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

Flight attendants may give you service with a smile, but it can be a very different story once they’re out of sight of passengers. Perhaps it’s because cabin crew know many things we don’t – like just how filthy the seats are, for example. That’s just one shocking secret, but insiders have spilled many more. And by the time you read what they have to say, you may want to take your next trip on a Greyhound…

20. Flight attendants judge what you’re wearing

Don’t put on your go-to travel T-shirt and sweatpants – even if you’re on a long-haul journey. Why? Well, this kind of relaxed attire may cost you when it comes to customer service. Yep, one flight attendant claims that the way you’re treated on a plane may depend on how good you look. Judgemental, much?

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 be nice to the smarter people. That makes sense, but it doesn’t seem very fair…

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19. The call bell can be their nemesis

That call bell? Pretty handy when you’re up in the air! But spare a thought for your flight attendant before you order that fourth whisky and club soda. At the very least, don’t press the bell repeatedly. 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

Think that request to turn off any electronic devices is just a load of old hooey? Think again. It really does help to ensure the safety of everyone on board. And in her revealing book, Rivers 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 matters a great deal that passengers should place electronics in airplane mode during taxi, takeoff and landing. Their safety is at stake.” Lesson learned.

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17. Plane food isn’t good for the diet

Turns out that plane food isn’t just, well, a little tasteless. Apparently, it’s also rather unhealthy. That’s according to a Reddit poster who claims to be a flight attendant. The person 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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But if you think that’s bad, then wait until you hear about the drink situation! 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.” Ewww…

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16. Avoid the chat-up lines

No, that flight attendant’s beaming smile and polite customer service isn’t an excuse to hit on them. And, no, they haven’t taken a shine to you. They’re just doing their job! Brushing off chat-up lines is all in a day’s work for cabin crew, although some flyers 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.” Anyone assuming 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 person 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.” Pretty cool when you think about it!

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14. The job is intense

Traveling all over the world is fun, right? Well, not if you’re a flight attendant. First, 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. In 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 worst aspects of her chosen career. Yeah, we think we’ll put our application form in the trash.

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13. Planes aren’t as clean as you think

The inside of a plane may be scrubbed from top to bottom after each flight, but those cleanliness levels drop dramatically the moment the first passenger steps on board. For that reason, then, one commenter on Reddit asked people traveling in the air to avoid walking about without any shoes or socks on. And if you’re still not convinced, you should really read what they have to say.

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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. There’s also a better way to give your thanks if you want to praise the guy or gal who served you.

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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.” That can be far more valuable to a member of staff than a crumpled dollar bill, as Rivers explained. “Companies have incentive programs that employees qualify for when they are singled out for giving great customer service,” she said.

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11. Flight attendants’ grooming requirements are more relaxed

That air of glamour that still surrounds flight attendants? It may have something to do with their appearance. Back in the day, you see, these women – and they were pretty much all women – usually had to meet extremely strict grooming guidelines. It’s true, too, that employees were judged negatively for their weight or their age.

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Thankfully, that kind of discrimination is no longer allowed, but the way you look is still deemed 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

Trying to charm a flight attendant into giving you a business class seat? Sorry, but you’re barking up the wrong tree! You see, 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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But Rivers does offer some good advice on wooing employees on the ground instead. And, yet again, it’s all to do with making a great first impression. She explained, “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 fulfill, 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. She wrote, “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.” Simply put? Get a room!

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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 members of cabin crew often go by on a flight. Yes, while you may be able to sink half a dozen beers before getting tipsy at home, that number is likely to reduce by half when you’re 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

Ever taken a break from that recent blockbuster to see which country you’re flying over? Us too! It’s kinda neat to know. You can even find out the altitude at which the plane is traveling, the temperature on board and your estimated time of arrival. 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.” Well, okay, then!

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6. Don’t expect the truth about delays

Flight attendants may not look devious, but that doesn’t stop them from telling a little white lie or two. If you want to know why your trip has suffered some kind of delay, for example, then you may as well just pluck your own answer out of the air. It’s likely to be as accurate as the info the crew members are telling you. But these, er, alternative facts, are given for a good reason.

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On the Reddit thread, one person revealed, “When people ask for the reason for a delay, we usually give a bull**** 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 flight attendants to train for the job. Not that long, all things considered! But shoukd it be even shorter? You see, flight attendants will never put the majority of things 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.” It’s good to know they’re ready, though, in case disaster does strike.

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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. Yep, yet again, they’re lying! Crew have no intention of making the plane warmer, and you’ll be grossed out when you hear why.

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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.” Our tip? 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. Apparently, the average pilot flies around eight dead people every year. We have chills just thinking about it…

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Of course, it’s the baggage handlers who actually have to deal with transporting the human remains. One individual who claims to have been employed in that 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.” Talk about nightmare fuel.

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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 if you get caught short. But the cons far outweigh the pros. For starters, 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.” Their advice? “Never get seats by the bathroom.” Got it.

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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. 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. It’s no wonder, then, that they get annoyed with being called glorified waitstaff!

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