How do flight attendants prepare for a hurricane? We hear in the news how many flights are being cancelled and what the airlines specifically do to prepare, but you don’t really get a behind the scenes look at what happens with the flight attendants and pilots. What happens if they commute or they live where the hurricane is due to hit and are expected to leave for work a day or two before? Do they leave their families and go to their job? I know many of my friends had to make that decision with the news of Hurricane Irene.

As I watched and followed the updates on facebook this past weekend and thought and worried about friends, family and colleagues in the northeast it brought me back to a few years ago when Hurricane Ike affected me, my family and my job as a flight attendant.

I was scheduled to fly a trip that left Wednesday September 10, 2008 and I was due to return home in Texas Friday September 12, 2008. The news of Hurricane Ike making landfall late Friday had me nervous about leaving my then one year old daughter and husband at home. I was in a predicament, on one hand I felt an obligation to my airline, on the other my family.  Other employees that commute would have a tougher decision to make, what if they were stranded in Texas once the hurricane started? Since I couldn’t predict what would happen I I decided to fly my trip. I felt like I had to have faith that if I didn’t make it back and the hurricane hit without me, my husband would take care of our baby and everything would be ok. A difficult choice for a mom! I felt good knowing we had a couple of plans in place. My husband would be able to evacuate if he thought it was necessary. My airline announced it would be ferrying airplanes out of town for safe keeping and employees and their families, even pets, were welcome to go. They even put everyone up in hotels! This eased my mind as I got ready and left for my three day trip.

The three day trip itself was uneventful until the end of day two. We flew our scheduled Orlando turn and then on to Austin for the night. I felt pretty good that I would be home early Friday morning as we were still scheduled to get back on time. (All flights past noon on Friday September 12 were cancelled.) That is I felt pretty good until we arrived at the hotel in Austin and our reserve flight attendant informed us, totally by surprise that she would not be with us in the morning, she was quitting! My entire 757 crew looked at each other in shock. How could she do this to us? She knew every single one of us needed to get home to our families. I understand she had her own feelings about the company and didn’t have family there, but we had all invited her to our homes and she made no mention of her secret plan to anyone. After the initial shock, the captain spoke up and reminded us that the FAA (federal aviation administration) had made an exception to minimum crew and that we would be able to fly home one flight attendant less minimum. Only after he called scheduling were we informed that every airplane, but ours (757-300) was able to fly with less than minimum crew! They also told us they would be letting our “quitter” know that she would need to check out of the hotel if she didn’t plan on working for the airline anymore. That was the last we saw of her.

In the end we got lucky and had a scheduled dead heading flight attendant that worked the flight back with us. We ended up home at 8:30am, my husband met me at the airport with my daughter. She and I flew to Tampa to escape the hurricane while my husband stayed behind to take care of the animals and the house. The fact that the flight attendant that “quit” was a working flight attendant on my vacation to Cabo a couple months later is another story!

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  1. I’d like to hear the story about the quitter flight attendant!!

  2. freeflyingmom @ 2011-08-29 15:24

    Me too, and what did you say to her when you saw her??

  3. Yvonne Mathews @ 2011-08-31 01:24

    Flight attendants with our airline are always getting their jobs back. So this really isn’t that hard to believe…