I’m dreaming of pax-free Christmas… says literally every FA ever. But unfortunately bidding’s a heartless grinch. Many of you will, unless you’re pretty senior, have to work on the big eve/day (I guess now you know how Santa feels). That’s just the charm of the airline employee life!
No need to have that weigh you down, though! You’re not alone (sing we’re all in this together…). We here at ID90 Travel wanted do our part to help you prepare for this trying time. So we interviewed a few savvy FAs to get the scoop on how to best survive working (or working around) the holidays.
Welcome to the 2016 Holiday Bidding Games
If you’re senior, bidding isn’t a daunting process for you. You can ask for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Day, and New Years all off and get them. (The wins of working from a small base!)
Senior status is the best! Some of the senior FAs we interviewed suggested trying to pack all of your trips into the beginning of the month to have the later half off.
“I bid the highest paying, shortest trips I can hold to make my schedule more flexible.” If you’re really senior you can bid vacation during the holidays and get paid to stay home!
“Some airlines, like mine, allow you to trade your days. If I’m celebrating after the big day then I bid it off and wait to trade up and make that moolah.” This FA mentioned that their airline also allowed them to put money or buddy passes on trips. Other airlines pay time-and-a-half or give you a holiday bonus (hello incentives)!
If you decide to celebrate another time, want to make that cash, or help other FA’s you could pick up one of those incentivized trips. It may just pay to work!
But if your airline doesn’t allow trading, or you’re not senior, you may not be so lucky…
If The Odds Aren’t In Your Favor
You can pray, beg, and hope for the best, but it may just be smart to expect the worst. “Be realistic” said one of our newer FAs. “When you’re not senior enough to get the holidays off, it’s best just to find other dates that work for you.”
The FAs suggested picking another holiday to favor (“I bid to have at least one of my favorite holidays off.”) or to simply celebrate on another day. If you’re not a stickler on dates Thanksgiving & Christmas could really be any time.
“If I can’t hold it we celebrate the holiday a different day of the month, before or after, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is having turkey with my family.” A running theme is that it really all depends on the FAs family dynamic.
One FA said that when her children were younger (and she was less senior) she made a rule that they couldn’t celebrate until mom was home. “Go to a church service, sure! But don’t open presents until I’m home. My kiddos were young! They didn’t know what “Christmas Day” even meant.”
Any way you do it, you’re gonna need to prepare. The holidays are stressful for everyone!
Work It Girl! (Or die trying.)
Whether you’re a planner or not, the holiday season is the time to get your crap together. Consider this your early new years resolution. Whether you’re working or not, needing to be prepared applies to you.
All of the FAs mentioned this. From preparing food, and getting presents bought, to mailing those Christmas cards out early, each flight attendant had a crafty tip.
“I’m the main cook (and I enjoy doing it!) so I cook some dishes early and freeze them. For example, I made my stuffing and marinated the turkey a week early. Gotta take advantage of your days off!”
Get your presents bought early (and maybe even cheaper!) by asking for everyone’s list on Thanksgiving and going shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Then buy the rest online no matter where you are (Amazon Prime becomes so useful during this time).
Sometimes hotels are in walking distances of malls, and in certain states you don’t have to pay taxes on clothing items. So take advantage of savings, time off, and overnights when you get the chance!
When it comes to Christmas cards, get pictures done before Thanksgiving, and create your own card using Cyber Monday deals. Address them on the road, and mail them out wherever.
Now you’re prepared, no matter if have time off or you need to work.
When You Can’t Work From Home
Alright, now what to do when you work… because face it, at one point or another in your career you will have to. The running theme from our interviewed FAs was to just make the most of it!
You’re there, so perk up! PAX don’t want to be flying on the holidays either, so be the positivity you hope to see on the plane. If you’re game to make it fun they’ll get into it, making your airline look better as well as raising your own spirits!
Some airlines allow costumes or singing over the system. Make it unique, make it fun! Occasionally the airline will hand out cookies, cocktails, or goodies to the few passengers who are actually flying that day. This makes it fun and gives you the opportunity to bond with the pax.
Hotels will serve special meals, and if you know the crew you’re working with you can bring them little goodies to get them through. Be prepared though for bad weather.
Sometimes the weather is awful during the holidays, making everyone late to their Christmas plans. Bringing extra snacks for yourself and buckle down for the long haul. If that doesn’t work, repeat to yourself, “This too shall pass.”
Finally, try bringing a buddy! Is it just you and your S/O? Remember, few people fly on the actual day. So if your buddy is non-rev confident get them on a zed fare and take ’em with you. They can crash with you at your hotel.
In the end it’s clearly just best to start on a positive note, you can be festive anywhere! “Just start the day by blaring Christmas tunes in your hotel room or crash pad and get yourself psyched!”
Treat Yo Self
Alright, you’ve done all the preparing, and you’ve had a lot of fun on the plane, but now you’re sitting alone in your hotel room. Well stop it. No pouting! (Remember what the Christmas song says…)
Get up, and go downstairs. Get a cocktail with your crew, a mani/pedi for your worn out feet, or a luxurious massage. Fill up on snacks brought from home, the hotel special meal, or popcorn from the airport.
Not in the mood to go out? Pour yourself a luxurious bubble bath, binge Christmas movies, call the carol service, or video-call your family! Worried that they’ll be more sad than you? Leave them a sweet note at home to open when you’re gone.
Don’t stress too much, you’ll get to see them soon! And if you did your planning right, you’ll celebrate another day.
A Word to the Wise
“The one thing I’d make sure to tell fellow flight attendants is to try and stay happy. Holidays are stressful regardless. Working on days where you’d much rather be with your family sucks. I’ve been fortunate not to have to do much of that, but when I do I make the best of it. Treat yourself, be nice to your flight crew, make sure to check in with your loved ones, and be nice to the passengers. It’s not their fault!”
There you have it ladies and gentlemen of the flight crew! Now go forth and enjoy your holiday season no matter what. And remember there’s always a silver lining.
“Funny story. During my first year of flying I spent the few days before Christmas on a 24-hour layover in Alaska. It was -9 degrees, so too cold to go out and explore, I was also an extra on that trip, so not necessarily laying over with a ‘crew.’ I can remember crying to my husband on the phone, wondering if this career was for me. I had been flying less than a month! My hubs told me to go downstairs to the hotel restaurant and get a good dinner, all would be fine. I was completely tickled to find that the menu special of the night was Reindeer Meatballs!!! Really, right before Christmas!!? Poor Rudolph… I will always remember that Christmas!!!! :-)”
Author: Emily (@ID90 Travel)
Emily is the Content Marketing Manager here at ID90 Travel. An avid non-rev flyer (she grew up in the industry), and passionate private pilot, Emily can’t get enough of all things aviation. When not writing awesome ID90 Travel content she can be found on a Texas patio, being one with nature, or annoying her ID90T co-workers with her many, many, crowdsourcing questions.