Passengers stuck at the airport, waiting for their plane to come.
“Why did I do to deserve that?” A strike at the worst moment with maximized inconvenience.
I am generally not supportive of strikes in France… and the concept of students going on strike usually brings a smile on my foreign colleagues face.
It’s true people have to pay for their studies in the UK. Here, most of the times, students don’t have to pay that much to go study. So they can really spend time going on strike, and most of them don’t care if it lasts a few weeks. It does not impact thei pay slip.
But I am drifting again. I used to be an intern at Air France. I was a cabin a crew (as the ones going on strike right now), and for once, I am really supportive. I suppose I would not be if I had to take a plane and promised my 8-year-old daughter we would see Sea World in San Diego. Yes, with Willy from “Free Willy”.
I remember the interviews for being accepted as an Air France crew intern. Everyone wanted to do that. It was a dream job. Flying all around the world, and being paid for that. Prestigious job, very nice working atmosphere, and very classy co-workers.
After two months of that internship, I needed 2 weeks to recover. The job was harsh, with only 24 hours abroad to recover, in between endless flights. I mostly did Europe to Northern America. The days of the week had no meaning any more. I did not care whether it was tuesday or sunday. Nor morning or evening. I slept when I could. My legs were tired of the altitude. My face and body was swelling with the change of pressure.
I could see the other flight attendants living a difficult life. They could not change a schedule that was announced the 27th for the following month. They kept trying to keep their friends, but those were fed up with tring to keep in touch with someone who was never there or to tired to come.
Cabin crews don’t exchange numbers after a flight. They know they will never meet again. There are a lot more than 10000 flight attendants, and statistically, you would fly with someone you’ve already flown, once every 7 years.
As people loose ground with their previous friends, they try to find new contacts, and often, a cabin crew-cabin crew couple appears (regardless of the genders). But life is even harder, because they spend even less time at home, and use post-its to wish happy wedding anniversaries. Their kid grows to hate airplane which stole his parents and childhood, but still flies cheaper than the other common mortals. This way the kid spends less time at home to feel the absence of his parents.
I could see the flight attendants drifting in their world with their own vocabulary (you spend 2 weeks learning all the weird names they have for things (crasdap, watose)), and their life expectancy is now at 60 years old. (25 years lower than normal). All the jet lag and altitude radiation is something you can’t run away from.
I still remember all that as a very rich experience. It made me travel. It made me aware that the real difficult jobs are not always the one we think. And after a 5 year salary freeze that has happened at Air France, I definitely believe they deserve something.
But that’s my personal belief.