bwaflyer From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2004, 685 posts, RR: 0 Posted (2 years 8 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 5992 times:
Tales from behind the galley curtain.
There hasn't been a crew trip report for quite a long time, so I thought I'd give it a go. Sorry, no photos (far too busy working!!). So you join me on a 4 day trip from London Heathrow to the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Amman. Some of the details of the trip have been altered for dramatic purposes (and to avoid identification of other crew etc!!)
British Midland International (bmi) operates daily flights between LHR and AMM with A320 family aircraft. This is a route inherited from the purchase of BMed, a former British Airways franchise. Three times a week, the flight continues on to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. The trip I have been scheduled involves a flight out to Amman on the first day where I get off. Another crew board the aircraft and take it out and back to Addis, before a third crew pick it up and bring it back to London. We get two clear days in Amman before heading back on the fourth day to London. It's one of the easiest trips we do, and very popular.
BD 913 departs at 1:10pm, and we report 1:15 before departure, so I need to be in the crew centre standing at the briefing table at 11:55. With the vagaries on the M25 (a busy motorway that circles London) ahead, I leave home at about 10:15 for the 35 mile drive. Just under an hour later and I'm in the car park waiting for the bus over to the terminal. A few crew are hanging around waiting and we swap pleasantries and I meet someone also going to Amman. Although bmi is quite a small operation in the grand scheme of things, you can still fly with a crew that you've never met before, and today is no exception.
The bus soon drops us off at Terminal 1 and we head up to the departures level and head over to the economy check in area Zone B and check in our bags. We're subject to the same baggage restrictions as passengers, so large bags with liquids over 100ml get checked in. Then I run the gauntlet of security which is painless and with over ½ an hour to go before report I indulge in a hot chocolate and croissant from the glamorous Costa Coffee in gate 8. I then make my way down into the bowels of Terminal 1 to the crew centre.
On arrival, my first job is to commender on of 20 or so computers to check in on the operations system. This lets our crewing department know that I'm here and ready to work! I then access our messaging system and pick up personal messages and updates from the company, security notices, changes to service and safety procedures etc. I then wander over to one of 10 or so briefing tables where the crew for the flight are slowly gathering. As we introduce ourselves I recognise a couple of people and we discuss plans for the trip.
The supervisor calls the rabble to order at 11:55, and we start our pre flight briefing. Today we'd be taking one of our newest A321s G-MEDN on a 4:40 flight to Queen Alia Airport in Amman, We'll be carrying 25 passengers in business class (out of 31) and 107 passengers in economy (out of 118 seats). We have 5 crew working in the cabin (1 supervisor and 4 cabin crew) and our next job is to decide where we want to work. There are 4 positions available, R2, sitting next to the R2 door and working in business class, R3, sitting next to the R3 door and working in economy, DV sitting on the fold out crew seat between the aft toilets (glamorous!) and working in business and economy, and L4 sitting next to the L4 door and working in economy as well as running the economy galley. Positions allocated (I'm R2 today) we then discuss which doors, galleys, toilets and areas of the cabin we are responsible for. We then discuss a safety topic, today a decompression, our actions, equipment we'd use and where it's located. We then discuss medical care, signs and symptoms of various conditions, how we would treat them, and what we would use from the medical kits. The supervisor, satisfied that we know what we're talking about, and therefore safe to fly, then highlights some things that they would like us to focus on . The flight crew wander over and introduce themselves and discuss the weather en route highlighting some bumps on the way. All set, we grab our cabin bags, put on high visibility jackets and head out to the bag store to pick up our checked bags and board a waiting bus to take us out to the aircraft. On reaching our gleaming Airbus we drop our checked bags by the rear hold and walk up a set of steps attached to the L2 door and get to work.
The cleaners and caterers are just finishing so I dump my cabin bag in an overhead locker by my seat and spend a couple of minutes unpacking magazines and arranging them in the magazine racks at the front of the cabin and arranging newspapers on a serving tray. I grab a storage bag of noise cancelling headphones and store them in the galley ready for the passengers. I also grab 25 amenity kits and 25 Miller Harris gift boxes (containing lip balm and moisturiser) ready for distribution. The supervisor is busy checking the catering loaded with an agent from Gate Gourmet to ensure we've got enough food and drinks for everybody.
