Life as a Flight Attendant

Life As a Flight Attendant CradleRockingMama.comThis isn’t what I usually talk about, but it’s on my mind a lot right now (for obvious reasons). Plus, it’s a source of great interest to almost every person I’ve ever met, once they learn what I do for a living. I’m always asked the question:

What’s it like being a Flight Attendant?

Usually, I say “Well, it has its ups and downs!” (You’d be surprised how many people don’t get the joke!), but that’s a quick and easy smart aleck answer that doesn’t really say much of any value.

In addition to all the FPIES, FructMal, IgE, Histamine, TED, and conflicting dietary needs of the two boys that I already have to juggle to keep straight in my life, I am now immersed in the process of adding the Flight Attendant insanity to my life.

Insanity? Why, yes. Here’s a small snippet of what Flight Attendants** deal with.

For one thing, we don’t work a typical schedule. That’s impossible with our job. The only people lucky enough to have “routes” in the Flight Attendant (FA) gig are the super-duper “senior mama’s” that can bid to only fly to Beijing or Tel Aviv (just as examples) every month and know they can hold that schedule because of their seniority.

Most of us do not have that kind of seniority. You have to be a FA for 30-plus years to be able to call the shots on your schedule like that, generally speaking.

Oh, and seniority? Is the name of the game. EVERYTHING I do as a FA is based on one single factor: my hire date. What schedule I hold, how many weeks of vacation I get, what weeks of the year I can hold in vacation, and to a smaller extent, where I work on the plane is all dictated by my date of hire as a FA.

Keeping that in mind, the other thing to know about our schedules is that they are based on monthly operations. Every single month we get a new schedule.

You know how in the Food Allergy world there are all sorts of acronyms for things, and new vocabulary to learn? It’s like that in the FA world, too. In fact, “FA” means two TOTALLY different things to me, based on who I am talking to at the time.

Every time I go to work, I say I’m going to work a “trip”. A trip is simply whatever combo of flights the company has put together into one work assignment. To create a fictitious 4 day trip just as an example:

  • Day 1: Fly from Newark to Fort Lauderdale, turn right around and fly back to Newark, sit for three hours, then fly to Chicago. Layover.
  • Day 2: Chicago to Miami, Miami to Houston, Houston to Phoenix. Layover.
  • Day 3: Phoenix to Houston, Houston to Los Angeles. Layover.
  • Day 4: Los Angeles to Newark. Done.

We have trips that are 1, 2, 3 and 4 days long, usually. For commuters (people who live in a city that is not their assigned work base) like me, multiple day trips are the best bet. I try to work two 3-day trips back to back, if at all possible.

Each month we bid for our new schedule, which we call a “line”. Each line is whatever the company has decided is the best combination of trips for that month.


Last week I bid for my line for May. I got a decent one; 18 days off. BUT. It works on Mother’s Day, which I’d like to NOT do, and Memorial Day Monday, which I’d also like to not do, as Darrel has the day off. Plus, I’d prefer to work no more than 6 days in the month, thanks to food trials and Zac’s continuing breastmilk needs. (As a commuter, I lose two full days of time away from home every time I have to go to work, so that would be 8 days of time away from home.)

The next step? Trip trading.

About a week before the beginning of the month in question, the computers open up at a select time for all FA’s within a base to trade their trips.

There are PAGES of rules about trip trading, so I won’t get into the technicalities. Let’s put it this way: trip trading is so danged complicated that some FA’s never get the hang of it and PAY other FA’s to trade for them!

I’ve never done that. I always do it myself. (Yes, that means I memorized the pages of rules.)

For May, trip trading opens up on April 29 at 5:00 p.m. That’s today!

In case you haven’t caught the anxiety inducing part of that little tidbit, it means that if, for example, Zac has a long awaited, very important doctors appointment on May 6, and I wasn’t able to hold a line with the 6th off, I wouldn’t know until April 29 whether I could trade that trip away or not.


Today I HAVE to be on the computer at 5:00 p.m. to trip trade.

There are only two problems with that: one, our internet is sometimes iffy in service due to our rural location, and two, trying to concentrate on trip trading with two kids going nuts during the “witching hour” is almost impossible.

The solution? Darrel is taking the last hour of work off today so I can hand the kids over to him and go sit somewhere in town, quietly, on a better internet connection to try and get my schedule sorted out.

That may sound extreme, but it really will make-or-break our entire month of May if I don’t get trip trading done as needed.

And I – and all FA’s – go through this every single month.


Wish me luck today! Going back to work is going to be hard enough without having to fly a crappy schedule.

I need to get my work days down to 5-6 for the month, while still equaling 40-65 hours worth of pay.

Preferably not on Mother’s Day or Memorial Day weekends.

That’s a pretty tall order, let me tell you! So, if you don’t mind, send some good vibes my way!

What’s the question you’ve always wanted to ask a Flight Attendant? Since I’m in “Flight Attendant” mode today, it’s the perfect time to ask!

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6 Responses to Life as a Flight Attendant

  1. Rebecca says:

    I am a plane sleeper. I board, I get the pillow out, and I sleep. The entire flight. I can sleep with my chair in the full and upright position so I don’t have to wait until after take off to fall asleep. Sometimes I miss the landing and wake up because of the sound of people getting their luggage. (This is all helped A LOT by the motion sickness medicine I take before flying — super drowsy — and I am so nervous about flying that I am often up for days before the flight.) Anyway, how to Flight Attendants feel about folks like me? lol

    • Carrie says:

      LOL We LOVE passengers like you! 😉

      • Rebecca says:

        I knew it had to be love or hate. Or just jealousy because by my method, the flight from here to Atlanta is like 20 minutes. Napping is like time travel!

        • Carrie says:

          Well, yeah, we’re jealous, too. 😉 Sometimes our layovers aren’t very long! LOL

          I love that, btw: napping is like time travel! So true! (Oh, and for what it is worth, I travel like you do when I’m a passenger. I’ve actually had the Flight Attendants wake me up as THEY got off the plane before! Love it!)

  2. Amy in SC says:

    Wow. I’d rather juggle 6 home schooled kids with various lessons outside of the house. You just made me feel better about trying to get this year finished while starting to plan and buy for next year on top of trying not to lose anything important while I pack for our first move in almost 16 years. Praying you get the schedule you want.

    Isn’t it amazing how moms just just do what we need to do? I can’t imagine ever going to work. I only worked while I was in college. I love seeing snippets of the lives of other moms.

    On the topic of flying, the last time I flew was 1998. I was 8 months pregnant with a 15 month old toddler. I had a car seat, the diaper bag/purse, and a bag of snacks. I was terrified of doing it alone, but my husband was in National Guard boot camp. The attendants were awesome. The people on the plane were so helpful with all the stuff I was carrying, and my little girl did great. I’m glad there were flight attendants there to make it all easier.

    I know you have to be careful using products on your skin because of your kids, but can you use essential oils for their scents? I’m just thinking anti-stress ones like lavender or mint. Or disinfecting ones for the air during illnesses.

    • Carrie says:

      Wow – I’m so glad your flying experience went well back in the day. Most people are nice to moms traveling alone. 😉

      Lavender would probably be fine. Mint could be tricky. I recently learned mint can aid in drying up your breast milk supply, which would be no good for me! So I’m a little cautious of oils right now.

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