It’s four in the morning when the alarm clock drags me out of my sleep.
What day is it? Do I need to get to the office already? A quick stock take and I realise: no. Today’s a day when I get to go flying again! I’ve been a SWISS cabin crew member for threeand-a-half years now. At the start of this year, I switched to become a Freelance Flight Attendant,
boosting the ranks in the busy summer months and sometimes serving on public holidays, too. And that gives me more time to devote to other activities – like the internship I am currently in the middle of with the SWISS Magazine.
To ensure that my flight attendant qualification for a particular aircraft type doesn’t lapse, though, I need to perform a “recency flight” on the aircraft at least every six months. And as I haven’t flown our new long-haul flagship, the Boeing 777, since my internship began, that’s what I’ll be doing this morning. Out of bed and on with the uniform. Instead of my usual current Zurich–Basel–Zurich commute, it’s Zurich–Geneva–Zurich–Prague-Zurich today!
At our 6.40 a.m. briefing in the Operation Center at Zurich Airport there’s no trace of tiredness in sight. It may be early, but all eleven members of our cabin crew today are in tip-top shape, chatting happily till things get under way. Everyone consults their own briefing sheet; and our maître de cabine – the leader of our cabin team – gives us further details of the day’s duties lying ahead. We’re soon joined by our cockpit crew, too, who fill us in on the precise flying times, the weather en route and more. Then it’s up and out, through the security checkpoint and away to our aircraft.
On arrival at our Triple Seven, there are still a number of preparations to be made before the
guests board. Each Cabin Crew Member has their own assigned station and door, for which they are responsible. And there’s a specific equipment check to be performed at each of these stations, with its own dedicated checklist. My responsibilities today include checking the on-board medical equipment. Is the defibrillator working? Is the oxygen mask where it should be? Is the first-aid kit complete?
Once all the checks are conducted, and we’ve also made sure that enough food and drinks
have been uploaded, boarding can begin. And provided our physical passenger headcount tallies with the number supplied by our colleagues at the boarding gate, we can close the doors. There’s one more task to complete before we’re aloft, though. Just before take-off, every flight attendant goes through their “one minute of silent review” – a conscious appraisal of their immediate environment, and of what they would do in the event of an emergency. How does this door open again? And what equipment am I responsible for here?
Once we’re airborne, we start our in-flight service as soon as we can: In Europe in particular, our flights are generally short. We distribute the food, offer drinks and then clear the waste away. What the passenger doesn’t see, however, are the many further duties that we’re performing at the same time during this phase of the flight. Do all our passengers seem to be in good shape? Is anyone behaving strangely? Is anybody having a little too much to drink? Is the aircraft making any unusual sounds? Teamwork, communication and a faultless knowledge of all our equipment and medications on board are essential here. If the flight time allows, we’ll also go through the cabin with our duty-free sales trolley. But in no time at all we’ll be preparingthe cabin for landing: collecting the remaining glasses and asking our passengers to stow away their carry-ons. And in an instant we’re on the ground again, and I’m saying goodbye to the guests I feel I’ve only just met.
After the last of our four flights of the day, we arrive back in Zurich on time at 4 p.m. I may have spent the past twelve hours on my feet, but I can honestly say that time just flies when you’re enjoying what you’re doing. I’m already looking forward to my next rotation. But tomorrow it’s off to Basel again and back to the editorial team: There’s the next issue of the SWISS Magazine to help get airborne, too!
Text: Aylin Aslan / Photos: Jen Ries