With the last of the cleaners off, we all move to our cabin areas and start our security sweep. We check every nook and cranny in our areas for anything that shouldn't be there. We also check all the emergency equipment in our area. With everything checked we report in to the supervisor that we are all secure and they confirm with the dispatcher who's been hovering by the door that we can start boarding. The supervisor switches on the boarding music using the touch screen over the forward jump seat (called the FAP – Forward Attendant Panel). This aircraft is also fitted with mood lighting which makes such a difference to the atmosphere in the cabin. It has an almost infinite range of manual settings, but also has several presets including 'Boarding' which keeps all the lights in economy bright, but slightly dims them in business with a slight blue tinge.
I head into the galley and start pouring glasses of water , freshly squeezed orange juice and champagne as the first passengers cross the threshold, have their boarding cards checked and are welcomed on board. I head into the business cabin and start to hang coats and jackets in the wardrobe, while my colleague working the DV position starts to hand out drinks to the business customers. Boarding is a chaotic time as we work around passengers heading into economy, answer numerous questions, fit twice as much hand luggage as an overhead locker can accommodate and still get the door closed, try and accommodate families that are split up and so on, but after a crazy 20 minutes, everyone's sat down, lockers are closed, and we quickly distribute amenity kits, menus, headphones, newspapers, hot towels and 500ml bottles of water to our passengers.
While in the cabin, I hear a thud, and notice that all the blue call bell lights which were illuminated are now switched off. This indicates that all the cabin doors are closed (on older Airbuses, the same thing happens with the lights on the end of the PSU with the seat row number on).The captain and flight supervisor both make their welcome on board PAs while I collect in glasses and get the galley locked down for take off, There's a nudge, and we start to push back. I head down to my doors in the middle of the business cabin, as the supervisor make the call “Cabin crew, doors for departure”. I arm both the L2 and R2 doors, so now if they're opened, the escape slides will automatically deploy from compartments under the cabin floor. The supervisor initiates a conference call to all the interphone handsets in the cabin, and we all confirm in order from back to front that our doors are armed and the arming indicators are showing red. The supervisor cross checks this with the door page on the FAP where there is a plan of the aircraft showing all 8 doors which are now coloured red as they are armed.
All the crew head to our cabin positions for the safety demonstration while a short pre-recorded PA is played in Arabic highlighting some safety information. I take up position at row 1 and we start to show the safety card, seat belt, exits, oxygen mask and life jackets to the 10% of passengers that are watching. A quick circuit around the forward part of the business cabin (the crew member in the R3 position comes and does the demo for the rear part of business) and we're nearly ready for blast off. I know you're thinking, I've read all this and we're still not in the air yet! I take my crew seat next to the R2 door, well not quite as I have a passenger seat next to me (6F), and call the supervisor to them them know I'm seated and the cabin is secure, A call comes up from the back to confirm that economy is ready to go, and the supervisor presses the 'cabin ready' button on the FAP which lets the flight crew know that we're ready for launch. A few minutes later and the seat belt signs are cycled off and on producing 2 chimes in the cabin, letting us know that we're about to enter the runway. A minute later and the wheels leave the ground, and once retracted, the illuminated exit signs extinguish and we climb into the wide blue yonder
bwaflyer From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2004, 685 posts, RR: 0 Reply 1, posted (2 years 8 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 5992 times:
The supervisor reminds everyone about seat belt and smoking regulations, and lets everyone know about the service we'll be offering and the IFE listings. A minute or two after take off, the captain calls all of our handsets. By each crew seat is what's called and AIP (Attendant Information Panel) which is a small two line display. It tells us who's calling us, which seat has pressed their call bell, which toilet smoke detector has gone off etc. Now it just displays '>Call Captain'. He's not hanging on the line ready for a natter though, he's already hung up, so we reset each our our displays using the phone handset, and get up to start the service.
First job is to change from my navy blue suit jacket into a lighter blue serving jacket, and then close the curtains behind business class. I head up to the forward galley, unlocking the toilets as I pass, and while the supervisor heads into the cabin to chat to the passengers and take meal orders, I fire up the ovens and hot water brewers, set the mood lighting to 'Meal', and set up the drinks trolley. First job is to cover it with a large white linen cover, and then load up the top with the wines, champagne, bottled water (sparkling and still), fruit juices (6 choices), ice, Worcester sauce, swizzle sticks, coasters, cocktail nuts and so on. I transfer some glasses from another cart over, and check that we've got everything. The supervisor returns, and all bar one passenger managed to get their first meal choice, and even the last passenger managed to get a choice of two of the three options.
