“Thank you for flying with us today!” “Would you like coffee or tea?” “Can I get you another pillow?” These are all things we’ve heard flight attendants say during our adventures in the sky, usually with a friendly smile covering their faces.
To be sure, courtesy is key for flight attendants, but don’t let their facade fool you! These plucky men and women have more than their fair share of secrets to reveal about what really is going on during your flights, and what they’re hiding will change the way you fly forever.
1. Greetings: “OMG hi, welcome to our airplane!” The enthusiastic meet-and-greet when the passengers board the plane is not just to make you feel welcome; the crew is assessing whether anyone is sick, intoxicated, disabled, suspicious, or fit in case of an emergency.
2. Cleanliness: Planes get cleaned between most flights, but not always as vigorously as we hope. The garbage gets collected and the floor gets vacuumed, but individual tray tables and windows almost never get a wipe down. Your blanket may not even be washed!
3. The water: When you’re on a plane, you might think you’re saving money if you fill up your water bottle in the bathroom on board. Don’t do it. The water in airport bathrooms is fine for toilet flushing and hand washing, but it’s 100 percent not safe to drink.
4. Air-quality: When you’re stuck in a closed space with dozens of people for hours, you may worry about getting sick. The bad news is, touching the bathroom door or sitting next to someone with a cold can get you a nasty virus; the good news is, the air is clean, so you’re at no greater risk than you’d be at a school or office.
5. Air Marshals: If you’ve seen Non-Stop, Bridesmaids, or the movie Air Marshal, you might be thinking: do Air Marshals really exist? They do, and they protect us against onboard criminal/terrorist activity. While some airlines have one on every flight, U.S. Air Marshal’s are a rare find, and you wouldn’t know how to spot them anyway.
6. Diet Coke: This may sound a bit silly, but flight attendants dread any orders of Diet Coke. It’s more carbonated than any other drink, and the fizz takes forever and a day to settle. Choose a different beverage!
7. Crew snooze: If flying is exhausting for you, imagine what it’s like for the flight crew! The good news is, on long flights, they do get to take a little nap in between services so they can keep a fresh mind. Windowless sleeping pods exist on most Boeing 777s and 787s. Don’t let the plane bugs bite!
8. Door open? They aren’t getting paid: That’s right, while your flight attendants are usually already hard at work when the plane is boarding, they only get paid for “in-flight hours” which means anything that happens before the plane takes off is basically free labor!
9. Planes’ sturdiness: When you see someone duct taping a plane before departure, you probably get a little nervous. But don’t work up a sweat! Planes are thoroughly inspected before you even enter the tarmac. Planes can handle thunderstorms, so the small stuff won’t bring it down.
10. Romance: Oddly enough, most airlines don’t have rules against the crew fraternizing with passengers. However, consent must be given from both sides. There have been stories about people meeting the love of their life while high up in the sky.
11. If you see something, say something: While you can’t tip flight attendants on most airplanes, if you receive excellent service, do write a letter to the airline. Most have incentivizing programs for excellent customer service, so this is kind of even better than tipping.
12. Medical emergencies: Flight crews are trained in both CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, and there’s an emergency kit and defibrillator on board. They can also ask if anybody is a doctor, or even make an emergency landing. If you’re unwell, try not to fly. No one wants to make an emergency landing in Iceland for you.
13. Baggage: We’ve probably all wondered where our luggage goes while we’re enjoying our seats. The luggage compartment is nothing special, but what it contains is: aside from regular suitcases, you can find important packages, bags of sand, and human remains in the bottom of the plane. Spooky, huh?
14. Your phone CAN cause a problem: Airplane mode schmairplane mode! If your phone is on during takeoff it can cause a disturbance between the plane’s radio and the ground team trying to help get you off the ground.
15. Pilot authority: We tend to have great respect for pilots. After all, they take us safely through the air in a giant metal machine. What most don’t know though is how much authority they have. The pilot has ultimate authority on a plane, including command decisions, leading the crew, handling emergencies, and troublesome passengers.
16. Beauty standards: When we think of flight attendants, we often imagine thin, attractive, model-like women with perfect hair and a touch of light make-up. However, that idea is outdated. Most modern airlines don’t mind a funky hairdo, a bigger size, or a unique style!
17. Free upgrades: What economy class passenger doesn’t want a free upgrade? This occurrence is less common than you might think, but when a plane has extra first-class seats it helps to be polite and a frequent flyer to get that unexpected move to the front of the plane.
18. They would NEVER walk around barefoot on a plane: Sure, everyone wants to be comfortable for their long fight, but at least keep your socks on. Most flight attendants will tell you that those floors have seen their fair share of human waste.
19. In the dark: The cabin lights don’t dim during takeoff and landing just to create a soothing atmosphere. By dimming the lights, you can more easily spot the exits in case of an emergency, and your eyes will adjust to the dark. Don’t worry though, you’ll land safely soon enough!
20. They don’t eat the food: As soon as a flight attendant starts training they are taught that the food on planes is not recommended for them to eat since it’s “nutritionally useless”. If they aren’t eating it, should you be?
21. They’re judging you: Think no one cares what you wear when you’re traveling? Wrong. The better dressed you are the more likely you are to befriend your crew.
22. Automatic upgrades to a higher class don’t happen very frequently. However, according to one flight attendant, they’re pretty much done at the crew’s discretion and can happen for a number of reasons. Passengers might be upgraded if they’re kind, obviously pregnant, good-looking, or even a friend of a crew member.
23. Couples who are feeling particularly frisky might try to escape to the bathroom to join the “Mile High Club,” but here’s something a lot of people don’t know: the bathrooms can be unlocked from the outside! It’s an emergency precaution.
24. There’s a myth that passengers should tuck their heads between their legs during a crash landing for a quicker and painless death. However, this position is actually meant to protect vital organs and increase the chances for survival. Big difference!
25. The flight attendants and the pilots don’t eat the same food as the passengers. The reasoning behind this is to avoid potential food poisoning; you don’t want the people controlling the plane to have to run to the restroom every few minutes!
26. Indulging in an alcoholic beverage on a plane is perfectly legal. That said, if you overdo it and an attendant finds you acting up, not only will they cut you off, but you can also face criminal charges, as well.
27. Even if both engines fail, aircrafts are designed to glide approximately one and a half miles for every 1,000 feet of air—and pilots are specially trained to land a gliding aircraft.
27. The drop-down oxygen masks above each seat have about 15 minutes of air built into them. That may not sound like a lot, but 15 minutes is more than enough time for the pilot to reach an altitude where cabin pressure will equalize and the masks are no longer necessary.
28. In case of a crash landing, do you know which area of the plane is the safest to sit in? There are plenty of variables that go into that answer—including seat belts and proximity to the exits—but statistically, the rear third of the plane offers the best chance of surviving a crash.
29. Throughout a flight, you might hear a lot of electronic beeps and chimes coming from the equipment. Although the passengers wouldn’t know it, many of these sounds are actually telling the flight attendants different bits of information throughout the flight.
30. Have you ever had a flight attendant ask you to raise your window shade just as the plane is about to land?
If you have, you’ve probably wondered why it’s necessary as the sun blinds you…The reason why flight attendants ask you to do this is pretty simple… yet frightening.
Passengers are asked to lift their shades because the crew will need everyone’s eyes to already be adjusted to the light in case the plane has an emergency.
Airplane crews need to be able to evacuate all passengers within 90 seconds, and not having the ability to see (or worse—being stunned by the sudden change in light) can mean the difference between life and death.
Opening the window shades allows for more visibility outside, too—especially if the crew needs to identify if the fuselage is, you know, about to explode.