Sunday, June 07, 2020

Crew cut: When coronavirus changes flight plan

New Delhi: The last time Piyanka Chakraborty, senior cabin crew member with SpiceJet, flew in March, the novel coronavirus was an emerging threat in India and flyers had started using masks and hand sanitisers, but weren’t as cautious as today. For two months after that, with the implementation of the nationwide lockdown, she spent time indoors. On Monday, she returned to work. But two months had ushered in a lot of changes. For one, she is required to don a personal protection equipment suit throughout the flight. And then, she doesn’t hand out food trays to passengers, only making her only rounds in the aisle to serve water.

Chakraborty, 26, has been flying for almost eight years now. Her inherent composure as a sky attendant has helped her take the new requirements in stride. "I was nervous to be back, but also more excited than normal," she says. "As soon as I got the roster for the flights this week, I showed it to my mother-in-law, telling her how I would be back in the skies. No matter what the circumstances, you cannot take away the flyer in you."

She has now been on flights to Srinagar and Bengaluru. On Wednesday night, she flew back home to Delhi from Bengaluru. Comfort and ‘looking good’ have taken a back seat, the focus of air cabin crews now being on safety — for themselves and the passengers. She has cut down on the hour she earlier spent on getting ready. "I love dressing up and doing my hair and make-up before each flight, but that isn’t needed now. I make do with basic eye-liner and lip gloss. We sanitise ourselves and then get into PPE suits," she smiles.
Chakraborty finds it slightly suffocating in the protective gear, especially in hot weather, but she is getting used to it. "We spend most of our time in the galley these days. We only walk down occasionally to give water and ask flyers if they have any other requirement," she says. She is relieved that passenger behaviour seems to have changed since March. "They would not listen when we asked them earlier to put on the seatbelts," she points out. "In the recent flights, I have not seen a single passenger cribbing about anything. Perhaps people realise the gravity of the situation and no one wants to create trouble. They must be grateful to be able to return home."
The Faridabad resident is grateful for both her husband, who is based in Qatar, and her brother-in-law being in the aviation industry. "We are all involved with airlines or flying. We know what is required and constantly share our experiences," she says.
07/06/20 Jasjeev Gandhiok/Times of India

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