Flight Attendants Reveal What You Should Know About Flying

While you know what it’s like being a passenger on an airline; the hectic rush of checking your bags, getting on the plane, locating and settling into your seat, have you ever thought about what it’s like to be in a flight attendant’s shoes? The job appears glamorous to many passengers. Flight attendants are able to travel for a living, experience new places and meet new people.

But it isn’t all fabulous flying the friendly skies for a living. And it’s their job to make sure everything goes smoothly on board, no matter what happens. Here are all the secrets of the job that flight attendants have revealed over the years, including what drinks to order and their secret communication codes.

First Class Might Not Be The Best Option, After All

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MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images
MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

While many assume that the best place to be seated on the plane would be in the first class section, there’s at least one reason you might be wrong, and that’s safety. Passengers who sit towards the rear of the plane in the event of a crash are more likely to survive.

That means that passengers towards the front of the plane are more likely to suffer fatal injuries in the event of an accident. Whether or not the plane will crash isn’t the first thing on your mind when you book the ticket, but it’s worth considering safety over comfort.

They Can Cut Off Your Drinks

drinking on a plane
Instagram/@ikparker716
Instagram/@ikparker716

Some passengers like to start the vacation early by boozing it up on the plane ride to their destination. While there is plenty of alcohol on board, flight attendants do have the option of cutting off passengers if they become too intoxicated.

It’s for your own good if this happens anyway, since being intoxicated on a plane is illegal. Flight attendants know to look for this, as cruising at a high elevation causes passengers to become intoxicated more quickly.

Coffee Is A Terrible Choice While Flying

Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

How often do you accept the free coffee when you’re flying? Well, we’re about to ruin that for you. While it may be tempting to sip that complimentary cup of coffee or tea, it might not be the cleanest water. That’s because of where the water tank is located on the plane.

In order for the service crew to quickly service the plane between flights, commercial aircraft are designed with the water lines for both the lavatory and the drinking water side by side. This means that the workers are quickly working on both, and… we’ll just leave it at that.

Flight Attendants Hate When Passengers Go Barefoot

barefoot on plane
Instagram/lalawins
Instagram/lalawins

While flight attendants want to welcome you aboard, they don’t necessarily want you to make yourself at home. That means that they prefer if you keep your shoes on. Should you really be taking off your shoes anyway?

Consider how many people are walking up and down the aisles, and have been in that same seat. The service crew doesn’t have time to carefully wipe down every surface, so there’s probably a lot of germs on board. This isn’t a hard one to figure out.

About That Food…

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

We’ve touched on beverages on board, but what about airline food? Certainly you’ve wondered where it came from and how long ago it was made before it was placed in front of you.

While some of the meals served on board look surprisingly delicious, keep in mind that they don’t really offer any nutritional value, and they’re loaded with ingredients like salt, sugar, fat, and simple carbs. It’ll fill you up, but that’s about it.

The Crew Communicates Using A Secret Code

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Photo by Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty Images
Photo by Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty Images

As you could imagine, the flight attendants want to do everything possible to keep the airline’s passengers calm and content. Even if there’s something going on with the flight that is worrisome, they don’t want to frighten their passengers.

To avoid startling anyone, the crew often speaks in special code to each other to let them know what’s going on. The captain will also use the “dings” overhead to signal to the flight attendants what they might not be verbally communicating to you.

They Are Trained To Restrain You, If Necessary

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

Sure, you go through plenty of security before you make on board the airplane, but what happens then? If you think that there’s no one to take you down, or protect you from other passengers who act erratically, think again.

Flight attendants are trained to help disseminate a situation if a passenger acts out. That includes knowing how to restrain them, if necessary. Flight attendants go through more training than you might assume.

Yes,Flight Attendants Have To Follow A Certain “Look”

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

While you may think that it’s illegal for airlines to require flight attendants to look a certain way, they do have to meet certain standards. Flight attendants must have their natural hair color, and style their hair pulled back if it’s long.

