16 Tips for How to Be a Better Passenger, According to a Veteran Flight Attendant
*Do* wear headphones while watching a movie. *Don’t* do yoga in the galley.
Why doesn’t anyone know how to act on a plane?
At the time of this writing, there have been 1,419 reports of unruly passengers, 470 investigations initiated and 259 enforcement action cases initiated, for infractions that include smoking weed, urinating on the floor of the aircraft and assaulting flight attendants.
Back in April, the Federal Aviation Association proposed their “largest-ever fines” to date against two passengers, both of whom tried to open the cabin door in an attempt to exit mid-flight. The week before that it was announced that a man had been arrested for masturbating four times on a three hour flight from Seattle to Phoenix. Most recently, a group of Christian evangelists performed an impromptu six-song set, much to the chagrin of their fellow passengers. And this is, of course, all on top of the passengers who routinely do nasty stuff like put their bare feet up on their tray tables…which is a thing that happens, and not infrequently at that.
Deanna Castro has been a flight attendant for a major carrier for the past 16 years. She is also the founder of Future Flight Attendant, which is effectively a career center for aspiring flight attendants.
“I started because I wanted to help everybody know what they were getting into and because it’s such a great job. I love my job, it’s a really well paying job. I feel like there’s a lot of misconceptions about that too,” she gushes. “People will be like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna be a flight attendant, you’re gonna be poor.’ And that’s so not true. It opens up so many amazing doors. I’ve met so many people — celebrities and billionaires and millionaires — and it’s like, I can’t just keep all this to myself.”
On the flip side of that coin, as you can probably imagine, she’s also been privy to some truly egregious shit. One time, Castro recalls being met in the back of the aircraft by a passenger who — instead of waking up her sleeping seat mates to ask to go to the bathroom — had opted to relieve herself in a cup, only to then spill said cup on herself.
Of course, it’s an extreme example and although the pandemic didn’t exactly curtail such incidents (the opposite, actually), people have been acting out on planes to some degree for nearly as long as Castro can remember. She chalks it up to lack of respect for the cabin crew.
But if there is a silver lining to all the atrocious in-flight behavior that’s become more or less the norm over the course of the past two years, it’s the introduction of the FAA’s new Zero Tolerance Policy.
“You can’t just do all the things you used to be able to get away with. Now you’re gonna pay a fine, or you’re gonna go to jail or you’re going to go before a judge,” Castro says. “So yeah, it did escalate to a really, the worst ever, but it needed to happen and now it’s improving.”
That said, some basic in-flight decorum still goes a long way with flight attendants and, fortunately, Castro is well-versed in that department. And because she hopes to continue to love her job, it is her sincerest hope that you’ll heed her advice where proper plane etiquette is involved. Below, everything you need to know about being an all-around better passenger, according to a seasoned flight attendant:
When boarding, it’s polite to step into your row and allow other passengers to pass behind you.
“It’s okay to take a few extra minutes to get ready, but please step into the aisle and wait for a lull in traffic.”
Please place all of your carry-on items away with your tray table stowed for take off.
“Flight attendants need to do their safety checks before the aircraft takes off — if you’re not ready, the plane can’t leave.”
The middle seat gets both armrests.
“It’s difficult to travel in the middle seat and the [only] thing you have is two arm rests.”
Keep your feet, knees, and elbows out of the aisle.
“When you are dangling body parts into the aisle, flight attendants can trip and get hurt. Not only that, but you could get hurt — especially from a cart. Seat space is getting smaller, but it’s still proper airplane etiquette to stay out of the aisle.”
Wait your turn.
“When it’s time to deplane, don’t run over the people in front of you — it’s rude and can cause injury.”
If you have a tight connection, ask the flight attendants if they could make an announcement to allow tight connections.
“Then you can safely proceed to the front of the aircraft…but don’t step over people, causing possible injury.”
“Sure, they are fantastic for entertainment when you are on the airplane — but take them out when speaking to the flight attendants. Flight attendants have a lot of people to take care of and it’s polite to be ready when they get to your row.”
Also…headphones! Use ‘em.
“You need to have headphones [whether you’re watching a movie, listening to music or talking on the phone]. It’s policy and it’s just rude. You wouldn’t want somebody next to you blasting something that you’re not interested in hearing. It’s not really fair to everyone else.”
If you vomit, don’t hand the vomit bag to the flight attendants.
“Place it under your seat. We can give you an extra bag to wrap it up in, but please don’t push that hot steaming bag of vomit into a flight attendant’s hands.”
Close the overhead bin after you open it.
“It’s dangerous to leave it open during flight. I’ve seen bags fall out and break someone’s nose because someone left the bin open.”
Please don’t ask the flight attendants to warm up the cabin because you forgot to wear a jacket.
“Airplanes are meant to be cold. Cold air helps with air sickness and the dryness isn’t as bad when you keep the plane cool. Plan ahead, we want you to be comfortable.”
Keep your feet off of the bulkhead, other people’s bags, other people and off of the seat in front of you.
“I know your legs need a stretch, but please keep your feet to yourself.”
Don’t poke the flight attendant.
“We can hear, you don’t need to poke us to ask us something. A simple ‘excuse me’ will do.”
The galley is not a yoga studio
“No matter how cool that would be.”
Practice spatial awareness.
“When you come into the back galley, somehow your bottom always ends up in the flight attendants faces. Think of it like this: what if you were in your office and someone put their bum in your face? How would you feel about that? Just because it’s an airplane, doesn’t make that okay.”
Last but not least, when in doubt, treat other people the way you would like to be treated.
“Be nice, be polite, and air travel will be much more pleasant.”
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