As the engines roared down the runway, I couldn’t wait to lie flat and drift off to the mild turbulence above the clouds. It was, after all, in the middle of the night…or morning, however you want to look at it. Snuggled deep under my comforter with noise canceling headphones on, I all of a sudden felt a jolt of energy. You see, I’ve always been intrigued with flying. Even in 2014, I feel as if it’s way ahead of its time, making the Wright brothers wise beyond their years. Everyone else in the cabin was comatose, allowing the flight attendants some down time – there would be no readying the drink cart or preparing practiced announcements at this time. I suddenly had a desire to share a Cranapple with the lady in red named Daniela. As it turns out, Daniela has spent the past 8+ years with LAN Airlines. Born in Lima but raised in São Paulo, she’s trilingual in Spanish, Portuguese and English. Ahh, let the inferiority ensue. Lucky for me, we sat down in a couple of jump seats while I talked to her for the remainder of the flight. I could finally get inside the mind of a flight attendant, and I knew that behind those cheery smiles and perfectly ironed uniforms, there were stories waiting to be told.
Q: I must admit, I never actually do this, but what’s the secret to having to turn your cell phone off after the aircraft door has been shut?
A: It messes with the instruments in the cockpit. [laughs] I don’t really know. They are changing the rules in the very near future. Passengers will only be required to turn their cell phones to airplane mode. They will be SO happy!
Q: Out of all the jobs out there, what intrigues you about being a flight attendant?
A: I love to travel, and I don’t like routines. Going to a desk job everyday isn’t an option. I used to work out of the airport, and that didn’t go very well.
Q: You’ve traveled to so many places. How much time can you dedicate to actually seeing a destination upon landing?
A: It depends. Most layovers are somewhere between 32 – 36 hours, so I don’t spend a ton of time exploring. I usually catch up on sleep.
Q: What’s your current schedule with LAN?
A: Right now I do 10 days flying and four days off. I’m very excited because after we land, I’ll be able to go home to my baby girl for four whole days.
Q: What’s your favorite route with the airline?
A: São Paulo because my family is there, but I also love visiting Mexico City, Miami, or New York. I also loved to visit San Francisco, but we no longer fly there.
Q: What are your least favorite things about being a flight attendant?
A: Being away from my family, especially during the holidays when we can’t take off work because there are always flights and passengers that need to be taken care of. That and flights at 4:25am.
Q: You must have amazing benefits working for an airline. Do you fly for free?
A: We pay the tax and a very small fee. The downfall is that we must fly standby, so I pray a lot when there’s a flight I really want to get on! We also cannot fly with miles.
Q: Can you sleep like the rest of us?
A: If the flight is more than 8 hours, we can sleep, but it’s not comfortable sleep. We usually sit in an open seat in economy for about 30 minutes, and then we alternate.
Q: Are the pilots really flying the plane in there?
A: Yes, but they sleep too! But don’t worry…there are two pilots flying while one is sleeping.
Q: Are the planes regularly cleaned?
A: Yes, and the blankets are always laundered. They are washed, folded and placed back in the plastic wrap for the next passenger to use.
Q: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever encountered while on the job?
A: A man once took off all his clothes and flashed me, so the male flight attendant had to throw him into the bathroom. We asked the passenger why he did it, and he said, “A voice in my head told me I had to.” …it was a strange day to say the least!
Q: Tell me about the airplane food.
A: Well for us, it’s always the same. Menus change once a month, and because LAN stocks only 30% of each item offered on the Business class menu, that means we usually end up with the pasta because after the 18 people in Business Class chose, the pilots are next, and then us.
Q: Master Sommelier Hector Vergara has created the wine list for the airline. What do you do to help offer the Chilean wines to passengers?
A: We are educated on the wines ourselves. We do a lot of research in order to be able to help passengers pair the right wine with their menu item of choice.
Q: Do you ever get scared of flying?
A: I’ve only been scared of flying once. We flew into a tornado when we were descending in Mexico. There was terrible turbulence, and all I could do was laugh uncontrollably. I laugh when I get nervous, but I think most people would prefer to see that to a crying flight attendant.