Deadheading is a term often used in the Aviation industry, but what exactly does it mean?
Someone who is deadheading is a crew member flying in a passenger seat, and not a part of the working crew, who is being repositioned by the airline, as part of a work day. There are many reasons why a crew member would have to deadhead, it all depends on the company’s requirements and any external factors such as weather, change of aircraft, crew sickness or exceeding legal working hours.
I had to deadhead a couple of months back in January, during my reserve month to Dhaka in Bangladesh. I was on airport standby and was called to operate a flight to Dhaka. When I checked in, I was told that myself and some other crew would be deadheading on the outbound flight (Dubai to Dhaka), and then we would be operating as crew members on the return sector (Dkaha to Dubai). This was my first time doing this, so it was all very new to me.
The reason for this was all due to weather. In January, Dubai experienced heavy rainfall, which is very unusual for this country, and therefore, the roads flood and everything else shutdown. As a result of the rain, the morning flight to Dhaka had been delayed on ground in Dubai for quite a few hours so when the flight landed into Dhaka, the crew were no longer legal to operate the return flight back as they had exceeded their legal working hours.
This is where I came to the rescue! There was an afternoon flight to Dhaka so myself and some other crew flew out as ‘passengers’ on this flight so that we could take over the other flight which was waiting for us in Dhaka. We went to the briefing room as normal, however, we were given a boarding pass instead as we were assigned a seat. The best part of deadheading is that we get to sit in Business class, or sometimes even First class, depending on the aircraft type. On this occasion, I was assigned a Business Class seat.
When we arrived on the aircraft, we were essentially ‘normal passengers’, except we were in uniform! We were allowed to remove our jacket and ID badge so that passengers could distinguish who was the operating crew.
Then, for the entire flight, we sat in our business class seats and were treated like regular passengers, eating the food on the menu and watching movies. It felt really strange being served by our colleagues, especially because we were still in uniform, but the overall experience was great!
For starters, I had the Arabic mezze which is my favourite entry dish on the menu! I always come and grab some from Business class when I am working normally, so to have it served to me was an extra treat! For my main, I went for a chicken and potato curry which was also delicious!
During my dinner, I reclined my chair and watched a movie – Lost in Translation. It felt so special sitting in Business class! The whole experience was amazing, I could definitely get used to it! Although we work in that environment, and I always pass through the Business class cabin, it felt so different actually sitting there, in the passengers shoes!
After the movie finished, I decided to take a nap and laid fully down. The beds are so comfortable and because it was a night flight, the entire cabin was dark so it felt really cosy. It was a shame it was only a 4 hour flight as I could’ve slept for hours! We then landed into Dhaka, and like the regular passengers, we had to exit the aircraft and go through the airport. In the airport, we had to go straight to the security and then pass through immigration. We then boarded a different aircraft where the morning crew from Dubai were sitting waiting for us.
It was now their turn to deadhead on our flight, and our turn to operate the way back. The same way, they sat in Business class as passengers, whereas we were working and serving them!
Other examples of deadheading includes when a crew member gets sick outstation. Personally, I have never experienced this but I know some crew have been too ill to operate the return flight back so they deadhead. We normally have ‘A’ positions (extra crew) in case of anything like this, where they would fill in for their colleague. The sick crew member would then deadhead in Business class as they are unfit to work.
I hope this has explained what deadheading means. I wouldn’t mind deadheading all the time to be honest as sitting in Business class was lovely!
Thanks for reading.
Kerry May xo