Partner of a Pilot
The Candid Diary of an Airline Pilot’s Girlfriend

Travelling with my pilot on a crew trip


Well, as promised, the details of my trip with Bf…

As I mentioned previously, my ticket was confirmed. I had wanted to avoid the usual stress of standby (non-rev) tickets.  It actually felt quite strange to be able to check in at a normal time, and not have a lump in my throat, and a queasy feeling in my stomach about whether I’d be able to travel or not. It was lovely to be able to kiss Bf good bye at the airport, knowing that I’d definitely get to see him on the flight in a couple of hours.

It was also nice not to have to race through security, buy all of the last minute essentials for baby’s plane journey ‘air-side’ (because security measures regarding liquids are so strict) and rush through the terminal at break neck speed whilst carrying all of my hand luggage and pushing baby in her stroller; just to avoid making the plane late! We were able to make our way through all of the above at a leisurely pace, and still had time to spare to sit calmly and look at the planes from the gallery!

Once on the plane, the number one upgraded us to first class too, and we even managed to bag two free seats (next to each other) insted of the one that I would have had in economy. This meant that I arrived at our destination, ten or so hours later without legs twice the width that they are normally from lack of circulation. It also meant that Bf was able to sit with us during his break from the cockpit (there were 3 pilots, so they each had a rest break)

Baby was a dream passenger; no tears on take-off or descent, and all of the near by passengers and crew were very complimentary. She obviously has her Daddy’s genes, because I can still remember the pain and tears from my own childhood flight experiences, even now!

The only stress still in the back of my mind was the destination airport… As the guest of a crew member, it can be a somewhat stressful experience on landing, because crew get an escort who will rush them through security and immigration with minimal fuss; and they have crew transport waiting to whisk them away to their hotel. Regular passengers, by contrast feel the full force of international bureaucracy at it’s worst… Add into the equation that I’d have Baby, with no guarantees that I’d have her stroller until it (hopefully) pops out at baggage re-claim, or else wait for it on the tarmac, and therefore risk ending up at the very back of the passenger queue, and it’s not a good recipe for timing in with the crew transport.

However, even this ended up being stress free, partially because the Captain’s wife, and the fiance of another crew member were also travelling, and so I wouldn’t be completely alone in making them potentially late; but primarily because I had also won the seat lottery in another sense.  As it transpired, I managed to get sat next to a delightful girl. She seemed to adore Baby, and we hit it off immediately. We chatted like old friends and the flight passed much more quickly as a result. She happened to be a ground staff member from Bf’s base airport who was travelling on a staff standby ticket, and she had a house near the destination airport. The really lucky part though, was that she had become great friends with all of the airport staff at our destination over time… She said that she could get us an escort through security and immigration who would fast-track us to the front of all the queues. She even offered to help me carry all of my things-bless her!

We were able to wait for Baby’s stroller to come off the plane, and still managed to get to baggage re-claim before Bf and the rest of the crew and passengers! The escort took our passports, and took care of immigration for us, and even managed to have us bypass the security x-ray (no idea why they were doing this on inbound flights any way)!? I was pathetically grateful, especially since we’d also managed to queue jump another 2 jet loads of passengers in front of ours (from a boeing 747 and airbus A330)… The queues had been snaking out far beyond the outside of the terminal doors!  I was even able to snag the Captain’s wife (as I recognised her) and get her through with us too.

The crew were all amazing too. They were all welcoming and friendly and were fascinated and delighted to have baby along. Unfortunately, Baby was somewhat overwhelmed by all the attention from 15 faces that she was unfamiliar with, and she retreated into a shy personality that we’d never seen from her before. She was also somewhat freaked out by all of the locals; I can only assume that this was because everyone having darker skin-seemed odd to her, which was a shame; because they were all so keen to lavish her with attention, several times men (shop owners) even asked to take photographs of her (which I have to admit, I found slightly disturbing-but probably only with my jaded, over-cautious, over-exposed-to-news head on; in fact I’m positive it was all very sweet and innocent)! 

