I lucked out this year and got a great schedule for December. So great that to hold the schedule I got you’d normally have to be flying about thirty years to get anything like it. How did I get it then, you ask? I bid what is called a vacation relief line. A vacation relief line consists of four flight attendants schedules, the week that each flight attendant is off for vacation gets thrown together to make up a vacation line. The flight attendants that hold vacation time in December generally have that thirty to forty year seniority that I mentioned. While you are gambling, the gamble is pretty good. I have held Christmas off every year for the past four years thanks to vacation lines. Now I could hold Christmas off with my own seniority, but I would only have about twelve days off and I’d most likely be working New Years. Are you wondering what I held with this years vacation line? Eighteen days off, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Years Eve off!

This of course wasn’t always the case. I had many many years away from home on the holidays. When you choose a career as a flight attendant I think you have to expect to spend at least the first ten years away from home during weekends, family events, and holidays. It wasn’t all bad though, some of my favorite Christmas’s have been spent on the road. I pulled a few journal excerpts from my Christmases past.

December 23, 1994

I had my first real date with John today. We started out early since I was going back on call at midnight. I was so excited to go to NYC and see all the Christmas lights. He took me to lunch in little Italy at a little whole in the wall restaurant. It was cozy and romantic, we actually sat right next to each other in a booth. After he took me to the top of The World Trade Center. I know I fly on planes all the time, but there’s something about stationery heights that freaks me out. We even saw small planes go by below us! As it started to get dark we headed over to Rockefeller Center to go ice skating, this was the most exciting part of the day for me! I had never been and it was so cool to see in person! Much smaller than I expected. The best part was when we first got there someone actually shouted out my name! It was two of my crash pad room mates, so really not that strange, but it impressed John…that was fun. I love how much smaller the world has gotten since I started flying. I run into crew members all over the country and think nothing of it. Oh, I almost forgot in between TWC and Rockefeller Center I called and finally got through to scheduling. I was able to pick up a trip I wanted!

After about forty minutes of redialing, I finally got through to scheduling. I was surprised to find out the trip I wanted was still available, of course it’s lead because the line holders don’t want to fly lead. And, of course it checks in at O dark hundred…5:00am to be exact. Oh, and it flies 5 legs on the first day! The good news is I will be in Boston for Christmas Eve and I don’t leave until 6:00pm Christmas night! I think my sister is planning on sleeping at the hotel with me. That will be fun, we can have a pajama party!

December 26, 1994

I’m in Kansas City tonight. I had a great time with my mom, her husband and my sister in Boston. I even lucked out and got there early since the last Newark turn we were supposed to do canceled. First we opened presents, and I now I have a ton of gifts I’ve been lugging around ever since! (I’m not really complaining) We ended up at The Copley Plaza Hotel for dinner and lingered for a long time…having hot chocolate and desert! My sister did end up staying, hopefully I didn’t wake her when I got up at 4:30! My mom cried when she left, but I know she was happy I managed to get my lay over in Boston. Let’s see what I can pull off for New Years!

And, the next year…not as lucky!

December 25, 1995

Tracey just got called out, she is on her way to Denver tonight. Which leaves me all alone in the crash pad. I just talked to my mom and ended up crying. This is year three on reserve and usually I can handle it, but the holidays can be tough. I want to quit sometimes, it just seems like I will never hold a line! I just can’t believe I’m alone, at least if I was on a trip I would have my crew and Christmas dinner somewhere. Instead I’m stuck in the crew section of a motel that rents rooms out by the hour in the other section. Better luck next year!

Here’s one from 1998, amazing what a difference a few years make! I was now a line holder, flying internationally. Life has significantly improved since reserve in 1994!

December 24, 1998

I’m dead heading on a flight to Rome right now. I managed to pick up this trip, a 48 layover in Italy for Christmas! The flight was booked pretty full, but thankfully my mom was willing to fly down to NY and take the chance she could get a seat and come. Not only did she get on, but we are sitting in 2A and 2 B and yes, you’re right, we’re in First Class! It’s great to be on the “served” side of the service! After three courses, we just finished desert and I’m about to take a nap because the plan is to head right to the Vatican to hear the Pope speak in the morning. My mom is still in shock that we’re sitting up here. I’ve heard that it would cost about $8,000 to actually buy a ticket! I’d say that’s a good Christmas present!

December 26th, 1998

I’m now on my way back from Rome. We had an amazing time! We did get to the hotel and immediately headed out and took a bus to The Vatican. There was a huge crowd and we couldn’t really see the Pope. Well, we could, but he was teeny tiny. My pictures probably won’t turn out that great either because I forgot my zoom lens! I took a lot anyway so we’ll see after I get them printed. They’re also in the process of renovating the Vatican so the entire facade is covered with scaffolding. Oh well! We were there and my mom actually thanked me and said it was an amazing Christmas to be there with me! It definitely was, something I couldn’t have afforded to give her on my own.

We wondered around the city after with a couple other crew members. Not much was open of course, but since my mom had never been we wanted to check things out. I think the most amazing part of the trip was that the restaurant that we always go to while laying over here, opened up just for us! It’s family owned and they pretty much through us a private dinner party. We had a six course meal, antipasto, vegetables, a choice of three different home made pastas, the salad, a desert of Italian pastries, and finally a huge selection of cheeses with unlimited wine and Lemon-cello all for $6 a person!

Of course with two crews (16 flight attendants, and 6 pilots) and that much alcohol there was bound to be drama. One guy, a flight attendant was so drunk he ended up toasting our hosts, but while lifting his glass in the air it slipped, flew in the air and crashed into a million little pieces on the ground. The worst part was another male flight attendant decided he was going to teach him a lesson for being so out of control and started a fight with him. Luckily, our Captain broke it up in time. Then there was Miss Boa. Yes, one of the flight attendants on my trip actually brought an extremely sleazy outfit complete with 6” heels and a bright pink boa! I’m not 100% sure, but I think she and the guy that threw his drink are “together.” I can’t be sure because she’s married (and much older than him) but, I’d probably put money on it!

As you can see, I’ve had some good and some lonely! That’s typical for this career. I’m very happy this year to be home. I’ve been a homebody hanging out, decorating, baking cookies with Lucy to put out for Santa, and enjoying Christmas through the eyes of a three year old. I’ll pay for the time off come the 27th though….lots of flying! I hope everyone is having a great Holiday Season!  If you’re a flight attendant on reserve I hope you end up somewhere nice and if you’re lonely this year, hang in there! It does get better!



  1. My very first holiday flying….I was on reserve, and we got snowed in DEN, for a week….now, that was in 1981 and it still hurts to remember it….smiles.

  2. I loved reading those journal entries. Flashing back to the 90s is always interesting! I’m glad you got some good Lucy time this Christmas. 🙂

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