CRUISING TO THE CAPITAL: Kazumi Chapa makes her way through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Jan. 31 to catch her flight from Dallas to Austin, Texas.
David Halloran

For flight attendant KAZUMI CHAPA, taking to the sky is a way of life.

Flight attendant Kazumi Chapa didn’t expect to be a flight attendant for long — and certainly not for 25 years. “I thought this was a temporary job,” she says. “But I really love it. I enjoy traveling, I enjoy being with my peers and I enjoy the customers.” Kazumi was kind enough to walk me through her day.

“Our job has really evolved over time, and we’re embracing technology,” she says, explaining that as soon as she arrives at the airport she checks in for her flight using a Galaxy Note tablet, provided by American. “We have to be at the airport at least one hour prior to departure, and it’s much easier now to check in with my tablet and head straight to my plane.”

After checking in with the flight’s gate agent, Kazumi gets right to work. “I greet the other crew members, get a quick briefing from the captain and then start checking the emergency equipment,” she says. “We’re not only customer-service professionals but safety and security professionals as well.” After checking the firefighting equipment, the defibrillator and other medical supplies, she heads to the galley.

“When we bid for flights, we also bid our position for the month,” she explains. Each flight attendant is assigned a position, which varies slightly depending on aircraft type, but typically, on a narrow-body aircraft, one flight attendant works First Class and two work in the Main Cabin. “Generally, I like to fly galley, so I’m responsible for setting up service for the flight.

“I have a certain way of setting up my cart, and after awhile you learn what you’ll need for certain flights. For instance, going to Florida, we go through a lot of soda, but going to Orange County, Calif., we go through more bottled water and club soda. If we’re flying to the Northeast, we’ll need plenty of ginger ale. Seasoned flight attendants have learned this.”

During boarding, Kazumi leaves the galley to help throughout the cabin. When boarding is complete, it’s time to get going. “We let the cockpit know the cabin is ready and the #1 flight attendant gives us the OK to arm the emergency slides on the aircraft doors,” she says. “I usually try to fly on our 737s and they have the safety-demonstration video, so we don’t have to do those manually.” No stranger to the limelight, Kazumi is actually featured in the safety video. “I see a lot of people doing double takes when they recognize me,” she laughs.

After one additional walk-through, Kazumi takes her jump seat and stays seated through takeoff. “At that point, as long as it’s not too turbulent, I get up and start getting everything prepared.” Flight attendants work to pace themselves depending on flight length. “Our Dallas-to-Austin or Dallas-to-Houston flights are tough because we have such little time to get to everyone,” she explains. “Immediately after, I take out the trash cart and go back through the cabin,” she says. “It’s also etiquette to check if the First Class flight attendant needs help. Our service isn’t done until everyone is done.”

Then it’s nearly time for descent. “There’s ongoing communication between the cockpit and the flight attendants,” Kazumi explains. “For example, they’ll call us and say that we’re about 20 minutes out or alert us of possible turbulence.”

Kazumi does another walk-through to pick up remaining trash and make her final safety-compliance checks before landing. Then she heads back to the galley to make sure everything is locked in place and takes her jump seat, where she’ll stay seated through landing until the gate-arrival announcement is made.

“When we’re parked at the gate, we get the call to disarm our doors,” she says. “We’ll do a double check to make sure each other’s doors are disarmed properly, and then people are deplaning.” Then it’s right on to Kazumi’s next flight. “I generally have around three flights a day without a lot of time between them.”

Of course, this is a description of a perfect flight for a flight attendant. “At any time during the flight, I can be called upon to address various situations. I have held crying babies, tended to airsick customers, comforted a family traveling to a funeral and celebrated with joyous newlyweds. At a moment’s notice, I can also be performing CPR. Flight attendants successfully weave their responsibility of safety and security with the elements of great customer service.”

While it’s a job that’s definitely on the go, Kazumi continues to enjoy it. “I fly a lot because I really enjoy my fellow flight attendants and the customers,” she says. “This is definitely more of a lifestyle than a job.”
Signature of Tara Titcombe
Associate Editor