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15 Pet Peeves All Flight Attendants Have

You’ve always wondered what they were really thinking.


Pet peeve: When you don’t listen to your flight attendant’s directions

It’s easy to forget that being told to stay seated is mainly for your safety. Curb that enthusiasm and listen to orders given by the pilot and flight attendants. “Upon landing, this doesn’t give everyone the right to get up. It’s not safe and just because you see the flight attendants up, it’s not free range for every passenger.”—Rachel Williams, flight attendant for nine years. Here are 14 things you should never do on an airplane.


Pet peeve: We are not your babysitters

If you are flying with children, remember that they are STILL your responsibility. “Asking me to watch your child while you use the toilet. This was serious issue because god forbid there was turbulence and the child went flying. Guess who would be left to blame?” —Anna Aplatt, flight attendant for two years. Here are 21 secrets to flying calmly with kids, from pilots and flight attendants.

15 Pet Peeves All Flight Attendants HaveRUBEN M RAMOS/Shutterstock

Pet peeve: Being rude

Remember, your flight attendant probably hasn’t been home in a while. It’s important to be on your best behavior. “Being on reserve for four times out of the year for 15 years was very tiring. Now that I’m retired I mainly don’t like that they took away my travel privileges.” —Nadia Waite, flight attendant for 25+ years. Don’t miss these other 22 secrets flight attendants won’t tell you.


Pet peeve: Being disrespectful of other passengers

Getting comfortable in an airplane is no easy feat, but when doing so you should still be mindful of others in front and behind you. “Airline seats are designed to be as comfortable as possible given available space. It was always a pet peeve when passengers would intentionally push, bang, or otherwise interfere with the reclining of another passenger’s seat. Bottom-line, each passenger gets to recline their seat.” —Nancy Knutson, flight attendant for four years. Check out these other 12 ways to make an economy seat more comfortable.


Pet peeve: Attendants are not your servants

Many people get into the mindset that they’re on vacation and all their worries go out the door once they’re on board a plane. However, let’s not neglect those manners. “Many passengers do not respond to a question such as, “Would you care for a beverage?” They either ignore the flight attendant or wave their hand in disapproval as to not be bothered or inconvenienced. And, when they do want something, they yell out, “hey, you!” or pinch a flight attendant on their waist or backside, or yank on their uniform or apron. Nothing irritates a female or male crew member more than being touched or pinched on their body… totally inexcusable.” —Jon Ferguson, flight attendant for 30 years. Flight attendants always pack these essentials in the winter.


Pet peeve: Not getting that your safety is a priority

It’s expected that you will get up during a long flight to stretch your legs or use the restroom. But do so when you are permitted to, not as you please. “Don’t ask if you can go to the bathroom while the seatbelt sign is on. We can NEVER say ‘yes.’ We are working under the FAA and if we say yes, and you get injured, WE PERSONALLY get fined. Just don’t ask.” —Mary Beth Pickard, flight attendant for 11 years. Here are 16 more airport mistakes travelers need to stop making.

Close-up back view of legs of enamored businesswoman and businessman are going along airport lounge. They are holding hands while carrying their suitcases to departure areaOlena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

Pet peeve: People who over-pack their carry-ons

Who hasn’t been guilty of overpacking a carry-on bag when flying? But those bulky bags can cause a nuisance not only to other passengers, but flight attendants as well. “Some passengers are unaware of how many people they may be hitting with their backpacks as they board the aircraft. Please take off your backpacks and wear or carry them in front. There has been more than one flight attendant—and I’m certain passengers as well—who have been injured severely by these items. I, for one, had my head nearly taken off and had to actually go to physical therapy and a chiropractor for weeks.” —Monica Ehman, flight attendant for 18 years. 

glas of tomato juice on a table in an airplane close to the airplane windowCameris/Shutterstock

Pet peeve: Passengers who abuse the beverage service

Flight attendants only have so much food and drink available per flight. So it’s helpful to be mindful of your orders. Joanne Cummings has been a flight attendant for more than 20 years, and she particularly hates when “big men” drink up all the available milk. “Now, if it’s not breakfast time we only get two single small cartons of two percent milk. Giving him [a glass] makes it one less for an infant to have.”— Joanne Cummings, flight attendant for 20+ years.

airplane bathroomKathKatherine Welles/Shutterstock

Pet peeve: Running to the bathroom

Although there is reportedly no rule that planes need to have working bathrooms, they do exist for passenger use. Just don’t make a beeline for the restroom when you first get on a plane. “Why do passengers have to ‘go’ on the aircraft lavatory as soon as they come onboard? There are restrooms at the airport terminals for that purpose.”— Joanne Cummings, flight attendant for 20+ years.

Stewardess cleaning garbage in airplane after lunch.Krasula/Shutterstock

Pet peeve: Passengers who leave their trash

Flight attendants are not maids. Be respectful of the space you are in and toss out your trash at the appropriate time. “First class passengers who make a mess on the floor with their nuts and newspapers, walk off the aircraft leaving them on the floor, even though the flight attendant just went up and down collecting garbage. —Joanne Cummings, flight attendant for 20+ years. These are the 11 strange rules flight attendants must follow.

meals on boardAureliy/Shutterstock

Pet peeve: Not knowing what you want from the snack cart

There are only so many options available in the snack and drink cart. Plus, longer flights usually come equipped with a menu. Have your mind made up by the time your flight attendant comes around to make the process smoother and quicker. “And this big one, when you offer a beverage, they have to ask, ‘what do you have.’ Boy oh boy.” —Joanne Cummings, flight attendant for 20+ years.

Woman Taking Pet Cat To Vet In CarrierSpeedKingz/Shutterstock

Pet peeve: Passengers who don’t control their pets

There are various rules for pets in place on airplanes. But overall, it’s a good idea to keep your pet on a short leash on planes. “Passengers traveling with pets who allow them to drink from serving dishes or use the blankets to swaddle their pets are a pet peeve. Or the passengers whose ‘service animal’ is untrained and it barks at people and is unruly.” —Steffanie Rivers, flight attendant for six years. Don’t miss these other 10 airplane etiquette rules every flier should follow.

A young man tying elegant shoes indoorskyrien/Shutterstock

Pet peeve: Placing your feet on the bulkhead or on the seat in front of you

The bulkhead, separating cabins in a plane, is not for your feet. “I don’t put my feet on the walls of your office so don’t put your feet on the walls of mine.” —Joe Smith, flight attendant for 20+ years who prefers to remain anonymous. These are the 13 travel secrets only flight attendants know.  

Cute baby boy, playing with toys on board of aircraft, traveling on vacation with parents and siblingsTomsickova Tatyana/Shutterstock

Pet peeve: People who change baby diapers on the tray table

Nope, the tray table is not for changing a diaper. “There’s a changing table in most of the airplane lavatories, and even if there’s not, that’s where the job is done.” —Joe Smith, flight attendant for 20+ years who prefers to remain anonymous

luggage on airplane shelf overhead passenger seatSurachet Jo/Shutterstock

Pet peeve: Putting your carry-on in the first available spot

Most airlines allow people to bring a small personal item, like a laptop bag or purse, and a carry-on that fits in an overhead bin. Smith says you should keep your bag close to you. It’s an inconvenience for others if you keep your bag far away from your seat and must stop foot traffic to grab it on the way off the aircraft. Next, check out the 15 craziest things flight attendants have seen on the job.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.

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