3. Vacation memories: from flight attendant to passenger 20 years later

We took our kids from Toronto, Canada to Switzerland on vacation. This is our adventure.

This is a multi-part series.

1. Vacation memories: travel day – part 1

2. Vacation memories: travel day – part 2

***

When I was a flight attendant in the mid 1990s, things were remarkably different compared to today’s air travel experience. And I don’t even mean the 9/11 issues.

For one thing, this trip to Switzerland was my first flight as a passenger *mom*. Never before have I flown anywhere as a parent.

Side note: I flew, a lot, when I was in my 20s and single. My profession was flight attendant when I graduated from University. (Back then, in Canada, jobs were hard to come by at the time…despite the pay and benefits being very poor, I took the job since there were no other jobs. Plus I spoke French which was a requirement at the time.)

But once the kids came, that part of my life was over. (I was well into my 30s by the time the first kid arrived…and by the time I was in my 40s I had two kids in competitive sports. We are not rich. Which means, either they play sports or we go on European vacations. 🙂  Choices!)

Anyway.

Throughout my flight I kept reflecting and making notes in my phone. You know, because I couldn’t really sleep. 😴

Are you interested in my observations? Well read on then. 😉

Everything is electronic

If you read my previous posts, or are yourself a seasoned traveller, then you know how far the electronics age has come since the 90s. Not only does everyone and their grandmother have smartphones and tablets these days, even the entire airport is one big electronic party. And so is the plane!

As a flight attendant in the 1990s, I flew in old Boeing 727s and big, noisy Lockheed Martin L1011s. The differences to this plane we took to Switzerland, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, is eye-opening, pronounced and stark.

For example, back in my day, a movie was shown on the bulkhead at the front of the plane on a white, pull-down screen. Today, each seat has its own electronic device with a million choices of movies, tv shows, audio books, games and who knows what else.

My favourite part was the Moving Map which documented live the plane’s progress across the sky. Very cool! That didn’t exist in my day.

Flight attendants do not do seatbelt checks

The flight we took from Toronto to Zurich was operated by the national carrier Air Canada. Its air crew is unionized, both the pilots and the flight attendants. We weren’t when I worked for our charter company, although that changed when I left four years after I started there. I know people who work for Air Canada today and their work conditions are very, very different from the charter company I worked for in the 90s.

Side note: Observing the F/As on the flight made me realize something: back in the 90s we serviced our passengers at least double as much as the current flight attendants do today. For way less pay, fewer benefits and much longer hours.

For instance, if we flew from Toronto to Vancouver, a domestic flight, we turned around immediately and flew back (working that flight, as well). Those were incredibly long days. I could barely stand by the time we crossed the country twice. 😳

The Air Canada flight and cabin crews today fly to Vancouver (or other west coast cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles etc) from Toronto and stay over night. They have a proper rest before operating the return flight.

The only time we got to do layovers in the 90s was if we flew across the ocean.

The flight attendants on our flight were professional and did their job to acceptable standards. But one thing I noticed immediately: they never once did a seatbelt check.

I remember this being a thing for us: if the captain turned on the seatbelt sign due to turbulence, we were instructed to check on the passengers (unless the turbulence was too strong). The Air Canada flight attendants did not do this, not even prior to take-off or landing. I wonder if the requirements have changed.

Continental breakfasts used to be hot

For breakfast on our flight, we got a semi frozen slice of cinnamon bread. And a small cup of coffee, tea or juice.

Back in my day we served a hot meal at dinner an hour after departure, and a hot breakfast an hour prior to descent. Plus, we took a second trip down the aisle with coffee and tea pots to allow people a second cup. This did not happen on our flight either.

Sanitation is improved

One thing I wish we had that today’s flight attendants have is gloves. While serving food and then picking up the debris after, the F/As wore latex gloves to protect their hands.

How I wished we had been allowed gloves back then. My hands used to get destroyed when working the meal service, or worse, the galley job.

Captains still talk to their passengers

The captains do still talk to their passengers at the beginning, and the end of the flight. They also announce what they see when they anticipate turbulence. The flight attendants then translate from English into whatever language is spoken at the destination country (but also into French since that is Canada’s second official language). On our trip to Zurich, the third language spoken on the PA was German.

There is a lot of PA service on today’s flights, as there was back in my day as well.

In general, I found the flight attendants to be courteous and polite but not particularly friendly. Some were downright cold. Uninterested. Not rude, just…indifferent. We used to socialize with the passengers, particularly the kids, if they were in a chatty mood. That was different, too.

I’m not so sure that I would still have it in me to do this job today…but I would not discourage either of my kids to experience such a job, especially if they have a travel bug.

Time will tell what they will choose to do in life. They’re still young. 🙂

To be continued… (to read the first part of our travel adventures, scroll back to the top of this post and click the links)

33 thoughts on “3. Vacation memories: from flight attendant to passenger 20 years later

  1. I have just returned from Canada on Air Canada Rouge and apart from the food which was inedible, I found the staff incredibly courteous and helpful. I detest flying but I have to admit they set the standard for our trip to Toronto and Montreal. That being said, I preferred the train trip from Toronto to Montreal than the flight between the two cities.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting to read. I don’t mind flights but I have been on some awfully long flights like the one from Abu Dhabi and the one to Korea. I can’t remember the stopover. One I believe was in Seattle and then we went on to Korea. Emirates Airline was wonderful. I too have found the stewardesses not as friendly at times. I wasn’t aware that you now are able to check your luggage yourself. Back in our day being a stewardess was considered glamorous. I think it is a lot of hard work, long hours, and uncertain destinations as the world has changed along with all the precautions to ensure our safety but yes, I will still take the plane and the boat or the train or the car or by foot. I love to go places!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Being retired military, I can tell you I have enough frequent flyer miles that someone owes me a small airport. Today, however, I prefer the “slow boat to China” method. I have no desire to board a plane anymore. As long as a train, ship, boat, ferry, car or bus can get me there, that is the plan for me. My wife is still okay with flying, so when we decide to return to any place that is separated by an ocean, we will need to have a serious discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt like that about flying after the kids came. My second especially would have put me in am early grave on a transatlantic flight when she was still a toddler. *shudder* 😄

      If you have time for the slow boat to China…why not? 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Plus you can move around the ship, eat and drink without elbows to your left and right, and do your potty business without letting 173 strangers know you are headed to the little room in the back for that purpose,

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Claudette for the update on flying. It’s been so long since I’ve flown (20years) that I doubt I could navigate an airport now.. I had heard that meals were pretty much non-existent now, and luggage checkin etc is all automated kiosks. My first Canadian flight was on Wardair back in the 80’s and we were treated royally!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ll book mark it. Definitely will read, thanks for letting me know!

        Really? Rain again? Sigh…I’m really enjoying the heat here, but it does get kind of brutal when you’re hiking in the middle of the day. ;P

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is so interesting to hear from your perspective. Lufthansa check seatbelts, tray-tables and window blinds at takeoff and landing, but not during the flight – or at least, not obviously with a sweep through the aircraft. I need to do a long-haul flight to see all the new toys – the smaller planes don’t have the entertainment systems.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have some opinions on past experiences about Air Canada I’d rather not share now…;) Charter companies are a different species in itself, and with the 20 year differences, it was neat to reflect back.

      Liked by 1 person

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