Dutch cabin crew attendant, Sandra Eckebus, poses for a picture.
Dutch cabin crew attendant, Sandra Eckebus, poses for a picture.

A flight attendant’s take on returning to the skies and what travellers should know

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Oct 13, 2020

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With SA’s Covid-19 lockdown dropping to level 1, most flights have resumed, a decision welcomed by airlines and cabin crew.

Gripes around certain countries on the red list, aside, travellers are also elated to be dusting off those passports.

Meanwhile, we caught up with a seasoned flight attendant to find out how they feel about being able to return to the skies once again.

Sandra Eckebus has been an air hostess with KLM airline for 24 years.

She offered: “I started at the age of 21, actually out of coincidence because I was looking for a job near Amsterdam. From the moment I started at KLM, I knew for sure, this is the company I want to work for and working in the sky is perfect for me. Then Covid-19 came along and everything became very different - my job suddenly became insecure.”

With flights being grounded for several months, it impacted equally hard on her as it did the airline.

Eckebus admitted: “The impact of Covid-19 is enormous. The future of the company is uncertain and it affects you a lot, mentally. Last year, we celebrated KLM's 100th anniversary and everything went well. The flights were always fully booked. Then Covid-19 came and suddenly you are at home. It was astounding to see what was happening to the world.”

At the time, she grew accustomed to being asked about when she would be flying again. Two and a half months later, it finally happened.

“From the beginning of April, I was allowed to only fly a few times, six, I think,” she offered. “Being back in the sky feels like coming home again. I am very happy that flying is picking up a little bit again and that I am getting more flights on my schedule. Sometimes I have to think back to the time when I just flew and eagerly looked forward to the next flight, which is now a bit the same again when I get an addition to my flight schedule on Wednesday.”

While grateful to be able to return to doing what she loves best, it was different as there were new protocols in place.

Eckebus making the most of some downtime before Covid-19 hit.

She explained: “Now that we are flying a bit more and Covid-19 is not under control yet, we are dealing with protocols that are very strict. Every country has different measures that we must adhere to and it changes all the time due to changing circumstances. For example, we have to complete a health declaration form for each destination and even do a preventive Covid test for some destinations. Of course, we all wear a face mask as soon as we get together as a crew, during the entire flight and we keep enough distance from each other and from passengers where we can.

“Flying to destinations is, of course, not like it used to be. Some destinations have travel warnings for us and we may enter as a crew, but will have to adhere to the rules that are imposed on us. Think of airport hotels so that we do not have to travel into the city to go to our trusted hotel and, at some destinations, we are not allowed to leave our hotel room for the duration of our stay. Face masks are actually mandatory everywhere as soon as you leave the room. It is all a lot less pleasant but, hopefully, it is temporary and we can soon toast again to the end of a well-run, busy flight with pleasant passengers.”

She also had a few useful tips for travellers, too.

Eckebus shared: “Don’t be afraid to travel. We do everything we can to make it run safely. Try to surrender to the fact that a mouth mask is currently a requirement to safely make a flight together. Limit walking and toilet use and wash your hands a lot. We try to give passengers a bit more space on less occupied flights. This is often already done by the ground staff. KLM is very serious and strict about the directives in place in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Also, make sure you carry enough face masks yourself. Traveling is no longer the same. Therefore, make sure that you read all the information carefully and that you have completed all the mandatory forms, before departure.”

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