Facts

Flight Attendants Reveal Secrets Of Flying And What It’s Really Like Working For An Airline

Flight attendants might seem to have a glamorous job but there is more to the job than you might think. Yes, they get to travel for free and see every corner of the world but they also have to undergo difficult training and deal with some seriously horrible passengers.

There are plenty of secrets that your flight attendants are hiding from you behind that charming smile. Read on to learn what’s going on behind the scenes while you’re busy watching an in-flight movie.

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 clasped behind their backs? Turns out that there’s a good reason airline employees do this.

Hiding their hands makes it easier to conduct a head count as people enter the plane – they’re keeping count on their fingers! If you saw them counting on their fingers in front of you, you probably wouldn’t think too highly of them. The trust between the attendant and passenger must never be broken.

Read on to learn what’s the most annoying drink you can order on a flight.

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.

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.

Do Not Go Barefoot


Everyone understands how uncomfortable it is to be stuck on a plane for more than two hours. A lot of times you’ll see that passenger who takes their shoes off, and they’ll even walk around the cabin without putting them back on!

It may seem like they’re just making themselves comfortable, but it’s actually pretty disgusting. Flight attendants know just how filthy the floor of the plane really is. Plenty of accidents occur in-flight. 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.

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 letting the passengers know. There might be things they need to tell each other to look out for, but they don’t want to freak out the passengers.

Those bells and chimes you often hear during a flight aren’t for no reason. For example, those “dings” you hear at the beginning and end of a flight? That’s to signal to the crew that the most dangerous stages of the flight are over since takeoff and landing are the most precarious parts of flying.

They’re Sizing You Up As You Board


It’s always reassuring to see your flight attendants greeting you as you enter the aircraft. Sure it’s excellent customer service but they actually have an ulterior motive for doing so.

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, who is traveling alone, or for those passengers who might be in need of extra assistance such as when they’re handicapped or traveling with children. They are also seeing who’s strong and who might be useful in an emergency.

How You Can Possibly Score An Upgrade


While you should treat any human with the respect that they deserve in any situation, it pays to be exceptionally nice to your flight attendant. Many flight attendants say that they love customers who respond with a smile and a “thank you,” and you’d be surprised to know how often that doesn’t happen.

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

It Doesn’t Actually Pay Very Well


Flight attendants have to go to work the minute they arrive on the plane. That means doing safety checks before a flight and then greeting and assisting passengers during the boarding process. But for all they do before the plane takes off, they’re not even getting paid.

Flight attendants only get paid for the hours that the engine starts and the plane pulls away from the gate. Anytime before that, they aren’t getting paid — or they’re at least not getting paid their full rate. Hours spent away from home but not in the air are compensated with a rate as low as $1.50 an hour.

They’ll Cut You Off If They Need To
You might want to watch it next time you opt for booze on a fight. Not only is it illegal for flight attendants to enable passengers to get drunk on a flight, it’s actually illegal to be intoxicated on a plane.

Should you end up breaking that law, you can get up to a two-year sentence for this odd criminal offense. But think of it this way: you don’t need to overdo it on a flight because the changing cabin pressure causes alcohol to have a stronger effect on your body than it does on land.

Order Diet Coke If You Want To Be Annoying
If you don’t want to annoy your flight attendant during beverage service, then don’t order a Diet Coke. Flight attendants hate when a passenger requests Diet Coke and for very good reason.

Diet Coke is noticeably fizzier than other carbonated drinks. And at over 30,000 feet in the air, those bubbles take forever to settle. Flight attendants have to pay extra attention not to let it overflow, but that just means that it takes about three times longer to pour than the other available beverages. Flights are so dehydrating anyway so it’s probably best if you just ask for water.

There’s A Reason They Turn Off The Lights
As the plane prepares for takeoff or for its descent, the lights in the cabin will get shut off. This is never really explained and there’s not much to think of it since the lights get turned back on just a few minutes later.

But there’s actually a good reason for this. 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. This can help people orient themselves with the space easily if they needed to take action.

Coming up, find out what the rule is for flirting with the passengers. You might be surprised.

Definitely Do Not Accept A Coffee
Many flight attendants wouldn’t suggest drinking the coffee or tea served on flights. While the potable water is filtered and not necessarily the same water that flows through the lavatories, you still might want to pass on these hot beverages that are made in flight.

The tanks that the potable water is kept in apparently don’t get cleaned as often as you’d think. And sometimes, the valve for the lavatory water is located precariously close to the valve for the clean water. So next time, you might just want to stick to the bottled and canned drinks.

You might already suspect this next one.

They’re Using Their Cell Phones The Entire Time
Flight attendants get a perk all flyers wish they had. Besides getting paid to travel places, they get the Holy Grail of flying: free Wi-Fi and usage of their cellphones. They are often using their phones during the entire flight unbeknownst to the casual flyer.

They may not make the most money in the world, but the do get to travel the globe and get paid for it. Depending on how you look at it, that might not be the worst payoff in the world.

The Food Is Questionable Too
Speaking of things you should steer away from, 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.

In-flight meals are loaded up with salt, sugar, fat, and simple carbs that make you feel full but actually have no nutritional value. If you’re stuck on a long-haul flight with nothing else to eat, those meals are your saving grace. But you might want to remember to bring your own food on board next time.

They Have The Power To Restrain You
You better behave yourself the next time you fly. If you get too unruly, then your flight attendant has the authority to arrest you (or at the very least, restrain you). You may have seen people removed from a flight before take off, but what happens when things come to light mid-flight?

If a flight attendant really needs to, they have the power to restrain overly aggressive or trouble causing passengers. They usually have zip ties available or they could use the seatbelt extensions as restraints. The passenger would then be placed in an area where they can’t be disruptive and would be escorted off at the first stop.

Next: they make it look easy, but the job is incredibly demanding.

This Job Is Not For Everyone
Flight attendants may have a jet-setting life with the ability to visit new places, but it’s not all fun and games. On the ground, many people see flight attendants as having a glamorous job, but in the air that changes as their jobs are minimized to that of a waitress.

A flight attendant job is a demanding one. You’re constantly jet-lagged, sometimes having to work on flights back to back. You’ll often get 4 A.M. wakeup calls and be scheduled to work on holidays, not to mention being kept apart from your family for long periods of time.

What’s wrong with first class? Read on to find out.

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 towards the front of the plane are more likely to die.

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 compared to those in first class. In any case, no matter where you sit, it’s always smart to fasten your seat belt.

Flight Attendants Have To Look The Part
You might think that flight attendants have to uphold certain visual standards to hold on to their jobs. Although the requirements of looking a certain way and being a certain age are antiquated and long gone, there are still some things flight attendants have to keep in mind.

Flight attendants do have to have a natural hair color and it has to be pulled back if it is long. The biggest thing the airlines look for these days is height. You can’t be too tall that your head will constantly be bumping into the overhead bins, but you can’t be so short that you can’t perform your duties comfortably.

It’s Not Easy To Land This Job
Harvard had a higher acceptance rate than Delta airlines did for their job openings in 2010. If you’re trying to become a flight attendant, the competition can get pretty intense.

In 2010, Delta announced 1,000 openings and received over 100,000 applications. Only four percent of those applications got a callback interview. Flight attendants have quite a demanding job, for very little starting pay (at least $18,000 per year). But if you have excellent customer service skills and think you can handle it, by all means, go for it! It definitely helps if you are bilingual.