From the introduction
A stop or stay in a place, esp. overnight; a halt, rest, delay. N. Amer.
I have been flying constantly–since I was an infant. How do I know this? It says so on the special certificate that hung on my bedroom wall, given to my parents after my first flight.
The document still hangs in my house, now in California:
At the age of five months and six days, Peter Greenberg became a member of the Sky Cradle Club . . . aboard the American Airlines flagship, flying from New York to Los Angeles.
My mother still has the photo of me, wrapped in an airline blanket, being carried by a flight attendant down the steps of the DC-6 at the old Los Angeles terminal.
So it is not an exaggeration when I tell you that I’ve been in the capable hands–literally–of flight crews since a very early age.
They have helped me understand the process of travel, from both a passenger and an operational perspective. Air crews and airlines have allowed me, as a journalist, to train as a flight attendant, first with Continental in 1973 and later with United. I’ve learned the process with airlines ranging from Singapore Airlines to Western Airlines to PSA to Qantas.
I’ve trained in flight simulators with pilots from Western Airlines on Boeing 720s, and with Royal Jordanian on the old L-1011s. I’ve jump-seated during the landing of a fully loaded 747 on the old runway 13 at Hong Kong’s Kaitak Airport on Northwest Airlines, and flew the landing myself in the simulator and later with Cathay Pacific.
I’ve logged, by a rough estimate, thirty million real air miles since. A few years ago, a friend at one airline even had special luggage tags made for me that say “Flight Crew.” “You’re on the plane more than we are,” she said by way of explanation.
But I’m first and foremost a passenger. Last year, there were more than twenty-two million flights in the world. That translates into something like twenty-four thousand takeoffs and landings every day in the United States. In an average year, I log close to 450,000 miles. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve had the utmost respect for the cockpit and cabin crews, who have a very tough job to do–lately, tougher than most people imagine. Every time I board a flight–more than two hundred times last year–I place my trust in these people. We all do.
In travel, the real bonus isn’t getting a first-class seat–the ultimate upgrade is information. That’s where flight crews come in. They have the best, and the most updated, information on where to go, what to do, whom to speak to, and whom to ignore.
Flight crews are the real travel experts when it comes to individual cities. They fly to the same cities often four to five times a month, and have only about twenty-four hours on the ground before their return flight. As a result, who knows better where to find the best deals? The best service? The best prices? Whether it’s where to find a cheeseburger at three in the morning in Istanbul or an extra shoelace in São Paolo, flight crews know. Need a great massage in Phoenix? Ask the flight crew. How about skin care? Flight attendants are excellent sources because dehydration from the cabin air is something they fight on a daily basis.
Flight crews have saved me money and, perhaps most important, time. They have taught me that it’s not just getting a good deal that makes travel enjoyable, but the finesse with which you do so.
An important note: this book is, in its intention, design, and execution, incomplete. After all, there are 145,000 commercial pilots and 313,000 cabin crew members around the world. This book includes information from more than 300 of them, representing more than thirty different U.S. and world airlines. As you will discover, they provide excellent and detailed suggestions and practical tips.
Excerpted from Travel Detective Flight Crew Confidential by Peter Greenberg. Copyright © 2002 by Peter Greenberg. Excerpted by permission of Villard, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.