To most people who have never worked in the industry, there are a lot of unknowns about flying. Many people get anxious about it — from the hassle of navigating the airport, getting through security, and dealing with delays, to the stress of flying itself because turbulence can be pretty scary. We hear all the time that it is the safest mode of transportation, but it’s hard to feel that way when you’re hundreds of thousands of miles in the air.
One aspect of flying that is often overlooked, though, are the flight attendants — which is a shame because they’re arguably the most helpful and knowledgeable people available when it comes to air travel. Whether it’s understanding how planes work to insider tips about what you can and can’t get away with, there’s a lot of passengers who don’t know much about flying — particularly about information that they definitely should be aware of. Fortunately, the following flight attendants recently took to Reddit to offer some insider information.
35. Saying Hello Matters
When people ask for the reason for a delay, we usually give a made up response because the REAL answer would spook passengers. “We have a minor technical problem and engineers are on their way” And in reality: The cabin pressure isn’t working.
Also here is another thing: It means A LOT to us if a passenger actually says hello back to us and smiles. We’ll remember your face. Believe me, because we got 150+ people who usually ignore us. One guy said “Hey good morning!” to me, and all flight I gave him beverages on priority right away, while I made others wait 5-10 minutes because I was busy. Also, say ‘thank you’. It really makes my day. I took count of how many “thanks” I got. 200 passengers and 18 said “Thanks”. Sometimes I load my pockets with cookies, nuts, crackers, mini drink bottles, and whenever I pass by, I offer them.
34. Dealing With The Door
where are we flying over right now?”
We never know.
Also, to open a bi-fold lavatory door, simply push in the middle. Where it says PUSH. One of the negative aspects of the job is when people yank off the ashtray thinking it’s a door handle and then ask WHY DO YOU EVEN HAVE THOSE STILL. It’s an FAA requirement, ashtrays need to be on every plane in case someone decides not to abide by the rules and light up.
33. No Plane’s Perfect
Unless you’re extremely lucky and your aircraft just rolled out of the hangar after major maintenance, there will absolutely be something broken in it. An aircraft can have a whole host of parts be broken and still be allowed to fly, the broken parts just get labeled, recorded, and put on the to-do list for the next time it goes to maintenance.
32. Lack of Consistency
The worst part for me is not being able to have a schedule. I can’t reliably eat, work out, or sleep
work with any consistency. It’s also pretty tough being away from home so often if you have anyone at home you want to see. Leaving my husband and dog alone all the time is tough for both me and him.
31. Mind Your Manners
Pretty much what happens at a lot of jobs. If you ask for something nicely I’ll usually give it to you, but if you demand it or if you’re mean…good luck getting anything free.
30. Strangers Before Briefing
We generally don’t know each other before the briefing. You’ll hear a ton of us calling each other… “hey hun,” “hey darling,” “hey dude” — all of that is cause we don’t remember their name lol.
Your flight today could be my 5th, and I’ve been on the clock for 12 hours and I want nothing else than to get home/to my layover. Please don’t take out your traveling frustrations on me or my coworkers. It’s not my fault that TSA sucks, there is weather in the northeast, or that there’s a broken part of the plane. We’re just along for the ride, too.
Being yelled at because a grown adult didn’t get the lobster mac (which is amazing, to be fair) can get old pretty fast.
But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
edit: Lobster mac is on United. Though I swear AA had something of the sort a while back, too.
29. Service Versus Emergency
98% of our training is for the 0.1% of our job that we hope to never use. I went to training for 6 weeks, and we spent 3 days on service.
We’re trained to fight fires, treat medical emergencies, evacuate a plane in record time, and much more.
Service is still a very important part of the job, as that’s what we do 99.9% of the time, but the majority of training goes into emergency situations
28. Few Things To Know
If it’s a red-eye and we are close to landing I might be hallucinating from lack of sleep. Not enough to be dangerous, just enough to see weird things.
Oh and when you ask us to change the temperature we pretend to do it. Planes are generally colder because if we hit turbulence warm temps will make the chances of someone puking much higher. No idea why.
If you curse in general it’s normally not a thing but the second you curse at me I can kick you off.
We have flex-restraints and are trained how to use them should you get disorderly.
27. Preparing For Night Vision
I always liked the little known fact that the reason for turning the cabin lights off at night, just before landing, is to allow enough time for the eyes to adjust to night vision, so in case of a crash you’re already adjusted for the darkness to make it easier to see in the dark and find your way out of the aircraft and away from it in the darkness outside. You’ll be thinking about this on your next night flight guaranteed!
