Cabin Fever: The Sizzling Secrets of a Virgin Airlines Flight Attendant

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9780147515988: Cabin Fever: The Sizzling Secrets of a Virgin Airlines Flight Attendant

In the tradition of Waiter Rant, a saucy look at life behind the beverage cart

Ever since Coffee, Tea or Me? was first published in the swinging sixties, the reading public has been enamored with stewardesses. In Cabin Fever, former Virgin Atlantic flight attendant Mandy Smith updates the genre, sharing the good, the bad, and the downright naughty about life in the air.

Smith’s jet-setting job took her to many exotic locations, and on the way she enjoyed plenty of steamy love affairs—even joining the Mile High Club. Whether she’s performing CPR on a pilot mid-flight or sipping Manhattans in the Big Apple, Cabin Fever provides plenty of risqué in-flight entertainment!

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About the Author:

MANDY SMITH worked in the office of the engineering department for Virgin Atlantic before she became a flight attendant. She lives in West Sussex.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PROLOGUE

CAN ANYBODY FLY A PLANE?

It’s not often the captain of a Boston-bound 747-400 collapses two hours before landing, but when he does, it causes one hell of a problem, especially when you’re trying to serve afternoon tea to the tipsy Gin and Tonic Brigade in Premium Economy and maintain a pristine “nothing fazes me” cabin crew smile. He went down just outside the flight deck door—in full view of passengers sitting in the first few rows—clutching his chest, eyes rolling, bald head glazed with sweat as he crumpled to his knees then smashed face-down onto the floor.

Within seconds the cabin erupted into chaos, sparked by a half-cut woman in her thirties sporting cherry-red dyed hair, who started screaming, “Oh my God, the pilot’s dead,” before hyperventilating and waking up the man next to her, who’d managed to nod off after enduring almost six hours of her repetitive, drunken chat about her fear of flying and a “bastard” ex-boyfriend called Wayne.

She’d been necking red wine from the moment the seatbelt signs had gone out. I’d lost count of the number of times she’d come up to the galley asking for “just one more Merlot to settle my nerves” through magenta-stained lips and teeth. You always get one like her—citing nerves as a convenient excuse to get steamed with the free booze on board. The last glass she’d asked for was “to help with the landing,” which was shortly about to happen . . . with or without the captain, who it would appear had just had a heart attack in front of her.

Gasps and shrieks filled the cabin. People were clambering over seats and clogging the aisle, trying to have a good look at the captain, everybody talking over one another in panicked tones, some of them trying to help by suggesting various first-aid procedures that might work miracles and help the poorly pilot back to his feet. There were two of us working on the upper deck—me and my friend Felicity—and we swung into action at breakneck speed, flashing our bright-red MAC Ruby Woo smiles while assuring passengers, “Everything’s fine.”

On electronic route maps embedded in the backs of 452 passenger seats, blinking red dots edged closer to Boston. Time was of the essence. Felicity was closest to the flight deck, so she rushed to the captain’s aid while I calmly but rapidly wheeled the trolley loaded with sandwiches, scones and rattling pots of tea and coffee back to the galley—a maneuver that got some passengers’ backs up. “Hey, why are you taking the trolley away?” asked one bloke, who had so many miniatures lined up on his fold-down tray, it looked as though he was running a mini off-license from his seat. “I’ll have another G & T, please, love.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” I said. “The bar is now closed. If you wouldn’t mind waiting a moment . . . ?”

Premium Economy is renowned for its challenging passengers—people who can’t quite afford Upper Class but feel they can click their fingers and demand the world, simply because they’ve paid a few hundred quid more than an Economy passenger for a little extra leg room and a slightly bigger seat. That’s why we nicknamed them the Gin and Tonic Brigade: they believe they deserve as many freebies as they can get their hands on, which most often results in them drinking the complimentary bar service dry.

