The blog has taken a back seat to wrapping packages and writing cards, but happily you guys have picked up the slack. I have three reader’s reports to share with you over the coming days, and here’s the first. Chelsea and her husband are Americans living in Vienna, and they recently traveled back to the U.S. for a vacation with Pico, their 6.5 pound pup, possibly a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix.
One of their tips you’ve heard before: Ice cubes are a great way of delivering a small quantity of water at a time to your in-cabin dog. Chloe simply won’t drink water in the air, no matter how I deliver it to her, but she will lick ice cubes from my hand, stuck into her carrier. (It’s just as well, I suppose, because whenever I’ve tried to give her water, the container has caught on some part of the carrier and things have gotten very damp indeed.)
But this one is new to me:
Treat the flight attendants, not just the dog. On Budget Travel’s Confessions of a Flight Attendant, I read that flight attendants appreciate getting sweets and snacks from customers. So I brought them some. And they really did love it! I don’t know if it got us any special treatment, but I wanted them to be positively predisposed to us in case Pico misbehaved. Fortunately, he was a sweetheart, so we didn’t have to test their patience, but we did feel that we were treated quite well. In any case, I felt like it was a great way of saying, “I know your job is hard, and having a dog on the plane can make it harder; thanks in advance for your forbearance.”
How to pull this off? Wait until boarding is completed and the attendant in your section is doing a last walk around the cabin. Stop him/her, say, “Excuse me, this is for the crew,” and hand him/her the gift. Easy. If all travelers with dogs did this, flight attendants would look forward to having dogs in the cabin!
Brilliant, right? Now why didn’t I think of that? I may not do it on a short hop, but I’ll certainly do it traveling across the U.S. or internationally. Aside from the benefit to your soul of being kind where it’s not expected, this may well buy you and your pup some tolerance when she whines, or support when another passenger objects to her presence. It might even win you a blind eye to forbidden behaviors, like letting her head poke out of her carrier.
I asked Chelsea what she chose to bring for the flight attendants, since I figure they must be wary of taking food from strangers, and here’s what she said:
I brought packs of nice chocolates in separately sealed packages. That way each crew member could decide whether to eat it right away or save it for later. On the way back, I also brought a package of fancy granola from Whole Foods, with the idea that flight attendants are probably pretty health-conscious folks. I saw one flight attendant eating a piece of granola within minutes of getting the package, so I felt that it was appreciated. Seriously, anything would probably fly, as long as it’s not a pack of salted peanuts on pretzels! Flight attendants have to eat that darn airplane food EVERY DAY. Imagine.
We definitely did consider the ‘wacky passenger’ problem. That’s why we opted for me — and not my husband — to give the gift. Perhaps your husband could give tips on how to do it as a man without it seeming like a come-on. Somehow they didn’t seem to be too concerned about poisoning or whatever, but the packages were sealed and I look pretty harmless (or so people say).
Now that I’ve thought about it some more, I suspect that flight attendants are pretty savvy about human behavior, and can spot the sleazy passengers while they’re still on the jetway. Also, they’ll understand what you’re up to, especially if they’ve noticed your dog carrier as you boarded — and appreciate it.
One last note: Chelsea and her family traveled on Austrian Airlines, and had nothing but good things to say about their experience. Chelsea also reports that Vienna is a marvelously dog-friendly city, and I hope to get her to tell me more about that…. Thank you so much, Chelsea, for a great idea, and the details of how you thought it through and executed it!