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10 Things Flight Attendants Aren’t Allowed to Do

Their job description is more unusual than most—and so are the rules they have to follow.

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male and female flight attendants stand in the aisle of an empty airplaneDigital Vision./Getty Images

The (job) rules of the sky

There are always rules and regulations to follow at various companies, and flight attendants are no exception. However, since being a flight attendant is no ordinary job and they’ve seen some of the craziest things when flying, it makes sense that they have some more interesting rules they need to abide by. From not having tongue piercings and tattoos to not gambling in uniform, read on to find out the unusual rules flight attendants need to follow on the job.

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They can’t sleep when working on a flight

It’s tempting for passengers to get some sleep when on a flight, but unfortunately, flight attendants don’t always have that option. “Flight attendants cannot ever sleep while working a flight unless it is a flight of a certain time duration,” says Kiki Ward, an airline flight attendant and author of The Essential Guide to Becoming a Flight Attendant. However, there are some exceptions, like on international or long haul flights when flight attendants can go to a designated area and have a set amount of time to take a rest break. Find out how flight attendants never get sick.

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They can’t have tongue piercings

Many women get their ears pierced at a young age. However, piercings can’t extend to other parts of the body, especially the tongue. According to the British Airways website, “Our uniform standards require a simple, elegant look. A single ear piercing is allowed no more than 10mm in diameter, only one set of round shaped ear-rings must be worn. No other visible body piercings including tongue, tongue retainer, and nose studs are allowed.” Add this to these other strange rules flight attendants must always follow.

man's arm and hand pointing with tattoos peeking out from under his shirt sleeve at the wristianmcdonnell/Getty Images

They can’t have tattoos on most airlines

British Airways has an extensive checklist regarding tattoos, including a color-coded illustration of where on the body tattoos must be fully covered, and in some spots, you can’t cover tattoos with “plasters, jewellery, or watches.” However, Air New Zealand’s tattoo policy changed on September 1, 2019, and “employees will be able to have Tā Moko and non-offensive tattoos visible when wearing our uniform or normal business attire.” Learn the pet peeves all flight attendants have.

close up on woman yelling with mouth wide open and hand next to her face. flight attendant's uniformAleksander Kaczmarek/Getty Images

They can’t talk loudly in the cabin

In a confined space like a cabin, one conversation can be heard by people rows away. “There are personal behavioral guidelines that FAs are asked to follow,” says Ward. “For example, not to talk to one another loudly in the cabin, the galleys, or on jumpseats about personal lives, work, etc., (voices carry on airplanes!)” There isn’t a lot of privacy on an airplane, so everyone should be courteous to those around them and follow these etiquette rules for flying on an airplane.

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They can’t accept tips from passengers

Even though passengers might want to tip flight attendants for their services, like restaurant servers or bartenders, would flight attendants be able to receive tips? “Absolutely not,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder and CEO, the Protocol School of Palm Beach. “Flight attendants are encouraged not to carry or exchange cash on an airplane for security reasons.” Here’s what a flight attendant first notices about you.

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On some airlines, they can’t be more than a certain weight

In September 2019, Air India sent out a memo to cabin crew containing details on a new menu for in-flight crew based on a “low-fat diet.” Three years earlier in 2015, Air India instructed 125 members of their cabin crew to lose weight or else face the risk of not having a job. The airline also grounded about 130 flight attendants for being overweight. The airline cited safety concerns and various issues as an explanation for shedding the weight.

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They can’t eat in front of passengers

Flight attendants serve snacks and drinks on flights, but when was the last time you actually saw a flight attendant eat something? Jeremy Thompson shares his experience working as a flight attendant on Quora, revealing a rule pertaining to flight attendants and eating. “When I worked, we were always told to be discreet when eating and drinking,” says Thompson. “We couldn’t be seen by passengers walking down the aisle eating food or drinking. However, we could hide in the galley out of passenger view to eat and drink.” Learn a few other things flight attendants aren’t telling you.

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They can’t wear earplugs for safety reasons

When the people around you are having a loud conversation or a baby starts crying, you can pop in your earplugs or flip through the channels to watch a movie. Not so for flight attendants. Former cabin crew safety trainer Sebastien Bouevier wrote on Quora that “crying babies are annoying and draining, however, you still need to be able to hear all the various aural signals as they will notify you of passenger call bells, lavatory call bells, fires, depressurization, etc.” Whatever you do, don’t say these things to a flight attendant.

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They can’t drink when wearing their uniform

While some passengers crave ginger ale on flights, others prefer something a bit stronger. However, drinking alcohol doesn’t apply to flight attendants on duty. “Flight attendants can’t publicly consume alcohol in uniform,” says Ward. This is why you should never order tap water on planes, though.

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Flight attendants can’t gamble when in uniform

There are many things to do in Las Vegas besides gambling. While passengers may try their luck at the slots, the same can’t be said for everyone arriving in Sin City. Ward says that flight attendants can’t “gamble while in uniform, so taking a quick spin on a slot machine in the Vegas airport is prohibited when working!” Next, read through these travel secrets only flight attendants know.