A PAN AM Thanksgiving Tale
We departed Los Angeles on time and took off over the beach at El Segundo into a setting sun—destination London.
We survived the drinks service, the dinner service, and then we dimmed the lights and started the movie. All the screens behaved and descended as they should, and all the projectors actually functioned and didn’t melt down.
We flew through the night and I remember walking through the cabin offering orange juice and water to absolutely no one. Everyone was sleeping. Some snoring. No babies crying. Seatbelts fastened over the blankets so we could check them. Clipper socks donned. Eye shades in place.
It was a picture postcard crossing of the pond.
A couple of hours out, we turned up the cabin lights to start the breakfast service. It went without a hitch. We served seconds on coffee and tea, and passengers soon flocked to the lavatories.
After we cleared the cabin, I went to my jump seat and peered out and down below as we crossed over the Irish coast and then the west coast of England. This always my favourite part of the trip: it was still pitch black out, no light in the sky, but I could see the glow from the sodium lights twinkling in all the little storybook villages.
As we crossed over Cornwall and Devon, my view of the twinkling lights was blocked by an annoying ground fog.
During our descent into Heathrow, the captain made an announcement: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, there’s a fair amount of fog this morning and we’re going to hold until it clears.”
We circled for an hour.
It started to get light.
We circled some more.
Then the captain came on again: “The fog is not lifting so we’re going to divert to Paris. We’ll refuel and the minute London opens back up, we’ll be in the air and back on our way.”
We flew to Paris but were placed in a holding pattern thanks to the many other diverted flights.
Eventually, we touched down at Aéroport Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, and were directed to an area of the airport where there were no jet bridges. We shut down the engines. No one was allowed to leave the aircraft.
We served orange juice and water to our passengers.
And we waited.
And we ran out of orange juice and water and anything to eat.
Even the peanuts.
Our passengers, who had been well behaved up until now, started to grumble. We endeavoured to keep them in the loop and informed. We did this through numerous announcements and staying visible. Easy to be annoyed with a disembodied voice coming over the intercom, less so with a smiley face at your seat.
It was early evening when London opened back up. Imminent departure always gave you a shot of adrenaline and with an end to this marathon in sight, the passengers re-found their sense of humour.
We took off and flew fifty-two minutes to London. And were immediately put in a holding pattern. Everyone wanted back in and we weren’t the first.
And we held.
Finally given the clearance to land.
And the fog came back.
We held for an eternity, and then finally I saw the River Thames down below. An announcement was made that we had been cleared to land.
Our “flight time” from L.A. to London: 23½ hours.
It was Thanksgiving Day.
Finally at our layover hotel, the Sheraton Skyline had laid on a glorious, scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings for our shattered, famished, VERY THANKFUL crew.
Happy Thanksgiving Pan Amers!
An extract from the just published book - PAN AM: No Sex Please, We're Flight Attendants