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Wings Of Faith
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Chapter1
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Chapter 5
Chapter 6
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Chapter 10
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CHAPTER 5 

There's Headhunters
Out There 

         One of the greatest benefits and reason for working for the airlines is the travel.  Airlines provide travel to their full time employees in most cases on an unlimited basis.  However each airline provides travel benefits under differing rules and regulations that are particular to the airline in question.  Some airlines give their employees a book of tickets that have a bar code on them.  When the employee arrives at the gate the ticket agent runs a light pen over the bar code and a small fee is charged to the employee that is automatically deducted from your paycheck.  The fee is about twenty dollars for round trip flight in the U.S.  and about forty dollars for an international flight.  This fee is automatically deducted from your pay check.  Some airlines provide completely free travel while others charge only for the tax and still others provide travel at higher fees.  There are also travel benefits that extended to your immediate family.  At almost every airline there is a small fee involved with the travel of family members.  Travel for family members is in most cases on an unlimited basis, but it depends on the rules of the airline you are working for. 

         If you are working for an airline and have been a full time employee for over a year you qualify for interline passes and other travel benefits.  An interline pass permits you to travel on just about any scheduled airline in the world for a nominal fee.  This fee is determined by the airline you want to fly on but in most cases it is never over forty dollars.  Because you are employed in the travel and tourism trade you also qualify for other benefits such as reduced hotel fares for airline employees, car rentals and cruise ships. 

         When you are traveling on an airline pass you must remember that you are traveling on a space available basis.  This means that seating on the aircraft is provided to you according to an established hierarchy that all the airlines have agreed upon.  If you are traveling on the airline you work for it takes a paying passenger to bump you.  If your parents are flying, any paying passenger or employee can bump them.  If you are traveling on an interline pass any paying passenger or employee from that airline can bump you.  If your parents are traveling on an interline pass they can be bumped by any paying passenger, an employee traveling on that airline or an employee traveling on an interline pass.  In every situation flight crews can bump anybody with the exception of paying passengers. 

         These are important considerations when traveling space available and you are trying to get back to work on time.  My recommendations are to plan your return f1ight one day early to avoid missing work.  Your airline will not forgive you for missing work because you got bumped even if you were traveling on their airline.  It is also important to find out how heavily the airline is being traveled.  There are several ways to do th1s.  Check the published load factor for the entire airline.  If the load factor is above seventy-five percent, travel on the airline without getting bumped is questionable.  You will find that load factor ratings a placed on bulletin boards at various locations throughout your facility.  Don't ask the ticket agents or the person working in reservations for this information because they don't have it and wouldn't give it to you if they did because of security reasons.  You can also stop by f1ight dispatch or flight operations.  They will have a listing of all f1ights with departure times and the number of passengers onboard.  If you know the seating capacity of the aircraft then you will know if there is a good chance of getting there without getting bumped.  At the same time you should check departures for your return f1ight so you can f1nd out if the return passenger loads are high and at what time of day they are at there worst.  This flight listing is a bit diff1cult to understand.  All the times are Zulu or Greenwich Mean Time and the print is usually very small.  It might be best for you to make a copy and discuss how to read the listing with your supervisor.  There is nothing wrong in obtaining a copy of the list.  It is created according to a standardized format that dispatchers use to perform their jobs.  Learning how to read it only makes you a more useful employee.  You can also ask the reservationist if the seating looks good when you list for your flight.  The reservationist in most cases will not tell you how many seats are available for security reasons, but if you are friendly to them they may tell you more than you expect.  Listing for a f1ight only guarantees you a meal on your flight.0nly when you arrive at the ticket counter with your travel pass is your request for a seat processed. 

         Because you are in possession of an A&P license you can sometimes get a jump seat in the cockpit.  You must remember that your presence there is not standard operating procedure and is a very special honor.  Therefore it is not wise to make a habit out of riding in the cockpit.  When you are up there it is best to keep quiet until the aircraft has reached cruising altitude.  Regulations state that the cockpit is supposed to be sterile or silent from the take-off roll to ten thousand feet, with only conversation pertinent to the flight of the aircraft taking place during that time.  It is better not to speak at all until spoken to or till the aircraft reaches cruising altitude.  While you're there it is also important to know what the flight number of your flight is and that you listen to the radio for the flight number while you are talking so you can stop talking if a controller calls the pilots with instructions. 

         Most airlines have additional regulations that you must follow when you fly space available.0ne in particular is a dress code.  Most airlines require a suit and tie.  I know of many people who have pushed the regulations and managed to fly anyway, but to me the risk of never making it to my destination or getting back to work was something I didn't want to fool around with.  You can be denied flight if you do not comply with any regulations that the airline may impose.  Another regulation you will have to deal with is that most airlines do not want you to reveal to passengers that you work for the airline or the type of function you perform for them.  In the case of my airline I was required to wear or present my badge to the ticket agent.  I was also required to wear a suit.  Because of this I stuck out like a sore thumb in comparison to the cloth1ng the paying passengers were wearing.  Because of this I didn't pay to much attention to that rule.  I felt that if I used my good judgment I could serve as a goodwill ambassador for my airline and instill confidence in the public by how well I presented myself.  Besides I got a kick out of talking to people about my airline and airplanes in general. 