In fact, everyone was so sweet. The people were very trusting, offering to let you pay later (when we were using the excuse that we had no money with us to pay for items being offered by pushy beach vendors). It was so trusting, and seemed somewhat naive by Western standards. Unfortunately, by the time Baby had become accustomed to the differences and felt comfortable with all of the attention-it was our last day.

On our first day, we had breakfast in the hotel. The walls of the restaurant had huge open arch ways to the gardens outside.  Although above head height these were covered with nets to try to attempt to stop birds from entering; many birds had still outwitted the hotel staff, and flown in underneath. They would taunt the guards by swooping down every now and again to steal scraps of food from uncleared tables (much to the amusement of Baby and myself).

The guards were quite intimidating at first. They wore a uniform that resembled a military uniform with a beret. They all carried rifles. I was quite daunted by this, and said to Bf,

“Do you think it really that likely that they need those rifles to protect the hotel guests?”
“I don’t know… I guess they think so. It is an incredibly poor area, and this is a five star hotel.”

My fears were soon heightened further… The restaurant was almost empty, as they had finished serving breakfast, and the birds were having a field day with all of the abandoned food at tables. One of the guards was obviously riled by their lack of respect as they taunted him.  He lifted his rifle, pointed it down into the restaurant and took aim at one of the offending birds as it dived down at a table not far from us… Bf was unaware, and I hadn’t the time to warn him before the guard squeezed the trigger…

‘POP’

Yes, that was the only sound that the gun emitted. ‘Pop’. I was so amused that I could barely contain myself!

“What is it?” Bf said
“Oh my Goodness, you know those big scary rifles that the guards have? …They’re only air rifles!”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, he just shot at one of the birds as it flew down, and it only ‘popped’! He wasn’t even a good aim, because he missed!”
“Don’t be silly darling, they wouldn’t shoot an air rifle into a restaurant with people sitting in it.”

Just as he said it, I saw the guard lift his gun again, I managed to get Bf to look in time to see him ‘pop’ at the bird again (and yet again nothing happened to the bird). Bf roared with laughter,

“That’s not an air rifle! That’s a cap gun! He’s obviously employed to try and scare the birds!”

It was the most ridiculous thing we’d ever seen. I was unable to look at the guards in their uniform without snickering for the rest of the duration of our stay.

Although we stuck mostly to the hotel and it’s pool and beach; we did venture out a few times. We asked a taxi driver to take us to a market, as we had heard that there were a few good places to buy jewellery, handbags and various other bits and pieces.  The taxi driver took us on a twenty minute ride, and dropped us at the end of a filthy road, explaining that we’d have to walk up the nearby side street to get to the market. We paid and walked in the instructed direction.

He had obviously misunderstood the kind of market we were looking for, because we were at a very ‘local’ market. The squalor was unbelievable, animals were wandering around in the street untethered (defecating as they went) and I wished for a time that I could abandon my sense of smell. People were staring at us, and we were quickly surrounded by beggars who motioned their hands to their mouths to demonstrate that they wanted money to buy food. There were beggars with no legs wheeling themselves after us on a skateboard, children barely old enough to walk, and women with babies. I found it utterly distressing, but was told by Bf that we could not give to even one of them, because otherwise we would be swarmed by many, many more of them.

The market place was fascinating; both beautiful and repulsive at the same time. The market vendors had obviously taken great care to present their produce. Most of the stalls sold fruit or spices-the plethora of colours was absolutely amazing, and the spice stalls were a refreshing break to my nasal passages. The ground though, was absolutely filthy, and by contrast to the lovely aromatic spices; the stench of raw sewage hung thickly in the air. 

Initially I was quite paranoid that I’d pick up an infection because I’d worn open-toe flip-flops, and was wary about people who might want to touch baby, or try to squeeze her little cheeks in the affectionate way people do with young children… However, this was one time that Baby’s new found shyness served us all well, as she hid her face from anyone who expressed too much interest, or infringed her personal space boundaries!

marketThe heart of the market was all under cover of tarpaulin sheets, I assume to shield them from the blistering heat of the direct sunlight; and bare light bulbs hung to illuminate the stalls, despite it being the middle of the day outside. The ground was extremely uneven, and it was a struggle to get through with a stroller. All of the locals carried their babies, and they seemed amused by the concept of pushing babies around in a buggy.

