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20 Things You’re Probably Doing on a Plane That Flight Attendants Wouldn’t

Flight attendants know a thing or two about how to travel well. These smart tips will make your future flights exponentially better.

Learn from the professionals

No matter how many times you’ve flown the friendly skies, you haven’t done it as much as a flight attendant. And that means you likely have something to learn, including these 13 travel secrets only flight attendants know. The flight attendants we spoke with know a thing or two about what it takes to stay healthy, rested, and happy on a flight—as well as how to be a considerate traveler. If you’re engaging in any of the following behaviors, it’s time to change things up so you can have a better travel experience every time you fly.

Pregnant woman traveling by plane. Air travel. Is it save to travel during pregnancy?baranq/Shutterstock

Staying glued to your seat

“When the seat belt sign is off, walk throughout the cabin to get the circulation going in your legs,” says Emirates cabin crew member Lauren Guilfoyle. “And remember to stretch a few times throughout the flight to get your muscles loosened up and the blood circulation going.” Not only might you start to get stiff and/or stir-crazy if you don’t get up, but you could also be endangering your health. On a long flight, in particular, a lack of movement can put you at an increased risk for developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a potentially deadly blood clot, according to the CDC. Simply getting up and moving around can reduce that risk.

Stuck against the window with a sleeping seatmate on the aisle? No worries. “When seated, motion each letter of the alphabet with your foot to get the blood flowing and avoid ankle swelling,” Guilfoyle suggests. “Circulatory exercises will keep your cheeks looking rosy and make you look more awake when you de-board.” Here’s what it is like to be a flight attendant for the world’s best airline.

Side view of the elegant young man who is sitting on the plane near the window and sleepingMyroslava Malovana/Shutterstock

Falling asleep unbuckled

A domestic flight attendant we’ll call Suzanne says that neither she nor her colleagues would ever “fall asleep with our seat belts off.” Why? She poses this rhetorical question: “Do you want to hit the ceiling?!” before noting her frustration at passengers who get mad at her for “having to poke them to wake them up and make sure their seat belt is on.” You never know when the plane will hit turbulence or experience some other unexpected emergency, so it’s always best to be safe while you snooze. That said, some other flight problems might be minimized on the best airlines in America.

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

Drinking too much alcohol

“When you’re flying long-haul, the number one rule is to drink plenty of water because the air circulation can dry out your skin,” says Guilfoyle. Flight attendants obviously don’t drink while on the job, but they tend to steer clear of adult beverages when flying as passengers, too. In addition to keeping their skin hydrated, they also want to avoid a restless struggle to fall sleep on board. Plus, “a plane hangover is more merciless than one on land.” Guilfoyle also suggests avoiding caffeinated drinks and instead sticking to water and fruit juices. And before you even get on the plane, make sure you’re not making these 16 airport mistakes.

Tourists holding a cup of white coffee on the plane.A cup of coffee on the foldable tray of the aircraft seat.PONG HANDSOME/Shutterstock

Drinking coffee or hot tea

You probably won’t see a flight attendant drinking the coffee or tea on board a flight, no matter how tired they are, says an international flight attendant using the pseudonym Rebecca for this interview. “We really don’t know how good or clean the filter system is in the plane, therefore I don’t know where exactly that hot water is coming from to make the coffee and tea,” she explains. Should you chow down on your flight? Maybe. It depends if you’re flying on one of these 13 airlines with the best (and worst) food.

airplane aisleMatej Kastelic/Shutterstock

Walking barefoot around the cabin

While the cabin of each plane is cleaned before every flight, germs can still linger on the floor. And while Guilfoyle says that’s a big reason flight attendants would never walk around the cabin without shoes, it’s not the only reason. “Sometimes glasses are dropped and broken, or our youngest travelers leave crumbs, so there could be sharp objects and food on the floor,” she says. And if you’re on Emirates, there’s literally no reason to walk around barefoot—or to feel like you’re wanting for anything. Their flights have great amenity kits full of comfy and hygienic items like socks, moisturizing pajamas, and bathroom essentials. If you want to be treated right during your flight, check out these 20 airlines that are best for customer service.

