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Expect the unexpected

Flight Attendant

“Expect the unexpected” – This message was drummed into me during my safety training. Even though most flights take place without incident and flying for many passengers is akin to riding a bus, we flight attendants are trained, prior to every take-off and landing, to consider what to do in the event of a serious event.

Perhaps you have noticed flight attendants deep in concentration, sitting with their hands tucked under their legs ahead of take-off or landing. This should not be taken to mean that our hands are cold. What you are witnessing is a safety measure known as the “One Minute of Silence Review”. Its purpose is to ensure that we know how to respond properly in the event of an evacuation.

Not long ago, however, I was confronted with a completely different type of unexpected situation. It was supposed to be a routine flight to Boston, which just happens to be one of my favourite destinations because I made a language-stay there in 2010. Shortly before departure my host mother informed me that she and her husband had met precisely 35 years ago, in 1978, during a blizzard. To my astonishment, the captain informed us during the briefing that we should prepare ourselves for an extended stay in Boston as the city was bracing for a blizzard on the scale of the one that had hit in 1978! The rest of crew was not exactly thrilled to hear this news, but I inwardly cheered.

During the flight it became apparent that we would not be flying back the next day as planned. Upon our arrival, Logan Airport was already empty. Outside it was freezing cold but there was no sign of snow. When we arrived at our hotel we received further information. For the next day, we were urged to be back indoors by 13:00 as the blizzard would be peaking at around 16:00. We were also advised to make sure we had sufficient food. I was not alone in heeding this advice. When I went shopping it seemed the entire city had responded to the message, in the spirit of “Bracing for a big one” as the newspaper headlines proclaimed. By 11:00 some shelves in the stores were empty even though at that point it was only snowing lightly. At 13:00 I joined my fellow crew members at the hotel bar, which is where we stayed until the night. We passed the time playing cards, eating and drinking. Meanwhile outside, huge snow drifts formed and the television reports focused on one topic: Blizzard Nemo! On the following day, with a driving ban still in effect, the captain informed us we would be staying one more day in Boston. The snow had stopped falling, but the task now was to clear it away. We were permitted to venture outside, where the streets had disappeared, replaced by heaps of snow. Within 24 hours the city had been buried in snow. Cars, bicycles and benches were all covered. Boston had been transformed into a winter wonderland!

On the third day, we were rewarded with a clear blue sky. There were still only a few cars on the roads, but the entire city came out to frolic in the snow. Boston resembled a Swiss winter resort and most of the crew went for a walk in the snow. None of us had expected such a turn of events and in the end we spent a great time in Boston, even if it meant that a few appointments back home fell through. It was all in keeping with the slogan: “Expect the unexpected”. Sometimes the unexpected has a pleasant side to it.

On that note, I bid farewell to you and my jet-set life in order to take advantage of the opportunity to switch my place of work from cabin to office and become a purchaser with SWISS Inflight Procurement. My time as a flight attendant has been tremendous, and it’s fair to say that I leave my flying days behind with mixed feelings.

Many thanks to my readers and all of the fabulous people I have got to know during this phase of my working life. As the saying goes, people’s paths cross twice in life. I hope that’s true in my case.


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