13 Surprising Things Your Airline Knows About You
From birthdays to beverage preferences to how your last vacation went, flight attendants reveal what they know about you—before you even board the plane.
If you are flying on your birthday, you might be surprised with a complimentary item or a card signed by the flight crew. Airlines such as JetBlue now provide flight attendants with digital seat maps, which place a birthday cake icon on your seat if it’s your big day. Personal touches like this one allow crew members “to engage with customers in a meaningful way,” John Slater, United Airline’s senior vice president of in-flight services, told the Wall Street Journal. Find out more secrets your flight attendant won’t tell you.
You might want to think twice before getting crabby with flight attendants or fellow passengers. Crew members can report bad passenger behavior to warn their colleagues—such as “if you became verbally abusive, drank too much on your connecting flight (in which case we may choose not to serve you more alcohol), or were otherwise a nuisance,” flight attendant Carrie A. Trey wrote for The Points Guy. They are also trained to spot signs of anxiety or nervousness, which allows them to calm a guest down before things get out of hand. You should never do these 14 things on an airplane, either.
Your meal preferences
Many passengers request special in-flight meals, ranging from kosher to vegan to low sodium. But no need to push the call button; flight attendants already know your order, thanks to their in-flight app. Just make sure to order your meal at least 48 hours in advance, or it might not make it onboard. Check out these easy tricks to make your next flight healthier.
Flight attendants learn over 300 different acronyms and codes to use when communicating with the flight and ground crew, according to Zack, a flight attendant based in Denver. For example, certain codes give the crew a heads-up when a special passenger (such as a fellow crew member or a diplomat carrying official documents) is on the flight. Some airlines even tell flight attendants when there are veterans onboard so they can thank them for their service.
Disabilities or special accommodations
Airlines also have codes to help the crew better serve fliers with disabilities, including whether a passenger needs assistance while boarding or if they brought their own wheelchair. Other codes indicate passengers with hearing or visual impairment, as well as those with food allergies. This “assures the special guests that they will have 100 percent of the flight attendant’s attention and assistance if needed,” Zack said. These are the best airplane seats for every type of need.
Your previous flight
Was your last flight delayed on the tarmac? Did you get stuck in the TSA line? Rest assured that your flight attendants already know. Gate agents and other crew members can leave notes on reservations to let their colleagues know how your trip is going. In fact, United Airlines recently introduced a new tool that tracks a frequent flier’s five previous flights; green means it was a good flight, while yellow or red means there was a mishap (like a delay).
Your next flight
On the flip side, flight attendants also know when and where your connecting flight will be. The United app uses yellow and red-colored seats for passengers who might be in danger of missing their connection. You probably had no idea these hidden features existed on your plane, too.
Prepare to be greeted by name the next time you board a plane. On JetBlue flights, a digital seat map can help flight attendants know who’s who. “By knowing as much as we can about our passengers, we are able to prepare and ensure their comfort and happiness, with the hope they will fly with us again in the future,” Zack said. But that’s not the first thing flight attendants first notice about you.
Your worst vacation nightmare
A faulty entertainment screen shouldn’t be a vacation buster. Flight attendants can instantly make up for any in-flight mishap by offering a free meal or giving you more frequent flier points. “We can’t fix everything, but at least we can try to give it a chance and try to make things acceptable,” Robert “Bingo” Bingochea, a flight attendant with United Airlines, told Business Insider.
Your airline status
You may not know exactly how many miles you earned for this flight—but don’t worry, because the crew already does. Airlines have codes that tell flight attendants how many miles your frequent flier account has, what your elite status is, and even if you have status with another airline. The United app, for example, notes passengers with million-mileage levels using the symbol “M.”
Jet-setters, beware: Flight attendants will know if you actually paid extra for the seat beside you. Some airlines also keep tabs on whether you paid more for an extra-legroom seat or if you bought a basic economy ticket. And if you want to upgrade your ticket during boarding, a flight attendant can make that happen using an app on their handheld device.
On the United app, a seat with a dog face icon tells flight attendants that the passenger brought Fluffy or Fido along. Specific codes even indicate whether an animal in the cabin is a pet traveling on a paid fare, a trained service animal, or an emotional support animal.
Your favorite beverage
In the future, flight attendants may be able to guess your beverage order before you say a word. JetBlue hopes to one day track onboard purchases using tablets attached on top of beverage-service carts. If a guest orders the same drink frequently, flight attendants can offer the usual. Don’t miss the 40 things that pilots wish you knew.