Big trash bag from the airplane.litabit/Shutterstock


Flight attendants would never ignore the repeated trips their colleagues make up and down the aisle with trash bags, especially as the plane approaches its destination. They are there and ready to collect all your protein-bar wrappers, breakfast-sandwich packaging, and folded-up newspapers. All you have to do is hand them over. First of all, it’s the polite thing to do, since otherwise, it will create more work for the cabin crew. Second, flight attendants know that turning over the plane must be done swiftly to ensure the next flight departs on time. One way to make this process smoother is to not have passengers leaving their seat, floor area, and seat-back pocket littered with garbage. What else are you doing that’s annoying? These are the 13 pet peeves all flight attendants have.

Adorable little girl traveling by an airplane. Kid drinking orange juice sitting near aircraft windowTravnikovStudio/Shutterstock

Asking for multiple beverages

Rebecca says that there’s no way a flight attendant, when flying as a passenger, would ever ask for multiple drinks—or worse, ask what there is to drink on board. In Rebecca’s words: “We have over 200 passengers to get to, so the last thing we want to hear when we finally get to your row is: ‘What do you have?’ Or, ‘Can I have three different drinks—one with ice, one without ice, and a coffee?'” Remember that they are flight attendants with multiple important responsibilities, not your personal bartenders. On the flip side, there’s really just one word you need to say to get your flight attendant to like you.

airplane toilettratong/Shutterstock

Engaging in bad bathroom habits

According to Rebecca, no one who spends their professional life on airplanes would ever exhibit the bad bathroom habits some passengers do. This includes not flushing the toilet, not washing hands (gross), and—possibly worse of all, especially on a night flight—leaving the bathroom door open upon exiting. While you obviously can’t control your fellow passengers, you have a better chance of having a good flight on one of the cleanest airlines in the world.

airplane mannersrkl_foto/Shutterstock

Forgetting your manners

Common courtesies aren’t as common as you might think. So don’t forget to say simple things like, “May I…,” “Please,” and “Thank you,” during in-flight beverage service and whenever else the situation calls for it. One Delta flight attendant remarked that she rarely hears passengers using their manners, so you can be sure that flight attendants are not forgetting theirs when flying. Here are 22 things your flight attendant won’t tell you.

airplane seat back pocketMoreGallery/Shutterstock

Tucking snotty tissues into the seat backs

So you had a sneezing fit during a flight—no big deal, says Rebecca. It happens to airline professionals, too. What is a big deal is when you tuck those used tissues into the seat-back pocket. That’s something flight attendants would never do because chances are, at some point in their careers, they’ve had to fish out a pile of wet, gross, snotty tissues after landing. Aside from avoiding your germy tissues, this is how flight attendants stay healthy.

Young woman travels in a chair of the airplane. Passengers reads a magazine in the window of the aircraft. Enjoy - entertainment on board of flying air plane.Milkovasa/Shutterstock

Asking where you are

Flight attendants are not programmed with their own personal GPS system, but somehow passengers seem to forget that mid-flight. Flight attendants wouldn’t, however. “Passengers will often randomly point out the window at something 35,000 below and ask, ‘What’s that?’ or ‘Do you know where we are right now?'” says Suzanne. When she says she doesn’t know, the passenger sometimes follows up with: “Can you ask the captain?” Of course, that’s not going to happen since he or she is busy flying the plane. Here are some things your airline pilot won’t tell you.

passenger seat, Interior of airplane with passengers sitting on seats and stewardess walking the aisle in background. Travel concept,vintage colorHave a nice day Photo/Shutterstock

Taking off your clothes

Yes, sometimes it gets too warm on an airplane, but you have to keep your clothes on. This is non-negotiable. Does this really need to be said? Apparently! Rebecca says that passengers occasionally disrobe “because they are uncomfortable—like the guy sleeping on a red-eye flight who decided he was hot and took off his shirt.” She had to politely let him know he couldn’t do that, and of course, he complained. This is just common sense, but there is actually an airline dress code and following it may actually get you an upgrade.