The seatbelt sign is switched off and a couple of people make their way to the facilities, while the supervisor nips in to see the drivers and get their food orders from what's left of the business class service. The economy crew call up to let us know that the headsets are distributed, and I nip out to the front of business where the IFE system is stored in the first overhead locker. The Thales system fitted has a touch screen and it's a simple case of pressing a couple of buttons and the system bursts into life. There's a range of AVOD films, TV programmes, audio entertainment, games and the moving map available. I make a short announcement highlighting the fact the system is up and running, and then wheel the drinks cart out. A couple of rows later the supervisor joins me after they've made the flight crew a cuppa, and soon everyone's got a drink and nuts.
I've offered to run the galley for the meal service today as the supervisor normally gets stuck with that task, so while the supervisor heads out to clear in glasses and offer refills, I set the galley up for meal service. The cart containing the starter trays is the first thing to set up. It's covered with the linen cloth, and wines and water are placed on top with a bread basket with a selection of warm breads. I place 25 dinner plates in an oven to start warming them – no one likes a hot meal on a cold plate! When everyone's drinks are topped up, we head out with the trolley. Taking two rows at a time, we offer a choice of two starters;
Duck confit, smoked tomato and Jerusalem artichoke salad
Caramelised pear, Oxford blue cheese and grilled chicory salad
With each tray we offer wine and water (or anything else anyone wants!) and warm bread. The duck proves popular, so the last couple of rows end up with the pear salad, which is lovely may I add!! We roll the cart back to the galley and we start on the main courses which are today
Marinated chicken breast with creamed morels, shallots and leeks
Stone bass with roast beetroot, herb mash potato and salsa verde
Gnocchi with butternut squash, sage and spinach
I set up the galley by wiping all the surfaces down with anti bacterial wipes and set out my serving tools on a cloth and put on latex gloves. As the supervisor clears in the starters from a customer and topped up drinks and offered more bread, I plate up their main course. The main courses are loaded in the ovens in foil dishes with the ingredients separated. We have a book containing photos and information of each meal offered on every route with detailed instructions on how it should be presented on the plate. Using these guides, I plate up each meal individually making sure that it looks as close as possible to the photo. The supervisor's running their bits off looking after each customer, but soon, everyone's tucking into lunch. No rest for the wicked though as dessert needs to go out!
Today we have three options,
Sticky toffee sundae
Marmalade bread and butter pudding with custard
Cheese – Durrus and Cornish Yarg served with Rhubarb and apricot chutney
The bread and butter pudding is served warm, so I get those in the oven and put more plates in to warm, along with cups for tea and coffee. The supervisor, wiping off their brow, heads back out and starts clearing in trays and taking dessert and drinks orders, which I then get ready for them to take out. I also make a start on giving the galley a semblance of order, clearing things away and tidying up. As the last dessert orders go out, I start to clear in the finished desserts at the front of the cabin and offering liqueurs or more tea / coffee. Approximately 2 hours after take off, the last of the meals are cleared in and we offer hot towels, switch the mood lighting to 'relax' and take duty free orders.
While the supervisor catches up with the flight crew and sorts out some food for them, I head down to the rear galley and assemble the duty free orders for business. The economy crew are just finishing up as well and the inevitable toilet queue starts to build up. I fight my way back up with bags of duty free and the sales computer, and get everything processed. The supervisor has topped up drinks and had a chat to a couple of Star Alliance gold card holders from United Airlines travelling with us today. After checking that both business class toilets are stocked up and tidy with the toilet paper folded in a point (very important!), I duck into the galley and demolish a spare Stone bass and sticky toffee pudding (the diet begins tomorrow) and down a bottle of water.
The supervisor settles into their crew seat to munch on a very healthy looking salad they've brought with them (now I'm feeling guilty about the sticky toffee pudding!) and starts the reams of paper work the company requires. I nip into the flight deck to say hi to the drivers and collect their meal trays. They point out some weather on the Syrian coast that just come through on ACARS and let me know that the seat belt signs will come on early and it might get a bit rough, which I pass on to the other crew when I get back to the galley. We've got about 2 hours to go, so I busy myself wandering up and down the cabin taking drinks orders, helping people work the IFE, picking up rubbish and so on while the supervisor checks on the guys in economy and making notes on any feedback that needs to go the company regarding the flight and speaking to any gold card holders flying in the back of the bus.
