Browsing Tag: Behind the Scenes

This ramp area may look messy, but it is like controlled chaos... kind of.  Photo:

This ramp area may look messy, but it is like controlled chaos… kind of – Photo: AirlineReporter

Out in the aviation world, there are a few different people who always take the blame for anything airline-related. If you are inside the terminal, the customer service staff always take the brunt of any little problem. If it’s onboard the aircraft, the blame is given to the flight attendants. But if something happens to your checked baggage, then all the blame is placed squarely on the ramp agent (more commonly known as a ’œramper’).

I was a ramp agent, and I can tell you right now that sometimes that blame should not come to me.  Sure, there are times that they should take the blame, but not always. Working the ramp is not an easy job, and I am going to debunk a couple of myths that surround life under the wing.

Fresh mini pretzels await packaging.

Fresh mini pretzels await packaging

King Nut and Summer Harvest: If you’ve ever enjoyed an airline snack at 35,000 feet and inspected the wrapper, chances are you are familiar with one, or both, of these name brands. They, alongside Peterson Nut Co., make up the King Nut Companies family. As a fan of the airline industry, and the companies that support it, I’ve long been familiar with King Nut, and have spotted their products on numerous airlines. Plus, here at AirlineReporter, we love telling the behind-the-scenes stories of the airline world.

A few years back, I was excited to learn that they sometimes sell direct to the public the same airline-branded snacks I’ve come to know, love, and expect up in the air. I’ve made it a habit to occasionally place orders with them online in order to bring AvGeek-themed snacks to various gatherings; we even had their product at my son’s airline-themed birthday party.

A sack of honey roasted peanuts passes through an X-ray

A sack of honey roasted peanuts passes through an X-ray machine

I guess you could say I’m nuts for King Nut (you knew at some point I had to make that joke – figured I should get it out of the way). And while I’m a fan of their products, I never took the time to really learn about what it takes to get these snacks into the hands (and bellies) of passengers.

That opportunity presented itself recently, when I was in the Cleveland area on business. It just so happens that the King Nut facilities are less than a mile from one of my company’s offices in Solon, Ohio. I reached out to Mr. Martin Kanan, President and Chief Executive Officer, to see about a tour and for a chance to learn about their company – he was happy to do so. Sit back, relax, grab some snacks, and prepare to drool over some seriously tasty snackage photos and facts’¦

Our TAM Airbus A320 at Congonhas-São Paulo Airport

Our TAM Airbus A320 at Congonhas-São Paulo Airport

In Part 1 of my trip I talked about the process of getting to Brazil and went over the first day of the media trip. I had just spent my one and only night in Brazil, and was in the hotel lobby at 4:30am local time to start day two. Bring it!

At this point, I was definitely feeling the lack of sleep. I had used all the coffee packets in my hotel room. The first thing of the day was for us to head to Sao Paulo’s secondary airport, Congonhas-São Paulo Airport (CGH), which was only 15 minutes away from the hotel. Our destination? Leite Lopes Airport (RAO), then about an hour’s drive to TAM’s Museum and Maintenance facility (MRO).

This was exciting for me for a number of reasons. First off, just being able to see the Museum and MRO, of course. But also, this was going to be the first time that I had ever flown on a non-US domestic flight. It seemed weird to me and thinking about it at 5am, I thought that I might had missed a memory, but nope, this was the first time and something to check off the ol’ AvGeek to-do list.

CGH is a small airport. This made it easy to get checked in and to our gate. Originally the flight was to depart from a remote gate, meaning boarding from the tarmac (yay), but at the last minute, it was changed to a real gate (boo). TAM originally had us three journalists (me, Jason Rabinowitz and Cynthia Drescher) seated together. No good. Not that we don’t like each other (we actually get along quite lovely), however we each wanted out own window seats. Luckily the flight was not that booked and we made it happen.

Hanging out on a safety slide next to the TAM pool. Lots of funny jokes about pushing me in

Hanging out on a safety slide next to the TAM pool. Lots of funny jokes about pushing me in.

Who flies 15,000 miles to just spend one night in a foreign country? This guy!

I was recently invited to Sao Paulo to take a look a behind the scenes look at TAM Airlines’ operations. When invited, my first thought was, “hell yes,” but once seeing that I would be flying 15,000 miles for one night in Brazil, I felt that there might be some challenges (and lack of sleep). But was it worth it? I wasn’t sure at first. So, I decided to take you behind-the-scenes of the behind-the-scenes trip — what is it like to do a media trip in such a short amount of time.

Lots of miles, lots of things to do, not a lot of sleep - Image:

Lots of miles, lots of things to do, not a lot of sleep – Image:

The media schedule was cram-packed of activities and not too much time to sleep. I would fly from Seattle to New York in economy (well, premium economy on the way home), then take the red-eye on TAM from New York’s JFK to São Paulo’“Guarulhos International Airport, and then take another red eye back to the US. With such a short trip, this meant that I needed to do the best I could to rest when possible, keep hydrated, and heck, why not have some fun too.

When I take these media trips, I think most of my friends and family visualize me on the beach or next to a pool with a nice drink (probably one with an umbrella in it) and it is all wine and dine. These media trips are VERY different than that, but it doesn’t mean that I do not love them. Even though there is a lot of fun in doing them, I am on a job and doing work. Sometimes, that means pushing through when all my body wants to do is shut down. This trip put me to the test.

TAM Airlines' flight training area - with pool

TAM Airlines’ flight training area – with pool

By now, I have been to a few airline flight attendant training facilities and I am always in awe with what is similar and what is different. What I liked most about TAM’s training facility was they let us get really hands-on with the experience. Not just learn about what their different training devices can do, but we got to experience them first-hand.

The outside of TAM's training facility located in Sao Paulo

The outside of TAM’s training facility, located in Sao Paulo

Although visiting an airline’s training facility can be quite fun for a visitor, there is no question that the facility is designed to train flight attendants on how to save lives.

Everytime I go to one of these facilities, I am reminded how flight attendants have complex  jobs. Many see them as glorified waiters and waitresses, but they are anything but.

My only regret for this trip — I didn’t bring my bathing suit for the pool!