Attending to your safety and comfort


POSTED: Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ryan Sanico always wanted to be a flight attendant, and having been one for 14 years hasn't changed his mind.





Ryan Sanico

        Title: Flight attendant


Job: Sees to the safety and comfort of Hawaiian Airlines passengers



His first job in the field was with United Airlines; later he worked for Aloha Airlines.

For the past six months he's been with Hawaiian Airlines, which hired him shortly after Aloha shut down in bankruptcy.

Sanico, who is one of about a thousand flight attendants for Hawaiian, said his mother was a flight attendant for Pan American World Airways and also for United, so he knew pretty well what the job entails. He also liked the idea of being able to travel a lot.

In talking about his job last week, Sanico was just 45 minutes or so away from starting his day at work, flying between Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai and seeing to the safety and comfort of the passengers traveling aboard the Hawaiian Airlines aircraft.

Sanico, 42, is a graduate of Farrington High School. He also attended Honolulu Community College until, he said, “;I could get into being a flight attendant.”;

Sanico has two children—an 8-year-old daughter from a past marriage, and an 18-month-old daughter with his significant other, Roxanne Olayan. They reside in Liliha.

  Mark Coleman: What is your work title?

Ryan Sanico: Flight attendant.

Q: How long have you been flying the friendly skies of Hawaiian?

A: Just over six months now.

Q: Only six months?

A: Yeah, I'm a newbie.

Q: Have you ever worked for any other airline?

A: Yeah. Prior to this, I was with Aloha, and United.

Q: So how long have you been doing this altogether?

A: Total? Hmmm ... Just about 14 years now.

Q: That's great that you were picked up by Hawaiian.

A: Oh, it's awesome, there was no other alternative, so it was good for me.

Q: Do you remember when flight attendants used to be called stewardesses?

A: Yeah, we still once in a while are called that. (Laughter)

Q: Why? Didn't they change the job title because men do it now, too?

A: Yeah, you would think that, but some passengers are still old school, so no offense taken.

Q: So what are the duties of a flight attendant these days ?

A: Whoo ... there's a list of duties there. Primarily we're there on the airplane for the passengers' safety—just getting you safely from Point A to Point B. That's our primary job. But while we're there on the flight with you for X amount of hours, we're also there to help make you comfortable and enjoy the flight.

Q: Is there a particular route that you fly?

A: Not at my seniority. Being that I'm new, I'm on an open-fly , so I'm pretty much flexible to all routes and all times.

Q: Have you ever worked on the flights to the mainland and back?

A: I have quite a bit now in the past six months. I came back from Seattle just the other day.

Q: Which do you prefer—the interisland or the mainland flights?

A: At this point, being new at Hawaiian, both are equally enjoyable to me, because I need to absorb both operations. When I get a little more time under my belt, I'll probably being doing a little more of the mainland, if possible.

Q: Is that considered the more desirable route?

A: Not necessarily. There's flight attendants that want to do the mainland side, and others that want to do the interisland flights.

Q: I just got back from a trip to the mainland via Hawaiian, and did you know that there are former Hawaii residents who work as volunteers at the Hawaiian Airlines check-in counter at the San Francisco airport? They said they were retirees who do it just to get out and be with people, and they were so nice. Do you know any of those folks?

A: I don't know any of them yet. But I've heard of them.

Q: Do they have them in Seattle?

A: I'm not sure. I think because I'm so new, I'm barely getting to know the thousand flight attendants here.

Q: Hawaiian Air has a thousand flight attendants?

A: Yeah, about that many.

Q: What kind of safety training do you undergo?

A: We go through six weeks of initial training, and yeah, it covers everything you need to know and then some. It's very thorough, very intense, but great. It prepares you really well for the job.

Q: Are there any physical requirements for the job—like you have to know how to swim, or be able to lift a certain amount of weight, or whatever?

A: There's a few. We do water exercises, and you have to get into a life raft. This one is done in a swimming pool, so it's as realistic as it could possibly be.

Q: Do they have any sharks in the pool?

A: No, no sharks in the pool. (Laughter) They made it easy on us.

Q: Considering all the passengers you have to deal with every day, I suppose you have to be a people person pretty much.

A: Definitely a people person. You're dealing with hundreds of passengers a day. It's not very hard though, you know. The passengers are great. They make the job even more fun than it is.

Q: Have you ever run across any unruly passengers?

A: You know, every once in a while you come across a passenger who's maybe not as happy as the rest of them. But it's really no different. You continue to do your job, and pretty much, you have a lot of time, especially on the mainland flight, to turn it around. You don't know what's been going on with them. Maybe they had a bad experience before they got on the flight. I've learned after a lot of years that the main thing is to be a good listener, and I've found that after you listen, their whole demeanor changes dramatically. They just want to be heard. You'd be surprised how much it turns things around just by listening.

Q: What's the worst emergency that you've ever had to face while flying?

A: I've never had anything here at Hawaiian, emergency-wise. There's little medical ones, where people have anxiety from flying, or they feel motion sickness or what have you. And we remedy that real quick with some warm 7-Up. But no real emergencies.

Q: So that's the key, huh—warm 7-Up?

A: (Laughter) You know, it's something to take their mind off what they're feeling, a lot of time. And just your presence. You try and comfort them. That makes it a whole lot better.

Q: Do you ever get nervous when the plane encounters rough weather and starts bouncing around a lot?

A: I guess it depends on the severity of the turbulence. I guess it's more getting your mind ready in case something does come up. Otherwise, no, it's pretty common.

Q: Have the increased security measures since 9/11 complicated your job very much?

A: No it hasn't. I think increased security is good. I think it just makes everybody more aware of their surroundings, of what is brought on board, of what could be brought on board, so I think security has made it better, I guess, from the flight attendant's perspective. I don't know about the politics of it, but as a flight attendant, you just feel way safer in what you do.

Q: What's your favorite part of the job?

A: I don't think we have enough time for me to tell you what my favorite part of this job is. (Laughter) But it' s about the lifestyle, the flexibility ... You know, once you're a flight attendant, it's very hard to do anything else.

Q: To me, as a passenger, it looks like you guys have one of the hardest jobs there is.

A: I guess it seems that way. I was sitting and talking to a passenger just yesterday and he was saying “;You guys work really hard, walking up and down the aisles.”; But for me, and a lot of us here, if you truly love what you're doing, it's not so hard. It can get hard, if you get into a situation, but other than that, it's just awesome.

Q: Why did you become a flight attendant?

A: I always wanted to be. My mom was with Pan American and United. I flew a lot as a youngster, and I always admired what the flight attendants did, and pretty much said that one day I would be a flight attendant.

Q: Has it helped you see the world?

A: Definitely. Even if not on vacation, just flying to the destination, turning around and coming back, I've been there, so I've gotten that experience. Also, I don't know too many other jobs where you can go to Vegas just about any time you want, so that in itself ... My friends are envious; they're just in awe.