Flight attendants also can’t be too tall, as they need to be able to lean over and serve their passengers without hitting their heads on the overhead bins. Airlines have, however, disbanded their more antiquated requirements like being young and unwed.

Flight Attendants Have Their Own Sleeping Cabin

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

Plenty of flights stretch across long hours, and passengers are able to take their rest as the plane travels internationally. But what about the flight crew? Flight attendants are working long hours across time zones and also need to take a break and get some rest.

For this purpose, there’s a sleeping cabin tucked away for the flight crew. This is what the area would look like on a large plane, such as a Boeing 777 or 787. Designed above the galley, the space doesn’t have any windows and is a good place to catch some quick shut-eye.

Flight Crews Spend A Lot Of Close Time Together

male and female flight attendants
Instagram/@rodrigoabordo
Instagram/@rodrigoabordo

It isn’t discouraged for flight attendants to be friendly with passengers, and that goes the same for the flight crew. Flight attendants and other crew members spend plenty of time in close quarters and staying in hotels overnight. And, yes, they sometimes get involved with each other.

Flight attendants have admitted that relationships between crew members happen, but they keep it professional on the job. Passengers probably wouldn’t notice anyway, right?

If There’s Check-In Staff, Be Kind

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

Some flights will have a check-in staff person who takes note of all of the passengers on board and even decides where you may sit. You’ll want to remain on this person’s good side both when you board the plane and throughout your flight.

If you step onboard with an attitude, they might stick you next to the screaming baby or another less than desirable seat. Treat them with respect and you may get the best seat on the plane.

What Flight Attendants Are Thinking As You Board

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

Anyone who has flown on an airline can recall the flight attendants greeting the passengers as they board the plane. While passengers may see this as a common courtesy, what’s really happening is that the flight attendants are quickly sizing you up.

They noting several factors as each passenger steps on the plane and finds their seat. They’re noting whether you’re traveling alone, with children, whether you’re handicapped, and if you’re intoxicated. They make these mental notes to know what to expect once the flight takes off.

Flight Attendants Can Mingle With Passengers If They Want To

flight attendent
Pinterest
Pinterest

When the role of the flight attendant was first added to airlines, they were expected to pay special attention to all of the passengers, and go above and beyond to make sure that each customer was comfortable and satisfied. Today, it’s basically the same concept.

As passengers’ needs vary, there are no hard rules about flight attendants socializing with passengers. That means they can chat, and even exchange phone numbers if they are up for it. If you do decide to ask a flight attendant for their number, know that you’re probably not the only one.

Not Everyone Is Cut Out To Be A Flight Attendant

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Photo by Vladimir SmirnovTASS via Getty Images
Photo by Vladimir SmirnovTASS via Getty Images

Flight attendants appear so cheerful and polished when you see them on the job, but most passengers fail to realize that their schedules are pretty tough. They’re working through different time zones, pushing through jet lag and rising for early wakeup calls to be on the plane in time.

Once on board, flight attendants are in large part waitresses for all of the passengers on board. Being alert is part of the job, but being well-rested is far from a guarantee.

There’s A Lot Of Competition For The Job

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Mikhail PochuyevTASS via Getty Images
Mikhail PochuyevTASS via Getty Images

If you’re wondering just how easy it is to land a job with an airline, consider this: In 2010, Harvard had a higher acceptance rate than Delta airlines did for their job openings. In fact, that same year, Delta announced 1,000 openings and received over 100,000 applications.

That means that a mere four percent of those applications got a callback interview, with plenty of hopeful candidates despite the low starting wage. New hires can expect a starting salary of around $18,000 per year. Bilingual applicants might have an edge.

The Job Doesn’t Pay Very High

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

The work shifts of a flight attendant are long and aren’t the normal working hours of other jobs. Many workers are okay sacrificing their schedule a bit for good pay. But that isn’t necessarily the case with flight attendants.

