendants would much rather be doing something else.

 

In my own personal experience, I have witnessed the emotional gamut played out when it comes to the seat recline practice. I have seen passengers simply ask the person to raise it a bit; I have seen passengers immediately press the flight attendant call button to tattle on the leaning offender, I have seen passengers become absolutely irate when someone leans their seat back. And then there was the complete meltdown I witnessed (literally and figuratively) when a passenger leaned his seat back so violently that it jarred the piping hot coffee that was on the passengers tray seated behind him, spilling the coffee all over the passenger and his tablet computer, frying it…and ruining what was apparently a very important report.

 

So clearly, there are very different “leaning” styles. Which made me come up with this while sitting on the jumpseat…

 

The “What Kind of Leaner are You” Quiz

 

Examine the following statements, and choose which one best describes you…

 

A. I feel sooo guilty when I lean my seat back, therefore I will sit completely upright from New York to Sydney. No, its fine really, my spine surgery went well, and I have plenty of pain medicine, so I can make it. I can’t feel my legs right now, but it’s fine…no really, I am ok.

 

B. I just leaned a little bit…did she notice? Let me just try a little bit more now…can she tell? Maybe I will wait about five more minutes and see if I can get away with it again…

 

C. Ahhhh, I can finally take a nap for an hour, let me lean my seat back here. (An hour later…) Ok, gotta work, so let me sit up and get to work. (Fifteen minutes later…) Whooo, I just wrote a paragraph. I am exhausted…maybe another nap would help. Let me lean back here for just a few minutes. (Two hours later…) Just great, I missed the beverages and snacks, let me sit up straight and ring my call button to get a drink. Wait? Is that the landing gear I hear? Oh! Better lean back one more time then for a pre-landing nap!

 

D. I paid $499 for this ticket and I own this aircraft. [DING, calling the flight attendant] I want an extra snack bag, [DING] I want a blanket, [DING}I want the whole can of soda, [DING] and another cup of ice. [DING] Are there any snacks left? [DING] What time are we landing? What, I can’t believe she told me to take my seat because the pilot just told us there will be turbulence and we need to buckle up….who does she think she is? I paid $499 for this seat, and I will go to the bathroom when I damn well please. I will never fly this airline again. Is that someone behind me? Well they better get ready because I’m getting all the space I deserve…timberrrrr!

 

Drumroll please…The results…

 

If you choose A, you are a FAT Leaner. Don’t; get mad, FAT is an acronym for Fear and Trepidation. Of course, if you are fat, you have “No Lean”. Ok, it’s cheesy, but you get it. Basically, you don’t want to recline your seat under any circumstances; I’m the same way.

 

If you choose B, you are a Stealth Leaner. The passenger who inches a little at first, then more, then a little more…perhaps thinking that the person behind you won’t notice your stealthy encroachment upon their space. Nice try, but believe me, they can tell.

 

If you choose C, you are a Wimbledon Leaner. You move your seat back then straight, back than straight, back then straight, [repeat] throughout the whole flight. Anyone who watches you feels like they are watching a tennis match. Your activity leaves the person behind you paranoid and traumatized by the end of the flight…they have no idea what to expect.

 

If you choose D, you are the Shock and Awe Leaner. You put everything into your recline… You lean back all the way, using the full force of your body, and you make sure to do it during the beverage service. Your recline is an explosive, knee crushing, drink spilling, paper fluttering, anger inducing disaster…and you don’t even care.

 

Now that you know what kind of seat leaner you are, there are a few simple universal rules for being a more accommodating onboard citizen, and for contributing to “passenger harmony”…

 

Onboard Leaning for Dummies….

 

Look at seat maps and learn which airlines or aircraft types have the best seat pitch. For longer flights, try to choose those.

 

You have a right to lean back, let go of the guilt!

 

Ask first.

 

Lean SLOWLY.

 

Be reasonable, if the person behind you is tall, pregnant, holding a baby, working on the computer, etc. decrease your recline angle.

