It’s hard to put into words what truly happened on our flight from PER-SYD on that chilly Autumn night, last Friday (not even that long ago- it’s just that I have crammed so much into the past week that it feels like months ago, already!)
After a frantic journey to even make it on to the aircraft, we eventually sat in our separate seats on (James was tucked away from my sight), Once seated I finally started to relax. We were going away to see our friends! I had a little under a week off of work, and everything was good now! I ordered a red wine to try and make me sleepy. After a couple of minutes, it did the trick and I started to nod off (watching Paddington Bear 2, with my wine, because #adulting). Not long afterwards, I woke due to the cabin lights coming on at full capacity.
My initial thought was that the flight was almost over, and it was time for us to be served breakfast (not that I usually eat on the aircraft- but I would’ve had a green juice and a coffee nonetheless!). Usually, the CSM (Customer Service Manager) will turn on all the lights to allow the crew to set up for the service, and also to gently wake the passengers without physically disturbing them.
Before my brain could process what was happening, the crew ran up the aisles past me, towards the front of the aircraft. Just then, my mind clicked into overdrive. Surely this wasn’t good news.A PA pierced the eerily silent cabin, causing me to hold my breath. Or maybe it wasn’t automatic, it was a crew member, but I was so distracted, it made it hard to tell.
“Cabin Crew Prepare for Emergency Descent”
Well, you didn’t need to have sat through years’ worth of recurrent SEP (Safety Emergency Procedures) training to know that an “emergency” anything is critical, let alone a descent. The word itself evokes feelings of distress and panic!
Basically, an Emergency Descent must occur in order to allow the aircraft to reach an altitude that is safe for its occupants to breathe at. We later found out that the aircraft cabin had lost pressurisation due to an air-conditioning bleed issue. Once the aircraft descends to a certain altitude (in this case, 10 000ft) oxygen masks deploy automatically. We must’ve reached that altitude. To give you an idea of how low we were flying, 10 000 ft was the altitude that the landing gear is deployed at when I was flying for Emirates.
DID YOU KNOW?! That the masks must be pulled firmly, activating a mechanism that starts the flow of oxygen and also tells engineers (and the relevant authorities) which oxygen units were used -and if passengers are sitting in their correct seats- by whom).
In any case, the masks were deployed. I will never forget the sickening “click” of the compartment opening and the masks dangling above us. The only thought running through my head was “Where is James?” We sat silently for what must’ve been 2-3 minutes breathing into our oxygen masks, yet it felt like an eternity.
The crew had their own portable oxygen tanks and began to move about the cabin, to check on the wellbeing of each other and the passengers.
My crew instinct from way back kicked in. I couldn’t help it! The man across the aisle from me reciprocated my thumbs up, and the gentleman in front of him was visibly shaken, but that was understandable.
At this point, I’d like to acknowledge the cabin crew for how calm, assertive and professional they were at a time of crisis. You should know that I am not just making a point of this because I work for the company, or because I was once Cabin Crew. It is truly because I genuinely appreciate the efforts and presence of each and every crew member on that flight. The crew member in my area was professional and reassuring, as were the rest of the crew that I encountered.
Once the seatbelt sign was switched off, and it appeared that we were diverting to Melbourne rather than Adelaide (why am I always diverted there?!), James came to visit me. It wasn’t until I saw his face that I realised that my Fight or Flight instinct had emerged. My hands and knees were shaking, I felt clammy, relieved, exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time. He asked if I was OK and I managed to squeak out a “I’m fine” before he hurriedly returned to his seat.
Used oxygen masks littered the cabin, and dangled tauntingly over silent heads. My red wine that I had, quite literally, chucked into the stowage next to me bled through the seal to the seat behind me, loose and wild, much like my thoughts. There was a faintly burning plasticky smell in the air, and I have never so desperately wanted to disembark an aircraft in my entire life.
I refused to relax and let my guard down, so I started on my new book. I could barely keep my eyes open and succumbed to a fitful sleep. A few hours later (almost three) we landed safely into Melbourne. Thankfully, we disembarked via the stairs (no Emergency Landing Needed) amidst precautionary fire trucks and flashing lights. We made our way into the Terminal, bleary eyed and thankful to be alive.
Amazingly enough, the staff travel gods smiled upon us and we were directly transferred onto onto the next MEL-SYD flight. It was only a 55 minute hop, but I was fidgety and irrationally bawled my eyes out once I finished my second viewing of Paddington 2! We were sitting separately again so maybe that’s why.
Again, we landed, this time in Sydney, and I wasn’t expecting our bags to arrive with us, but they surely did! I was so proud that my company delivered exceptional results in a time of crisis! The flight was greeted by camera crews a plenty, we swiftly avoided them and made our way to our waiting Uber.
It might sound trivial, or even clichéd to say that we look at life differently after we endured a situation that was stressful (to say the least) and that thankfully, was not catastrophic. But it is true! For the rest of the weekend, I was relaxed, and easy going, I went with the flow, enjoyed the simple things (a crisp rose in the muggy heat) and didn’t complain about a single thing!
This has been a lesson to me. A few things have happened to me/us in the past few weeks that have encouraged me to come to the epiphany that life’s too short”. Life is too short not to stay out later, to spend money on food and clothes and “luxury” items. Life is too short not to try hard at work, to be the best you can and to eat those chips. Life is too short not to drink the wine, to lift the heavier weights or to run until your lungs might burst. Life is too short not to spend time with your family, your friends, your pets. It can be taken away for more easily than it is created, so I am attempting to remember this in times of stress. LIFE IS TO SHORT. Expect nothing, appreciate everything and good things shall happen in return.
And just in case you were wondering- the answer is no. No, I am not scared to fly, no, I will not stop travelling or adventuring or planning or writing. I flew home from Sydney by myself without a hitch, and James and I are currently planning a big holiday for the end of the year/beginning of 2019.
I’ve always said that this is my outlet for reflection and I have always dealt with challenges, obstacles and achievements in my life by writing about them! I hope this post hasn’t turned you off travelling, or flying in general. There are a 1001 things that could go wrong in any situation, not just in the air. You should always do what you feel is right, and if that means never setting foot on an aircraft, so be it!
Life’s too short- enjoy it!