Seven longtime RDU-based flight attendants work one last flight to London

CorrespondentSeptember 27, 2013 

— American Airlines flight 173 from London to Raleigh-Durham International Airport will be the end of the line Saturday for seven longtime Triangle-based flight attendants who retire at the trip’s conclusion.

The RDU-to-London flight has been a staple for this flight crew, some of whom have known one another for more than two decades. The crew flew to London one last time Thursday night. The return flight gets back to RDU on Saturday afternoon – the end of an era for the group, most of whom live in the Triangle.

“We’re like a family, very tight-knit,” said Denise Gleason, the chief flight attendant. “Raleigh has had a base since 1987, and some of these flight attendants have been flying since 1987. We’ve known each other so long we know when each other’s pets need their meds.”

The departures are the result of a retirement incentive program the airline offered earlier this year. In all, 28 of 75 RDU-based flight attendants took the offer, Gleason said.

As the jet crossed the Atlantic late Thursday, the soon-to-be retirees wore costume jewelry and plastic tiaras to celebrate, basking in applause from passengers while passing out pretzel bags, cheese manicoti dinners, and gin and tonics.

The retiring crew members are Diane Cato, Barbi Dalton, Karen Hurd, Drew Carson, Janice Santiago, Marty Melin and Liz Cecchettini. Together, they have given 273 years to the airline.

At the back of the cabin Thursday night, a banner hanging from the wall read “Happy Retirement.”

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