32 Things Your Flight Attendant Won’t Tell You
These secrets about air travel will make flying a happier, safer experience for all.
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.
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
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
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.
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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
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.
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[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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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
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.
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.
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.
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Listen to us
We are constantly repeating ourselves to passengers. —Alisha R.
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!
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.
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?
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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.
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.
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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?
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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