         On one occasion I was waiting for a flight at a time when my two sisters were pregnant.  My mother was planning to fly out to each of them when they went into labor.  Also at the same time my airline was in the middle of a sales promotion and the passenger loads were very high.  Naturally this would tend to make travel for parents questionable.  I had arrived at the gate about an hour early and was waiting for my airplane to arrive at the gate.  As it pulled up and the passengers began to deplane a ticket agent came to the gate to give the passengers directions to their connecting flights.  I waited until it appeared that all the passengers had gotten off the airplane and I asked this ticket agent how long she expected the promotion to last.  She replied that she knew nothing about a promotion.  I thought that maybe she was uninformed about what was happening and I tried to explain to her that my sisters were pregnant, my mother wanted to f1y out to them when they had their babies and that the promotion would make travel difficult and how long did she expect the increased passenger loads to continue because of the promotion? 

         She replied to me in snotty tone of voice that she didn't know about any promotion.  After that I walked away from her rather confused and not being able to understand why she was acting that way.  Shortly after this I discovered that there had been a gate change for my flight and when I arrived at the new gate I discovered that the same ticket agent was running the counter there.  I handed her a jump seat request and took a seat and waited for boarding to begin.  As usual when boarding began I waited until I was the last person in the gate area and then went to the counter to get my pass.  It was then she questioned me about my authorization to ride jump seat and with a rude tone of voice and a jerk of her hand she gave me the receipt portion of the jump seat request and said, "Here you can board the aircraft.”  As I came on board I saw what appeared to me to be the Captain of my flight and I asked his permission to ride in the cockpit.  The pilot I spoke to said that he was not the Captain and that he was riding jump seat.  I told the pilot that I was sorry to have bothered him and took a seat in the cabin. 

         I thought nothing about this situation.  I didn't do anything that I hadn't done in the past.  It wasn't until I returned to Chicago and had just gotten off the plane when I ran into the director of maintenance who began to ask me questions about my flight to St. Louis.  At the time I couldn't figure out how he new I was even on a flight to St.  Louis so I asked him about it.  He then related a story to me about how this ticket agent had called the Technical Center to inquire if I actually had permission to ride jump seat and then she stated that I was making a nuisance of myself and discussing company business in front of passengers.  As it turned out nothing ever became of this situation.  I don't know what this lady's problem was.  Who can say? Maybe it was that time of the month? Maybe she had had a bad day and was looking for someone to take it out on? Possibly I aroused feelings of jealousy when I mentioned my pregnant sisters? The point I want to make by relating this story to you is this.  Gate and ticket agents can at most times be very pleasant people but they are like cats, you can be petting them as they lay quietly purring in your lap and the next minute they have bitten your hand and drawn blood.  As a rule ticket and gate agents are more friendly when they are working at an outstation.  If they are working at a hub approach them with caution. 

         I ran into another situation where a gate agent that called me up to the counter and told me that she wasn't going to let me on the airplane.  I asked her why and she told me that I was not in conformity with the dress code.  I asked her what was wrong with the suit that I was wearing and she said that it wasn't the suit it was my shoes.  I had changed into tennis shoes when I got downtown because I had quite a walk ahead of me and I had simply forgotten to change back into my dress shoes.  I told the agent that I would simply change them and the look of disappointment that came over her face was unbelievable.  This person was actually looking to deny me a flight because of the power trip she was on.  Both of these incidents took place at the hub.  So if you're at a hub speak to no one, follow the dress code to the letter and there should be no problems.  Just remember there are head hunters out there and not everyone is a team player. 

         One thing to consider regarding flight benefits is that they become an addiction.  There is no feeling in the world quite like the feeling you get from being able to hop an airplane anytime to anywhere as many times as you like.  The feeling you will get when you lose that privilege will be very hard to take.  I think it is something that you have to do enough that you get it out of your system.  Although I am not sure you can do that.  Now that I am working for an F.B.O. and I no longer have flight privileges I know how much they meant to me.  I became acutely aware of this when my sister developed breast cancer and my parents had to buy an airline ticket for me to be able visit her.  It was very hard to take sitting on that airplane knowing that if I was working for an airline my parents wouldn't have had to buy the ticket themselves.  I remembered all those times I flew to visit family and friends and sat in first class sipping Baileys Irish Cream and now I couldn't do it anymore.  What hurt more than that was that one of my prime reasons for having the flight benefits was for family emergencies and now when there was an actual emergency those benefits weren't there.  This is something to think about because the loss of these benefits is quite a burden to bare.

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