Now that the holiday season is upon us, many will be flying to visit friends and family—and cabin crew (like myself) will feel the strain.
After four years as a flight attendant, I can say that there is definitely something called “flying etiquette.” I have compiled a list of 10 common things that annoy flight attendants and how to best avoid them so you become a perfect passenger—and believe me, there are perks to making your flight attendant happy!
1. Appropriate Lavatory Usage
Airplane lavatory (Shutterstock)
Airport restroom (Shutterstock)
I have never understood passengers who spend an hour or more waiting in an airport to board their flights, then want to use the lavatory as soon as they get on a plane. The airport has perfectly good plumbing and proper toilets, yet people for some reason choose to use what is essentially a port-a-potty.
The aircraft I work on has the lavatory in front, which means passengers seated at the back who decide to use the lavatory soon after they get on stuff up the aisles, making the boarding of all other passengers very difficult.
There are, of course, exceptions—people with health conditions, and children—but please use the airport restroom before boarding to avoid jamming up the narrow aisles.
When a flight attendant comes through with a basket of snacks, there are usually two to three options. It really doesn’t need to take 10 minutes to choose between chips, cookies, or nuts.
What amazes me is how often passengers will look at me instead of the snacks they need to choose from and say, “What’s this?”
Take a look, read the package, and choose. If you’re really that torn, ask for two, we’ll probably oblige.
3. How Many Milk and How Many Sugar?!
Black coffee. This is what you get if you don’t tell me what you want in it. (Shutterstock)
It is a known fact that everything your average person knows about how to properly order a coffee or a tea goes out the window on an aircraft.
How is it that the same person who will ask for a “triple venti vanilla latte, no foam, 150 degree temperature,” will be unable to spit out anything more than “coffee,” when a flight attendant asks what he wants to drink?
When a passenger says “coffee” or “tea,” obviously I need more information. You’d be surprised how annoying it can get to ask dozens of passengers every morning “how many milk and how many sugar?”
Please, just give specific instructions right away: “Coffee, please, two milk, one sugar.”
A file photo of a man using a phone on an airplane. (Shutterstock)
It is an uphill battle for flight attendants to get people in this technology-dependent world to disconnect for a flight.
Multiple times a day, we have passengers refusing to turn off their phones, and giving us lines like, “I fly with this airline all the time and no one has asked me to turn off my phone before.”
I assure you, this is 100 percent aviation law and zero percent me arbitrarily picking on passengers. I understand, time is money, and so on and so forth—the worst offenders are those traveling for business—but you will have to do without your phone during the flight.
5. Give Me, Give Me, Give Me
Flight attendants are fully aware it is not cheap to fly. We know that when you are offered complimentary snacks or drinks, it is human nature to want to indulge and get the biggest bang for your buck.
The thing is, there’s an appropriate time to ask for a second helping. On short flights, during which there may be turbulence, restroom line-ups, and a ton of other obstacles for flight attendants to work around, keep in mind that your flight attendant is pressed for time and may not be able to come back to serve you again right away.
Some passengers inhale their first beverage or snack and press the flight attendant call button minutes later.
We are much more obliging once we’ve finished service. You will know we are finished when you see us collecting garbage—this is the appropriate time to ask for seconds. Once everyone has been served at least once, we are usually able to provide you with seconds.
6. The Correct Way to Accept Free Food
A file photo of airplane food. (Shutterstock)
It has always puzzled me why, when I hand passengers a complimentary meal, some of them look at me like I’m handing them poison.
Now, I realized most things don’t come free these days, so it may seem unusual to be handed food without the standard, “That will be too-many dollars and cents.” We may not be able to cater to all the different dietary needs, we may not cater to your specific taste, and the food may not be hot—but it’s free.
Take it, smile, say, “Thank you.” If it doesn’t meet your dietary needs, save it and give it to a friend. Or, politely decline altogether.
7. Travel Lighter
A flight attendant helps a passenger with carry on luggage. (Shutterstock)
It never ceases to amaze flight attendants who pack days and days worth of attire into a teeny tiny suitcase how passengers traveling for a weekend require so much baggage.
Here’s the thing—airplanes are not massive storage facilities. If you get lucky and your over-sized carry-on bag makes it past the check-in agent and onto the aircraft, when it definitely should have been checked, don’t be surprised if it will not fit into the overhead bin.
If it does not fit, please refrain from complaining about the fact that you now have to stow your luggage under the seat in front of you resulting in the loss of legroom and, therefore, comfort.
One more noteworthy thing about luggage: if you have over packed and your luggage is too heavy for you, it is most definitely too heavy for me.
Please make sure if you carry on items, they meet the size and weight requirements as check-in agents don’t always catch it.
8. Seating Assignment
Please take your original assigned seat assigned upon boarding. If you are separated from family or friends, ask a flight attendant if it is OK for you to move, and if we can move you, we will.
Passengers are dispersed throughout the cabin for a reason. Weight and balance of the aircraft is important.
My airline operates front-heavy aircraft, so if a flight load is small, we often have to seat people toward the rear of the aircraft to balance the weight distribution. This is not an evil plot against you to send you to “the back of the bus” (You have no idea how many times the back galley flight attendant hears that a day). It is simply necessary for the aircraft to takeoff and land.
That vacant seat you just took may also be assigned. It may appear that boarding is complete, but until the aircraft door is closed and the engines start up, it very well may not be.
9. If You Need Me, Use the Call Button; I’ll Be There in a Hurry, You Don’t Have to Worry
Flight attendant call button. (Shutterstock)
Never, ever, ever tap, tug, or poke a flight attendant for assistance.
It comes across as rude and very invasive. The call button is for the purpose of getting our attention, if you need us just give that a press, and we will be right there to assist you.
10. Garbage Hoarding
Flying seems to bring out a wide range of neurotic tendencies in people.
I am not saying I am innocent in this regard, I am quite particular myself most times.
Many passengers, especially on business-oriented flights, seem to cling compulsively to their newspapers and other trash as we collect garbage. It inevitably ends up stuffed in the seat pocket.
It’s funny to see the look of sheer panic in a passenger’s face when I say, “Are you finished, can I take that for you?” The same passenger who refuses to give up his newspaper, leaves it jammed in the seat pocket just minutes later when we’ve landed.
If you have no intention of taking your trash with you, please give it to the flight attendants when they collect the garbage. Flight attendants actually like it when people give them trash.
To sum it up, common sense works the same on an aircraft as it does on the ground. We understand people may behave strangely due to stress or nerves if they’re not used to flying. We’re here to help you in that case and give you more information about the flight if it will put you at ease. We are extensively trained in things such as how to spot signs of unhealthy or dangerous conditions on the plane, how to handle emergencies, and so on. Though we provide courtesies such as snacks and beverages, our job is primarily to be ready to help passengers in a variety of situations and make sure they get safely from point A to B.
*Lead image of a flight attendant via Shutterstock