Can cabin crew accept tips? Which passengers are the most annoying? Flight attendant at U.S airline answers travellers’ questions about what it’s REALLY like working in the skies
- A flight attendant opened the floor up to questions on Reddit’s ‘IAmA’ forum
- He also addressed the toll working as a flight attendant can take on your love life
- READ MORE: Singapore Airlines named world’s best airline for the fifth time
On paper the life of a flight attendant is a glamorous one, but it’s not always plane sailing, as one male flight attendant working for a U.S legacy carrier has revealed.
He has lifted the lid on the reality of working at 38,000ft, touching on everything from the terrifying flying experiences they’d endured to how passengers can get special treatment from the crew.
Taking to Reddit’s ‘IAmA’ forum, user ‘FriendlySkyGuy’ opened up the floor to questions, saying: ‘I am a flight attendant at a major U.S airline, ask me anything.’
One user, ‘ManMan36’, wondered which airline passengers are ‘the most annoying’ to fly with, to which the flight attendant replied: ‘The ones who are so wrapped up in their own world they forget that they’re travelling with 200 other human beings, and are being attended to by other humans.’
In that vein, user ‘Poj7326’ wondered what the ‘worst customer interaction’ was that the flight attendant had ever dealt with, leading him to reveal: ‘I had to take a drunk former NFL player out of my galley when he wouldn’t get the hint that my co-worker didn’t want to sleep with him. That was rough, and I would’ve been screwed if he had gotten any more violent.’
Taking to Reddit’s ‘IAmA’ forum, user ‘FriendlySkyGuy’, a male flight attendant working for a U.S legacy carrier, opened up the floor to questions about the reality of working in the skies
‘PyrrhuraMolinae’ asked what the ‘most disgusting’ type of passenger is on a flight, only for the crewmember to reveal that it’s ‘everyone who walks into the lavatories without shoes or socks’ – as the floors are ‘gross’.
TRAVELLING WITH KIDS
Sometimes, parents travelling with small children can also end up in flight attendants’ bad books.
User ‘winwithaneontheend’ asked the crewmember to list the annoying things that parents tend to do mid-flight. In response, the flight attendant revealed that it’s a big faux pas to expect the crew to ‘have entertainment for a baby for six hours’.
He added: ‘[Don’t]… ask us for milk (you don’t want ours, trust me), cooling (I don’t have fridges), or heating (I’m not putting your bottles in our ovens).’
To help parents with young ones cope with flights, the flight attendant offered up some tips.
He said: ‘Be completely self-sufficient. Remember that babies have a hard time adjusting to the pressurization and can’t clear their ears like adults. Get them something to chew on before take-off and landing, that generally helps. Ask for help if you need it. Take your time… board early if the airline lets you, and deplane later than others.’
Generally, there are some things that every kind of passenger can do to stay on the crew’s good side.
The flight attendant says of flying with small children: ‘Remember that babies have a hard time adjusting to the pressurization and can’t clear their ears like adults. Get them something to chew on before take-off and landing’
When ‘BourneHero’ asked for special flying tips to ‘get better treatment’ from the crew, he replied: ‘First, be nice. Most of us start the day happy, but somewhere along the line, someone tests us. If you bring us stuff, we tend to notice. I’ll be honest, not everyone gives free stuff in return, but I’ll at least buy you a drink if you bring chocolates or a card or something — as do most of my co-workers.’
‘TheTaoOfMe’ asked what kind of food the crew likes to receive as gifts, and the FA replied: ‘I’ll eat stuff if it’s wrapped. Personally, I won’t eat homemade stuff… chocolates are popular. If you’re somewhere with a local delicacy, that’s always nice too.’
What about showing appreciation by leaving a tip when ordering from the trolley? When user ‘nothing_showing’ asked if it was ‘acceptable’ to do so, the flight attendant replied: ‘We’re supposed to politely decline once before accepting. It’s not common, but it is appreciated! Just keep in mind there’s more than one of us on the plane, so I’d only do it if you received exceptional service from one of us in particular.’
And what should you be ordering from the trolley in the first place? User ‘Mishanany’ asked: ‘Chicken or fish?’ to which the FA replied: ‘Chicken. Airplane fish is gross.’
The flight attendant says he doesn’t recommend ordering tea or coffee, either. When user ‘s1lv3rbug’ enquired about the drinks menu, the crew member admitted he prefers to drink bottled, boxed or canned drinks on board, because the coffee and tea ‘comes from the potable water tanks’ that are ‘filled at many airports by many different people and cleaning them is hard’.
SAFETY IN THE SKIES
Serving food and drinks, however, is not the most important part of the job. Safety takes priority.
The flight attendant says that the crew are supposed to ‘politely decline’ a tip once before accepting it
FLIGHT ATTENDANT REVEALS WHAT LIFE IS LIKE AT 38,000FT
On badly behaved passengers: I had to take a drunk former NFL player out of my galley when he wouldn’t get the hint that my co-worker didn’t want to sleep with him.
To parents: Be completely self-sufficient. Remember that babies have a hard time adjusting to the pressurization and can’t clear their ears like adults. Get them something to chew on before take-off and landing, that generally helps.
To passengers: First, be nice. Most of us start the day happy, but somewhere along the line, someone tests us.
