People fly for all sorts of reasons, and because of this, their moods, their expectations, and their luggage can greatly differ. Flight attendants are certainly experts on the whole process of air travel. They know what to look for, and they know how to handle a variety of situations at a moment’s notice. And as soon as you step onto the plane, you can bet that they’re making some snap observations—it’s just one of the things your flight attendant won’t tell you.
Are you friendly?
When you arrive on the plane, you’re usually giving off some kind of energy, and flight attendants are in a special position to notice it since they’re usually greeting passengers as they file into 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. This has to do with the one word you can say to make your flight attendant like you.
What are you wearing and carrying?
Flight attendants are also very aware of what you’re carrying, paying attention to how many bags you have and how large. 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 big to be a carry-on.
If you notice a flight attendant staring you up and down, chances are it’s because they’re addressing 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.
Irizarry also points out flight attendants’ attention to flip-flops. “Flight attendants have this thing about covering your feet somewhat. They also look out for passengers walking around the cabin or going in to the lavatory without shoes, because we know how dirty the ground 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 even wasted and aggressive, it’s important for a flight attendant to sniff out the signs right when the passenger boards the plane to avoid conflict.
But just as much as they are looking for potential aggravators or rule breakers for precautionary measures, flight attendants are also looking for anyone who might need extra help, like infants, the elderly, or someone with an injury. Flight attendants are also great about sussing out the “needy” passenger. “Sometimes, we already notice them at the gate talking to the agent, or they come on already 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’re flying, you’ll also want to know what a TSA agent first notices about you.