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Name: Melissa

About Me

Countries Visited (not including Turnarounds): Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, North Korea, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Vatican City

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Monday, March 07, 2011
So I just got back from Tunis, and this flight was the first one in a very long time to invoke the warm and fuzzies. It was a bit of a shambles starting off, but I think when we landed into Dubai it left every crew member with the feeling that it's flights like these that make the job worthwhile - What being a cabin crew is really all about.

First off the flight was full of crew who had been pulled out of reserve, so everyone was exhausted and hadn’t rested properly for the flight. For some reason they’ve got too many first class crew working at the moment (or perhaps too many are scared to call in sick) so this was the first layover I’d operated in over a month, and I couldn’t be happier. I had one thing on my mind when I heard where I was going... Hammam!

Hammam is my most favoured of body treatments and something that is pretty unique to the Arab world – I’ve never heard of the treatment being offered in Perth, or any other Western city. You can get it anywhere from 5 star hotels, to small beauty salons, and at the other end of the scale you can get it in a specialised bath house in some random side street in Casablanca – I’ve been in all of them. The premise is the same though – First you steam in the bathhouse for about 10 min, then you bath in super-hot but not scalding water to get rid of the sweat. Then you get slathered in this grey-brown soap substance and left to steam for another 10 minutes. Then it’s followed by another super-hot rinse, and then you find yourself lying on this non-slip mat, and with a loofah glove, the Hammam lady (also known as the Tayeba) is scrubbing your skin until its red raw. It’s by no means relaxing, but it is incredibly satisfying to see the rolls of dead skin fall on the floor, and your skin is left baby smooth afterwards. It’s also not for the shy – during the whole treatment you’re virtually naked, and everyone else in the bathhouse is naked or with just panties on. There's none of this 'sauna-towel' business protecting your girly bits. Sometimes, especially in a specialty bathhouse, the Tayeba is naked to, big mammas with hair in places no woman should be seen with hair in. Like the chin. Or boobs.

So the flight over was uneventful – the passengers were nice and the loads were very light. The worst part about it was being told that our 48hr layover had now been turned into a 24 hr layover, approximately 45 minutes before landing into Tunis. On the one hand this was good news – Tunis was still considered an unsafe destination, but on the other hand all the stuff I wanted to do in the 2 days (gymmage, studying, hammam, dining out in Sidi Bou Said, lots of sleeeeeep!) couldn’t all be done. Add to that I was now granted an extra day of reserve than I should have. There were mixed feelings all around, and I pretty much just stayed in the hotel mooching off some internet to occupy myself. There was also the inherent problem of having to wait a whopping 6 hours for the wire transfer to go through for our allowance, which had now been cut down by half.

So we arrived at the airport to operate the flight back, and find that the flight that we were doing was an unscheduled ferry flight. The crew we were taking over from had ZERO passengers to look after and were also being rewarded with a 24 hr layover. Not only that, the Departure area was full of Asian workers all decked out in high visibility vests. There were 200 of them and they were impossible to miss. As it turned out, the workers had managed to escape from Libya and we were operating part of their journey home.

Now there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly they are arriving from Libya, which is a dry country. We were expecting a massive request for booze - particularly “Walking Johnny”. Secondly they were escaping from Libya, and possible had friends and colleagues who didn’t make it out. They could take this very well, or they could have a sort of emotional episode on board. If any of them did anything crazy, or dangerous, to us or the aircraft, and we had no choice but to restrain them, there would be no possible way we would be successful, because the person we would be attempting to restrain would have over 200 mates to help him out, and we only had 12 crew. And there was no doubt that their team spirit was significantly stronger than ours was - The workers had known each other for a year, whereas us crew had only known each other for 2 days. They were also coming from a place where a cigarette is just an extension of the fingers, smoking is so prevalent in Libya (Tunis too) that they openly do so inside the terminal, even at the gate with the aircraft less than 100m away. We were expecting a few toilet smoke cases to occur despite not having any from Dubai to Tunis.

We boarded the aircraft, and I checked the catering – all Economy food. We had a first class cabin that was going to be filled with Economy passengers, and whilst I’ve had F/C operate as a Business Class cabin before, I’ve never had it operate as an Economy cabin. Quite often when it’s a F/C as Business situation, the flight can be really bad for us, as catering tend to load meals that don’t match the menu, and the wines are all mixed up, and more often than not the flight ends up being extremely demanding as the Business passengers start asking for first class products that we don’t usually have available. And they tend to push the call button frequently, which is something you get easily used to in Economy, but in First Class you get a shock to your system when you hear one. So we didn’t know what to expect with an Economy cabin.

When the passengers boarded there was quite a bit of musical chairs going on, but nothing too bad. They didn’t have too much hand luggage with them as well which was such a relief - I guess they didn't have much time to grab what they could before being led away. We later found out that the managers and construction team leaders (who were in yellow high visibility vests) were all in first class whilst all the rest of the workers (in orange high visibility vests) were crammed into Business and Economy. The workers kept the vests on during the whole journey. Looking into a dark Economy cabin and seeing a sea of orange is something I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

The other first class crew member was Thai, and she said that she had quite a few conversations with some of the workers – they were mainly Indonesian but with a few Thai workers in the mix. Apparently up until that flight they had not eaten nor showered in 2 days. They made it out of Libya via ground transport, and their countries were footing the bill for their escape. Apparently there were 5000 men just from the one agency who were utilising these ferry flights; we could only fit on 230 or so on our afternoon flight.

These men were some of the sweetest and kind passengers I have ever had the pleasure to serve. They didn’t go overboard with the booze; at most I poured 3 servings the whole flight. When they ate their tray they didn’t completely woof it down (which anyone would if you don’t get fed for 2 days), and from First to Economy they didn’t make a huge mess, nor leave any plastic or blankets in the aisles for us to clean up. Some of the crew were even finding whatever sandwiches or other food we had spare and handing them out to those in the cabin who really needed it. At top of decent when we collected the headsets, they all made sure to put the headset back in its zip-up case first before handing it to the crew, something which I rarely see from our First Class passengers. I barely had to clean the toilets – they were always so neat! It was just a huge relief to know that despite all they’ve gone through, they still make an effort to exhibit credible behaviour. It was amazing to see. All that frustration at having to wait so long for the per diem when knowing the layover was cut short had well and truly dissipated.

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