Tips: We’re supposed to politely decline once before accepting. It’s not common, but it is appreciated.
Gifts: I’ll eat stuff if it’s wrapped. Personally, I won’t eat homemade stuff… chocolates are popular. If you’re somewhere with a local delicacy, that’s always nice too.
Airplane food: Airplane fish is gross.
The job: If the job was all serving meals, they’d have replaced us with vending machines years ago
Turbulence: It’s bumpy, sure, but even if you drop 500ft (152m), you’re still thousands of feet in the air. It’d have to be really bad to cause any real damage. But at that point, the pilots would be trying to find a new route or altitude.
The travelling: I’ve woken up and not known what city, state, or even country I’m in.
The mile-high club: I haven’t seen it, but I know crewmembers who have. And some who’ve joined the club themselves.
Source: Flight attendant on Reddit’s ‘IAmA’ forum.
User ‘lost18k’ asked: ‘How do you get over the fear that the plane can crash at any time?’ To which the flight attendant replied: ‘Five weeks of training are dedicated to emergency procedures. We just hope to never have to use that training. But if something happens, I have a worse chance of surviving than you do. It’s why we’re so cranky about seemingly benign things (laptops away, tray tables up, things unplugged, and so on) sometimes. If the job was all serving meals, they’d have replaced us with vending machines years ago.’
When asked to describe the scariest moment they’d experienced on the job, the flight attendant said: ‘Lost one engine. The second started smoking heavily, 45 minutes from an airport.’ He noted that although they made a safe landing, the ‘passengers weren’t happy’, adding: ‘Fifteen or 20 didn’t get on the replacement plane they found us once we landed.’
Prepping for an emergency landing is something the flight attendant has only had to do twice in his career, he revealed. He said: ‘It’s not fun, but we just fall back to our training and by the time it’s over, it’s like you were on autopilot and didn’t really have time to freak out.’
How does he keep calm during turbulence, take-off and landing, user ‘Probablyawning’ wondered. According to the flight attendant, ‘it’s like riding a subway once you get used to it’. He elaborated: ‘It’s bumpy, sure, but even if you drop 500ft (152m), you’re still thousands of feet in the air. It’d have to be really bad to cause any real damage. But at that point, the pilots would be trying to find a new route or altitude.’
When user ‘hollakris’ pressed him to describe the worst turbulence he’d experienced, he said: ‘[It] wasn’t too bad. We dropped a bit, my feet lifted in my shoes but didn’t leave the ground.’ He adds that he ended up crawling back to his seat.
Any advice for people that are ‘absolutely terrified’ of flying, ‘mariataytay’ enquired? The flight attendant said that nervous flyers should ‘absolutely’ let the crew know about their anxiety, saying: ‘We’ll check on you during the flight. Most of us have friends or family that are nervous fliers too, we understand.’
Though he admitted he didn’t have any specific coping mechanisms, he said: ‘General anxiety [tips] I’ve picked up include making sure your diet is balanced (and you’re not changing it too much before a flight), avoid caffeine, sugars, and alcohol.
‘Find a good breathing app for your phone and do breathing exercises. Learn to properly meditate. Personally, I like tight clothing when I’m anxious (I like hugs, and tight clothing is close enough sometimes) but if you get claustrophobic, wear loose clothing.’
On the other end of the spectrum, the flight attendant had a few tips for people who love air travel so much that they want to get a job in the industry.
When an unnamed user asked for tips to share with a friend who is an aspiring flight attendant, the crew member said: ‘To prepare, [your friend should] get as much customer service experience on her resume as possible. Bonus points for supervisor roles.’ He added that it helps to learn a new language too.
The flight attendant recommends that nervous flyers avoid caffeine when they’re flying
Did anything disappoint him about the industry when he joined, user ‘noTSAluv’ wondered?
The flight attendant reflected: ‘I’d done my research and I knew most of the downsides going into the job. The biggest thing I wasn’t expecting is the lifestyle change. You start and end every trip at your home base, but that doesn’t mean you start and end every day at that base. A three-day trip might take you through eight cities, and you may wake up and go to sleep in different cities each of those days. I’ve woken up and not known what city, state, or even country I’m in.’
DATING AS A FLIGHT ATTENDANT
Another downside seems to be the impact the job can have on a flight attendant’s love life.
When ‘Tidus600’ asked about how difficult it is to maintain a successful relationship, the flight attendant said: ‘My girlfriend of six years broke up with me because of the job. The lifestyle is hard on loved ones too.’
Are there ever any romances between crew members, one unnamed user asked. The flight attendant revealed: ‘Depends on the crew… Speaking from experience, on an international widebody [plane] with a junior crew, there’s usually at least one person hooking up on a layover, be it with another crew member, local, or (rarely) a passenger.’
This takes us to the notorious mile-high club – when user ‘drumminslife’ wondered whether the flight attendant had witnessed any passengers trying to have sex on a plane, he responded: ‘I haven’t seen it, but I know crewmembers who have. And some who’ve joined the club themselves.’
When an unnamed Reddit user enquired about whether passengers would get charged if they were caught in the act, the flight attendant replied: ‘Typically? No. If you get caught, you’re told to stop. If you do, and you weren’t going at [it] in your seat in front of everyone, most flight attendants would drop it then – we hate paperwork like everyone else.’
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