A gradual dragging sensation indicated that our descent had begun. A patch of turbulence was causing a bit of a bump and a bang, setting the woman with the cherry-red hair off on another breakdown. As Felicity attempted to revive our captain, I stowed the cart in the galley and used the intercom to make an emergency public address, using our special coded message. This signaled to the crew not present on the upper deck that we needed immediate assistance, including our defibrillator unit and emergency medical kits.

Seconds later our flight service manager, Jane, called on my intercom. “Defib is on its way to the upper deck,” she said. “Is there anything else you need?”

“The pilot has collapsed,” I said calmly. “Do we have anyone on board who can fly a plane?”

Not that we were about to start running Airplane!-style up and down the aisles begging passengers to jump into the captain’s chair, but we did have a list of off-duty crew on board whom we could surreptitiously approach in the hope that one of them might be a pilot. If not, the air hostesses would need to rely on their pilot-incapacitation training and step in to help with the checklists. Technically, the first officer could land the plane on autopilot, on his own. The danger was, however, if he ran into difficulty on approach, he would need another pair of hands at the controls in order to switch to manual operation.

I left the search for back-up to the guys downstairs, because at that moment my assistance was needed on the upper deck. Our captain was now shielded by a curtain, so I had no idea how he was doing or how the first officer was coping without him. I straightened my neck scarf and strode confidently, with a slight bum wiggle, back up the aisle. I was fully aware that every single person in the cabin was scrutinizing my demeanor with anxious eyes, making sure I was not wearing an expression that screamed, “We’re going to crash.” We know the score: watch the air hostesses, and if we’re not panicking, you know everything is okay. That’s why we look so bloody cheerful all the time. Anyone who thinks being an air hostess is all about serving tea and coffee and looking pretty is kidding themselves. It takes stamina, patience, commitment . . . and a whole load of acting talent.

As I was nearing the end of my aisle strut to assess my passengers’ reactions, two of our more burly stewards came bounding up the staircase and slipped behind the curtain. At the same time, a sweet elderly woman sitting in one of the aisle seats reached up and lightly tapped my arm. “Excuse me, dear,” she said. “How is that poor captain? Will he be okay? Is there anything we can do to help?”

I crouched down to speak to her. She smelled of Murray mints and Palmolive soap and was wearing powder-blue stretchy trousers teamed with a floral top—a typical “Nan abroad” outfit. Her eyes were rheumy and sincere. Thankfully, they’re not all arrogant divas in Premium. Stored in the chair pouch in front of her, next to the laminated 747-400 safety instruction card and token sick bag, was a clear duty-free bag containing a cuddly toy and a giant bar of Toblerone. She was sitting inside an aluminum tube, hurtling toward New England. The plane was descending more rapidly now, bouncing through rainclouds. Very soon the seatbelt sign would illuminate, followed by the double-ding bell instructing crew to prepare the cabin for landing. Downstairs, our colleagues were discreetly being asked, “Do you know how to fly a plane?”

I placed my hand on the woman’s floral shoulder and said, “I’m sure he’ll be fine. This kind of thing happens all the time—he probably got out of his seat too quickly. He’ll just need a little break . . . a cup of tea, maybe a little oxygen.” I pointed at the teddy. “He’s cute,” I said, in an attempt to distract her from the ongoing crisis. “Who’s that for?”

A proud smile lit up her face, instantly knocking a good ten years off her. “It’s for my grandson,” she said. “I’m going to see him for the first time. My son lives in Boston—he’s got ever such a good job—very high up.”

“Oh, how lovely,” I said. “Now, you relax and enjoy the rest of your flight. I’m going to see the captain, so I’ll tell him you were asking after him.” Christ, little does she know what we’re dealing with here, I thought, as I strode toward the flight deck. On a positive note, I noticed that the “nervous wreck” lush had slipped into an alcohol-induced slumber.

