A day in the life of a Flight Attendant – United style!
Fly Along for a Day with our New Flight Attendant, Stephanie
Stephanie recently earned her wings as a flight attendant for United and has only been flying for a few months. She is originally from Washington D. C. but was assigned to San Francisco as her new base city and relocated to the west coast. Stephanie knew when becoming a flight attendant it would require a lot of flexibility even when it came to where she was based. Even though she didn’t get her first choice (Washington – Dulles) which was closer to home she knew that United has amazing hub locations and would get to experience a new state. She was also lucky enough to have classmates assigned to the same base. Stephanie and her classmates share an apartment together which helps out with the financial challenges.
The cost of living in San Francisco is high and she’s had to make some financial sacrifices to make it work. As a reserve flight attendant, no two days are alike for Stephanie. She goes on-call at midnight and must be ready for any trip assignment. When on call, she can be given as little as three hours’ notice to get ready, travel to the airport, and check in for her assignment. Dependability is one of United’s core4 standards, and Stephanie ensures her suitcase is packed and her uniform is ready. While getting ready for bed, the phone rings. It’s crew scheduling with an early morning standby assignment—she must report to the airport by 4:30AM and wait to be assigned a trip!!
Day 1, 3:00AM STEPHANIE’S APARTMENT It has been a very short night and Stephanie is feeling a bit weary as she prepares to leave for the airport. Stephanie has chosen not to bring her car to San Francisco in order to save money. She utilizes public transportation to travel to and from the airport but this morning she decides to use a ridesharing app to make sure she is not late.
4:11AM SFO TERMINAL 3 Stephanie manages to make it to the airport with some time to spare. Although it is still very early the security lines are long. However, she uses the “Known Crew Member” (KCM) clearance entrance authorized for crew members only and gets to the flight attendant lounge with plenty of time to spare. Stephanie successfully checks in for her assignment and while in the domicile, receives a call from the crew scheduler. She has been assigned a two-day trip leaving in two hours. As Stephanie heads to Starbucks for a cup of coffee she receives another phone call from scheduling. There has been a change of plans and Stephanie is reassigned to work a different set of flights than originally scheduled. Stephanie is well aware that such unexpected changes are possible and although she is still a little disappointed that she will no longer have the overnight back home in D.C. that she was originally scheduled for, she is very excited for her new layover on the beach in Miami.
12:05PM IAH TERMINAL E Stephanie has just completed the second of three flights scheduled for today. It was a smooth first flight from San Francisco to Denver as most people slept on the early morning departure. The second flight from Denver to Houston was more challenging. There was turbulence during the flight which delayed the delivery of the beverage service. In addition, a customer became ill and required medical assistance. Thankfully, because of the emphasis United puts on their number one standard, Safety, Stephanie quickly remembered her emergency safety training. Since Safety is the most critical standard for all United employees, Stephanie and her crewmembers were able to work as a team to stabilize the customer until she could deplane and follow up with her physician, as well as continue to meet the needs of their customers.
5:28PM MIAMI AIRPORT HOTEL After a long day working 3 flights, Stephanie is ready for some rest at her layover hotel. Stephanie wants to stay healthy and, although tired, she motivates herself to visit the hotel gym for a quick workout. United’s core4 standard: Caring, means that not only do our Flight Attendants care for our customers and their teammates, but care for themselves as well. Stephanie doesn’t have long in MIA, and she wants to do something fun while on her travels. She checks with the hotel front desk and gets a shuttle to the beach for a beautiful sunset walk and a quick dinner before heading back to the hotel. There are not a lot of dining options in the vicinity of the airport but Stephanie also has the option of taking advantage of the crew discount offered by the hotel to order dinner and relax. When possible, Stephanie will bring along a travel food bag which helps her eat her favorite foods while also helping her save some more money.
DAY 2, 6:45AM MIA, GATE G9 It’s another early start for Stephanie who finds herself back on the airplane for a new day of flying. Today’s flight plan starts with a three and a half hour flight to Chicago There she will have a couple of hours in between flights before returning back to base in San Francisco. The pilot has announced that air traffic control delays are possible because of thunderstorms on the flight route and customers are worried about missing connections. A newlywed couple is particularly concerned because they may miss the only connecting flight that day to Maui, for their honeymoon. Using her computerized handheld flight manual, Stephanie is able to check flight status and gate information for the couple.
10:30AM ORD EMPLOYEE CAFETERIA The flight to Chicago arrives only a few minutes behind schedule and all customers are happy to make their connections. During the almost four hour window in between flights, Stephanie visits the employee cafeteria where she runs into Brandon, one of her classmates from training. Brandon is based in Newark and is struggling with some of the demands of the job. He is from Florida and feels quite homesick. Although he had looked forward to the standby travel privileges at United, lately he has not been able to visit his family and friends back home due to a busy work schedule and the often fully-booked flights. Stephanie can relate, but tries to encourage Brandon, they comforted each other by talking about future European vacation plans that are made possible by the travel privileges. They are both hopeful that their planned flights won’t be fully-booked but they also know how the airline business works and sometimes flight can fill up. They agree that there is always one flight going somewhere with open seats and that is the beauty of this benefit. Brandon then shares that until recently, he never travelled abroad, but he excitedly tells Stephanie about a recent work trip to London, his first international trip. This made Stephanie reflect on her first international trip to Paris and how much fun she had. They shared travel stories until it was time for Stephanie to board her flight.
3:20PM Final Descent into SFO As Stephanie sits on her jump seat for arrival back in San Francisco, she reflects on her recent experiences as a new flight attendant. In her brief time at United, Stephanie has experienced some challenges but also many rewards. Stephanie is sure she has made the right choice to fly with United.