They’re not paid their full rate until the engine on the plane is running and getting ready to pull away from the gate. Until that point, flight attendants are expected to be on the job, but they’re only getting paid as low as $1.50 an hour. Yikes.

Diet Coke Is Another Bad Drink Choice

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George Frey/Getty Images
George Frey/Getty Images

You’re correct in thinking that bottled beverages are safe to consume during the flight, but just because they’re safe doesn’t mean that they aren’t annoying for the flight attendants. Diet Coke, in particular, is a peeve of the flight crew.

That’s because when soda travels to 30,000 feet the carbonation intensifies and it’s frustrating for flight attendants to deal with, trying not to explode soda all over the cabin. Did you consider this before?

Why Flight Attendants Turn Off The Cabin Lights During Takeoff

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

Have you ever considered why the cabin lights are turned off during takeoff and landing? Flight attendants turn the cabin lights off during these times because they’re the most critical part of the flight where something could go wrong.

If an emergency were to occur, the cabin lights would most likely turn off, and this way, passengers’ eyes are already adjusted to the darkness so they will be able to act more quickly if something happens.

Oxygen Masks Are Only Good For A Short Time

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

We’ve all experienced the oxygen mask demonstration that flight attendants perform prior to takeoff. They explain that in the event of an emergency, the oxygen masks will fall from overhead and passengers should help themselves before assisting others. But how effective are these masks, really?

Flight attendants revealed that the masks will only provide adequate oxygen for around 12 to 15 minutes. It’s more of a method for calming and comforting passengers while the captain gets the conditions under control.

Extra Bags Don’t Make a Difference

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Sergei MalgavkoTASS via Getty Images
Sergei MalgavkoTASS via Getty Images

If you’ve ever tried to bring an additional checked bag with you for a trip, you know that airlines have some pretty steep costs for extra bags. But does this really play a role in anything, for the airline?

While they may try to make it seem like too many bags on board will be a problem for the flight, it really has no effect. Whether the plane is taking off or landing, it’s completely fine to have more than one bag per passenger on board. It’s just a good way for the airline to make extra money.

Want An Upgrade?

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Photo by Kirill KukhmarTASS via Getty Images
Photo by Kirill KukhmarTASS via Getty Images

Sometimes passengers don’t treat flight attendants with the respect that they deserve. After that occurs a few times throughout their shift, they might be running low on morale. Simply offering a smile and a thank you to your flight attendants can go a long way. It might even get you upgraded.

If available, flight attendants may also upgrade passengers who are tall and could use more room to stretch out, are pregnant, or who have flown a lot of miles with the airline.

Powering Down Isn’t Actually That Necessary

Gary Hershorn/Getty Images
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

While leaving your iPhone on during the flight won’t necessarily make the plane crash, it does help prevent cellular signals from getting crossed up with air traffic control frequencies. As mentioned, the most critical times during the flight are during the takeoff and the landing, so it’s best that passengers turn their phones and electronic devices off during these times.

Again, it’s in your best interest to treat your flight attendants with respect, so if they ask you to turn your devices off, or set them to airplane mode, abide by their rules.

Flight Attendants May Accept Tips From Passengers

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Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

You may have never seen a passenger offer a tip to a flight attendant, but that’s not because it’s illegal. If offered, airlines do allow flight attendants to accept tips from passengers. This is more likely to occur in first class with more personalized service, but it doesn’t hurt to offer a few dollars to your flight attendant if you’re sitting elsewhere on the plane.

Plus, extending a few bucks as a tip for pouring you a drink or taking extra care to make sure you get your food might get you a long way if a better seat is available, or the second pour of that beverage.

Keep Your Gifts In Bags, Just In Case

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Kirill KukhmarTASS via Getty Images
Kirill KukhmarTASS via Getty Images

Loads of people travel for the holidays, and this often means boarding a flight. It’s common for passengers to arrive at airport security with their pre-wrapped gifts for the family, but that might not be the best idea.

