Flying out of the Charlotte airport is not always a relaxing process. It’s been known to cause “airport sweat,” a unique type of sweat that comes after stripping off shoes and belts at security, dragging suitcases for roughly 12 miles to terminal E and dealing with flight delays.
Yet for professionals who do it daily, there’s a certain rhythm to it. To help make your flying experience more Zen, I chatted with Charlotte-based flight attendants Andrea Sisson (pictured) and Amerika Urban, who can offer some professional advice on navigating Charlotte Douglas.
Q. How do you pack for a long trip using only a small suitcase?
Andrea: Lay everything out before you pack and try to weed out a few more items that you don’t really need. Also, rolling your clothes really helps to use all the space in your suitcase.
Q. Is there a secret to getting your bag faster at baggage claim?
Amerika: Even as an employee, when I check a bag, I have to wait just as long as the average Joe. Get creative. I have a giant teal bow on my bag so it’ll easily stand out from the other worn out ribbons on everyone else’s luggage.
Andrea: Unfortunately, the secret is patience. There are thousands of flights that land in CLT each day. That’s a lot of bags to move around!
Q. When you step on a plane to work a flight, do you know the other crew members ahead of time? Do you end up spending time together when you land in the new city?
Andrea: At the beginning of a trip, you may have never met the crew you are working with before. Contrary to what some believe, most flight attendants do not have a specific route that they fly all the time. A new trip equals a new crew.
Sometimes the crew will all go out to explore or plan to meet for dinner, and sometimes layovers are the perfect way to get some time alone to recharge. I have noticed on holidays the crew will almost always have dinner together. We can’t be with our families for the holidays, so we spend it with our flying family.
Q. What happens if someone is being drunk and/or disorderly on the plane?
Amerika: The other day we had a case where a woman wouldn’t behave before we left the gate and several of us plus the gate agents had to speak with her. She calmed down and we closed the door and taxied out.
The lady started to act up again so I called the captain and he turned the plane around. Finally the lady agreed to comply but the captain said it was too late. He wasn’t going to deal with this for the next two hours. We got to the gate and a supervisor met us. He kindly asked the lady to leave the plane and she refused. He walked away and the sheriff came aboard to talk to her. She verbally refused to get off the plane. That’s when three officers came aboard, physically picked her up, and escorted her off the plane.
We take disruptive situations seriously. It’s a federal offense not to obey airplane rules. I don’t like dealing with these passengers or situations, but sometimes I have to.
Q. Have you ever had a celebrity on the flight? What was that like? Did the other people on the plane freak out?
Andrea: I had an actor in first class one time. At first I didn’t recognize him with his baseball hat on, but another flight attendant picked him out. The guy preferred to keep a low profile. He asked for a glass of water and then slept the rest of the flight.
A few months ago, Prince William flew on our airline and had I been working that flight I don’t know if I would have been able to keep my cool!
Q. What’s the best thing to do when you’re dealing with flight delays or cancellations?
Amerika: Go online and check the status of your next flight. That’s your best source of information. If you’re on the ground and waiting for a delayed flight, find food and use the facilities in the airport. Once you’re on the plane, the line is going to be very long for the bathroom and the snack supply is limited. Please be kind to your gate agent or flight attendant. They may be missing a flight home too, because more than likely they live in another city and have to fly to get there.
Q. What should you do if you think you’re getting sick before a flight?
Andrea: Flying with an earache is the worst, and can be dangerous. It’s possible to burst an eardrum with all the pressure changes that happen during a flight. I never recommend flying if you aren’t feeling well, but if you have a few days before your flight, take Vitamin C tablets and drink extra water.
Amerika: If you have a head cold, I’ve found the best thing is to take Cold-EEZE. If you’re sick to your stomach, I would really suggest not flying. Take off, landing, or any mid-flight turbulence can really mess with your tummy.
Q. Turbulence in the air: Feels like you’re going to die, but how do you know when it’s actually reason to panic?
Amerika: Turbulence can be fun, but it can also be scary. Our pilots do their best to avoid what they call “chop” but sometimes there is no way around a rough area. If the captain or flight attendants make an announcement to stay seated, please don’t take that as a cue to get up and use the restroom. I have heard stories of entire carts hitting the ceiling (and those are 200 pounds!). Keeping your seatbelt on is always the right choice, just in case.
Q. What are your favorite restaurants at the Charlotte airport? Surely there has to be something more exciting than Hudson News.
Amerika: I like the broccoli cheese soup at Quizno’s for something hot, quick, and under $5. There’s great sushi to go in the main atrium area. If I have the time to sit back and relax, I really like Bad Daddy’s Burgers. They have great sweet potato fries too.
Andrea: The stir-fry at Genghis Grill is delicious. One of my go-to’s for a quick bite is to order the kids plate at the BBQ joint. It’s a good amount of food for under six dollars. Take your lunch up to the second floor of the atrium and sit in a rocking chair to enjoy the view.
Photos: David Ahntholz/The New York Times; AP Photo/David Goldman, File; ABC; Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT; AP Photo /Ian Gavan; Getty Images; Tariq Zehawi/ The Record
Lauren Levine writes about her obsession with Charlotte, her dating adventures, and other tales on her blog Life with Lauren. She tweets as @lifewithlauren1.