A bumpy ride – It’s all about being fit for flight

After 3.5 years on the ground, keeping busy with a full-time job as a mother of three, it takes a while before the body gets used to working up in the air again. I had a rough start and did not take proper notice of the warning signs. Early check-ins, long flights and short layovers at airport hotels. Constant sleep deprivation and then back home, where three kids and a husband struggled with adjusting to the fact that the person who usually took care of everything from cleaning and laundry to grocery shopping, suddenly wasn’t there all the time.

Especially the uncertainty regarding when I was coming home again was hard to handle for my two youngest kids. I myself had to get used to sleeping in hotel beds again, alone. Getting up early, making sure I had enough to eat and drink, and then there was flying.

I have always loved flying, but turbulence makes me tired and sometimes even a bit airsick. Though I have never really been affected by it, and I have never been afraid of flying. Not until last Monday, on a flight to Nice. I was checking in to the flight after a bad night’s sleep at an airport hotel in Oslo. After Nice, I was going back to Copenhagen, so it was a relatively short working day, just four hours and then I was off again.

I skipped breakfast and decided to take a quick nap at one of the chairs in the airport instead. Then I was fit to fly. At least that was what I thought. 

The flight was full, so it took around an hour before we had finished meal service and I could finally sit down and get something to eat. Ding-dong from flight deck. They wanted to tell us that in 10 minutes we could expect turbulence. They would switch on the seat belt signs and we could expect to be seated for the rest of the flight (45 minutes). But…I was supposed to eat. Hmmm. No time for food, just a few sips of water before I had to go and make sure that everything in the galley was secured, the trolleys were stowed, and the passengers had fastened their seatbelts. Then I rushed back to the galley to sit down and buckle up.  

The turbulence was really severe. I know that the unstable air over the Alps often results in a bumpy ride, and it was certainly the case this morning. I felt sick immediately, cold sweating and nauseated. My dear colleague seated next to me handed me a paper bag in case I needed it. I tried to drink some water and breathe as calmly and deeply as possible, but the turbulence just went on and on, so I told my colleague to call the purser and say that I was not feeling well.

I asked my colleague if he would mind changing seats, so I could sit facing forward instead, and he assisted me in getting from my seat to his seat. While all this was happening, all these thoughts were running through my head. “What am I doing here? Why am I feeling like this? Am I having a heart attack? Am I about to faint? Is Lasse going to be a single dad?” Breathe Anne-Mette, breathe and think. What would you do in case a passenger fell sick on board? Oxygen! Of course! I had a colleague help me get an oxygen bottle and took a deep breath. Yuck! It didn’t taste very nice. Then he suggested that I ate something. I had some apple juice and it helped a little.

Now we were finally landing. Thank god! I would soon be back on solid ground again, breathing fresh air. The touchdown was hard and seconds after, we were on our way up in the air again. No, no, no. What happened to solid ground and fresh air? Turned out we had made a so-called go-around because of a sudden strong wind gust, the first officer later explained. So back up in the turbulent air for another 20 minutes before we could start a new approach. This time the landing went well, and we were finally in Nice. A doctor came to check on me and I was told to stay in Nice until I felt better, but I really wanted to go home, so they let me travel home as a passenger in the front of the airplane and with clear instructions on seeing a doctor when I got back to Copenhagen.

After another bumpy ride I was finally home. Exhausted, tired and with a lesson learned: Fatigue is no joke. It is crucial to get sufficient sleep and enough to eat, especially before a flight. Also remember that there is a big difference between what the body can handle on an ordinary Monday back home, and how it reacts after being tossed around on a turbulent flight, when you haven’t eaten nor slept sufficiently. It is all about being fit for flight. As cabin crew, we have to be alert and prepared for an emergency situation at any time, something I wasn’t last Monday.

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