Insecticide set off Smoke Detector

callington-20top-20of-20descent-250x250The regulations for some countries we fly to require we spray the cabin with an insecticide before we can land there. I was operating a flight to Cuba the other day, which is one of these countries.

I’ve done this procedure countless times. I spray around the forward ground level exits, the forward lav, and the galley areas. I then head down the aisle, spraying near the floor level in bursts between passenger rows (to minimize any discomfort to the pax). In the back of the plane again I spray the around the ground level exits, the galley and the lavs.

This usually uses up most of the two full cans of spray, which is the requirement for the 737-800. I’ll usually have a little bit of pressure in the cans, which I’ll just discharge into a garbage.

But the other day I still had quite a bit left when I got to the back of the plane. One of the lavs was occupied, so I sprayed extra into the other lav while I was waiting.

I’m still waiting on the back galley when suddenly I hear a loud chiming noise “Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!…” I look around and see the lavatory notification light is blinking. The smoke detector is going off. Immediately I know what’s happened. I open the lavatory door and see the space is still fogged with the insecticide, and it’s gotten into the smoke detector which sensed the tiny particles. The alarm is still going off, “Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!”. All the passengers are looking back at me trying to figure out what’s happening. I’m fanning the lav with it’s own door and repeatedly trying to flush the toilet, trying to use the suction from it to get rid of all the fog.

After what was probably only a few seconds, I realize I need to call the forward galley, and have that flight attendant inform the flight deck what’s happening. I press the call button on the interphone, but I can’t hear it “ring”. The ringing on the interphone is a “ding dong” chime in the cabin, but with the consistent “Ding! Ding! Ding!” from the smoke detector I couldn’t hear it.

However both the flight attendant and the pilots were already on the line. They’d been calling me and I couldn’t hear it. As soon as I said, “Hi, it’s Jet” the pilot said, “We have a fire indication in the flight deck! What’s going on?!”

I proceeded to explain the spray and the lav, which raised a whole bunch of other questions. “Why are you spraying the cabin? Why the lavs? Shouldn’t that be done before the flight?”

“Are you sure there’s no fire!? Jet, ARE YOU SURE?”

“Yes, I’m looking into the lav right now! There’s no smoke, only fog. And it’s dissipating.”

During all this the spray fog has begun to dissipate the the alarm was stopping. It went through a short period of stopping and restarting, but after a minute it finally shut off when it stopped sensing any particles in the air.

I continued to explain and reexplain the the procedure. We must spray the entire aircraft, including galleys and lavs, after the doors are closed and before we land into Cuba. Apparently the pilots have never been made aware of this.

After it was all over and I hung up the interphone, and looked into the cabin. Everyone was looking back at me.

Silently I picked up my bug sprays and used up the remainder of the cans doing short bursts up the aisle, into the forward galley, where I closed the curtain behind me. The pax went back to watching their movie.

All the while I’m thinking, “how am I going to explain all this in my flight report?”.

I ended up submitting a single line;
“Insecticide set off smoke detector.”



8 Converstations with Pax and Crew

Here are some weird, occasionally funny conversations I’ve had on the plane. A couple of these have taken place several times, but most of them are one-offs.

  1. What Language is that?
    Why is there French on the plane?
    This is a Canadian airline. We have to use both official languages.
    But we’re flying from [any city not in Quebec]! Who the hell speaks French? 
    Half the Crew and several other passengers: I do.

  2. Why do I have to rent a blanket? What airline rents blankets? This is ridiculous.
    I’m not sure where you got that impression. You have to purchase the blanket kit, but it’s yours to keep.
    Yeah well, since when do airline’s charge for blankets?
    Wanted to say: Since SARS.
    Actually said: Most airlines charge for blanket kits, they have for a long time.

  3. *I’m collecting garbage in the cabin when a passenger hands me an empty pop can*
    *I twist the can and press it down into a puck before putting it in the gash cart*
    Wow, you’re really strong.
    Oh that? People are impressed by it, but I think it’s just Soda-Pressing.

  4. (On a flight from Cuba) Can I ask you a hypothetical question?
    If I brought cigars with me, can I take them into the country?
    Yes, of course. Cuban Cigars are completely legal in Canada.
    Well, I have a connecting flight back to the USA.
    Oh. Cuban cigars are illegal in the States.
    So I shouldn’t tell them I have them?
    Are you asking me if I think you should break the law?
    Hypothetically, you should not break the law.

  5. Can I use my cell phone?
    Yeah, as long as it’s in airplane mode.
    But I want to make a call.
    You can’t.
    Why not?
    Mostly because we’re at 35,000 feet. There’s no cell phone service this high up. But also because it’s a safety requirement. You’re not allowed to use devices that are sending or receiving a signal.
    But why not? I want to make a call.
    I’m… I’m not sure how to better explain this.