In the time it had taken me to park the trolley, make the call to Jane and calm the passengers, Felicity and the two stewards had managed to move the captain to the crew rest area within the flight deck. Felicity emerged from the flight deck just as I arrived at the recess.

“How is he?” I asked.

“Not good, Mandy,” she said, closing the curtain behind us. “We’ve strapped him into one of the bunk beds, attached him to the defibrillator and given him oxygen. The cabin service supervisor is monitoring him now. He’s drifting in and out of consciousness. I think he’s had a bloody heart attack.”

“Have you spoken to the first officer?”

“Yeah, he’s fine. He’s going to land on autopilot, and he can use one of us to do his checklist with. I hope it’s not me. Fingers crossed there won’t be any complications. There’s nothing else he can do really. He hasn’t got a choice.”

I gave Felicity a reassuring hug. “Jane’s going through the crew list as we speak to see if we have any pilots on board,” I said. And then the curtain swished behind us and our problem was solved. It was a junior crew member from Economy, dressed in his uniform tabard, head held high as he announced: “Hi, I’m Ben. I’ve come to help land this plane.” It transpired that young Ben held a private pilot license. And although he didn’t have nearly enough flying hours under his belt to officially land a big jet, his knowledge was sufficient for him to assist the first officer better than we could.

“What took you so long?” joked Felicity, playfully slapping Ben’s bum as he made for the flight deck door. Felicity was Miss Popularity of the airline. She had everything: looks, personality, a Jessica Rabbit figure and, above all, she was an outrageous flirt—far worse than me, and that’s saying something.

“I’ll tell you later, over a beer,” said Ben, flashing Felicity a cheeky wink before disappearing into the cockpit.

With touchdown fast approaching, Felicity relayed the good news to our passengers. She kept the PA brief and light, explaining that the captain was “resting” but another pilot among our crew had taken over from him. It did the trick; her breezy announcement was greeted by a rousing cheer from the cabin. Even the wine monster, who had stirred from her booze coma, managed a half-smile. The double ding rang, the seatbelt signs were illuminated, tray tables were stowed and seats returned to their upward positions. And so began our final descent into Boston Logan International.

It wasn’t the smoothest of landings; a powerful headwind made for a lumpy drop onto the tarmac. But we’d made it. As we taxied to the stand, the weary travelers again cheered and clapped, clearly relieved to be back on terra firma. Their gratitude didn’t last for long, though. Minutes later, many of them appeared to have forgotten about the mid-air drama as they leaped out of their seats and began the usual pushing and shoving to reach the overhead lockers, all desperate to exit the plane, even though the doors were still firmly locked. Some even had the audacity to moan and groan when told they wouldn’t be going anywhere until medics had boarded the aircraft to tend to the captain.

“But I’m claustrophobic,” slurred the lush as her fake Hermès tumbled from her lap, its contents—including a half-eaten, manky Pret A Manger sandwich, mini vibrator and a bottle of Coleen McLoughlin perfume—spilling onto the floor.

We helped the passengers off the plane as swiftly as possible, but Felicity and I remained on board for the best part of an hour, while paramedics stabilized the captain before carrying him off on a stretcher. We later found out he’d suffered a mild heart attack.

With the captain taken care of and a new pilot on his way for tomorrow’s flight, it was time to relax. For the Virgin Atlantic cabin crew, a trip to Boston beckoned, and I had a strong inkling it would be a messy one.

“Jeez,” said Felicity, as we fell into our seats on the crew bus, “that was some flight.”

“Tell me about it,” I said. “Always a drama, eh?”

“Here,” said Felicity, delving into her flight bag and producing two vodka miniatures (courtesy of the lovely Sir Richard Branson), “get this down your neck.”

“Don’t mind if I do.” I giggled, grabbing one of the bottles. “Bottoms up.”

There’s nothing like a good stiff drink after a hard day at the office.

