Insider Tips From Flight Attendants for Your Next Flight

While pilots are flying the plane, the flight attendants are making sure everything else goes smoothly. The job perks of being able to travel while getting paid are great, but the job has lots of responsibilities and requires a lot of training. They are, after all, responsible for us if anything goes wrong.

Read on to learn some of the behind-the-scenes secrets about working for an airline.

Be Nice To Check-In Staff

It is not smart to be rude to a check-in staff person because they can determine where you sit, and they just might sit you right next to a crying baby.

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Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Plus, the nicer you are, the better your chances of being upgraded turn if a seat becomes available.

You Might Want To Think Twice About First Class

It’s probably not all that worth it to sit in first class. Studies have shown that in the event of a plane crash, those who are sitting toward the front of the plane are more likely to die.

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Photo by Tim Boyle/Newsmakers
Photo by Tim Boyle/Newsmakers

The safest seats are those within a few rows of the emergency exit and the aisle seats. Studies have shown that passengers in the rear of the plane have the highest survival rates.

Tips Are Accepted

Some do not know that flight attendants can accept tips. Those tips can also go a long way in getting you first-class treatment for the rest of the flight.

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Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It’s never a bad move to pay it forward, and just like your favorite bartender or service person, flight attendants just want a little extra love, too.

Your Extra Bags Won’t Cause The Plane To Crash

While planes are designed to only accommodate one bag per passenger, the truth is your extra bags, though they come with a hefty fee, will hardly affect anything.

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Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Depending on how many checked bags do get stowed on the plane, most airlines have practiced using sandbags to even out the weight.

This Job Is Not For Everyone

A flight attendant job is a demanding one. You’re constantly jet-lagged, and sometimes having to work on flights back to back.

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Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

You’ll often get 4 A.M. wake-up calls, you could be scheduled to work on holidays, and you are kept apart from your family for long periods of time.

The Oxygen Masks Have A Time Limit

The oxygen masks on a plane will deploy when the cabin pressure falls below a certain point, but that doesn’t happen often. There are around 12 to 15 minutes of oxygen in those masks, which doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but it is.

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Aviation-images.com/UIG via Getty Images
Aviation-images.com/UIG via Getty Images

If you ever find yourself in a situation that warrants the use of these masks, just try to relax and breathe. The pilot is working on getting the plane to a safe altitude so you can breathe without them.

Keeping Your Gifts under Wraps

Going home for the holidays is a tradition many look forward to, but if you are, you might want to reconsider wrapping your gifts ahead of time.

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Photo by Igor Russak/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Photo by Igor Russak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Airport security may have to unwrap and take a look at your items, so you might want to choose a gift bag instead.

Turning Off The Phones Isn’t Actually That Necessary

While failing to turn off your mobile device won’t cause the plane to crash, there’s still a very good reason that flight attendants ask you to do so.

Gary Hershorn/Getty Images
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Cellular signals are strong enough to interfere with air traffic control frequencies, which isn’t ideal when the plane is trying to take off or land. Turning off your device might help to ease the process.

Time To Exit

If your plane is either about to leave or it has just landed, you cannot be on that plane for longer than three hours, and you are more than welcome to get off after that time frame if you wish to.

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Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Flight attendants are also required to keep the food and water cart going up and down the aisle after two hours of delay.

Flight Attendants Have To Look The Part

Although the requirements of looking a certain way and being a certain age are long gone, there are still some things that flight attendants must remember.

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Photo by Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images
Photo by Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images

Flight attendants have to have natural hair color, which must be pulled back if it is long. They can’t be too tall that their head will constantly be bumping into the overhead bins, but also can’t be so short that they can’t perform their duties comfortably.

Yes, Flight Crews Do Get Involved With Each Other

Relationships between crew members are apparently quite common, probably because they spend so much time with each other in such an enclosed space.

