Merry Christmas – Holidays away

I know I have talked about this before but for those of us in the airlines industry along with other industries there is no such thing as a national holiday.  No matter what day it is or where employees would rather be the planes still keep flying on those days some consider special.  Travellers and cargo still want to go from point A to point B.  Not everyone gets Christmas off, hospitals, power plants, first responders all may have shifts over Christmas.  When you are in the airport over this holiday season please take a moment to remember that the person checking you in for your flight, the security screener, pilots, store and food services purveyors in the airport along with ground crews, air traffic controllers and flight attendants don’t have the option to stay home on those special days.  If any of us are short with you we apologise we may be going far away from home missing mum’s turkey dinner, families sharing memories over a cup of eggnog and children waiting for Santa to arrive.  For the aircrew not much is waiting for us on our layovers.  In some cities and towns EVERYTHING is closed and crews have to pack a lunch and dinner that does not require refrigeration or heating and meets customs regulations in various countries.  A lot of cans of tuna and cups of oatmeal are consumed by my coworkers on these days.

Gone are the days of extravagant gifts from our companies, most just don’t have the funds to give everyone working a fabulous gift.  Some hotels go out of their way to make us feel at home this time of year.  One hotel in Winnipeg, a few years ago, made up full turkey dinners with all the trimmings and had them waiting from the crew upon check in , another in St. John’s Newfoundland had a fully stocked buffet for the crew over Christmas and New Years.  I stayed in a place in Maui where Santa left all guests Hawaiian goodies hanging on their doors.  Sometimes guests on flight bring treats for the crew, this is a lovely idea but please remember that at most airlines staff cannot consume anything given to us during our duty period that is not bought or made by us, or the airlines caterers until after the shift is over.  The crew will graciously accept them and wait until after their day is done, then the goodies are fair game.  It is sad really that we live in a time where we have to be cautious of the good intentions of any gifts.  For this reason any edible gifts are best if they are sealed and not homemade.

Even though we are far from family festivities we do tend to make our own fun.  I have had fabulous Christmas memories with my crew.  We tend to take care of each other.  I worked one year to London with a multi-day layover.  There is not much open on Christmas in the UK, the only mode of transport is by taxi, which charges a Christmas surcharge for fares on the 25th of December.  We landed early Christmas Eve and had plans to hit the shops before they closed.  Our captain gave us money to pick up food for Christmas day for the crew as the restaurant where we stayed was booked up and very expensive.  Our hotel kept it chilled for us.  I had done my usual massive amount of holiday baking and toted it across the pond.  On Christmas day everyone company wide staying in London met in the crew room and had a lovely meal.  We had numerous crew from all over Canada join in.  Each showed up with something to add to the self made buffet.  The best part of the night was when the last crew to arrive that day came rolling in.  They were all very young and had not been flying for more than a few months.  With not much packed in their suitcases for food their faces lit up at the sight of a very large gathering of “work family” and a table with a full spread.   They were so appreciative for someone to share the evening with and the yummy goodies that night that it almost made not being at home for the first time palatable for them.

When you are tucking in to your Christmas tourtiere, turkey or ham this year please stop and think of all of those who are helping keep you safe in the skies and on the ground so you can enjoy a Happy Christmas.