This Is When You Should Press the Call Button on an Airplane

Updated: Apr. 19, 2023

Traveling soon? Here's the etiquette when it comes to pushing the call button on airplanes.

Air travel can be a stressful endeavor. From navigating the security line to packing liquids into three-ounce bottles, getting from point A to B on a plane can make for a long day. As passengers, our task is simple: get on the plane, binge-watch a show and then deplane. Flight attendants, however, clock in for work. While we sip ginger ale and try to doze, the cabin crew is busy making sure each flight is safe and secure for everyone onboard. They’re travel experts when it comes to flying safely and comfortably.

Of course, you should always be polite to your cabin crew—and keep in mind that the call button to summon them needs to be used when appropriate. When is that, you ask? Here’s what flight attendants have to say about when and why you should use the call button on airplane journeys.

Worried about being rude? Keep the polite habits flight attendants dislike in mind.

When should I press the call button for a flight attendant?

TikTok creator @katkamalani, a former flight attendant, explains a few times during your flight when pressing the call button won’t go over well with the cabin crew. During taxiing, takeoff and landing, a flight attendant won’t be so happy if you press that call button for a non-emergency. Need some water, a blanket or headphones? Those will have to wait until the seatbelt sign isn’t on.

She’s correct in outlining these times when a flight attendant isn’t able to answer the call button. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, flight attendants are required by law to be seated during taxiing as well as during takeoff and landing. This is not only for their own safety and the safety of other passengers, but it ensures they’re seated in ideal locations on the plane should there be an emergency.

@katkamalani SO many people make this mistake. #traveltips #dreamjob #weekendtrip #tipsandtricks #parentsoftiktok ♬ Quirky – Oleg Kirilkov

While the cabin crew’s main job onboard is to ensure safety and security, they’re also hoping you have a comfortable journey. This usually involves serving drinks, snacks and sometimes meals. But it never includes them being personal servants. Pushing the call button on an airplane to have a flight attendant take care of your garbage is likely to be seen as rude.

As a general rule, if there’s a collective time to order drinks/food, grab a pair of headphones or deposit garbage, it’s best to take advantage of that time rather than calling for crew assistance at another time.

When you should press the call button

A Finger Pressing The Call Button On An AirplaneHalfDark/Getty Images

The call button on airplane journeys should be reserved for emergencies and situations when a passenger needs assistance they can’t get themselves. A medical emergency warrants pressing the button at any time. Other situations where the flight crew doesn’t mind if you hit the call button include if you’re traveling with an infant, or you’re in the window seat and the rest of your row is sleeping. Both of these situations make getting up for more pretzels more complicated and an ideal time when a flight attendant can help. But keep in mind, it might not always be necessary to talk to a flight attendant to get onboard services. Some airlines set up a drinks and snack station on long-haul flights where you’re free to help yourself between meal services.

Reserving the call button on airplane travels for emergencies will keep you in good graces with the cabin crew on your journey.
Traveling soon? Read up on other things your flight attendants want you to know about flying.