By Melinda Sue Handler
Swiftly we maneuver through the bustling terminal, roller bags in tow, as we leave the pierogies behind and make our way from Pittsburgh toward Paris.
But once on board the evening flight, you won’t see us nestled in passengers’ seats; instead, you’ll find us working in the aisle. We’re the Pittsburgh-based inflight crew taking you to the City of Light.
The return of Delta’s seasonal, non-stop service from Pittsburgh to Paris will begin May 24 for its 10 th year of service. Flight 124 runs daily through early September, and Delta has once again assigned a small group of flight attendants to a temporary base in Pittsburgh for the summer.
Forty-nine attendants, myself included, are excitedly preparing. While I dive into travel books, highlighting the best of the city’s hidden walking tours, I’m also seeking out the tastiest boulangerie in our hotel’s neighborhood.
Paris has no shortage of thriving communities, and a certain magic happens there when residential neighborhoods meet commercial locales. The inhabitants saunter about their streets and beam with a certain je ne sais quoi. Filled with pride, 26 of the 49 flight attendants can relate to that feeling, because we proudly call the Steel City home year-round.
My colleagues and I have developed long-standing friendships over our years at Delta. Our goal is to extend kindness and generate warmth within the cabin. We’re happy to share the name of our favorite patisserie or where we like to buy bric-a brac on the Rive Gauche. There’s a cafe tucked deep inside the Marais where I love to sit and sip on Lillet blanc as I watch the Parisienne passersby. Just ask — I’ll tell you where it is.
Over the years, Delta has moved many passengers between Pittsburgh and Paris. Last summer, we poured champagne for a honeymoon couple and watched as they toasted to their forever love and happiness. On another flight, a young man excitedly shared that detailed online research and a DNA test had led him to relatives living on the Left Bank. He was heading to Paris to meet them face to face for the first time.
One summer, we welcomed a group of retired middle school math teachers whose dream was to trade pencils and protractors for paint brushes and palettes: They were attending an artist’s workshop at the Louvre.
But before indulging in the many splendors that Paris has to offer, we must first cross the Atlantic together. No need to change planes or endure a lengthy layover; this direct flight takes about seven hours. Each phase of the journey carries a multitude of tasks for the flight attendants. By the final descent, my hair will be tousled and my “landing lips” in need of reapplying. The ultimate goal, however, will hopefully have been achieved: You’ll feel happy and content as we descend beneath the clouds on our final approach into Charles de Gaulle.
Twenty-two years ago, I interviewed for the position of flight attendant. My career has taken me to the far corners of the world, but Paris is still one of my favorite destinations. So if you have the chance to join us, I just may be the one standing at the boarding door, greeting you with a smile as wide as the Seine is long.
Now, that’s a Pittsburgh promise.