Air France CEO Anne Rigail News Conference
Nathan Laine/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Nathan Laine/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While flight attendants can fraternize with one another, they must still remain professional at all times.

There’s No Rules Against Flight Attendants Fraternizing With Passengers

Many airlines don’t really have policies on flight attendants fraternizing with customers. So if you find your flight attendant quite attractive, you can go ahead and shoot your shot.

A cabin crew member stands as the new Malta-based Libyan...
Islam Alatrash/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Islam Alatrash/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

However, more often than not, flight attendants often have to fight off unwanted attention while just trying to do their job.

They Have The Power To Restrain You

If a flight attendant really needs to, they have the power to restrain overly aggressive or troublesome passengers.

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Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

They usually have zip ties available, or they can also use seatbelt extensions as restraints. The passenger is then placed in an area where they can’t be disruptive and escorted off at the first stop.

The Food Is Questionable Too

You might also want to think twice about airline food. Meals served on longer flights usually look pretty balanced, but the nutritional content of those meals is shocking.

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Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In-flight meals are loaded up with salt, sugar, fat, and simple carbs that make you feel full but actually have no nutritional value.

Order Diet Coke If You Want To Be Annoying

Flight attendants hate when a passenger requests Diet Coke, and for very good reason.

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George Frey/Getty Images
George Frey/Getty Images

Diet Coke is noticeably fizzier than other carbonated drinks. And at over 30,000 feet in the air, those bubbles take forever to settle, and that means that it takes about three times longer to pour than the other available beverages.

Be Wary of the Blankets and Pillows

The only time those pillows and blankets you request are clean is during the first flight of the day.

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Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images
Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images

You might want to bring an extra jacket or headrest next time. You can also buy those horseshoe-shaped pillows at airports just to be safe.

Do NOT Go Barefoot

Everyone understands how uncomfortable it is to be stuck on a plane for more than two hours, but whatever you do, do not go barefoot on a plane!

Turkish Airlines cabin crew members...
Mehmet Ali Ozcan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Mehmet Ali Ozcan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Plenty of accidents occur in flight, and while those accidents do get cleaned up, it’s still not as sanitary as you’d hope, especially in between flights. Plus, cleaning supplies are limited on airplanes.

The Brace Position

When flight attendants go over the safety procedures before a flight, they detail the “brace position,” in which passengers put their heads towards their knees and cup the back of their heads lightly.

Flight attendant inside an air Koryo tupolev plane, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea
Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis via Getty Images
Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

This position helps compact the body, protecting the vital organs from injury.

Pack An Empty Water Bottle

Pack an empty water bottle to save money on the plane. In most cases, you would have to throw away a bottle with contents in it, so it’s best to just bring an empty bottle.

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Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Airports have water fountains where you can fill your empty one right up. It will save you money, and it will save your flight attendants time, too.

Is The Mile-High Club A Real Thing?

Considering what we know about airplane bathrooms (let’s be real — they’re tiny, the lighting is awful, and they don’t always smell so good), a mid-flight romp may not be ideal.

A flight attendant holds a model of the Sukhoi Superjet 100...
Alexander Sayganov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Alexander Sayganov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Flight attendants carefully watch the bathrooms, so even going inside the bathroom with another person is nearly impossible, and if you get caught, you could face serious repercussions, including indecent exposure.

Definitely Do Not Accept A Coffee

Many flight attendants wouldn’t suggest drinking the coffee or tea served on flights.

Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The tanks that the potable water is kept in apparently don’t get cleaned as often as you’d think. And sometimes, the lavatory water valve is precariously close to the valve for clean water.

Pilots Need Sleep, Too

If you have (or want to get) the proper education, and you don’t mind being away from your family for extended periods of time, you should try being a pilot.

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Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images
Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images

Essentially, the plane flies itself, especially during long flights. The takeoff and landing are what pilots are mostly needed for.

There’s A Reason They Turn Off The Lights

As the plane prepares for takeoff, the lights in the cabin will get shut off, and there’s actually a good reason for this.

Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Takeoff and landing are the most problematic stages of a flight. The lights get turned off so that everyone’s eyes can adjust to the light in the event of an emergency.

Being Rude Gets You Nowhere

If you are difficult on a flight, and you are a frequent flyer, it will be noted on your account you are troublesome.

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VCG via Getty Images
VCG via Getty Images

Just like getting a bad mark in school, you’ll be considered a bad flyer regardless of how many flights you book.

Germ Alert

If you have ever put your food on your tray and eaten, or even touched your tray at all, you have more than likely just eaten baby poo.

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Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images
Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images

More dirty items are laid out on those trays than food. And the trays are likely only cleaned once a day. That’s just disgusting.

Medical Emergencies Happen

Flight attendants and the rest of the crew are trained accordingly to handle a series of situations that may be thrown their way.

British Airways liveried Airbus A380
Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images
Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images

Flight attendants are trained to act as first responders in a mid-flight emergency, which includes things like CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. All planes are also equipped with defibrillators and first aid kits if a passenger may need care during a flight.

They’re Using Their Cell Phones The Entire Time

Besides getting paid to travel places, they also get free Wi-Fi and usage of their cellphones. They are often using their phones during the entire flight, unbeknownst to the casual flyer.

Inside The China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition
Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

They may not make the most money in the world, but they do get paid to travel the globe.

This Engine Fact Is Kept Secret For A Reason

Your flight attendant will never reveal is what happens in a flight if the plane’s engine dies, so as not to worry the passengers.

Emirates Boeing 777 Flying Over The Netherlands
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

But truthfully, planes can glide perfectly fine if the engine goes out, and pilots are trained for this scenario.

They Can’t Share Food

Most airlines have a guideline in place that states flight attendants cannot share food on planes, which is meant to help avoid food poisoning.

Domodedovo Airport's airline food factory
Anton NovoderezhkinTASS via Getty Images
Anton NovoderezhkinTASS via Getty Images

On international flights, crew meals are provided, but that’s not always the case on domestic flights. That’s why most flight attendants know that bringing their meal is always better.

It Doesn’t Actually Pay Very Well

Flight attendants have work to do as soon as they enter the plane, such as doing safety checks before a flight and then greeting and assisting passengers during the boarding process.

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Mehmet Ali Ozcan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Mehmet Ali Ozcan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

However, flight attendants only get paid a full rate for the hours that the engine starts and the plane pulls away from the gate. Hours spent not in the air are compensated with a rate as low as $1.50 an hour.

The Best Time To Fly Is As Early As Possible

Mostly because of uncertain weather conditions, the safest time to fly is always the earliest.

Major Cities In Canada Adjust To Restrictive Coronavirus Measures
Andrew Chin/Getty Images
Andrew Chin/Getty Images

The earlier you can wake up and get on a flight, the more likely you are to avoid thunderstorms. There is often also less turbulence on an earlier flight.

How You Can Possibly Score An Upgrade

Many flight attendants say that they love customers who respond with a smile and a “thank you” and that you’d be surprised to know how often that doesn’t happen.

Cabin crew training facility in Indonesian capital Jakarta
Dasril Roszandi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Dasril Roszandi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

If you are nice to your flight attendant, you may even be able to score an upgraded seat. It will also help if you have a legitimate reason to be upgraded, such as being too tall, pregnant, or being a frequent flyer.

They’re Sizing You Up As You Board

As the passengers enter the plane, the flight attendants quickly make important assessments. They look over each and every passenger and make mental notes of who might be problematic or intoxicated, or who is traveling alone.

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TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images
TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images

They also look for those passengers who might be in need of extra assistance, and they must keep an eye out for who’s strong and might be useful in an emergency.

Unused Food Is Thrown In The Trash

Most of the time, whatever food is left over when the flight lands is thrown away. This isn’t the absolute rule but is usually decided at the discretion of the captain.