I remember being shocked at one point, whilst looking at a spice stall, because I heard a noise that was clearly a chicken in distress. I turned to look at where the noise was coming from, only to see a man taking a chicken from a basket full of chickens. He was holding it clumsily by one of it’s wings, it flapped it’s other wing fiercely, in vain protest, clearly in discomfort… The man then took the chicken by it’s neck with his other hand, wrung its neck, ignoring the birds chocking objections, until the bird hung limp in his hands. He then handed the bird over to his customer in exchange for his cash payment.

I used to be vegetarian, and although I eat meat again now, I don’t like to see animals suffering. I try not to shield my children from the reality of where meat comes from or the process of farming; but to actually see an animal slaughtered in front of my eyes(in the middle of a bustling market place), whilst all of the other chickens from the same basket also observed their future fate, actually took me by surprise and send a cold chill down my spine.

That said, over all, I did enjoy seeing a bit of the ‘real’ country-that was clearly not set up for tourists; and was actually quite glad that we had visited the colloquial area, and seen some of their true indigenous culture, rather than our desired location of the tourist market.

On the beach, we were approached by a lone beggar. She was carrying a little girl about Baby’s age who looked weary and sad in her arms. She stood by our sun loungers and motioned to her baby’s mouth then held her hand outstretched. At first I tried to ignore her, but my conscience could not let me. There she was standing, looking at my baby; who lay in a contented slumber, under a sun shade, on her very own sun lounger at a 5* hotel, with a full juice cup, a half eaten box of raisins, and the lolly stick from her recently consumed ice-lolly, next to her. I reached into my purse and pulled out some paper money to give to her, and she walked on.

She hadn’t appeared particularly grateful or happy to receive the money; and no sooner had she finished at my sun lounger than, she moved onto the next sun lounger a few hundred yards on.  Immediately another beggar appeared at the foot of our sun longer with another baby girl doing the same thing. Bf gave me a knowing look that said ‘I told you so’. Having only higher value denominations of money left in my purse; I looked at Bf, and said,

“sorry darling, but their babies are the same age as Baby, please see if you have anything to give them.”

He refused, but softened when the little girl made eye contact with him, and gave him a look that said ‘please feed me?’ He found her some money, and they moved on.

“Sorry darling, I know I’m a soft touch, but I just can’t think of someone not having the money to feed their child as the look to us for help!”
“You are a soft touch, the beggars here are not as poor as you think. the begging here is organised and they make good money by local standards”

sunset1

I pondered this for a moment, as I watched the beggar standing her ground at the next group of sun bathers a few hundred yards away. She seemed to have perfected a withered and pathetic look that apparently peaked only when she had an audience to beg from… Her child appeared to perk up between tourists; but I reasoned that I’d rather let their conscience burden them if they were not genuinely in need of this money, than let my conscience burden me for making that assumption on their behalf myself… Plus, there were only two beggars, so I was not swamped thereafter with requests.

All in all, the break was lovely. The sunsets were breathtaking, and I felt privileged to share them with Bf whilst here in the UK, it rained all day! It definitely felt like great compensation to offset some of the drawbacks to ‘pilot wifestyle’!

hermit-crabThis was just one of the pictures we took. The beach was stunning. It was full of beautiful shells; and at one point, I took Baby to find some shells to take home with us as a souvenir of our time there. Alas we could not though, for we didn’t manage to find a single shell that didn’t contain a hermit crab!  The captain later told us a lovely story of how he had collected his wife a conch shell on their honeymoon, but when he’d presented it to her on the beach-it had sprouted legs and run off! He said this was to set the tone for all his future gifts to her (that all gifts from him came with a catch).

