We no longer live under the delusion that air travel – especially in coach – is glamorous. Gone are the days of white-gloved flight attendants serving in-flight meals on delicate china. Sandra White has been a flight attendant for a major airline for 20 years. “It’s something I wanted to do when I took my first flight and saw the flight attendants wearing mini skirts and go-go boots,” she says. Though she’s seen many ups and downs (literally!), she’s never put on a mini skirt or go-go boots. Instead, listen up as she gives you eight secrets your flight attendant will never tell you.
How to score a free drink
Scoring a free beer on a flight is not all that hard. According to White, there are a few reasons why she’ll give a customer a free drink, but it all comes down to one thing, being nice – really nice. If there are mechanical problems, and it’s the airline’s fault and you’ve been sitting on the tarmac forever without being rude, she’ll comp you a drink. “I’m sure they need it,” she says. If you only have cash (most airlines only take cards) and have been nice during the flight, she’ll just give you the beer. “Basically, kindness goes a long way,” says White.
How to join the Mile High Club
With increased security, this is more complicated; but if joining the Mile High Club is on your travel bucket list, then White says there are a few tips that can help you get the job done. She recommends choosing the back lavatories while the flight attendants are stocking and cleaning up in the middle galley, after drink service on a night flight, and when the lights have been dimmed. She points out that going in separately is the best plan of action, and to make sure that the flight is smooth and the seatbelt sign is off. “Finally,” she said, “clean up after yourself!”
We don’t really hate kids
No one really loves the sound of a screaming baby, but for the most part, flight attendants feel sorry for your bundles of joy on tear-soaked flights. White says that babies’ ears begin to hurt around cruising altitude and she’ll often suggest that they suck on a pacifier, a bottle, or their toy to help make them more comfortable. She says, “I’ve seen pets behave much worse.”
We do hate your carry-ons
It’s not the passengers’ fault that airlines now charge ridiculous fees for checked luggage, but flight attendants are now forced to deal with your extra baggage. It’s important to know that if you’re a willing and able body, then it’s the passengers’ responsibility to put luggage in the overhead compartment, but White says that she’s always happy to help anyone who needs it. “Honestly, it’s the businessmen who are the worst offenders. They get their bags stuck and expect someone to get it out for them.”
How to score a better seat
Most often, your fate’s in the hands of the gate agent if you’re looking to score a free upgrade to first class; but on occasion, a flight attendant will send you straight to the front if the flight has space. How? White says she’s always happy to make people more comfortable, so kindly asking is always appreciated. “You draw more bees with honey,” she says. If you’re rude, impatient, or disrespectful, you’re not going anywhere. But any considerate person is welcome to move away from the lavatory or near a window if space allows.
Crews really do have love affairs
It’s not any different than other workplaces, but affairs are definitely common among airline crew members a la the movie Flight. White says that all the love connections in the industry could be because the crew is together non-stop for almost a week; they stay in the same hotel and often eat meals together. “Some airlines are recognizing this and putting pilots in separate hotels than flight attendants, but I’m not sure it’s helping,” she says.
We’re not just waitresses in the sky
Sure, we serve you drinks and mediocre microwave food, but flight attendants are hired for your comfort, and above all – safety. It varies by airline, but most flight attendants receive two months pre-job training and the FAA requires four days of yearly refocus training. White says that a passenger’s comfort is equally important to her. “Some people are scared to fly or come aboard crying because they’ve lost or left someone. I always keep a pack of tissues in my jacket for that reason.”
Our least favorite type of passenger is…
A drunk. If you smell wasted, look wasted, and act wasted – park yourself at the airport restaurant and don’t bother boarding the plane. According to White, annoying drunks always demand booze before beverage service, think they’re hilarious, flirt with flight attendants, and order two drinks at a time (every 10 minutes). White says, “I’ve only had to cut off two people – you really don’t want to make a drunk angry at 36,000 feet – they might defecate on the beverage cart (yes, this really happened to a co-worker)!”