Paris, Charles de Gaulle Airport American Airlines economy seat in-flight meal orange juice
Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

While it might not be the best practice to waste leftover food, it is the reality of the airline industry.

It’s Not Just Your Luggage In The Baggage Compartment

It’s not just your luggage that is being stowed away on planes. Flight attendants revealed that there are sometimes human remains aboard along with your baggage.

Tupolev-154 passenger plane makes last commercial flight in Russia
Kirill KukhmarTASS via Getty Images
Kirill KukhmarTASS via Getty Images

If someone passes away while traveling, they need to be repatriated, and one of the most efficient ways is through a commercial flight.

They’ll Cut You Off If They Need To

Not only is it illegal for flight attendants to enable passengers to get drunk on a flight, but it’s also illegal to be intoxicated on a plane.

Crew members in USA
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Should you end up breaking that law, you can get up to a two-year sentence.

Food Is Not Freshly Prepared

The truth is that most of those meals are made 12 to 72 hours in advance.

Domodedovo Airport's airline food factory
Anton NovoderezhkinTASS via Getty Images
Anton NovoderezhkinTASS via Getty Images

These in-flight meals are packaged in a way that they can be refrigerated for up to five days and still be labeled as safe to eat.

They Keep Their Hands Behind Their Backs For A Reason

Have you ever noticed that flight attendants always seem to greet passengers with their hands behind their backs? Turns out that there’s a good reason for this.

Government Reinforces With 200 Agents At Barajas Airport For This Summer
Alejandro Martinez Velez/Europa Press via Getty Images
Alejandro Martinez Velez/Europa Press via Getty Images

Hiding their hands makes it easier to conduct a head count as people enter the plane – they’re keeping count on their fingers!

What It’s Like To Travel With Pets

Some airlines will allow passengers to travel with pets, but is flying actually good for your pets?

New terminal of Chelyabinsk International Airport
Nail FattakhovTASS via Getty Images
Nail FattakhovTASS via Getty Images

One flight attendant warns that while pets are made as comfortable as possible on flights, some inconveniences cannot be avoided. For instance, if your pet is sensitive to loud sounds, flying might not be the best option for them.

There’s A Secret Compartment For Their Naps

When it comes to long-haul flights, you might get to take several snoozes but what about the flight crew? They constantly have to be around to tend to passenger needs and are always on their feet, but that seems like a lot for a flight that’s over ten hours.

sleeping accommodations
Chris McGrath-Getty Images
Chris McGrath-Getty Images

Don’t worry, flight attendants get to take their breaks too. Big planes like Boeing 777 or 787 jets have secret sleeping cabins built in for staff. These windowless sleeping quarters are built above or below the galley, so that’s probably where your favorite flight attendant is if you’ve noticed you haven’t seen them for a while.

Buckle Up, Seriously

Before taking off, flight attendants go through a number of safety checks to help put yout mind at ease.

Coronavirus - Hannover Airport
Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images
Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images

Planes have been designed to be incredibly sturdy, and most are even able to withstand being struck by lightning without taking damage.

They Communicate With A Secret Code

The flight crew uses subtle codes to communicate with each other about the goings on in the plane without alarming passengers.

Turkish Airlines cabin crew members...
Mehmet Ali Ozcan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Mehmet Ali Ozcan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Those bells and chimes you often hear during a flight aren’t for no reason. Those “dings” you hear at the beginning and end of a flight are used to signal to the crew that the most dangerous stages of the flight are over.

Your Safety Is Not Compromised Based On Ticket Cost

If you fly a lot, you might wonder if flying an economy airline is less safe than other flights since the tickets are cheaper.

Aircraft seating configuration on a passenger jet
Peter Titmus/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Peter Titmus/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The fact is that when it comes to passenger safety, it is impossible for airlines to cut costs. Instead, legroom, seat selection, and baggage fees are different ways that airlines can cut upfront costs for customers.