I managed to get bitten by several mosquitoes, and also got prickly heat whilst there, so we paid a visit to the local pharmacy, recommended by the cabin crew to get some anti-histamine tablets. This was another shocking experience. You could literally buy any (it seemed) drug there (and apparently, the cabin crew did), including medication restricted here. Valium, Prozac, various anphetamine based diet tablets, and a whole array of other drugs were all freely available for less than £1 per strip! When I emerged from the first chemist the taxi driver had taken us to (I think he must have earned commission for taking tourists there) without what I needed, the store owner asked why we hadn’t bought anything. I told him that they hadn’t got what I wanted. He was absolutely determined to sell to me, and said that he could get me whatever we wanted! In fact, when I did successfully manage to buy what I wanted, the anti-histamine tablets I’d purchased transpired to be prescription only here in the UK!

The journey home was very quiet. We managed to get upgraded again, and baby enjoyed the attention being lavished upon her by all of the crew. The cabin crew often came to take baby off to one of the various galleys for a play periodically, and the Captain and his wife purchased a teddy bear for baby as a gift for being so good! I was very touched.

I chatted to one of the newer hosties, and asked her how her husband had adjusted to her new lifestyle. She said that he was taking it quite badly. Apparently she was dreading getting home, because he always gives her the cold shoulder for a few days when she gets home from a trip. I asked her why, and she said that he is very jealous of her going away on trips. Apparently he even refuses to look at her photographs! It seemed very sad, because apparently this is all she’s ever wanted to do; and now that their children are nearly grown up, she felt she could follow her dream at last.

There was one trip in particular that she said had caused issues. It was to a destination that they had all planned to go to as a family; but hadn’t got around to yet. There is a large theme park there, that the crew visited, and she said that she had been torn between happiness and extreme guilt. Her husband had apparently given her a really hard time over it.

I thought it was a shame, and really felt for her… That said, I can empathise with both sides of this, because I have felt pangs of jealousy myself at times; especially when Baby was newborn, and Bf had just started long-haul. There have been destinations that he’s visited that I have always dreamed of us discovering for the first time together; but at the same time, it’s not Bf’s fault that he gets rostered those trips when I can’t come.  I can’t hold it against him, or expect him to sit alone in his hotel room for the duration, so I just have to learn to live with knowing that he’s going there alone, but make sure that when we go there together-our shared memories are even better, and also, we benefit from his knowledge of his own prior visit there.

The thought of Bf dreading coming home to me because of jealousy on my part, would eat me up.  I asked her how she thought they’d resolve it, and she looked sad, shrugged, and said-‘I really don’t know.’

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5 Responses to “Travelling with my pilot on a crew trip”

  1. Haha like the bit about the gun! Sounds like it was a good trip and you fitted a lot in! I’m sure bf had fun too doing things he may not normally do and having you both there! I know what you mean about the animals in markets like that it gets to me too, I remember seeing a similar thing in Hong Kong as a youngster. The beach looks gorgeous and very romantic!

  2. This looks like a lot of fun. The great part was the market. I just wish we had fresh fruits and vegetables instead of frozen ones here in the US.

  3. What an epic entry! Great to hear your news and stories, and see photos too. Glad you’re back safe and well. So what’s next?

  4. Your trip sounds amazing! Just read your blog and love it!

  5. Debs – Yes, Bf always says that it is much better when I go with him than it is when it’s just the crew; because he rarely knows any of the crew that well. It seems more like a real holiday when I go with him, and I think he enjoys flying and making PAs more when I’m on board too

    Jen – I’m surprised about what you’re saying on the lack of fresh fruit/veg in the States, I was under the impression that you were able to get a good range there. We certainly do here in the UK!

    Susannah – As for what’s next, I am hoping to hop onto another long-haul trip with Bf in January. He has a 4 day trip to the Caribbean. He has another one in a week or two, but with Christmas just around the corner-finances are a little tight, and I can’t do it all!

    Carrie – Thank you for your kind words, it’s always very rewarding to hear that someone enjoyed reading my blog!


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