20 Secrets From Flight Attendants That Airlines Probably Don’t Want You To Know

Although flight attendants are renowned for providing service with a smile, it can be a very different story once they’re out of sight and out of hearing distance from passengers. And cabin crew know many things that we don’t, too – like just how filthy the seats really are, for example. Luckily for all of us who travel regularly, though, some insiders have spilled their shocking behind-the-scenes secrets. And what they have to say may completely change the way you behave when you next step onto a plane.

20. They judge what you’re wearing

A T-shirt and sweatpants may well be the most comfortable clothing to wear in the air – especially on a long-haul journey. However, this kind of relaxed attire may cost you when it comes to customer service. You see, according to one particular flight attendant, the way you’re treated on a plane can often depend on how presentable you look.

In her book The Do’s and Don’ts of Flying: A Flight Attendant’s Guide to Airline Travel Secrets, Steffanie Rivers wrote, “I first notice how passengers are dressed. Some people dress as if they made an effort to put forth a positive impression. Others look as if they grabbed clothes off the floor and ran out of the house.” And she goes on to admit that the crew are more likely to favorably treat members of that first group.

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19. The call bell can be their nemesis

The call bell is indeed designed to alert flight attendants to a particular problem or need a passenger may have. But some people go completely overboard when it comes to pressing it. And it’s this sense of entitlement that can enrage the poor staff member tasked with catering for flyers’ every whim.

Rivers wrote in her book, “My biggest pet peeve is when people are too needy. The ones who act as if they need their own chartered plane, because everything is all about them. They want instantaneous service despite the fact that there are 100 other people on board the aircraft.”

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18. You really do need to turn off your electronics

Some passengers believe that the request to turn off any electronic devices before take-off is entirely unnecessary. In actual fact, though, this really does help to ensure the safety of everyone on board. And in her revealing book, Rivers also blew apart the theory that the whole electronic interference claim is just a myth.

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Rivers writes, “Communication between air traffic control and the cockpit can be interrupted due to electronics – not just from one person, but from a joint effort of all the electronics passengers have. It [therefore] matters a great deal that passengers should place electronics in airplane mode during taxi, takeoff and landing. Their safety is at stake.”

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17. Plane food isn’t good for the diet

If you travel by plane on a regular basis and tuck into an onboard meal each time, then you may want to start thinking about bringing your own food. You see, the cuisine served up on most journeys is rather unhealthy. And someone who purports to be a flight attendant admitted as much on a popular Reddit post about flight industry secrets. The individual in question claimed, “Even in training, we are told [airplane meals] are nutritionally useless because of the salt, sugar, fat and simple carb content.”

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The drink situation is even more worrying, too. In the same Reddit thread, a person claiming to be a pilot commented, “Don’t 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.”

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16. Avoid the chat-up lines

Sadly, some passengers appear to believe that a flight attendant’s beaming smile or polite customer service is an excuse to hit on them. Yes, cabin crew often have to deal with a plethora of chat-up lines when they take to the skies. And, sometimes, this type of behavior can even stray into sexual harassment.

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“Passengers compliment me frequently,” Rivers revealed in her tell-all book. “They tell me I’m beautiful or I have a pretty smile. I thank them, and that’s the end of it.” So, any flyer assuming that their favorite corny one-liner will lead to something more is probably better off saving their energy.

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15. Some flight attendants have a secret sleeping cabin

In 2019 a Qantas trip from New York to Sydney broke the world record for the longest uninterrupted flight ever made. On that occasion, 50 crew members and passengers were on board for the whopping non-stop 20-hour journey. But how do flight attendants manage to get some shut-eye during such grueling stints in the air?

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Well, thankfully, staff aren’t forced to sleep in full view of their passengers or crouch down among all the used meal trays. One individual revealed on a Reddit thread, “There is a secret cabin for us upstairs where we take a nap for sleep. It’s only on most international flights, though.”