  6. *Over the PA* “…please remain seated until the aircraft comes to a full and complete stop at the gate, and most importantly the seat-belt sign must be switched off.”
    *Plane stops short of the gate. Seat-belt sign is still on* Everyone stands up.
    “What did I just say?”

  7. *Pilot steps out of the flight deck, looks into the cabin, and turns off the lights*
    What are you doing?
    The lights don’t need to be on.
    We need the lights to do our service.
    But the lights should be off.
    They actually shouldn’t be. Not according to the service guide.
    Well they’re better off.
    Okay, well if you’d like to make that call you can apply to be a cabin manager and then play with the lights all you like. Until then I’ll decide what’s best for the cabin crew.

  8. Can I have a vodka, please?

Welcome to Freeport

WP_000556 Upon landing in Freeport we turned off the runway. As we entered the taxi way I noticed the passengers began murmuring things like “what’s going on?” and “is it raining?”. I looked out my window just in time to see us taxing past the firetrucks. It was instantly clear to me what had just happened. I waited for our Cabin Manager to make an announcement, and when no announcement came I picked up the interphone myself and said,

“Ladies and Gentlemen, you may have noticed that we just received a water canon salute. This is because you are arriving on [Name Redacted] Airline’s inaugural flight to Grand Bahama Island from western Canada. Thank you, and once again welcome to Freeport.”

WP_000559At the terminal they literally unrolled the red carpet for us. As our passengers disembarked, they walked down the carpet and were greeted by a number of officials from Freeport. Television crews were filming our arrival; this was a big deal. There was even a marching band playing for us!

Inside the terminal our passengers were given free drinks (Bahama Mama’s!) as a toast, welcoming them to Grand Bahama Island.


WP_000553 (2)Once all of our passengers had disembarked, we as crew came down and met the officials and took a few quick photos. A few of us went inside as well to visit the duty free store. They offered us drinks as well, however since we were in uniform we enjoyed only the fruit punch instead of the Bahama Mamas.

Being an inaugural flight, we had no passengers to take home. So as soon as everyone was off, the airport authority rolled up the red carpet. Once the crew returned to the aircraft and we finished fueling we took off back to Vancouver. It’s a shame, I would have loved to stay for a layover. Maybe I’ll get the chance sometime this winter. Fingers Crossed!


as filmed by the pilot

Red Carpet, Marching Band, TV crews!
I’d like to thank my whole crew for supplying me with the photos they took! Unfortunately the airline either didn’t know FPO was going to give us a red carpet welcome, or they just didn’t tell the operating crew. I would have brought my good camera if I had known.

Food Poisoning: Sick in the Sky

Warning: In this post I talk about my food poisoning. It gets somewhat graphic.


food_poisoning1It’s a 6 day pairing staying in various cities in Canada, Cuba, and Mexico. These kinds of pairings are very tiring and it’s pretty easy to get sick.

I was staying in Edmonton when I first started feeling a little off. The previous day I had flown in from a layover in Cuba and this wasn’t the first time I’ve had… umm… digestive issues after staying in a tropical destination. For that reason I wasn’t too concerned when the symptoms started up. They usually pass pretty quickly. I’d also had a pretty busy day with my crew. I’d met them for brunch and gone to the movies with them as well. I also spent a good amount of time running errands and planning for my upcoming vacation. I’d eaten a lot that day and told myself that all of these could be contributing factors.

I continued my routine for the day. I even went out to get a haircut before meeting my crew for dinner.

After dinner I went back to my room to go to bed and that’s when things began to get pretty bad.

I won’t get into too much detail but I’ll tell you that I was in and out of the washroom pretty much all night. Eventually I did manage to go to bed, but I think I got about 3 hours of sleep total before it was time to get up, put my uniform on, and head to the lobby to meet the crew.

I should have called in sick. But for some reason I kept telling myself that I didn’t have enough time to book off without delaying the flight. I needed to be a team player. (Keep in mind we were in Edmonton. There was no other crew there. If I called in sick, the flight would have been delayed at LEAST 4 or 5 hours since they’d have needed to call someone in from Vancouver.)

So I got ready. Sort of. As soon as I got out of bed that morning I was in the washroom again. I’d get up, start to brush my teeth, and then go back to the washroom. I swear I was on the toilet every 5 minutes. I was passing food from the night before and it was undigested.

It was painful.

I’d be on the toilet saying to myself, “Okay. I’m booking off. As soon as I can get up.” But as soon as I was up I felt better and would decide “No. I’m fine now. I’ll work the flight.”

This went on for 30 minutes. I was shaking. I was exhausted. I felt like I might fall apart. Finally I called my Cabin Manager’s room. I was going to tell him I’d be booking off. Unfortunately he didn’t answer. He was already in the lobby. I decided that meant it was too late to be sick. I composed myself, finished getting ready, and went down to the lobby.