Interior view of a commercial airplane and its legroom in between seats.Scott's Shotz Photography/Shutterstock

Giving yourself a pedicure at 30,000 feet

Rebecca has seen it all on a plane, including passengers cutting their toenails and fingernails in their seats. “I can’t tell you how many people have decided that the plane is a great place to get a mani/pedi!” she says. Not only is that rude and messy, but it also isn’t hygienic. Flight attendants deserve to be pampered after being on their feet all day, but there’s no way you will see them cutting their toenails on a plane. Did any of these weird airlines you never knew existed have a spa on board?

Empty cabin of airplane waiting to take off.La Bella Studio/Shutterstock

Doing yoga in the galley

While stretching and even walking around during a flight is important, doing yoga on board—especially in the galley—is not recommended. For starters, there isn’t enough room for a makeshift yoga studio there. Plus, says Rebecca, “the galley is our work space, and these particular passengers don’t understand that in any normal circumstance you wouldn’t just walk into someone’s office and start stretching or doing yoga!” Apparently this happens more frequently than you might think, but these are the 15 craziest things flight attendants have seen on the job.

Food served on board of business class airplane on the table.Aureliy/Shutterstock

Not planning ahead for special dietary needs

Flight attendants know that not every flight will have food and meals that cater to every passenger’s dietary needs, so they bring their own food with them, just in case. Some vegetarian or gluten-free passengers, however, will come on the plane without their own food and be shocked to learn there’s nothing they can eat on board, says Rebecca. Not all flights have meals for every need, but here are 12 times airlines went above and beyond for passengers.

boarding areaShutterStockStudio/Shutterstock

Crowding the boarding area

For Suzanne, the differences between how passengers and flight attendants behave while flying begins before takeoff—in the boarding area at the airport. “Flight attendants would never line up in the boarding area,” she says, especially before the plane is even on the ground. She’ll often wonder, “Why are you standing there? You’ve got an assigned seat!” Here are more things you should never do at the airport.

Young woman with legs on the plane seat. A passenger relaxes on a flying plane with her feet upstairs.Milkovasa/Shutterstock

Treating everything like an ottoman

Rebecca points out that flight attendants never turn the plane into their own personal ottoman, yet she has observed passengers “putting their feet on seats, tray tables, and on other passengers’ armrests.” She doesn’t understand how passengers fail to realize “that they are not in their own home and other people have to sit where they have put their feet.” Also make sure you’re following these 10 little etiquette rules for flying on an airplane.

airplane beverage cartphotosounds/Shutterstock

Touching the beverage cart

Got the munchies or need a napkin? Flight attendants have two words for you: Be patient. Unfortunately, some passengers don’t want to wait and can’t keep their hands to themselves. “Some passengers feel they can just grab, touch, or help themselves to anything on our cart,” says Rebecca. Not only is this kind of entitlement rude, but it’s also potentially unsanitary. The problem is compounded, she says, when the guilty passengers become very offended when called out on their inappropriate behavior. Here are 10 more things polite people don’t do on airplanes.

BabyYaoinlove /Shutterstock

Handing over a poopy diaper

Never hand your baby’s poopy diaper to a flight attendant to dispose of on your behalf. Either throw it away in the lavatory trash can or wait until trash bags are circulated after meal and beverage service. But above all, put it into the bag yourself. No matter how cute your baby is, his or her dirty diaper is not. Here’s what else you need to know if you’re flying with kids.

comfort airplane seatingMPH Photos/Shutterstock

Showing off your status

If you’ve got a frequent-flier status, that’s great. It’s a lot less great when you flaunt it or otherwise attempt to pull rank in order to switch to economy class plus, for example, without paying for the privilege. Rebecca says that this isn’t only frustrating but also obnoxious—and definitely something that flight attendants would never do. Next, check out these 14 things smart travelers always do before a flight.

Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is an Iris Award-winning photographer, avid traveler, and English football fanatic who regularly covers travel, culture, cars, health, business, the environment, and more for Reader's Digest. Jeff has also written for Parents Magazine, Esquire, PBS, and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. He is the proud dad of teen daughters. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and Twitter @OWTK.

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