Tales, Tips and Tricks from a Southwest Airlines Angel: Part 1

One of my best friends, Andy, and I were talking online a
few weeks ago about the “old days.”  The
conversation turned the girls we dated in high school and he asked me, “Hey, do
you remember Ange M?  We’re friends again
on Facebook!”  Ange (pronounced “Angie”)
was an absolutely beautiful girl that Andy had dated for awhile, back in the
old days.  I told Andy, “She was way too
smart for the likes of you, buddy-boy!” 
We laughed, and as luck would have it, I had also “friended” Ange on
Facebook some time ago.  Ange has grown
into an absolutely beautiful woman now. 
She works for Southwest as a flight attendant, and I finally found the
courage to ask her to give some of her time and to let me interview her for
this travel blog.  Southwest only
recently became a part of the Twin Cities airport family, but I’m hopeful that
we’ll get to see each other in person to catch up over some coffee or something.  In the meantime, I asked if she’d be willing
to voice her opinion of life on an airline, and she obliged.  For the next few days, I’ll post some of her
stories, her tips for travelers, and her view of the “glamorous” life a flight
attendant leads.  For the record, those
of you who are faithful readers of mine over the past several years will
recount that I routinely sing the praises of these unsung heroes and heroines,
please give Ange’s tales here a good honest read:

Well
Ken when you asked me to do this, all I could think of was how many times I
have heard, “Oh, you’re a flight attendant? It sounds so glamorous!”  Certainly there are some wonderful things
about my job, in fact I think it is the greatest job in the world, but
glamorous? Not!

Let
me share a day with you that I had a few years ago. I was the “A” flight
attendant for this trip.  On Southwest,
this is the one that stands at the front and greets the passengers and talks on
the microphone. My first duty on a flight is to help wheelchair passengers on
and to get them settled and comfortable before the other passengers begin to
board.  On this particular flight we were
delayed coming into this city so the passengers had been at the gate for a long
time. The first passenger on the plane was a woman who had to be carried from
her wheelchair to the seat, she had her son with her but I had to assist her
into the seat.  As soon as we got her
bags all put away she was situated, she began asking for my assistance with
something. She spoke no English and all I could get out of her was that she
needed a bottle.

I
told her that we had no bottles, but if she told me what she needed it for I
could try and find a substitute item.  She
needed to clean out her colostomy bag!  Although
she had been sitting at the gate for an hour before the flight and then an hour
for the delay, the moment she got on the plane seemed to be the right time for
her to do this, not out in the bathrooms where there are proper facilities.  So, I got her a double garbage bag, and her
son emptied her colostomy bag in the bag in the front row of the plane right as
a group of pre-boarding small children started to arrive.  I had them stop boarding and I kept the kids
in the jetway until this process was over so they weren’t walking in at face
level with a bag of poop!  The son then
decided that he should hand ME the bag (gross), so I proceeded to get my gloves
and a bag that we have to label with human waste, so I can dispose of the feces
properly.

Later
on that same flight, as soon as the plane left the ground, a call button went
off.  I made an announcement that it is
not safe for the flight attendants to get up yet, and to ring the button again
if it is an emergency.   DING!  So
I jump up to find out the teenager in the second row is vomiting, I ran to get
them a garbage bag (which is much easier to aim for than that little vomit bag).
I got him some wet and dry cloths to clean up with and then his mother decided
it was a good idea to hand ME the vomit bag!  So, again, I ran to the front to get a pair of
gloves and a bag that is proper to dispose of human waste!  

No
sooner was I finally able to begin to take the drink orders, when another call
light goes off! DING!, this time they hand me a dirty diaper, I run to the
front get a pair of gloves and a bag, and turn to the passengers and say,….
“The Glamorous Life of a Flight Attendant!”, and I told the other flight
attendant, “I swear if someone hands me a tampon I am quitting!”

Now
I don’t mean to sound uncaring about anyone with a disability and I always feel
awful when someone is ill on the plane, what horrible things to have to deal
with, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for folks to be prepared for your
trip, and to be thoughtful that a  plane
is the last place you’d want to clean up and store human waste.  Here are some tips:

  • So take care of those things
    outside of the plane if you can.
  • Go to the bathroom in the terminal
    before your flight, it is so much more convenient than trying to run on
    the plane and get to the bathroom on the plane before take-off, get over
    the separation anxiety, it doesn’t need to fly with you!! 
  • If you have a baby come prepared
    with a deodorized diaper trash bag. 
    If you change a diaper on the plane and need to get rid of it, put
    it in a trash bag. 
  • The flight attendants would rather
    dispose of human waste trash in a trash can that is not in the bathroom,
    because the galley trash goes out every flight, but the bathrooms
    trashcans do not!  
  • Finally, if you are going to give
    the flight attendant a bag full of vomit or a diaper please warn them so
    they can protect themselves, don’t just hand it to them!

EXTRA: If
you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc,
please call 1-877-49-EXPERT.  Your
questions will be recorded and sent to him. 
Many of Ken’s blogs come from your questions and observations, so don’t
hesitate to ask!