CHAPTER 1

HELLO, DOLLY

When I cast my mind back to one summer night in 1999—the night my then boyfriend, Neil, consumed with jealousy, booze and cocaine, beat me black and blue and left me lying in a bloody heap in a dingy stairwell—I think, God, he did me a favor.

Not that I enjoyed being battered: it was terrifying and humiliating. Nor do I condone domestic abuse; but it was the wake-up call I needed to turn my life around. Bizarrely, Neil knocking ten bells out of me was one of the main reasons I decided to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming an international “trolley dolly.”

Back then, I wasn’t the confident, take-no-prisoners Mandy I am today. I was naive, vulnerable and a hopeful romantic, with the heart on my sleeve throbbing for all to see. At the time I was working as a planning support officer in Virgin’s engineering department in Crawley, West Sussex. I’d moved to the Horsham district not long after my parents, James and Sue, had relocated there from Hartlepool—where I was born and bred—for work. I’d recently graduated from the Hartlepool College of Further Education with a diploma in computer science, but there was little work available in the northeast and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do career-wise. I had no ties, so, on a whim, I accepted a six-month contract at Virgin, which is where I met Neil.

Neil was a charmer at first—the flirtatious IT consultant who found every excuse under the sun to fiddle with my computer. Tall and wiry, with Aegean-blue eyes, he had a chivalrous nature that I instantly warmed to. After several failed relationships, I thought Neil, with his gallant gestures, flowers and compliments, was a great catch. How could I not be beguiled by this seemingly decent, loving man? We dated for about five months. He was a sexual firecracker, and I swear my orgasmic yelps could be heard all over Crawley. Then, within the last few weeks of our relationship, he turned into a psychopath. The change in his demeanor was as though an ugly monster had taken over his soul; it was frightening. He became aggressive, possessive, accusatory, snapping at the tiniest thing, convinced that every other man fancied me. And I began to think I had a genetic defect, as if a warped part of my DNA had programmed me to reject all the good guys and let only the bad ones in. I actually thought I was to blame.

Neil’s final outburst on that sweaty June night came after we left a Jamiroquai gig at the Brighton Centre . . . and moments after I ended our relationship. I’d been looking forward to the concert for months, being a huge Jay Kay fan, but Neil vanished to buy drugs at the start of the gig, leaving me alone in the jostling throng of perspiring revelers. He reappeared near the end—halfway through “Virtual Insanity”—eyes black and vacuous, chewing his bottom lip and snaking his gangly arms around my waist. I tried to shrug him off, but there was no room for maneuvering in the crowd, which was sweeping us from left to right, forward and backward. He was clinging onto me like a stranded swimmer to a buoy.

“Where ...

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Descrizione libro Plume Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the tradition of Waiter Rant, a saucy look at life behind the beverage cart Ever since Coffee, Tea or Me?was first published in the swinging sixties, the reading public has been enamored with stewardesses. In Cabin Fever, former Virgin Atlantic flight attendant Mandy Smith updates the genre, sharing the good, the bad, and the downright naughty about life in the air. Smith s jet-setting job took her to many exotic locations, and on the way she enjoyed plenty of steamy love affairs even joining the Mile High Club. Whether she s performing CPR on a pilot mid-flight or sipping Manhattans in the Big Apple, Cabin Fever provides plenty of risque in-flight entertainment!. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780147515988

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Descrizione libro Plume Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the tradition of Waiter Rant, a saucy look at life behind the beverage cart Ever since Coffee, Tea or Me?was first published in the swinging sixties, the reading public has been enamored with stewardesses. In Cabin Fever, former Virgin Atlantic flight attendant Mandy Smith updates the genre, sharing the good, the bad, and the downright naughty about life in the air. Smith s jet-setting job took her to many exotic locations, and on the way she enjoyed plenty of steamy love affairs even joining the Mile High Club. Whether she s performing CPR on a pilot mid-flight or sipping Manhattans in the Big Apple, Cabin Fever provides plenty of risque in-flight entertainment!. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780147515988

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