Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Delays, Diversions and Ferry Flights

Those of us who live in Dubai will tell you that nothing ever goes the way it should. We refer to such occurances as 'only in Dubai'. My first flight in business class was certainly one such experience.

Having done my last flight in economy to Kuala Lumpur and doing one last victory lap in the economy galley, I approached my first business flight with about as much terror, trepidation and uncertaintly as a kid on a bike without training wheels. I decided that aside from denial, my best option was procrastinating instead of doing some last minute reading of my upgrade notes. So, I made trans-atlantic phone calls, went shopping and made muffins. I then decided to deliver these muffins down the road to two of my mates at 10pm. Not exactly sane behviour, but I'm not exactly sane these days. I'm a flight attendant.

So, after leaving said building at midnight, I came home and again couldn't sleep. I started to worry, as take off time was 7.10am and I had to wake up at 3.15. So what did I do? Got out my yoga mat and did 100 sit ups. I forgot to think logically that exercise wakes you up, not makes you sleepy.

Suddlenly the alarm went off and it was time to rise and shine - there was no sunlight and it was the ungodly hour of 3.45 by the time I stopped pressing snooze and realised I might just miss the bus if I didn't get up. I arrived at work and was happy to see that my fellow 12 crew were all as bleary eyed as me. Due to an administrative error (no surprise there), I was still listed as economy crew, and not even the most senior. I had a fleeting thought of pretending I wasn't business trained, but realised they were short and that space was all mine.

So, I did my best uncertain face, announced that it was my first flight and may I PLEASE have the position with absolutely no responsibility? Worked like a charm. I got on board and flapped around like an injured bird, juggling menus, towels, newspapers, bags, coasts and people. God, we only had 37 of them, but those passengers created more havoc for me than the 300 down the back!

I was delighted to find that many of the passengers were male Aussies and they made my job very easy. They were all up for a chat once they heard the accent and were pefect gentleman. One wanted to chew the fat about Ralph Fienne's recent high flying conquest and then another tried to convince me that Perth was the best city in Australia.

Our destination: Saana in Yemen. I'd never been there before and was looking forward to adding it to my list of turnaround flights. It wasn't to be. Top of descent came and went and we realise that at 9.30 the screens all said 16 minutes to destination. Aaarrghghghgh! We all started flapping around trying to get things finished when the Purser announced we weren't going to be landing due to poor visibility, dust and fog and that we'd circle for a while. The captain would make an announcement soon. So, we dropped everything and went back to our magazines. Some serious reading goes on up the front.

The captain, an Aussie bloke, comes on and says 'Ladies and gentleman, we will not be landing in Saana right now, the weather's pretty bad. We've entered the holding pattern and will stay here till further notice. Will get back to you when we know more'. This was met with groans from all over the aircraft and there went my hope of a quick day trip.

We had enough petrol for an HOUR, and we used every last drop circling Yemen. So, capitano comes on again and says that surprise, the weather is still crap and p.s. we're going to land in a charming little place down the road that's not EVEN an Emirates destination.

Anyway, to cut a very long story significantly shorter, we touched down and then watched a number of other aircrafts drop from the sky like flies and come to rest next to us. After an inordinate amount of time, the captain comes on and announces that we're just waiting for an imminent weather update and with any luck we can take of and ATTEMPT another descent into Saana. I love the use of that word, attempt. Like how doctors 'practice'.

So, update comes and goes and we are not attempting another take off. Or landing. Or descent. We continue to sit on ground for hours, during which time we are offering drinks to our lovely passengers. I had my half of the cabin to look after and was wrestling with thoughts of which glasses to use for which drinks.

Time passes and the passengers start getting rowdy. Some Arabic speaking men are chasing our Arabic speaking girl around and it's getting heated. Front row tickets please! Lucky they stopped in the business galley and I didn't have to give chase for some goss. Soon after, the purser joins the party and I knew it was serious. Her opening line: "How DARE you THREATEN MY CREW!!!!!" Shit. Back away now Lonnie, back away.

It goes back and forth for a while, including rapid fire Arabic/English translation, until the purser announces that if she has to get the CAPTAIN down here, security will be called on arrival (if we ever leave) and they'll be arrested. He tells her bring it on. I thought they were going to bring back the biff. No joke. The reason for this altercation? These passengers were deluded in thinking that they were powerful enough to have the entire crew fired (flight deck included). Naturally the diversion was all our fault, and circling until we ran out of fuel and fell from the sky to our deaths was a more desirable option. Not to mention the dust dance I did that morning to induce the weather.

While attempting to ascertain what our passengers were doing, I was toting my passenger card around identifying my people. I thought I'd lost two of them when I realised the rather mature looking Arabic men in front of me fit the bill. I asked what their names were and was met with a blank look and Arabic speaking between them. I try again, and this time hear 'Australian' in amongst the gibberish. The next thing I know, one of them is in my face and is poking (yes, POKING) me in the chest, on the soft-fleshy-almost-boob area! I was outraged, drew myself up to my full height, said 'Excuse me, DO NOT TOUCH ME' and walked away. That was assertive Lonnie.

Well, we'd been on ground for so long that the time went into captain's discretion and we decided to ditch all our passengers in our new destination (yes, I'm serious) and ferry the flight back to Dubai. Our constant tarmac companion had enough empty seats on their A310 to take ALL our passengers to the original destination. Not sure why they could make another attempt at approach, but by that time, none of us cared!

I happened to glance out the window to see that all our cargo had been unloaded on the tarmac and passengers were identifying their bags. Some of them were climbing INSIDE the containers and lugging bags out! Absolutely outrageous.

The beauty of a ferry flight is that you fly back empty and are free to do whatever you want. We set up camp, watched movies and raided the galley. I managed to watch half of the new 007 and must say that after initial skepticism regarding a blonde Bond, I was quickly won over by his striking eyes and sensual pout.

Time for take off, snoozed back to Dubai and disembarked feeling rather fresh for someone who'd been in uniform for more than 12 hours! In my mad nervousness that morning, I somehow forgot my cabin shoes - which meant I pranced around the cabin at a height of 6 feet and 2 inches.

Moral of the story: there's always a possibility of delays, diversions and ferry flights. Ladies, the most important thing (not the sexiest) in your bag are your cabin shoes.

1 comment:

BrilliantX said...

Really enjoyed the posting, Its so detailed. I wonder if you should be a bit more careful in putting exact details on work related stuff? :-)



PS: I dropped in to your blog, quite unexpectedly through AdventureGirl's site in to Ash's and from hers to this. Will return for sure.