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What Gives Me Hope

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Source: Archived Content

Date: Oct 20, 2001

By now you will have no doubt noticed that we haven't added new features to this site for the past several weeks.  This is because we have been overburdened with both trying to stay on top of the news and get new members signed up. 

There have been more time-critical news stories during the past several weeks then in any period in the site's 15 month history.  Also, we've received so many new member applications, that it's just barely all we can do for us to keep up with that.  Since September 11, 2001, we've been working 16 hour days, every single day except two, just to keep this site operational and current, as well as manage the large volumes of incoming e-mail correspondence.

Some of the correspondence we've received has been heartbreaking.

This as been, to put it bluntly, a very shitty time for all of us.  Mr. Joe Blow over at IBM or Ms. Sally Jones over at Blockbuster have returned to their 'normal' jobs, able to begin leaving the September 11 tragedy behind them.  For most of the United States, things are slowly starting to get back to normal---or as good as they can be for now.

Not us.  Not the flight attendants.

Here's the situation we've endured thus far:

  • We were already tired and emotionally drained even before September 11th.  Anybody remember the pilot slowdown fun and US Airways deal?  We all had to put up with that US Airways merger fiasco for over a year.  We witnessed $50 million of precious company money wasted in a failed US Airways purchase as the result of a 'no deal' fee.  We endured countless discussions of 'what if' scenarios, a rambling letter from 'Bill', and irksome 'DAY ONE!' corporate publications.

  • As soon as the Justice Department ended that US Airways deal---but before we could even open the champagne---we were informed about the creation of the 'BizJet' operation.  Those sleek, pretty planes were to be flown, NOT by United Airlines flight attendants, but by outside job applicants from the 'service' industry.

  • New uniform redesign?  Somebody made a decision to remove the stripe insignia from our jackets.  Bad idea.  Those two stripes on our uniform jackets meant something.  Maybe not in a strict military chain-of-command sense, but nevertheless something very crewmember-like in the eyes of the passengers.  Together with the pilots, our uniforms had a logical flow of authority, denoting the rank of the vessel's crew.  Gone.

  • Then, we all had the wind (and our happiness) knocked out of us on September 11.  That whole event was so Goddamn obscene, there are no words to describe it.

  • A couple of weeks later, on September 28, it was decided to furlough 5,374 of our flying partners.

  • Finally, what can only be described as a slap in the face, 330 of our our newest flight attendants were suddenly FIRED without given the chance to volunteer for 30-Day ANP.  Luckily they were recently reinstated thanks to the efforts of Linda Farrow & Co. over at the AFA MEC office in Chicago as well as reconsideration from Onboard Service.

  • And now the latest news: United is moving ahead with their plan to purchase additional aircraft for their BizJet venture, right after asking the U.S. Government for more money.  At the same time United Airlines was telling Congress several weeks ago that it might go bankrupt without a bailout, it was wiring $11.25 million into the pockets of Dessault as a down payment on an order for 30 business jets.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, hundreds of flight attendants are now out of work.  New uniform design?  Try, no uniform.  No job.  No paycheck.  But plenty of Dessault BizJet planes---with, I'd imagine, lots of new non-UAL service industry applicants lining up to perform our work responsibilities inside of them.

And what about the multitude of other hassles flight attendants (the ones that are still employed) endure each day to simply perform their jobs?  The time spent stuck in lines at increased airport security.  The energy spent dealing with concern and worry about suspicious passengers---or God forbid, possible terrorist retaliation against U.S. military action in Afghanistan.  Or the reading of ever-increasingly pointed (like this article?) and paranoid news media coverage announcing further job losses.  It's mucho stress----all that, and FLTLINE too!

I can't even hear a jet fly overhead without remembering our plane slicing through the South Tower of the WTC.  That's an ugly image.  And that's reality, because September 11 was a Goddamn ugly day.

And so, as I sit here and reflect on the madness that has transpired since September 11, I realize something very important: there is hope.  Flight attendants that are lucky (read: senior) enough to keep their jobs will get through this mess and come out okay in the end.  Things will get better and life will return to normal.  Slowly, but it will happen.

How?

Because flight attendants are survivors.  Flight attendants know how to make the best of a bad situation.  We are certainly no strangers to getting the short end of the deal---and we know how to survive through even the worst of times.

We comfort other people and calm them down.  We are experts at putting on a brave face in the onslaught of war.  And this is war.  We are in battle; a battle of just trying to put our work and personal lives back together.  We certainly don't get much help from anyone, but we know how to give a lot:  Big smiles everyone!  Warm and genuine attentiveness!  Go Team, go!

My own personal faith and healing lies mostly in the fact that flight attendants have each other for support.  We are a very special group of people.  For those of you reading this who are flight attendants, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  And I have received literally hundreds of letters during the past several weeks that prove this.  And even onboard the planes, flight attendant jumpseat therapy can work wonders---don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

26 years ago, I was an 8-year-old Unaccompanied Minor and afraid to fly.  It was a United Airlines flight attendant that calmed me down and made me feel safe onboard.  Well, it's no different today.  It doesn't matter what plane, flight number, or crew; it is always the flight attendants that make the difference---both to me personally and to United's passengers.  Always there, and working damn hard.  And one day soon, when I do again hear a plane flying overhead, it will again bring me both pride in my work and peace in my heart.

I am lucky.  Lucky enough to belong to the most supportive, hard-working, and generous group of people I have ever seen.

That is what gives me hope.

Christopher Lee
Flight Attendant

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