bwaflyer From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2004, 685 posts, RR: 0 Reply 2, posted (2 years 8 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 5974 times:
With less than an hour to go, the supervisor walks round the business cabin taking final drink orders while I set the galley up for the next crew, making sure that it's neat and tidy for them. The captain makes a PA letting people know we've got about 55 minutes before we land and that the seat belt signs will come on early due to the approaching weather, and reminding them to use the toilets soon. As promised about 35 minutes before landing (about 15 minutes earlier than normal) the seat belt light flick on, and we switch off the IFE. Headphones for Amman customers are collected in and we check passengers are belted in, electronic equipment is switched off, and hand baggage is stored away. I distribute hot towels in business while the supervisor returns jackets for Amman bound customers. As always happens when turbulence is predicted, the descent is perfectly smooth, and soon the captain is announcing “ten minutes to landing”. We then check that seats are upright, footrests, table and video screens are stored away and arm rests are down and then take our seats for landing.
The mood lighting is dimmed to 't/o – lndg' and the supervisor after receiving reports from all the crew on their cabin security presses the 'cabin ready' button on the FAP. A few minutes later there's a bump as the landing gear extends, the exit signs light up, and the seat belt signs are cycled. A minute or two later we swoop over the threshold at Queen Alia airport, and settle on the runway, BMed aircraft, unlike original bmi aircraft, aren't fitted with brake fans, and as this aircraft will be off again in 40 minutes or so, the brakes won't have enough time to cool down, so full reverse thrust is used to slow down which reduces the amount of braking used, but doesn't half make a racket in the cabin!!
As we turn off the runway, the supervisor welcome everyone to Amman, and reminds Addis bound customers to remain on the aircraft. A couple of minutes later we pull up next to a flyDubai 737-800 heading unsurprisingly to Dubai and the engines are shut down and seat belt lights switch off. The supervisor asks us to “prepare doors for arrival” while setting the mood lighting to 'Boarding'. I push my way through the assembled crowd blocking the aisle over to the L2 door and then back across to the L2 door (seriously people, just let me across, cos we aren't going anywhere until these doors are disarmed!!) and we confirm via the phones that our doors are manual and the arming indicators are green. On the doors page of the FAP all 8 doors are now coloured green. The supervisor heads into the flight deck and confirms with the captain that the doors are indeed disarmed and that they are clear to open up.
With permission given, the jetty is attached and our bmi dispatcher knocks on the door, the signal the supervisor is waiting for to open up. The call bells all light up indicating at least one door is open, and the passengers start to file off. Many are looking dog tired as ½ or more will have flown into Heathrow on a United or Virgin flight from the US or Air Canada from Canada , but most manage to crack a smile and say good bye.
With the last of the Amman bound passengers off the aircraft we carry out a head count to make sure we've got the right number of people left on board, and we also ask each passenger to identify their cabin baggage to make sure nothing's been left on board. With that completed, cleaners come on to straighten the cabin up for the 20 or passengers that are boarding in Amman, caterers start to remove our catering and load fresh meals for both the Amman – Addis and Addis -Amman flights, and the next crew board. My replacement reaches me, and we have quick catch up and arrange to meet for a late lunch tomorrow and I point out a couple of passengers who have unusual drink requests. With my area handed over, I grab my bag and head out to the jetty saying goodbye to my passengers and meet up with the rest of the crew. Once everyone's together we head into the terminal and through immigration. As crew in Amman we don't even need to show our passports, we simply hand over a general declaration, showing all our flight details, crew names and passport info and they check our ID's against it. This gen dec acts as our visa for pretty much any country (apart from the US that requires individual visas), and we all have a copy to keep while we are away. Down to baggage reclaim where are bags are the only ones left going round the carousel. A quick trip to duty free and out through customs and on to the hotel van for the 45 minute journey to the hotel.
Well if you've managed to get this far I hope you enjoyed a little insight in what goes on behind the galley curtain. On behalf of the Star Alliance I certainly hope you enjoyed this flight with British Midland International!
gpbcroppers63 From Ireland, joined Jan 2008, 516 posts, RR: 0 Reply 3, posted (2 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 5784 times:
Really fascinating report. Thanks for that. I've been tempted to try BD on one of these longer runs for a while and from what you've written, the flights sound excellent. I may have to put my GUVs to good use and try one of these flights out for a quick mileage run to help renew my Gold card.
Thanks for taking the time to tell us about life behind the curtain!
According to one of my colleagues, my problem is that I'm addicted to travel!
