We took our kids from Toronto, Canada to Switzerland on vacation. This is our adventure.
This is a multi-part series.
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!)
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)