This Is What a Flight Attendant First Notices About You

You'll be surprised by how much a flight attendant can learn about you simply by greeting you at the door.

People fly for all sorts of reasons, which means their moods, their expectations, and their luggage will differ greatly. These days, with air travel limited due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the simple act of flying has taken on a whole different timbre, with new rules, seemingly strange things banned from planes, and questions about existing policies (like whether you can bring food on a plane).

Flight attendants are experts on every aspect of air travel. They know what to look for, what sets off alarm bells, and how to handle a variety of situations at a moment’s notice. Their duties are evolving with COVID, and working in this environment is a whole new ball game for them—just take these things flight attendants can’t do anymore. As soon as you step onto the plane, you can bet that they’re making some snap observations—it’s one of the things your flight attendant won’t tell you.

Are you friendly?

When you step onto the plane, you’re usually giving off some kind of energy, and flight attendants are in a special position to observe it since they’re usually welcoming passengers onto the aircraft. “If we are greeting at the door, we notice if we are acknowledged by a smile or a returned hello,” says Avalon Irizarry, a flight attendant for American Airlines. And, unsurprisingly, if you do return their greeting, you’re automatically going to make a better impression.

What are you wearing and carrying?

If you notice a flight attendant scanning you up and down, chances are they’re observing your clothing and accessory choices. “You’d be surprised at what people wear!” says Irizarry. When you’re sitting for hours in a metal tube, it’s interesting to see people sporting stilettos and complicated clothing that looks uncomfortable and impossible to adjust and remove when you need to go to the bathroom. Find out some more things flight attendants say to avoid wearing on airplanes.

And of course, nowadays, if you’re not wearing a mask or wearing one incorrectly, you’ll likely instantly put flight attendants on alert. Viral videos of anti-maskers making a scene and delaying entire flights have been dismayingly common over the past year. Delta Airlines alone had to ban 880 passengers for violating mask rules during 2020. Of course, you can be exempt from wearing a mask if you have a valid medical excuse and permission from a medical professional. But if this is not the case, keep your mask on unless you’re eating and drinking. If you wear your mask and keep it on, your flight attendant will definitely be grateful.

Flight attendants are also very aware of what you’re carrying, paying attention to how many bags you have and how large they are. One of the reasons for this attention to detail is to ensure passengers are sticking to the rules of the plane. The flight attendants are the last line of defense against passengers who might try to board a plane with luggage too large to be a carry-on.

Irizarry also points out flight attendants’ attention to flip-flops. “Flight attendants have this thing about covering your feet somewhat,” she says. “They also look out for passengers walking around the cabin or going into the lavatory without shoes, because we know how dirty the floor is!” Spoiler alert: The floor is one of the things airplanes aren’t cleaning as they should.

Could you need some help…or special attention?

Had a few too many before boarding? Your flight attendant will likely pick up on that quickly. If someone boarding a plane seems like they may be drunk and disruptive, or wasted and aggressive, it’s important for a flight attendant to sniff out the signs right when the passenger boards the plane, so they can take measures to avoid conflict.

Flight attendants are also looking for anyone who might need extra help, such as infants, the elderly, or someone with an injury. They’re also aware of passengers who don’t have obvious needs but still ask for accommodations. “Sometimes, we’ve already noticed them at the gate talking to the agent, or they come on asking for special treatment, or complaining,” says Irizarry. “In first class, we notice the ones trying to catch your attention because they want their coat hung right away, even when it’s difficult to get to during boarding.” Next time you fly, you’ll also want to know what a TSA agent first notices about you.


  • Avalon Irizarry, flight attendant for American Airlines
  • Business Insider: “Delta Air Lines has banned more than 800 passengers for not wearing masks when flying during pandemic or harassing lawmakers”

Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine, and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty, and scientific news. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected], and check out her website: