Christmas cheer abounds when sharing they sky with Santa and his sleigh!
While Christmas has already come and gone, the holiday season continues. It’s time for a lighthearted topic to enjoy while in the holiday spirit. Thousands of airline personnel work through the Christmas season and Christmas Day.
It’s rather well established that junior staff members at airlines carry the companies through Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most employees make bonuses on Christmas, but the majority of pilots who can have an off day on Christmas take advantage of this. Those who work trips on Christmas Eve and Day will wake up in hotel rooms and, in most cases, are away from family and loved ones on Christmas. This is part of the reason why radio chatter is full of well-wishes and season greetings around this time of year.
It’s very common to hear pilots and controllers wishing each other a “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” during this week of Christmas. When receiving a frequency change, which usually occurs every 15 minutes or so during cruise, pilots wish controllers a “good day” or “see ya” when making their final transmission on a particular frequency. It’s not uncommon to hear holiday salutations in place of these normal statements—it makes it feel like Christmas is in the air, literally!
Of particular interest during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the ATIS (Automated Terminal Information Service) information codes issued by air traffic control towers. A towered airport issues an ATIS broadcast every hour to inform pilots of the wind, temperature, visibility, and other pertinent arrival information items. ATIS broadcasts are usually labeled with letters. This helps pilots quickly inform controllers that they have the updated meteorological information at the airport with a simple statement such as “we have information Charlie, Delta, Echo, etc.”
During Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, controllers issue ATIS information with unique seasonal denominators and messages. Perhaps you have heard of ATIS information being labeled as “lumps of coal.” If you haven’t yet heard of this, give it a quick search on the internet, and you will find audio clips of Maui, Hawaii controllers issuing this information. Contained within the weather information, controllers will also issue special additional information. This information usually pertains to taxiway closures or other important airport information. During Christmas time, this information contains whimsical statements such as “flying sleigh spotted overhead” or “reindeer in the vicinity of the airport.” Basically, controllers employ terms normally used to issue weather information to cheekily convey their holiday spirit.
I would be remiss not to mention that some of the best holiday spirit is found within airport terminals. Places like Chicago O’Hare have wonderful Christmas decorations in the terminal buildings. Passengers are also more likely to be outgoing during the holiday season, and it isn’t uncommon to receive a gift card or chocolates as a token of appreciation for working during conventional days off.
Though you might be slightly delayed due to passenger volume or snowy weather in the Northern Hemisphere, know that the airlines (and your pilots) want you to get where you’re going on time. Whether you’re at home or on the road, I hope you have a very happy holiday season!
Source: Simple Flying