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32 Things Your Flight Attendant Won’t Tell You

These secrets about air travel will make flying a happier, safer experience for all.

Air hostess wearing face mask during virus pandemicRidofranz/Getty Images

Flight attendants are just doing their jobs

For many travelers, flight attendants seem like glamorous individuals soaring through the skies for a living. But just like any other job, it has its pros—like getting to deliver hilarious airline announcements like these—and cons, like dealing with petty passengers and enforcing COVID regulations. Flight attendants want to be treated with respect. Here are some pieces of advice, pet peeves, and insider secrets from flight attendants who’ve seen it all. Savvy travelers will also want to know the first thing a flight attendant notices about you.

Air hostess is demonstrating for wear protective face mask.eyesfoto/Getty Images

We have to be the bad guys when it comes to masks

Masks are a federal mandate, and monitoring them is now a part of our job duty. We do not like upsetting passengers, but we have to follow federal guidelines. Summer, flight attendant for a major U.S. airline

RELATED: What Flight Attendants Want You to Know Before You Fly Again

Man traveling and sleeping on the plane wearing a facemaskHispanolistic/Getty Images

Wear your mask correctly

Sometimes, passengers think that once they get past the gate agent they can swap out a compliant mask for something non-compliant. However, flight attendants are checking for mask compliance just like they do for seatbelts and tray tables. Flight attendants track how many times they have to remind or ask someone to wear their mask properly. Passengers who resist are risking being denied flying. Many flights have pushed back and started taxing and turned around to disembark disobedient passengers. —Beth B., former flight attendant health and safety manager

RELATED: Things That Could Get You Banned from an Airplane

Senior couple traveling by plane wearing facemasksHispanolistic/Getty Images

Masks likely aren’t going away immediately

While many states are lifting masks requirements passengers and crew are expected to wear their masks until further notice. Currently, the expiration date is September 13, 2021. —Beth B.

Airport workers walking passed closed storesThe Washington Post/Getty Images

You may not be able to buy things pre-flight like you used to

Airport shops and restaurants are slowly starting to open up again, but there are still lots of places that are closed. Make sure to bring enough snacks, drinks, and entertainment to last you through your journey. A reusable water bottle is a great investment as well. —Nicole J., flight attendant for a major U.S. airline

RELATED: Things You Won’t See in Airports Anymore

Chinese woman wearing face mask at train station and maintaining social distance - young asian woman using smartphone and looking away with departure arrivals board behind - health and travel conceptswilliam87/Getty Images

Get your airline’s app

Some airlines (like United) have updated their apps to make sure you understand what’s happening at every point in the travel process. They’ll remind you of any travel restrictions, give you a place to input contact information to give to the CDC, and describe the boarding process (if it’s different than it once was). I highly recommend downloading your airline’s app! —Nicole J.

Male passenger walks in airport, holds suitcase, checks newsfeed on smartphone, wears disposable medical mask during pandemic coronavirus, tries to be safe during disease virus. Respiratory symptomsViorel Kurnosov/Getty Images

Stay up-to-date

[We wish] passengers [would] always be ready by reading their emails from the airline before traveling. Carry-on regulations, mask policies, seat assignments, etc. Now after the pandemic is always good to keep an eye out for any new updates from the CDC or any city that you might be flying to. —Yaika B., flight attendant for a major U.S. airline

Mature Woman Using Hand Sanitizer During Airplane Tripxavierarnau/Getty Images

You might have to sit next to a stranger

Flights are full again, and you could possibly be seated next to a stranger. Airlines lost billions of dollars due to COVID, so they need full flights to regain their losses. If you are scared to sit next to a stranger, you might need to find alternative transportation. Most airlines spent a lot of money upgrading their filtration system, so flying is safer than before. —Summer

Portrait of flight attendant standing on airport, wearing face masks.Halfpoint/Getty Images

We’re tired of this pandemic like everyone else

Flight attendants have to wear masks for their entire workday, so wearing a mask for one flight shouldn’t be that difficult. COVID fatigue is very real for flight attendants. Please have compassion and be kind. —Beth B.

Young man putting luggage into overhead locker on airplane. Traveler placing carry on bag in overhead compartmentSpace_Cat/Getty Images

Don’t overstuff the overhead bin

Want to start off on the wrong foot with me? Put your carry-on in a full overhead bin, leave it sticking out six inches, then take your seat at the window and wait for someone else (me!) to come along and solve the physics problem you just created.

People traveling and calling an air hostessHispanolistic/Getty Images

Yes, some passengers are incredibly rude…

…but stealing a beer, cursing out passengers, and jumping out of a plane is not the way to handle it. You disarm an unruly passenger by introducing yourself, asking his name, and saying something like ‘I’ve been incredibly nice to you for three hours. Why are you treating me like this?’ Generally, that gets the other passengers on your side—and sometimes they’ll even applaud.

Cropped hands of businessman scanning ticket on smart phone at airport check-in counterMaskot/Getty Images

Pay attention (for us and for you)

Always listen to the gate agent about boarding groups, and if they offer to check bags, take advantage of that. Because it means that you will have one less thing to worry about while walking down the aisle in the plane. —Yaika B.

Low Angle View Of Cabin Crew Wearing Mask At Airplane Maksim Chernyshev/Getty Images

Our first priority?