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14. The job is intense

Being a flight attendant may be considered glamorous, but the reality of the job is often completely different. Firstly, there’s the intense schedule. A commenter claimed on Reddit, “We can work up to eight days in a row if they’re all two-sector short-haul routes. We can also work up to four flights a day or operate two 15-hour flights in four days. Regulation is that we have 20 minutes of break every 12 hours.”

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Of course, this also makes having a personal life near-impossible. Indeed, in February 2020 flight attendant Stefany Di Manno Ceccato told Best Life that “not being in control of your schedule and your life” was one of the hardest things about the job. She also named “working with people you don’t want to be around, having a temperamental passenger and getting the calls for last-minute trips that pop up” among the most disliked aspects of her chosen career.

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13. Planes aren’t as clean as you think

While a plane’s interior may be scrubbed from top to bottom after each flight, those cleanliness levels drop dramatically from the moment that the first passenger steps on board. For that reason, then, one commenter on Reddit implored people traveling in the air to avoid walking without any shoes or socks on. And they had good reason to do so, too.

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“Pee and poop happens all over,” the individual – who claimed to be a flight attendant – revealed on Reddit. “I feel like I witness an ‘accident’ regularly – in their seat or in the [bathroom]. People get nose bleeds, or their wounds open. Obviously, when we land, [the plane] is thoroughly cleaned. But in-flight, our resources are limited.”

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12. Many airlines won’t allow tips

If a flight attendant has gone above and beyond for you during a journey, you may want to show your appreciation. Keep any change or notes that you have in your pocket, though, as most airlines don’t allow their cabin crew to take tips from passengers. And there’s actually another way to give your thanks, too.

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In her book, Rivers wrote, “If your experience was so great that you want to tip, please take the time to write a complimentary letter to the airline about the flight attendant and your experience.” Indeed, this can actually prove far more valuable to the member of staff in question. The author continued, “Companies have incentive programs that employees qualify for when they are singled out for giving great customer service.”

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11. Flight attendants’ grooming requirements are more relaxed

The sense of glamor surrounding flight attendants may once have had something to do with their appearance. Back in the day, you see, those who earned a living serving passengers thousands of miles up in the air often had to meet extremely strict guidelines with regards to their grooming habits. It’s true, too, that employees were judged negatively for their weight or their age.

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Thankfully, things have changed slightly over the years, and such discrimination is no longer allowed. Nevertheless, the way you look is still deemed as important by most major airlines. Rivers wrote, “During flight attendant training, there is emphasis put on appearance and professional presentation. Some flight attendants try harder than others.”

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10. Flight attendants can’t give you an upgrade

If you’re hoping to charm a flight attendant into giving you a seat in business class, then you need to think again, as cabin crew don’t actually have any authority on the matter. Rivers wrote, “I’m not the person who makes the decision to upgrade someone – that’s the gate agent and other determining factors.”

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However, Rivers does offer some good advice for those who are now setting their sights on wooing employees on the ground instead. And it’s all to do with making a great first impression. She added, “I would guess that someone who dresses professionally is more likely to get upgraded than someone who has on jeans and sneakers.”

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9. Not many join the Mile High Club

Joining the Mile High Club may be a fantasy for many. But it’s one that very few fulfil, according to flight attendants. For one, cramped, tiny bathrooms make such an act extremely uncomfortable. And, apparently, it’s easy to spot the signs when an amorous couple want to act on their animal instincts.

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In her book, Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet, flight attendant Heather Poole touched on the subject, writing, “It’s usually the long line of people waiting to use the bathroom that gives you away. And nine times out of ten, it’s a passenger who asks the flight attendants to intervene. Strictly speaking, it’s not against the law to join the Mile High Club. But it is against the law to disobey crew member commands.”

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8. Flight attendants can’t help you get drunk

“We were told one in the air for two on the ground.” That’s the rule about serving alcohol that most members of cabin crew must adhere to while on board a flight. Yes, while you may be able to sink half a dozen beers before getting tipsy in the comfort of your own home, that number is likely to reduce by half while up in the air.

