Southwest Airlines Road Warriors (the Flight Attendants)

When I found no other acceptable, reasonable and feasible way to get from San Diego to Albany on my “usual” airline, American Airlines (see this message), I ended up booking with Southwest. As it turns out, the airplane I boarded in San Diego was the one that took me right to Albany, with a stop in Baltimore. Since I didn’t have to switch planes, I stayed on board, and I was able to observe the work of the flight attendants and later chat with them a bit.

Most other airlines are unionized. The flight attendants leave the plane, a cleaning crew comes in and cleans the plane, and a new crew takes over. On Southwest, the plane is not even empty yet, and the flight attendants already work their way back through the rows of seats on both sides, with trashbags, rubber gloves on their hands, picking up trash, straightening out the seat belts, tidying up the seat back pockets. By the time the passengers from the rear of the plane have exited, the front third of the cabin is already done and ready for new passengers.

This practice saves Southwest not only cleaning expenses and separate personnel, but it also significantly speeds up plane turn-around time. After all, an airliner makes money when it flies, not when it sits on the ground with its engines off.

The flight attendant I talked to lived in Phoenix, but was based out of Oakland. That seemed odd to me, since Phoenix is such a major hub for Southwest. Anyway, the evening before a “shift start” when she would have to be in Oakland, she would fly there on Southwest. Then she would have to spend the night until the next morning.

She described that 12 “girls” had joined up to rent a small hotel room with two double beds. They’d bring in cots. On any night, there would maybe be six of them spending the night there, two per bed, and at least a couple on the cots. With only one bathroom, it got quite interesting at times, she said. Some of their flights required that they’d get up at 2:00am to report to duty. The one getting up would get ready while the other five were sleeping.

When she described that, it made sense to me. They want to keep the cost down for the extra night they’d have to spend before reporting to duty. However,  I did not realize that this was even going on. I always thought that flight attendants would be based where they lived.

Now, I realize even more what a tough job they have. Flying all over country, staying in strange hotels, flying to and from work in the first place.

And cleaning the cabins.

I have a lot of respect for Southwest Airlines.

One thought on “Southwest Airlines Road Warriors (the Flight Attendants)

  1. Thanks for the respect!! It is a lot more than what people think – Passing out drinks and snacks during the flight. We work hard as a whole and life a lifestyle many would think crazy!

    Thanks for noticing the hard work – I hope Southwest can keep your business!

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