25. For Sanitary Purposes
Pilot here. Dont drink the coffee. The water comes from the onboard system that has the fill port right next to the port the lavatories are drained from. The water system routinely fails e-coli checks.
Also when you wash your hands using the same water make sure you always use the soap.
Lastly, don’t put your food directly on the tray tables.
24. Don’t Worry About The Tape
That tape you see on a plane? It’s not duct tape, it’s speed tape. It’s not used for critical repairs. It’s usually a cosmetic or minor aerodynamic fix. Example, the windshield of a plane is sandwiched between the airframe and the outer plates, but the step between the outer plate to the windshield has a seal placed for cosmetic and aerodynamic purposes. Eventually, it needs to be replaced, so they put speed tape over it until its time for the plane to go to scheduled maintenance. Hooking a plane up to a pushback, and moving it to the maintenance hangar is a long process. They’re not going to do that for every minor repair.
Tape on a plane is nothing to worry about.
23. Understanding The Different Dings
The chimes and dings you hear on the speaker all have a very specific meaning. A single high chime is a passenger call button going off, high then low chime is a call on the interphone from another crew member, and a double low chime indicates the plane is above/below 10,000 feet.. (indicators for final descent for landings, aka strap in and clean up)
22. Human Remains
Former baggage handler here.
You guys pretty much all fly with at least one dead body 5 feet below you. You see a white box going up the belt loader that says “HR”. Sure doesn’t stand for Human Resources
21. Just Like Any Form Of Public Transportation
Long haul flight attendant here. Been at the job for 14 Years. Thank you to all the wonderful people who give us treats. We love packaged snacks such as chocolates and local treats. I will always try my best to take care of the elderly and mothers traveling with kids. And please don’t get upset at us for things that are out of our control.
The plane you’re flying on is public transport and is filled with people. Respect each other and be courteous. If you’re nice, we’ll be nice back and sometimes we’ll give you free stuff.
If you want to know anything about the destination, you can ask us because we’ve been there and done it many times.
Yes, we do look at you, talk about you, and judge you, and even fart in your face if you’re that rude passenger.
20. No Trash In Barf Bags
Please don’t use your barf bags for trash. I once had a mom hand me her barf bag that she had filled with her children’s snacks packaged. On the descent down one of her children got sick and she couldn’t find the bag in time and the kid puked all over her. Then her other child saw and followed suit. It was almost karma. Also, please don’t stick gum in the emergency information packets. That’s just gross.
19. Oversized Bags In The Overhead
We’re definitely laughing at you when you’re trying to cram a giant clearly oversized bag in the overhead bin. Also forever rolling our eyes at people who say “what?” When we come by asking what you’d like to drink.
It’s a wonderful job but people don’t realize we only get paid when the plane is up in the air..we hate delays too- no pay and an extra long day!!
18. A Few Pointers
If you bring carry on luggage you should be able to lift it. Don’t ask your flight attendant to put it in the bin for you.
If you press the call light button to order something, make sure you order everything you want at once. We don’t wanna be pacing back and forth through an entire aircraft 20 times.
We talk about you. On each flight, we’ll spot the hot ones and be like “Check out 20B” Or if you’re not nice, we warn each other about you. So don’t be a mean or you’ll get bad service the entire flight.
If we tell you we don’t have something, we don’t have it. Yes, it’s on the menu, but it’s not available. We’re in the sky, no I cannot just make you a sandwich.
17. Bathrooms In The Terminal
There are bathrooms in the terminal you can use. Please don’t use the lav during boarding unless necessary. I know sometimes you’re rushing to make a connection and don’t have time in the terminal. But it impedes the boarding process. Also please stop doing yoga in my galley.
16. Hush-Hush About Possible Emergencies
Every blue moon, we have a possible emergency situation that the pilots try to rectify before we land and we don’t notify the passengers until we’re absolutely sure it can’t be rectified.
Flight attendants can be cutthroat with each other.
The lifestyle can catch up with you and you will either gain crazy weight or lose it from not eating.
We can’t help you with travel benefits most of the time.
It’s insanely difficult to get a job in the industry.
15. Flight Attendants, Not Psychics
We are only trained (and get paid) to know stuff that happens on the aircraft. So questions like “am I gonna make my connection” or baggage collection, immigration etc will most likely will be answered by “I dont know” or “contact the ground staff”.
Also if you see us sitting and strapping during a turbulence its a good idea for you to do the same since it means we are instructed by the flight deck to do so. I’ve lost count how many times we are sitting and passengers just walking around like its a park.