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And the flight attendant serving you alcohol would actually be breaking the law if you ended up drunk. A commenter revealed on the Reddit thread, “It is illegal to be intoxicated on a plane, and it is illegal for us to get you drunk. So, if we cut you off, don’t argue; we may serve you later if you’re nice.”

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7. Flight attendants don’t care where they’re flying over

Most flights these days will feature on-screen information about the area that the aircraft is currently hovering over. Passengers can also learn about the altitude at which the plane is traveling, the temperature and their estimated time of arrival if they choose to take a break from watching a recent box-office hit. But if these details aren’t available, then whatever you do, don’t ask a flight attendant.

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In the Reddit thread about flight attendant secrets, one contributor made it perfectly clear that this particular question is a big no-no among their colleagues. And they begged any potential passengers reading, “Please, please don’t ask where are we flying at the moment. I don’t know and don’t care, either.”

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6. Don’t expect the truth about delays

Flight attendants may look and act like trustworthy individuals on the whole. But this is often far from the case. In fact, if you want to know why your trip has suffered some kind of delay, then you may as well just pluck your own answer out of the air.

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On the Reddit thread, one individual revealed, “When people ask for the reason for a delay, we usually give a bulls**t response because the real answer would spook passengers. [We may say,] ‘We have a minor technical problem and engineers are on their way.’ But in reality, the cabin pressure isn’t working.”

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5. They’ll never use most of their training

It can take anywhere from three to six weeks for an airline to give flight attendants the full training they need to do their job. That said, a budding employee will never actually put the majority of things that they learn into practice – or in theory, anyway.

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And one person used numbers to explain just how little this information will be needed in real life. They wrote on the Reddit thread, “98 percent of our training is for the 0.1 percent of our job that we hope to never use… We’re trained to fight fires, treat medical emergencies, evacuate a plane in record time and much more.”

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4. They pretend to change the temperature

Flight attendants must put on their best poker faces whenever chilly passengers ask them to increase the cabin temperature. And while they may say “Yes, sure, right away,” that response is just all for show. Yet this act of deception is actually for a good reason.

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One contributor explained on the Reddit thread, “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.” It’s perhaps best, then, to make sure that you always have an extra layer of clothing handy instead.

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3. Human remains may be on board

If you see a white box being transported onto a plane’s luggage holding, then chances are that there’s a cadaver inside. That’s according to one commenter on Reddit. And such a sight is more common than you’d think, too, as it’s estimated that the average pilot flies around approximately eight dead people every year.

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Of course, it’s the baggage handlers who actually have to deal with transporting the human remains. And one individual purporting to have been employed in the position revealed on Reddit, “Inside of the box is a bag that holds the body. Most of the time, it is black so [that] you can’t see in it. And no, it is not fun when the box falls apart. I was paid far too little to pick up a dead [body] off of the ground and put it back in the box.”

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2. Try to avoid seats near the bathroom

There’s one perk of getting placed near the bathroom during a flight: you never have to stray too far should you get caught short. However, the cons far outweigh the pros. Firstly, you may have to deal with a seemingly never-ending line of people hovering around you throughout the entire journey.

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Then, of course, there’s the near-constant sound of the toilet flushing. But the grossest drawback of all relates to bathroom maintenance. A Redditor claimed, for example, “When the toilet breaks down, the mechanics put all the toilet parts on those seats.” As a result, then, they advised passengers to “never get seats by the bathroom.”

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1. They hate being dismissed as waitstaff

Flight attendants go through an incredibly intense training schedule before being allowed on board. Indeed, someone claiming to be a member of cabin crew wrote on Reddit, “If you score less than 90 percent on a written test, you are sent home. My five weeks I spent at FA training were more difficult than the four years I spent getting my bachelor’s degree.”

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In fact, trainees often have to work ten hours a day and six days per week for a five-week period before passing. And alongside all the safety training needed, prospective flight attendants also have to learn the aircraft’s technical information. You can therefore understand their annoyance when they are dismissed by some passengers as merely glorified waitstaff.

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