 

Try not to recline if food is involved.

 

If you plan to lean, and if the aircraft is not full (and the crew permits), ask to move to a seat with no one in the seat behind you.

 

Leaning your seat back on an RJ (regional jet) is just unfair. Period.

 

For most air travelers, turbulence is a word that invokes at least a little dread and discomfort. However, in most cases such apprehension is at least partly due to fear of the unknown. Once we better understand the subject, our newfound knowledge can help allay unnecessary anxiety. With this series of posts, we’ll examine the causes of turbulence and methods for avoiding and mitigating any encounters.

In this post, we’ll examine the types of low-level turbulence. Low-level turbulence includes all forms of turbulence found below an altitude of approximately 15,000 ft. Regardless of your flight’s eventual cruise altitude, all aircraft must pass through these lower levels after departure and prior to arrival at the destination airport. At times, certain low-level turbulence is unavoidable and is best handled when properly understood.

Mechanical Turbulence

Roughly defined, turbulence is an irregular motion of the atmosphere. Mechanical turbulence is caused by terrain, buildings, or other structures disrupting the smooth airflow through a given area. This type of turbulence is most commonly encountered during takeoff and landing when hills, ridges, or infrastructure around the airport interfere with the flow of surface winds. Based on their surroundings, some airports are more susceptible to mechanical turbulence than others. When encountered, mechanical turbulence only lasts for a few minutes and will dissipate after landing or once climbing a few thousand feet upon takeoff.

Convective Turbulence

Commonly referred to as thermals, convective turbulence is generally associated with warm weather. This turbulence is caused by solar heating reflecting upwards off the surface. The higher the temperature, the stronger and higher you can expect the thermals to be. When sufficient atmospheric moisture is present, cumulus clouds tend to denote the upper extent of thermals. As with mechanical turbulence, convective turbulence is limited to within a few thousand feet of the surface and will only be experienced during takeoff and landing.

Frontal Turbulence

As the name implies, frontal turbulence is typically found ahead of a fast-moving cold front. You can anticipate frontal turbulence by watching the weather before your planned departure. If a cold front is approaching your departure or destination airport, you might encounter some frontal turbulence. En route, such encounters are generally not an issue, as frontal turbulence is most common at lower altitudes. However, if you’ll be cruising at low altitude (on commuter aircraft or short legs), it’s possible you’ll encounter this turbulence in cruise. In such cases, the pilots, dispatchers, and air traffic controllers (ATC) can often coordinate to avoid the most probable turbulence areas.

 

Wake Turbulence

Though categorized as a form of turbulence, wake turbulence is generated by aircraft, not the atmosphere. While all aircraft generate some turbulence as a result of lift, the strongest wake turbulence is produced by heavy aircraft during takeoff and landing. To combat wake turbulence, ATC maintains minimum separation distances between aircraft. On the ground, aircraft are sometimes required to hold for a few minutes to allow wake turbulence to dissipate. Additionally, pilots can request additional separation/hold time if they judge it’s in the interest of safety. Due to the wake turbulence avoidance procedures used by pilots and ATC, your chances of encountering wake turbulence are extremely rare.

What can you do?

As a passenger, your best defense against low-level turbulence is knowledge of its characteristics. By referring to the information above or researching the topic on your own, you’ll be better prepared for possible low-level turbulence encounters. In many cases, your knowledge of when, where, and how long turbulence is likely can go a long way to relieving any anxiety about an encounter. During flight, try to remain seated with your seatbelt fastened. Secure your personal items to the extent possible and keep a hand on any foods and drinks, particularly hot items. If a trip to the restroom is necessary, try to go before entering or after exiting expected turbulence zones.

In a future post, we’ll discuss other forms of turbulence and identification/planning/avoidance methods used by pilots and ATC. Don’t let a chance encounter with turbulence keep you from enjoying your time aloft. The more you understand its causes, the better you’ll enjoy your flight.