14. Avoid Touching The Tray Tables
Learned this through a friend that is a flight attendant. There is no time in between stops to clean off all the tray tables. Thus they are never cleaned. People have changed their babies on those tray tables according to her.
13. Always Ready For Emergency
I had a friend that worked for JetBlue. He said if there’s a serious emergency on an aircraft they can be on the ground with emergency services waiting, in less than 20 minutes from anywhere in the US. I thought that was pretty comforting.
He also said that as a flight attendant, they don’t start getting paid until the door to plane closes. So they want it to take off just as much as you do.
12. Mostly Cosmetics
Not a flight attendant, just maintenance, but, when you see an interior panel that seems to be coming loose or has a big gap or is shaking a lot, it doesn’t mean the plane is falling apart. That stuff is cosmetic for the most part. Now, if you see daylight and wind, you might have a problem…
Also, depending on the aircraft, the engines are held on by 3-8 bolts.
11. Don’t Order Diet Coke
FA here. The whole airline industry is still governed by the ancient Railroads Act from like 100 years ago or something.
I only get paid when the door is closed. So all that time during boarding or deplaning, I don’t get paid. Also, when we are delayed at the gate for hours and the door is open (ex: waiting for the fuel truck to give us extra fuel), I don’t get paid for that. But I still have to take care of everyone.
Diet Coke is literally the worst to pour. It takes forever. I hate it.
10. Dealing With Harassment
The disgusting amount of harassment female flight attendants receive. From passengers, pilots, and other crew. I’ve heard the most disgusting things pilots have said when they are alone in the cockpit when they swap to have a bathroom break. Passengers will search on Facebook the flight attendants. On one flight I was working lead a passenger grabbed one female flight attendant by the waist and tried to pull them close. I’ve had another where a passenger says something is broken in the lavatory and they will block the doorway when the flight attendant goes in to try to see what the problem is. The bad thing with the pilots doing this is there is zero accountability for them. Even if it is reported nothing is done about it. It infuriates me to no end.
9. Far From Vacation
We are not “on vacation”. It’s a job just like any other. Only, you get to sleep in your own bed at the end of the night, and we do not. Ever have a hard time sleeping in an unfamiliar place? Yeah, try that 17 nights in a row.
8. Get Off ASAP
I have worked as a contract FA in the past (private planes only, so I have signed NDAs so I can’t talk badly about the passengers.) Training is less extensive than commercial flight attendants and I got paid a day rate. But yeah it’s mostly fancy business people and occasional celebrities so a little more service-oriented. Maximum amount of people I ever flew was 14.
HOWEVER the biggest takeaway I got from Gulfstream evacuation training is that if you crash, GET OUT OF THE PLANE. Like, if you survive the initial crash, you are most likely to die of smoke inhalation due to chaos/physical impediments getting to the exits. I always ALWAYS book myself in the exit row. 1. I’m actually pretty qualified to open the door 2. I KNOW that I will not make it because some slow person is afraid of jumping on the slide/raft
7. They’re Just Sleeping
If someone passes away during flight, you are supposed to assume they are asleep and cover them up… it’s not considered a medical emergency since they’re gone already.
6. No Ice
Don’t take ice with your drink
5. Feel Free To Tip
We accept tips! And you should tip!
Company policy says that we initially should reject monetary compensation, but if the pax “insists” we can accept it, as not to cause embarrassment.
Most of us will save you the charade and discreetly palm your kind gesture.
A couple singles if we serve you a $10 beverage is great, or, a $5-$20 tip is appropriate if we provide continuous call bell service or are just exceptionally hospitable. Did we give you and your bachelor posse a free round? How nice! How about a tip?
The more senior flight attendants make a lot of money and don’t necessarily need the tips, but if you’re pleased by the service provided by a millennial junior FA please tip. We make half as much as topped-out FAs, do so much while working the trips, and have student loans.
4. Sitting For Safety
If you see a flight attendant seated and strapped on while there is turbulence please don’t go to the bathroom, in most cases, the captain has called the FAs signaling it has the potential to be dangerous.
If we do not feel safe moving about the cabin we will sit in our stations until we feel safe, even in the middle of service.
Also 99% of the time we didn’t skip you during service, you fell asleep.
3. Recycled Air
That cold air that you blast on your face as you nap is recycled air. Sleep on that
Also, bring your own mini pillow and blankets, they don’t wash theirs. Ever. Also, clean up crew hardly does a once over after you leave the plane.
1. Standing Between You And Safety
I was a flight attendant. Passengers don’t know that FAs are not there for your comfort and to dote on you. Next time you think about being mean to one, remember that if there’s an emergency landing, the only thing standing between you and the exit to safety is that flight attendant.