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18/09/2009 – Guest Posts From My Favourite Bloggers : Savvy Navigator – Travel Coordinator With Style & Flair!
As a photographer, traveller and airline industry geek there are a few blogs I read on a daily basis. With the broad range of readers that Flying With Fish attracts I’d like to introduce to you folks to the bloggers I follow.
Today’s guest post on Flying With Fish comes from Jeffrey Ward, the founder of Savvy Navigator. Jeffrey previously worked for American Airlines, as you’re about to read, and has since started Savvy Navigator a luxury tour operator catering to gay travellers. You can follow Jeffrey on Twitter at www.twitter.com/savvynavigator
How the Savvy Navigator Became a Video StAAr
Back in the early 1990s, long before I formally became the Savvy Navigator, I was a menu-design analyst in the American Airlines Food and Beverage department. My job responsibilities included domestic main-cabin snack services, as well as all Caribbean flight meal services. I LOVED this job, and since the airline was profitable at the time, I had seemingly unending (especially by today’s standards) financial resources to develop innovative products for the in-flight F&B program.
Since our group was charged with menu design and development and caterer training, we worked very closely with the airline’s in-flight procedures group. This team of analysts was responsible for ensuring that flight attendants were able to understand and deliver the food and beverages services my group designed. We were all relatively young AA employees and had lots of fun together both on and off the job.
One of my pals in the in-flight procedures group was in charge of producing the safety videos that were shown on board before every flight. Since each aircraft type needed its own equipment-specific video, this was a time consuming task for my friend. There was also some requirement that the videos be filmed on board actual airplanes, so this added extra complexity to the production process.
One afternoon she was complaining that the filming on board the newly-delivered MD-11 was going to take place that night between 2 and 4 a.m. She was desperate for “passengers” to be in the video, but shared with me that there was a HUGE no-show rate when it came time to film. I asked her if she needed someone who was reliable to show up that night, and she made me an offer – if I showed up at the DFW maintenance hanger at midnight, she would guarantee me a starring role in the safety video!
Since reliability is something near and dear to me (one reason probably why I liked working for AA), I honored my commitment to my friend and showed up at the hanger at the bewitching hour. And, true to her word, she cast me in the video as the “Put your bag in the overhead bin” and “Locate the exit nearest you” guy. She also filmed my spindly fingers lifting up open the under seat pouch where the life jackets were stored.
We were done with the filming by about 5am and I ran home, showered, and got back into the office by 8 a.m. And when the MD-11 entered service a few months later, a StAAr was Born!
Now, this video flew the entire time the MD-11 was in the AA fleet, which was about 10 or 11 years. Every time I actually flew the airplane myself, I had a secret fantasy that someone on board would recognize me. Sadly, however, that never happened.
My sister used to always tell the person sitting next to her that “That’s my brother up there,” which was usually met with an “Uh-Huh” response.
It did always amaze me that at least 40% of the time that I got on board any AA flight, during this era, at least one flight attendant would greet me with a “Hi, how are ya? It’s great to see you!” I usually had NO idea who or where I had ever met this fellow employee, but I always believed that they had seen my face over and over again, every time they went to work.
About the time I left AA in 2001, a dear old flight-attendant friend managed to get me copies of all of my performances, which have now been uploaded to YouTube. For the benefit of you the Flying with Fish readers, here’s my MD-11 performance!
–Click Below To View Jeffrey’s MD-11 Performance–