Even if you took the time to carefully wrap your gifts, TSA might request that you unwrap and open the boxes so they can verify the contents of the item. If you need to arrive at your destination with your gifts wrapped, it’s best to use a gift bag instead.

About Those Blankets and Pillows…

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

Sure, on the first flight of the day, the pillows and the blankets are most likely clean and properly disinfected. But what about the next flight? And the next, next flight? These complimentary items might not be as clean as you presumed.

It may be wise to consider purchasing one of those nifty horseshoe-shaped pillows for your neck and bringing your own lightweight blanket, just to be safe. You never know how many germs are on an airplane.

When Are You Allowed To Get Off The Plane?

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

Sometimes, planes sit on the tarmac for longer than what’s comfortable. This can occur both before the plane takes off, and after it’s landed, waiting to have a proper gate to pull into. This happens more often at the busier airports or those with harsh weather conditions.

So how long are you actually required to sit on the plane? Three hours is the limit, after which you’re allowed to get off. Also, the flight crew is required to keep the food and beverage cart going up and down the aisle after a two-hour delay.

Why You Should Pack An Empty Water Bottle

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Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

This is more of a hack than something that a flight attendant has revealed, but if you’re a frequent flyer, it’s a good tip to know. Bring an empty water bottle with you through security.

Most airports now have water filling stations that will save you more than a few bucks rather than purchasing bottled water at the airport. You won’t have to resort to drinking fountain water and you’ll be saving money.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Be Rude!

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VCG via Getty Images
VCG via Getty Images

It’s common for travelers to have their go-to airlines, especially when they’re traveling for work or have frequent flyer miles to use. That being said, you don’t want to get on an airline’s bad side.

Being rude doesn’t get you anywhere, and you certainly don’t want to have bad marks or a bad reputation with any airline. Think about it: you’re relying on the airline to get you from point A to point B in the sky and if you want the best service possible, you’ll show the flight crew and airline workers respect!

How Many Germs Are We Talking Here?

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Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images
Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images

Keep in mind that all complimentary and reusable items are exactly that: reusable. So you’re not the first or the last passenger to touch and share those items. While service crews do their best to make sure the aircraft is ready for the next round of passengers, they don’t get around to wiping down all of the trays and other items that will be reused throughout the day.

It’s a good idea to bring some cleaning wipes with you to make sure that you have the most minimal amount of germs around you as possible on your flight.

When Do The Pilots Rest?

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

Yes, the pilots get their turn to catch some shut-eye too, although this isn’t exactly announced throughout the cabin to all of the passengers… The takeoff and the landing is the most difficult and necessary points in the flight to have the captain flipping switches in the cockpit.

But once they hit cruising altitude, pilots can relax and take turns catching a nap in the sleeping cabin. Does it freak you out to know this now?

What Kinds Of Perks Do Flight Attendants Get?

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Dustin Downing/Getty Images for Delta Air Lines
Dustin Downing/Getty Images for Delta Air Lines

Of course, traveling is a bit different once you become a flight attendant. Not only are they able to enjoy Wi-Fi on board, but they have full access to their phones and other devices.

It’s also possible that flight attendants can hop on other flights for a personal trip. Sometimes, even when the flight is full, they can politely request to the captain to allow them to sit in a jump seat. Although it’s not the most comfortable accommodation on a long flight, it’s better than no flight at all!

Flight Attendants Don’t Alert The Cabin of Danger

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YouTube/Karin Hiebert
YouTube/Karin Hiebert

Ignorance is bliss, right? Did you know that if there’s a bomb threat on the plane you’re on while flying over the ocean, the flight attendants won’t even let you know of it? If you think about it, it’s probably for the best that a bunch of panicked people who have nowhere to go don’t know about a possible bomb threat.

In an instance like this, the flight crew manages the situation without alerting all of their passengers, for fear that things could quickly become unmanageable.

