17 Things to Never Say to Flight Attendants
Flight attendants have seen it all and heard it all. But while there's not much that can surprise flight attendants, but there's plenty that can annoy them...
These won’t fly
Yes, they’re there to serve you and make your flight easier. Yes, they’re professionally trained and highly experienced by the time they’re ever on a flight with you, and they’ve heard it all. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still roll their eyes or even fume when you say frustrating or even borderline offensive things. And in a global pandemic and little opportunities to socially distance in the confined space of an airplane, their jobs are likely more stressful than ever. For instance, one flight attendant reveals what her job is like during COVID-19. So keep their feelings—and time—in mind and don’t say these things.
“It fit on my last flight…”
“One of my favorites was the passengers who insisted that the oversized bags they were trying to stuff under a seat or into an overhead bin should be allowed onboard as a carry-on because ‘it fit on my last flight,'” Candace Johnson, a flight attendant for American Airlines during the late 1970s and early 1980s, tells Reader’s Digest. “No, it doesn’t because it didn’t. Now go check that bag and stop wasting our time.” The size of your carry-on bag is not the only thing your flight attendant first notices about you.
“Can you help get my bag up?”
Johnson also points out that if you can’t lift/carry your own carry-on, then you really shouldn’t consider it a “carry-on.” Check it instead, rather than asking your flight attendant for assistance. It’s actually not their job to do your heavy lifting.
Don’t ask them to babysit
Flight attendants aren’t trained governesses, nannies, or even babysitters. And if they wanted to have any of those jobs, they wouldn’t be flight attendants, you can safely assume. Not only should you never ask a flight attendant to help you watch your kid(s), they should never agree to do so. Besides, it’s one of the top 15 pet peeves of flight attendants.
“You should smile!”
A flight attendant’s job is to provide routine services to airplane passengers and to prepare and respond to flight-related emergencies. And while they may serve food and beverages on flights, the services are extremely limited, so they’re not “waitstaff” either. Nor are they there to entertain you. That’s why it can really make a flight attendant’s blood boil if you tell them to “smile,” Johnson says. “Would you go to anyone else’s job and tell them to smile?”
“My nickname is Candie, that’s what my name tag read,” Johnson tells Reader’s Digest. Unfortunately, that seemed to some passengers an invitation to make jokes (that were never funny to Johnson). “I lost track of how many male passengers told me, ‘candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.'” Johnson tended to plaster a smile on her face just to make the moment a little less awkward.
“Can you give me a massage?”
“I met a number of famous people while working, and most were polite and appreciative,” Johnson recalls, “but the grossest one I met was the CEO of a famous catalog company who was flying in first class and asked me for a foot massage after his dinner.” No. Just no. On the other hand, this one word will get your flight attendant to like you.
“Why isn’t there a meal?”
As Johnson explains, flight attendants don’t have a say in what food or beverages are served, nor in whether there even will be food/beverages, nor in when the service is scheduled to begin and end. Other things to skip: If the choice is chicken or pasta, don’t ask for another option. Or if you feel the food/beverage service is coming at a time that’s inconvenient for you, just keep that to yourself.
Flight attendants can be male or female, and that’s your first hint that the word “stewardess” is no longer appropriate in this day and age. Calling a flight attendant a “stewardess” is about as acceptable as lighting up a cigarette on a plane and about as desirable as getting decked out in your fanciest clothes for your flight. All of these are vestiges of the early days of aviation, and none belongs in the present day.
“Will I make my connection?”
You wouldn’t ask your flight attendant when you’ll get married or how old you’ll be when you die. That’s because flight attendants aren’t psychics—though that hasn’t stopped them from getting some pretty crazy requests. You know what else they can’t predict? Whether your flight will arrive, land, and deplane in time for you to make your connection. This is particularly true when your plane has not yet even taken off.
“Just one minute…”
Sorry, but your flight attendant doesn’t have a minute. Not for your drink order. Not for you to turn off your devices. Not for you to step out of the aisle or return to your seat when asked.
“Did you hear the one about the hijacker?”
“Flight crew are trained to take any and all mentions of terrorism and contagious diseases seriously,” explains Conde Nast Traveler, so why would you ever expect your flight attendant to handle such subjects as anything but? For that matter, it’s wise not to make those wisecracks to anyone on the plane, including your seatmate, even if they “seem” like they can take a joke.
“Are you free after the flight?”
There is very little chance your flight attendant will be free after the flight. Most are almost immediately off to somewhere else or are in desperate need of sleep. And while they may be polite and even friendly, it’s best not to mistake them doing their job with “flirting.”
“Can I borrow a pen?”
How many pens do you think your flight attendant has? And, honestly, what are the odds you’ll give them back their pen when you’re done? They don’t carry extra pens, are busy as it is, and can’t help every international passenger fill out their customs forms at the exact same time. Come prepared by always including one as one of the items to always pack in your carry-on.
“Disorderly passengers—those threatening or arguing with gate agents, getting into altercations, or just annoying passengers around them by being loud and disruptive—can be denied boarding,” Conde Nast Traveler points out. Best to not take chances—avoid arguing with your flight attendant.
Please don’t DING!
Non-verbal communication is a thing too, especially when it’s communication via the flight attendant “call-bell.” Sure, it’s there, but it’s there for a reason, and it’s not to make your flight attendant jump up and get you another drink or answer your question about when you’ll be landing. Sure, your flight attendant will come when you call, but you can be pretty sure they’re rolling their eyes and pondering these things your flight attendant won’t tell you.