Monday, April 21, 2014
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The philosophy also authorizes flight attendants to order emergency evacuations. Hearing that the pilots of Asiana Flight 214 told the flight attendants to delay an evacuation for 90 seconds after the crash landing in San Francisco, giving the order only after a flight attendant spotted flames outside, made Brentlinger wonder whether Asiana Airline's attendants have the same authority.
"I'm sure they have a very different hierarchy and can't do anything without the pilot's permission," she said. "There is no doubt in my mind I would have evacuated that aircraft immediately."
Brentlinger said her heart aches when she thinks about what Asiana's flight attendants are going through now and are likely to go through in the months to come.
She was aboard a 747 that lost a cargo door at 22,000 feet, sucking nine passengers to their deaths over the Pacific Ocean in 1989.
After the disaster aboard United Flight 811, Brentlinger said she suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to get back on a plane for more than four years. Handling the emergency itself was "the easiest part of the whole process ... because you train for it and you just do it," she said.
She went on to say that "after the dust settles, so to speak" and one tries to get on with life, "it's horrific, at least it was for me."
The Flight 214 cabin crew consisted of 11 women and one man, ranging in age from 21 to 42, according to the airline. Spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said Asiana is not sharing information on emergency training hours of its flight attendants because the National Transportation Safety Board asked it not to share any information related to the accident while it's being investigated.
Jean Carmela Lim, 32, a Sydney-based travel consultant, spent a year working as an Asiana flight attendant eight years ago and posted pictures from her experience on her travel blog, Holy Smithereens, last week. She recalls her weekslong safety training as rigorous.
"We needed to be able to swim while dragging another human – dead weight – in one hand, and hoist ourselves and the dead weight onto the safety raft," Lim said.
The appearance standards were almost as demanding. Lim, who was 23 when she applied for the job, initially was told she too old. During the interview, she was required to wear a short skirt without stockings. Flight attendant school included sessions on hair, makeup and comportment. During flights, the cabin manager inspected the attendants to make sure they were wearing the right color of nail polish and had their aprons properly ironed.
Lim said that appearance is important, but seeing pictures of Flight 214's attendants outside the burned-out aircraft in skirts made her hope their union prevails on the pants issue.
"If there's evidence that wearing a skirt will enable you to save more lives than wearing pants, then by all means keep them in skirts," she said. "If I'm trapped in a burning aircraft , I doubt I'll notice if the cabin crew saving me had lipstick on her teeth or had a tuft of hair out of place."