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#MyJALtrip: Tales from 30,000ft

#MyJALtrip: Tales from 30,000ft

Everyone has a story to tell. As a cabin attendant flying with Japan Airlines (JAL), it is always enjoyable when people are willing to share their stories with us. Here are some colourful and enjoyable tales I have amassed over the years.


1. All packed and ready to go

(Image credit: yousef alfuhigi / Unsplash)


There are two kinds of travellers—those who plan their trip in advance and in detail, and those who are still packing hours before the flight. 


It was a cool, rainy evening in Singapore, the passenger had just ended a long day at work and was rushing to beat the evening traffic to get to the airport and board our evening flight JL36 to Haneda International Airport (HND; 羽田国際空港) in Tokyo (東京). While he had his check-in bag all packed and ready to go, he carelessly grabbed his wife’s passport instead of his own. Unfortunately, he only realised his error at the check-in counter. Our ground staff calmly assured him that he still had time and thankfully he lived quite near the airport. After a quick call, he arranged for his wife to hop on a cab to bring his passport to the airport. Luckily, he made the flight in the nick of time.


As we rush, we get anxious, and when we get anxious, we make mistakes. We are only human so that can happen to the best of us. We tend to pack our worries into our bags, and more often than not we find ourselves over packing to ease our travel anxiety. 


Fabric freshener and hand sanitiser spray in the Lavatory for passengers’ convenience. (Image credit: JAL / Ishikawa)


When you fly with Japan Airlines, you can leave your worries behind! Passengers flying in Economy Class can request for an eye mask, earplugs, and other amenities from your cabin attendant. First Class, Business Class, and Premium Economy Class passengers are provided with an amenity kit that will ensure a more comfortable in-flight experience. In-cabin lavatories are well-stocked with toothbrushes and hand sanitiser sprays.


Passport, ID, stationary, flash light, shoe polish, nail polish, and a comb. (Image credit: JAL / Alva)


As a cabin attendant, there are days that we have to be on stand-by duty. This means that we have to be ready to leave for a flight at a moment’s notice. To err on the side of caution, I always keep a small bag with my in-flight essentials placed somewhere visible and easily accessible. This helps to ensure that I will not forget or misplace any items essential for me to fulfil my flight duty.


2. If you are on time, you are late

One of the first rules we learn as a cabin attendant is “If you are on time, you are late”. I’m not sure if it’s a general rule for all cabin attendants or if it’s just because Japan Airlines prides itself in punctuality, but the unwritten rule is that we have to be at least 15 minutes early for everything or else you are considered late. I used to be someone who was always chronically late so this company has taught me a lot about being punctual. These days, I’m proud to say I’m always early for appointments! 


Unfortunately, sometimes, even when you are early, you somehow end up being late.


I recall a flight in winter, where the passengers were nestled in their seats and we had finished stowing away all the baggage. We were working on final checks when we received information from our chief cabin attendant that we were still waiting for a single passenger. We had to make an announcement to inform the other passengers of our predicament. While our colleagues on the ground triggered a manhunt in the terminal, we tried our best to keep the boarded passengers comfortable and occupied. We distributed beverages, and handed out custom forms while continuing to reassure our passengers that everything was under control. 


After some time, we received word that they had located the passenger. Amusingly, he was in the cafe right in front of the boarding gate, which was also the reason we managed to find him so quickly. The passenger had his headphones on and was nose deep in a book so he did not hear the announcements made throughout the airport or realise that his flight had called for boarding. When he finally boarded the aircraft, we helped him to settle down as quickly as we could and thankfully, we were able to keep to our promise of an on-time arrival at our destination.


I often tell my foreign passengers to be at the airport early to explore Jewel Changi Airport. (Image credit: JAL / Kawaguchi)


Most airports have numerous amenities to keep their guests entertained, so it’s easy for anyone to get lost in the moment. If it’s your first time visiting the airport, be sure to get there at least 2 hours before your flight so you can scout out the location of your boarding gate and ensure you have ample time to clear the various checkpoints. Also remember to keep your headphones and earphones off so you can hear any announcements about your flight clearly! 


3. Have you left anything behind?

Have you checked around your seat and in the overhead compartments? (Image credit: Safe Travel Guide / Unsplash)


The panic and sense of dread when you realise that you have misplaced something is one of the worst feelings. Unfortunately for these passengers, they left behind something quite unexpected.


July marks the start of the summer vacation which kicks off a marathon of fully booked flights. Young families on their first vacations, couples on a romantic honeymoon, and throngs of excited school children on school trips. After a smooth 13-hour flight, we landed in gorgeous New York City. We made the necessary checks, opened the cabin doors and cheerfully bid goodbye to our passengers.


Flying with children can be fun (Image credit: Hanson Lu / Unsplash)


When all the passengers had disembarked the aircraft, we performed the usual wasuremono (忘れ物) sweep where we lookout for anything that may have been left behind. Checking around the seats, I stopped in my tracks when I saw a young child staring back at me. I briefly recalled what her parents looked like, having been in charge of that aisle. After checking if she was uninjured, I scooped her up and walked briskly towards the cabin doors. Luckily, her panicked parents were already running through the skybridge and I was able to reunite them. It is never easy travelling with young children. For this family, it was extra challenging as they had to juggle three children, an infant, and numerous baggage. 


I love seeing the happy faces of children onboard when I bring these to them (Image credit: JAL / Ishikawa)


At Japan Airlines, we aim to help alleviate any added anxiety you might experience when travelling with young children. A bassinet for children under 10.5kg is available with reservation.


Our international flights are stocked with Baby Kits which contain milk powder, rice crackers suitable for babies, purees, instant porridge and many more. If you ever find yourself running out of snacks for your child, remember to check with your cabin attendants. All our lavatories are fitted with a diaper changing station. We also have baby diapers should you need extra.


Find out more about the services we provide for families travelling with their babies and small children here.


(Image credit: Photo by Yu / Unsplash) 


Reading these stories, some of you might think that these were the “good times”, pre-pandemic, and that it would be nearly impossible to return to those days. While the pandemic has shaped the way we fly, rest assured that Japan Airlines is doing all we can to undertake new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For our efforts under the JAL FlySafe initiative, we have been recognized with two prestigious awards, the SKYTRAX 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating and the APEX Diamond Award. Both awards are the highest in airline safety and hygiene ratings within their respective categories. 


Travelling is one of life’s greatest pleasures and it rewards us with experiences that we will always treasure. While we might not be able to fly as freely now, I hope to someday serve you onboard a Japan Airlines flight and be a part of those precious travel memories. 


Header image credit: Tango Tsuttie / Unsplash


Crew’s Profile

Japan Airlines' Cabin Attendant Alva

Alva has a passion for sourcing unique and delicious foods from all over the world. She plans to travel to the ends of the world to try everything at least once.


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