Why Flight Attendants Hold Their Hands Behind Their Backs

flight attendant with hands clasped
Twitter/JCPinHeathrow
Twitter/JCPinHeathrow

You may have noticed that flight attendants always seem to greet passengers with their hands clasped behind their backs, right? As it turns out, there’s a good reason airline employees do this.

There’s a good chance that they’re using their fingers or a counting device behind their backs to count the number of passengers who are boarding the plane. Meanwhile, they’re smiling and greeting you and deciding whether you’re going to be a pain to them later.

Bring Your Own Headphones

a row of empty seats
YouTube/MT Aviation Photo & Film -MTrain999
YouTube/MT Aviation Photo & Film -MTrain999

When you’re on a long flight, one of the saving graces is having a movie or two to watch. It’s an enormous help in keeping you entertained and making the time go pass as quickly and painlessly as possible. But what if the airline runs out of headphones, or doesn’t provide any at all?

This happens, and you’d be upset to learn that your flight doesn’t offer headphones when you have six hours to kill. That’s why it’s best to bring your own headphones and avoid this mishap!

Enjoy Ready-Made Starbucks On The Plane

Flight attendants checking cabins
Pinterest/1dqukze5ou01wrg
Pinterest/1dqukze5ou01wrg

Save yourself the long line at the Starbucks airport and wait until you board your flight to enjoy this coffee. Starbucks has partnerships with several airlines to offer passengers complimentary coffee on board.

They want you to take advantage of the offer, and you’ll avoid the plane water tank with this one. It’s another small hack that will save you a bit of money while you’re traveling. Alaska Airlines and Delta are two that offer Starbucks on board!

What’s Really The Deal With The Mile-High Club?

exiting the bathroom
YouTube
YouTube

For whatever reason, almost everyone has heard of the concept of the “mile-high club” but how many people actually join it? Even if you’re sitting on a long, long flight overseas to another country, would you really be tempted to slip into the bathroom with your significant other?

Flight attendants would like to remind you that it’s not as fun as some people make it out to be, considering they’re uncomfortably tight bathrooms that may not be spotless. Just wait until you get to your hotel, okay?

Are Air Marshals Really A Thing?

Olympic training exercise
Rui Vieira – PA Images / Contributor
Rui Vieira – PA Images / Contributor

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, travelers were more fearful of the worst possible scenarios unfolding on their next flight. To help ease their fears and increase security mid-flight, airlines began educating the public on Air Marshalls.

These people will sit in plain clothes on board and will be there in case of an emergency, like needing to apprehend a passenger who is making threats. However, they may not be as commonplace as we’d like to think. CNN reported that the number of air marshals was being cut by around 3,500 back in 2014.

The Brace Position Isn’t a Myth

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

One of the instructions that flight attendants provide to their passengers at the beginning of their flight is to adopt the “brace position” if it seems like the plane is going to crash. While there have been some reports that this position does more harm than good, it isn’t a myth.

In the event of an emergency, it’s best for passengers to angle their head towards their knees and cup the back of their head lightly, protecting the vital organs from injury.

Medical Emergencies Do Happen On Board

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

Medical emergencies are unpredictable, and that includes when people are traveling at 30,000 feet. In the event of a medical emergency, flight attendants are trained to react as a first responder would, using CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. Planes are also equipped with defibrillators and first aid kits if a passenger may need care during a flight.

Of course, when eneded, the flight attendants might ask if there is a doctor on board. A pilot may also choose to divert and ground the plane, which usually takes just 15 or so minutes unless it is an overseas flight.

Being Barefoot Is Terrible For Everyone

bare feet on plane
Twitter/dzhjii
Twitter/dzhjii

Do not ever walk barefoot once on board the plane. Everything including baby urine, blood, vomit, and milk have all been spilled on the floor of a plane. You just read how often they clean the trays and blankets, so how familiar do you think the vacuums are with those floors?

The gamble is yours to take. Basically, airplanes are giant cabins you’re stuck in where germs can manifest at any time. But it’s totally still the safest way to travel. Just bring plenty of penicillin with you!