We are there for your safety. Service comes second to us. We aren’t even trained in service while we go through initial training; it is six to eight weeks of drills, tests, and safety equipment knowledge only. —Alisha R., flight attendant for a major US airline

Two flight attendants on the way to their planeHinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

We don’t have a boyfriend in every city

And our median age these days is 44.

woman boarding plane SolStock/Getty Images

No, you can’t sit wherever you want

It’s never open seating, so sit in your assigned seat (unless of course, you’re on Southwest). —Alisha R.

Portrait of a young girl sitting in a seat showing her tongue in an airplaneColorblind Images LLC/Getty Images

What’s that sound?

If you’re traveling with a small child and you keep hearing bells, bells, and more bells, please look to see if it’s your child playing with the flight attendant call bell.

RELATED: Things You Should Never Do on an Airplane

Baby boy looking fascinated out of airplane windowKlaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Come prepared

If you have a baby, bring diapers. If you’re diabetic, bring syringes. If you have high blood pressure, don’t forget your medication. That way, I’m not trying to make a diaper out of a sanitary pad and a pillowcase or asking over the intercom if someone has a spare inhaler.

RELATED: Flying Etiquette Rules You Should Know

Male cabin crew holding interphone in aircraft cabin.Vajirawich Wongpuvarak/Getty Images

Listen to us

We are constantly repeating ourselves to passengers. —Alisha R.

Airplane aisleSwell Media/Getty Images

Be respectful

There are other people on the airplane besides you. So don’t clip your toenails, snore with wild abandon, or do any type of personal business under a blanket!

Hands of flight Passengers filling immigration forms in aircraftAlexBrylov/Getty Images

Bring a pen

You would not believe how many people travel without one, and you need one if you’re traveling internationally to fill out the immigration forms. I carry some, but I can’t carry 200.

RELATED: Air Travel Tips to Know Before Your Next Flight

Premium Economy Class Seating Inside An Airplane Cabintbradford/Getty Images

Don’t ask me to tell off a fellow passenger for a minor annoyance

Passengers are always coming up to me and tattling on each other. “Can you tell him to put his seat up?” “She won’t share the armrest.” What am I, a preschool teacher?

Silhouette of airplane flying over palm trees in sunsetJohn M Lund Photography Inc/Getty Images

I don’t like luxury destinations

I hate working flights to destinations like Vail and West Palm Beach. The passengers all think they’re in first class even if they’re not. They don’t do what we ask. And the overhead bins are full of their mink coats.

Helpful flight attendant directing woman to her seat in planeyacobchuk/Getty Images

We’d appreciate a hello and goodbye

We say it 300 times on every flight, and only about 40 people respond—saying “hello” is really the one word you need to get your flight attendant to like you.

RELATED: 13 Things Airlines Won’t Tell You

Flight AttendantInstants/Getty Images

Do not poke or grab me

I mean it. No one likes to be poked, but it’s even worse on the plane because you’re sitting down and we’re not, so it’s usually in a very personal area. You would never grab a waitress if you wanted ketchup or a fork, would you?

RELATED: Things Never to Say to Flight Attendants

female passenger is wearing an FFP 3 face mask while putting luggage in lockers on planeEMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS/Getty Images

We’re not just being lazy

Our rules really say we aren’t allowed to lift your luggage into the overhead bin for you, though we can “assist.”

Couple traveling by plane - Coronavirus pandemiclncreativemedia/Getty Images

Keep your clothes on

Who decided the mile-high club was something that everyone wants to do anyway? It’s cramped and dirty in those bathrooms.

Man with oxygen mask hanging in front of face, on airlinerStephen Swintek/Getty Images

We have priorities for a reason

If you hear us paging for a doctor or see us running around with oxygen, defibrillators, and first aid kits, that’s not the right time to ask for a blanket or a Diet Coke.

RELATED: Things Your Airplane Pilot Won’t Tell You

plane bathroom signiStock/frontpoint

We wish we didn’t have to say this

The only place you are allowed to pee on the airplane is in the lavatory. Period.

plane landed on the groundiStock/Ugurhan Betin

Yes, it’s OK to use the bathroom when the plane’s on the ground

Do you think what goes into the toilet just dumps out onto the tarmac?

RELATED: Hidden Airplane Features You Had No Idea Existed

soggy tissue from a plane passengeriStock/Chris_Charles

I can’t touch some things with my bare hands (nor do I want to)

If you try to hand me your soggy Kleenex, or your kid’s fully loaded diaper—I’ll be right back with gloves.

empty soda cup on airplaneHildegarde/Getty Images

Try to have your trash ready

Some passengers scour the seatback pocket and the floor for candy wrappers and other garbage, then place them in my bag one by one. Please keep in mind that I have 150 other passengers to serve.

RELATED: Strange Rules Flight Attendants Must Follow

Disabled senior woman being conveyed to a planeSvitlana Hulko/Getty Images

I’m sorry it’s taking forever to get you a wheelchair

That’s one thing you can’t blame the airline for. The wheelchair service is subcontracted to the cities we fly into, and it’s not a top priority for many of them.

Portrait of Asian steward wearing medical face mask to protect Coronavirus standing in airplane cabin. social responsibility of airline company in new normal adaptationWinnieVinzence/Getty Images

We appreciate you

Most flight attendants I know are very thankful for their job and are happy to be back in the skies. We will do everything we can to accommodate passenger requests and want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable flight. —Summer

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.