February 26th, 1989
Flight from London Heathrow (LHR) to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (JED)
I woke up with butterflies in my tummy just thinking about how the day might play out.
Lucy and mum were chatting up a storm in the kitchen and mum made us poached eggs on toast but I was too distracted to eat. The taxi arrived late and I was in a panic that I’d miss the train, but I made it. Just.
Getting to TriStar House felt like an expedition in itself and travelling on public transport with a heavy suitcase is no fun at all. My desire for a car has become a priority. In TriStar House, I dropped my suitcase off then drew a blank on where I should go from there. I wandered through the hive of activity of crews coming and going and headed in the direction of the canteen. I bumped into Lolly and Henry who were on their way to the briefing room for their flight to Cairo. Lolly was a ball of nervous energy and Henry was as cool as ice. We wished each other luck and I felt better after seeing some familiar faces.
Met Meryl in the canteen and we chuckled over the fact we were there two hours ahead of the briefing. We stayed in the canteen until it was time to check-in, by which time I had calmed down and couldn’t wait to get onboard.
In the briefing room, we were met by Alan, the Cabin Service Director (known as the CSD, basically the boss of the cabin crew.) He was really friendly and introduced us to the main crew (we haven’t earned our Wings yet so we’re extras.) Alan made sure Meryl and I were aware that bringing anything with images of scantily clad women (such as underwear ads in magazines) into Saudi would result in it being confiscated, and get us in serious trouble. We covered all of that, at length, in training, but Alan wanted to make sure we didn’t have anything in our possession that could cause a problem and delay the crew.
By the time we stepped onto the TriStar I felt eager to get going and after I stowed my cabin bag and handbag, I stepped into the galley and it all felt like second nature. Alan suggested Meryl and I work in Club World together so we stood in the cabin in preparation for boarding. Meryl was across from me in the other aisle and I looked over at her and mouthed, “Are you ok?” She responded with a slightly nervous looking smile.
At the front of the Club World cabin, there’s a screen that gets pulled down for boarding then again during the flight, when it’s time for the movie to play. Right after Alan made the boarding announcement, the British Airways “Face” ad began playing on the screen and I looked at Meryl and said, “Here we go.”
It felt great welcoming passengers and answering all sorts of questions. Boarding went smooth and I was anxious to get going. Alan rang the Club purser and said Meryl and I were invited to sit on the flight deck for take off. Meryl asked me to lead the way and I said, “You can’t get lost looking for the cockpit,” but I think she was too nervous to get the joke.
The Captain and First Officer were finishing up the pre-flight checks and the Flight Engineer, Andrew, helped us into our jump seats and showed us how to strap ourselves in. Then the Captain welcomed us and asked if we were ok. Meryl opened her mouth but nothing came out so I said thank you for both of us.
It seemed like only a few minutes later that the aircraft was barreling down the runway and Meryl and I had matching huge grins. To say it was exciting being in the cockpit for take off is a huge understatement. I absolutely loved it!
During the flight we worked in Club World, which is basically BA’s Business Class cabin. I did the first drinks round and really enjoyed interacting with the passengers. I even managed to remember all the names of the wines we offer without having to consult the menu. The rest of the crew in Club were super nice and helpful, which made all the difference.
Just under six hours later, after a very hectic flight, Meryl and I sat on the flight deck again for landing. It was dark so not quite as exciting as take off, but still a thrill knowing we were landing in Saudi Arabia. It was just after midnight and eighty-two degrees.
Inside the airport terminal there were people everywhere and a sea of black burkas. It felt as if everyone was staring in our direction as we walked through the terminal to the crew bus, especially since we were the only females “not covered.”
It was pretty lively on the crew bus and Samantha, the Club purser said Meryl and I were naturals. Meryl whispered to me how relieved she was to hear that. Alan invited everyone to his room and I think most of the crew actually showed up. Of course they were teasing us that it was unfortunate we’d been sent to a “dry” area. According to some of the crew, most trips start in someone’s room (someone piped up, “or on the crew bus!”) and from there they go out for dinner and drinks. I like the sound of that!
The hotel is absolutely beautiful. It’s very opulent and everything is ornate and luxurious looking. My bathroom is mostly made of marble and the taps are gold. I have a king sized bed with the softest linens and six pillows, all to myself!
If today is any indication of life as Cabin Crew with British Airways, I know I’m going to love it!
Goodnight from Jeddah and my last night as a twenty-one year old!