Monae Freeman has flown Delta for the past six Thanksgivings.
He started a tradition with his mother of flying together to enjoy family vacations.
She says she keeps an eye out for difficult passengers when they board.
This essay as stated is based on a conversation with monae freeman, a 31-year-old flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, on what it’s like to fly during Thanksgiving week. It has been edited for length and clarity.
When I was in my 20s, I found myself really fascinated with travel. I couldn’t afford to see the world as much as I wanted to, so I looked for different careers that would allow me to go to new places, and that’s how I ended up applying to be a flight attendant and getting a job at Delta. Airlines.
The best part of this job, besides the travel, is that it never gets old. You can fly new routes, see many different things and meet people from all over the world. It is constantly exciting.
However, working through the holiday season, especially Thanksgiving week, is the hardest part of this job.
I’ve worked the last six years on Thanksgiving. Here’s why being a flight attendant during the busiest travel months of the year is anything but easy.
you are away from your family
For the past six years, I’ve spent Thanksgiving away from my family, which means I had to get creative to keep the day special.
A few years ago, I started a tradition with my mom where she would fly with me on vacation and spend time with me on my layover so I wouldn’t be alone. During Thanksgiving week, I will fly 15 times, and on the weekday, I will usually work two to three flights.
I’ve also had years where I’ve tried to change my place of residence for the holiday season (from Salt Lake City, my home base, to Atlanta, where my family lives). That way, if I have a free afternoon between flights, I can drop by and spend time with them.
The airport becomes chaotic.
Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year., so travelers should not only expect long lines at security, but also be prepared for crowds. But what also makes this week different is that many people who fly are not regular flyers. That means they often don’t know where to go, how to get through security efficiently, or what to do once they enter the airport terminal.
Especially during this week, I get a lot more questions and spend more time explaining things to customers. For example, many people turn to me for help, when I’m walking through the terminal or greeting them when they board, with questions about how to navigate the terminals or find their luggage, or ask if the drinks we serve are free or what to do once they get to their seat (either how to get the TV working or accessing the WiFi).
People end up missing their flight
Since many travelers this week are not frequent flyers, I often notice more people missing their flights or running late.
If the airline sends you a flight confirmation that says you need to arrive two to three hours in advance, it’s important to follow that advice. If you arrive at the airport later this week, you may face longer-than-usual lines to get through security.
If you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the holidays as much as possible, fly a few days before or the week before the holidays, when the airport will probably be a little less hectic. The busiest days are usually one or two days before and after the holidays.
I prepare my mentality before the holidays
While nothing about how we do our jobs changes over the holidays, the way every flight attendant prepares for this week is different.
Thanksgiving week is when I start to switch up my work routine for the holiday season. First, I make sure I arrive at the airport an hour earlier than usual because parking lots fill up faster. I also make sure I don’t leave the house without my lunch and noise-cancelling headphones (to keep out the noise from all the crowds) during this busy week.
But the most important change I make is in my way of thinking. I try to mentally prepare myself by practicing patience as I am about to interact with more people than usual.
I try to treat people with grace since it’s a hectic week for everyone. People are just trying to reach their families and are afraid of missing their flight or just confused about the airport or plane rules.
Many people come to me with their emotions, whether it’s questions about whether their luggage will make it to their destination now that they’ve had to go through the gate, or a frustration they faced earlier in their travel day. I try to inform them with as much information as I can and defuse situations with a calm tone of voice.
Another exhausting part of this week is that I sometimes work flights earlier than usual or pick up more flights as some senior flight attendants take time off. I make sure to drink plenty of caffeine and rest as much as possible between my trips.
Situations feel more extreme
Many of the difficult situations we face with flyers during Thanksgiving week are not out of the ordinary, but can sometimes seem more extreme.
While there are often headaches surrounding the boarding process and trying to fit all of a passenger’s belongings into the overhead bins, this can be even more of a challenge during the holiday season when people are traveling with dark items, usually gifts. When we run out of space, people get upset because they have to go through their bag, because they often carry more valuable items for the holidays or have gifts they want to make sure they don’t get lost.
I try to do what I can to accommodate bags on the flight, whether that means moving things to store luggage where we can find space or asking other passengers to put their bags under their seats.
I can usually spot who is going to be a difficult passenger during the boarding process. That’s when they can often treat us with more attitude or become rude and abrupt. I’m making a mental note of this and will share it with other crew members so they can be prepared for future interactions with this passenger.
Always have an alternate plan
Have a backup plan in case your flight is delayed or cancelled, or if you miss a connecting flight. Download the airline’s app on your phone, locate the airline’s help desk in the terminal, and save your customer service phone number so you can get in touch quickly if you need to make a change.
If you are traveling with gifts or expensive items, place the gifts in a carry-on bag that can fit under your seat if necessary, and check your clothing and other items in a suitcase at the ticketing counter. This is also useful because the airport is very busy during this time and you don’t want to take a lot of luggage with you if you are rushing to your departure gate.
Passengers forget that flight attendants are human too
Amid the stress of vacation travel, passengers often forget that flight attendants are people too. We often try to get to a destination to spend time with our loved ones or to our layover to make the most of the vacation. Working on Thanksgiving means sacrificing being with our own families, so it would be nice if passengers could show us some empathy, especially when things happen that are out of our control.
We’re doing everything we can to make your vacation trip the best it can be, and a lot of times that means we’re missing out on our own celebrations to make it happen.
While I have seen passengers bring candy or gift cards to flight attendants during the holiday season, a simple greeting when you board the flight and a little grace goes a long way during this difficult time of travel.
While Thanksgiving week can be one of the most difficult weeks at work, it’s also a time that helps me reflect on why I work at this job and why, even after six years, still I love.
Read the original article at Business Insider