ManchesterMAN From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 1204 posts, RR: 1 Reply 5, posted (2 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 5724 times:
Thanks so much for this excellent account of a flight from the other side. Having flown bmi in mid-haul business class last week what you describe is very familiar (especially the menu!) yet you guys are like ducks on water - it all seems very smoth and easy to the eye but your legs are going like crazy under the water! Keep up the good service, it's what keeps us coming back.
Quoting bwaflyer (Reply 2): BMed aircraft, unlike original bmi aircraft, aren't fitted with brake fans, and as this aircraft will be off again in 40 minutes or so, the brakes won't have enough time to cool down, so full reverse thrust is used to slow down which reduces the amount of braking used, but doesn't half make a racket in the cabin!!
Very interesting and something I noticed last week when landing in Baku enroute to Tbilisi - very noisy on landing. Now I know why
gabrielchew From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 2802 posts, RR: 13 Reply 6, posted (2 years 8 months 2 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 5178 times:
Thanks for that, that was very interesting. You guys work really hard. I was wondering, on my last BD flight back from TBS via GYD, do many people expect a snack or anything before landing in LHR? I thought it strange that after lunch, there was no other serivce done in Biz for a 5 hour flight.
bwaflyer From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2004, 685 posts, RR: 0 Reply 11, posted (2 years 8 months 2 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 4459 times:
Quoting mdavies06 (Reply 7): Thanks for the very detailed report. It is much appreciated and a fascinating read.
Just wondering when you say it is a easy trip - what makes a touch trip? Are you comparing against a day trip with multi-leg mission?
It's an easy trip as it's a five hour flight, two clear days off down route in a 5 star hotel, and a five hour flight home. Compared to a TBS trip with a 5:30 flight to Baku, and hour on the ground, another hour flight to TBS, 24 hours off, and then back to Heathrow via Baku. The Amman trips that have an Addis shuttle are also a nightmare sleep wise as you'll do a day time flight over to Amman, the next evening you meet up at 6pm and fly through the night to Ethiopia and back (4 hours each way) arriving back at the hotel at 8am, to then wake up 3am the next morning to return to London. The worst were BRU trips where we would spend up to 5 days doing 4 legs a day between BRU and LHR (although the waffles made up for it!!).
It also operates at relatively civilised times, although the 3:05am wake up call to come home is a bit tough. Compared again to a Tehran trip where you report late afternoon for a 7 hour trip (with a fuel stop in TBS), you arrive at the hotel at about 3am (UK time), and the wake up call is at 23:30 the same day for an 8 hour flight home (with a fuel stop in PRG). You have to some how fit 2 sleeps into a 20 hour period, persuading your body that you really do want to go to sleep at 3pm even though you only got out of bed 5 or 6 hours ago. And you can't even have a cheeky beer to help you to sleep!
Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 6): Thanks for that, that was very interesting. You guys work really hard. I was wondering, on my last BD flight back from TBS via GYD, do many people expect a snack or anything before landing in LHR? I thought it strange that after lunch, there was no other serivce done in Biz for a 5 hour flight.
Nobody normally asks for anything, especially as on the GYD sector there are a lot of people connecting onto the US (especially IAH) who'll be eating in the lounge. If you're still hungry and have a crew that are on the ball, they may be able to rustle up something with excess catering or unused crew meals (can't say that it'll be necessarily appetising!) However they've just announced internally that from April 1st the Tehran flight will be catered with a second snack service (like Freetown and Almaty). IKA-LHR isn't much longer time wise than GYD-LHR (around the 6 hour mark depending on winds), so maybe that might be reviewed in the future. One problem is that the A321 galley is pretty small, and is full to overflowing with the paraphernalia (thank you spell check) for 31 passengers' food. I'm not sure where we'd squeeze another snack in!
777way From Pakistan, joined Dec 2005, 5716 posts, RR: 4 Reply 12, posted (2 years 8 months 2 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 4181 times:
Really enjoyed it, always wanted to be a cabin crew member but the dream never materialised, I guess some thing are not destined to be, it hurts at times to think that there are people out there, some in their teens, who have achieved impossible dreams and made unthinkable wealth at their age out of ideas that may have seemed silly at the time, and I couldnt get something as ordinary as this.
Quoting bwaflyer (Reply 1): I duck into the galley and demolish a spare Stone bass and sticky toffee pudding
I thought crew were not allowed to eat passenger meals?