Since I was a USAir (then later, USAirways) F/A for years, I’ve got more horror stories than most. So, to be fair, I’ll list the worst and the best flight.
The worst flight for me was on an old DC-9 that was slated to be shelved, so they didn’t bother to upgrade anything on the plane. The F/A jumpseat was basically a piece of plywood covered with cloth - no cushion to speak of. And it was a bench, meaning two F/As had to sit on the same seat. I was the lead F/A, and they paired me with a six-foot tall male F/A who weighed 250lbs if he weighed an ounce. We smushed ourselves uncomfortably together on the bench jumpseat for takeoff (can you see where this is going)… and when the engines thrust for liftoff, there was a sharp “CRACK” and the bolts sheared, and the plywood jumpseat slammed onto the floor, basically throwing us on our butts with the same force as if we’d jumped off a kitchen counter. We both suffered neck injuries. I was out of work for over a year, in physical therapy, and when I tried to return to work I found that the nerves in my neck can’t take the backward pressure of takeoff in a jumpseat. So that flight was what ended my career as an F/A. Since 9/11 happened during my stint in recovery, I was actually sort of relieved not to be going back to flying from LGA to Washington, DC multiple times a day, like a pingpong ball in a terrorist target game.
The best flight was one way back when we were still serving food (remember them good ole days?). The entire plane was full of German tourists. I mean every single passenger. The whole plane. They’d all been flying for 12 hours or so when they boarded, so the air quality wasn’t all that great, but… let me just diverge a second here and explain that on a “normal” food service flight, it takes at least four F/As with two garbage carts to collect garbage and prep the cabin for landing. Partially because “normal” American travelers are complete slobs. They leave things ripped open, sprawled all over the place, they try to put dirty diapers in the food garbage instead of disposing of them properly in the restroom, and all sorts of shenanigans. Sometimes we’d have to fill the carts and go back with more empty carts to collect all the refuse, which took more time. But on this one flight full of German tourists, I decided to take one cart out ahead of time, to give the other crew members time to eat and get things ready. By myself, with ONE CART, I collected all the garbage from that entirely full plane… in less than 10 minutes.
How is that even possible? I’ll tell you why. Because every single one of those passengers had crumpled up their drink containers to the smallest size possible, and fit every single scrap of waste back into the container the lunches were handed out in. There wasn’t a stray napkin, much less a dirty diaper, visible. Every single lunch box lid had been closed and tucked back into its original flap so that it almost looked as though the passengers were handing me back untouched lunches.
The faces on the other F/A’s when I told them I’d just collected the entire cabin’s garbage by myself were hysterical. None of them believed it, either. I will never forget that flight. It just brought home to me what a difference people can make when they are polite and conscientious and don’t expect other people to clean up after them.
Okay, okay… just one more good story. It was Christmas Day. I was working, as usual. The crew had gathered in the first class galley for our pre-flight briefing. The F/O was there, but the captain was a few minutes late. When he arrived, we went ahead with the briefing. Then the captain said, “Sorry I was a little late today… I ran into Santa Claus on my way to the gate. He said to give you these.” And he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a bunch of envelopes. Each one contained a really nice gift certificate to one of the airport stores in our base airport (CLT). And each envelope was marked, so we could choose something that we’d really like. Book store, or Bath & Body Works, or one of the restaurants. He paid for those gift cards out of his own pocket (they weren’t cheapies, either - at least $50 each!) and gave us, his crew, a little lift because we didn’t get to spend the holiday with our families. We all gave him a huge hug and a heartfelt thank-you.