Secrets That Flight Attendants Can’t Tell


5 min read
Flight Attendants

Remember when air travel was fun and easy? Neither do we, but rumor has it that there was a time when flying was not the pressure cooker it is today. (That was probably in ancient times when terrorism was extremely rare and when the seats were far enough apart that even people bigger and taller than Alvin & the Chipmunks could relax in comfort.) At any rate, things are more challenging today. The process of getting from your front door to the airplane door, and using the necessary shoehorn to wedge yourself into the seat, can produce quite a bit of stress.

So how can we make the best of the situation? Fortunately, we have some inside information from a reputable source – the flight attendants. These are things they would be happy to say to you directly, but rules and decorum prevent them from doing so. But thanks to the wonder of the internet, they have shared their info with us and we can now share it with you.

“Not taking off hurts us, too.”

Take Off

“We want to take off on time too. We’re all going to the same place. We’re all leaving at the same time. I think people tend to be overly rushed,” a flight attendant for United Airline said. “A little patience and a little kindness goes a long way.”

Further, they do not get paid while the plane is sitting at the gate. Flight attendants get paid for “flight hours only.” Translation: The clock doesn’t start until the craft pushes away from the gate. Flight delays, cancellations, and layovers affects them just as much as they do passengers – maybe even more.

Airlines aren’t completely heartless, though. From the time they sign in at the airport until the plane slides back into the gate at their home base, they get an expense allowance of $1.50 an hour.

Don’t walk in the aisle without shoes.

Aside from the fact that doing this announces to the entire flight that you are the most arrogant, self-centered creature to ever set foot on an airplane, it’s also unsanitary.

“I think people don’t realize how dirty the planes are,” said a flight attendant for PSA Airlines, an American Airlines Group subsidiary. He said that while flight attendants pick up trash between flights, the planes receive a thorough cleaning once a day.

“Cut us some slack.”

It really makes no sense why some passengers can be so abusive to the flight crew. The flight attendants did not cause the rotten weather that delayed the flight, the unruly behavior of the person behind you, the congestion at the destination airport, or almost anything else you are screaming at the flight attendant about. “Cut us some slack,” a United flight attendant said. “Be compassionate, because we’re trying to be compassionate toward you.”

“We’re not mind readers.”

Mind Readers

You know the old proverb about what happens when you assume, right? So don’t fly off the handle because the crew didn’t fulfill an expectation of yours that you didn’t verbalize. Keep in mind that these are flight attendants, not your siblings or parents. “We’re not mind readers,” a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines said. “We may not necessarily know how to serve that individual person, nor can we tailor our service to every individual person, and I think sometimes people forget that.”

Take responsibility for your actions.

“I just wish I could tell passengers, ‘Be more responsible for yourself,'” a flight attendant for American Airlines said. “Take accountability for your actions. You booked this flight this way. You’re giving yourself 20 minutes to get to your other flight. Be more responsible.”

Also, to go along with the no shoes item, responsible behavior means respecting everyone else on the flight. Clipping your toenails, snoring so loud you can be heard on the ground 35,000 feet below, or doing personal business under a blanket, or anything else of a personal nature should never be done on a plane. Remember, this is an airplane, not your house. This is public space, not private. Respect the existence and rights of others.

Don’t ask if a delay will result in a late arrival.

Late Arrival

There is a difference between a pilot and a flight attendant. They have been trained to fulfill different roles, and one is not able to perform the duties of the other. In the case of delayed flights, the flight attendant won’t know any more than you if the lost time can be made up during flight or if taking of 30 minutes late will result in arriving 30 minutes late. “Don’t ask me if the plane’s going to be late because of the delay, because I don’t know,” said a flight attendant for Piedmont Airlines, an American Airlines Group subsidiary.

You have never been in extreme turbulence.

Extreme Turbulence

More than 2 million people fly in the United States each day, and yet since 1980, only three people have died as a direct result of turbulence. Of those fatalities, two passengers weren’t wearing their safety belts. During that same time period, the Federal Aviation Administration recorded just over 300 serious injuries from turbulence, and more than two-thirds of the victims were flight attendants. What do these numbers mean? As long as your seat belt is on, you’re more likely to be injured by falling luggage than by choppy air.

Pack appropriately

Speaking of falling luggage, don’t try to game the system by wrapping twine around your refrigerator and calling it carry-on luggage and only get about half of it inside the overhead bin. One of the easiest ways to earn the ire of a flight attendant is to put your carry-on in a full overhead bin, leave it sticking out six inches, then take your seat at the window and wait for someone else to come along and solve the physics problem you just created. Measure your bag at home before you pack it. The typical dimensions for a carry-on bag are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels. If yours is bigger, check it in. Yes, the checked bag fee is a pain and probably immoral, but your huge item is creating an injury risk for yourself and everyone around you.