Through some miracle my constant need to be near a washroom subsided. When I met up with my Cabin Manager I told him I wasn’t feeling well, but I didn’t tell him how bad it had been.

From the hotel to the airplane I was more or less fine. Tired, untalkative, a little pale, but otherwise fine. I completed my pre-flight checks, we loaded our passengers, and we took off. It wasn’t until we were in the air that the second wave hit me. This time was different though. I spent a little time in the lavatory, but there wasn’t anything left in me.

Instead I just kept experiencing really bad abdominal pain. The first time it hit I was in the galley. It was so painful all I could do was sit in the jump-seat, hold my abdomen, and lean forward until my head touched my knees. It was so bad I couldn’t work. I’d be in the aisle with a cart, and it would strike. I couldn’t focus on anything but the pain. All I’d manage to do is look up at the other Flight Attendant across the cart and say to her “I’ll be right back”. I’d hold my composure until I got to the galley and again I’d go straight to the jump-seat where I’d hold myself, lean forward, and wait for the pain to pass.

It turned out that our Captain was having the same issues as well. Although his symptoms didn’t start until that morning at the airport. Around the time I started getting the abdominal pain, he was getting hit with the diarrhea. He spent much of his flight in and out of the forward lavatory. Luckily it was our First Officer who was actually flying the plane that day. Otherwise we’d probably have diverted.

My pains came and went in waves. It went on for about 3 hours. I’d tried taking Pepto but it did nothing. It was awful. The only thing that provided any relief was ginger ale. After a bar service there was a half can about to be dumped and I decided I needed to drink something so I took it. It settled my stomach enough that I was actually able to get up and help a little bit with the services. I called up the Captain and recommended he have some ginger ale as well.

From that point things got easier. By the time we’d landed in Cancun the abdominal pain was much more mild and infrequent. By the next morning it was nearly gone all together. It would no longer affect my fitness to fly.

Sadly we couldn’t say the same for the poor Captain. Even the next day he was still very ill. He called in sick from Cancun. Luckily the crew bringing in the aircraft for our flight out of Cancun was deadheading back. We were able to take one of their pilots and bring the plane home without a delay.

When I got back to Vancouver I filed an incident report with the company over what happened. As it turned out the Captain and I had eaten the same crew meal which was evidently improperly prepared. It was a chicken crew meal that had been catered to us in Cuba. The plane we picked up in Cuba was scheduled to sit on the ground – in the heat – for about 4 hours before we arrived to take it to Edmonton. So instead of catering the return meals in Canada, my airline contracted a company in Cuba to provide our meals in order to (ironically) prevent the crew from getting food poisoning.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson from this, of course: If I’m sitting on the toilet thinking to myself, “Should I book off?”, then the answer is, “Yes, you stupid food poisoned moron.”


Champagne Spill

champagneMy airline is famous for offering a small glass of sparkling wine when you fly out at the start of your vacation. While some people complain that the glass is too small, and others that the champagne is “too cheap”, most people genuinely enjoy the experience and appreciate the fact that we offer it as a complimentary service.

That is unless I spill an entire tray of it on your lap. While you’re sleeping.

Here’s what happened;
We had a gentleman traveling with his mother. They were pre-boarded to the aircraft, as the mother needed to be carried to her seat. She was more or less completely unable to walk on her own. When I came through with my tray of champagne and offered her a glass, I realized she (who was seated at the window seat) was unable to slide or lean over to take the glass from me. As I was trying to be accommodating, I leaned over her son to allow her to take the glass. All the while (and unbeknownst to me) the tray is tilting more and more until suddenly all the glasses tipped at once onto her son who was previously sleeping soundly in the aisle seat.

Naturally he woke up shocked and startled.

After my own initial shock I apologized profusely and ran to the galley to get him as much paper towel as possible. The next 10 minutes or so just consists of me getting him fresh paper towel, taking away used paper towel, and occasionally apologizing further.

At one point I even noticed his sandals contained puddles of sparkling wine. When I saw this I threw on a pair of plastic gloves, took them back to the galley, and did my best to rinse them out.

I felt so bad.

Luckily he was very nice. I don’t think he got mad at all, although he was upset. Naturally.
Once I had him all cleaned up, or at least as clean as possible, I apologized one last time. I also let him know if he wanted anything from the bar it would be on me.

From then on he was fine. Although I still felt bad about it. I’ve never spilled a tray before, even during turbulence.  At that moment I was just glad we serve our sparkling wine in plastic cups as opposed to glass.
Funny enough I flew him and his mother home the next week. Needless to say I didn’t go anywhere near either of them with any trays on that flight.