On New Year’s Eve, after more than five months’ preparation, the time had finally come for our aircraft, registration OE-LPB, to set off on a one-off flight from Austria to Ushuaia, via Rio de Janeiro. Ushuaia and the surrounding region are frequently described as the ‘End of the World’, because the Argentinian town is commonly regarded as the southernmost human settlement on Earth. We asked Flight Attendant Andrea N. a few questions about this special flight, which we operated using a Boeing 777.
How did you find out about this special flight?
I keep a careful eye on all the possible flights coming up in our crew planning tool. When I discovered the Rio de Janeiro – Ushuaia flights, I was immediately interested. I really wanted to be on the flight – after all, it’s not every day that you get a chance to fly to the End of the World! My written application was on its way before long, and after that it was just a matter of waiting.
What did you do to prepare for your adventure in Ushuaia?
When I received a positive response, telling me I was to be on the crew, I was simply over the moon! I did some intense internet research, and the more I found out about the Tierra del Fuego region and its capital Ushuaia, the more I began looking forward to the flight.
The whole crew exchanged information intensely in advance, coordinating the planning. Every single one of us was completely focussed on the rotation ahead, and it wasn’t long before we were all experts in Ushuaia and Rio de Janeiro.
A great deal that happens on a special flight is “non-standard” compared to a scheduled flight, so I was very glad we had such outstanding management on board, both in the cockpit and in the cabin. Doris E. was responsible for the cabin, together with Richard H., and in the cockpit, Captain Christoph B., worked intensely for several months, along with Co-pilot Maurice H., preparing for the flights.
There was a keen exchange of information between the cockpit and cabin crew in the weeks leading up to the flight, so we succeeded in clearing a few final obstacles together. We had found the perfect team for Ushuaia, something made obvious again and again during the rotation.
What were the highlights for you?
No doubt about it – the incredibly high level of teamwork between everyone on the crew! It was great to experience just how much we were able to achieve by working together. A good example of this was on the ground, when it was particularly important that all of us go the extra mile. From putting covers on cushions to changing catering containers, everyone was willing and able to help out with any jobs that needed doing. We already knew in advance that our turnaround times were pretty tight. Thanks to our commitment, however, and the incredible support we received from our colleagues at the local station, we managed to get our B777 cleared for take-off quicker than expected. That’s something we’re proud of, and rightly so.
Another highlight was Rio de Janeiro – where we saw in the New Year. Thanks to our advance research, we knew the people of Rio dress all in white to celebrate New Year, so we dressed up, went to the beach and admired the breathtaking fireworks – barefoot in the sand.
What impressions did you get of Ushuaia in the short time you were there?
As soon as the doors of our aircraft opened in Ushuaia, we were received with open arms. Even the cleaning staff there greeted us with smiles on their faces. We all wanted to take the Antarctic air, and huddled together in front of our aircraft for some photos. With the craggy mountain ranges and the gateway to the bitterly cold Antarctic behind us, it’s quite a backdrop!
From conversations with our colleagues at the location, we quickly noticed how attached they are to their homeland. The main source of income in these parts is fishing, and they have also been feeling the positive impact of increasing tourism in the region more recently. The short but intense ground time at the End of the World impressed me deeply, and one thing’s for sure: it’s not the last time I’ll be going there!
What did the passengers tell you about their trip over the Antarctic?
Lots of ice, inspiring nature, breathtaking light shows – and an incredibly varied animal world, of course – were the main things we took away from chatting to passengers. They also said crossing the waters of the Drake Passage (the passage between South America and the Antarctic), where the seas can be so rough that it’s hard to stand upright and you have to climb into your bunk at night, was a nerve-wracking experience. But the Antarctic genuinely seems to cast its spell over people, and several there were repeat visitors.
If you could charter an Austrian Airlines aircraft to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
No need to think long about that one: without a doubt the South Pacific, on a 777. Also, Austrian Airlines has never been there. But never say never!
Wow, what an experience! Thanks very much to Andrea for letting us take part in it.
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