15 Uncommon Facts About Working as a Flight Attendant
Some people fly once a year to visit family across the country, others fly multiple times a year for business trips. Neither of these people, however, fly nearly as much as flight attendants. Flying for them is not only a job – it’s a lifestyle. Their lives revolve around the process of flying.
If they’re not 30,000 feet in the air serving passengers snacks and drinks, then they’re either waiting in the airport terminal or getting some rest at an airport hotel. Alongside being some of the most well-traveled people on earth, they interact with a huge variety of people. Despite that, most people don’t know much about them or their job. So, here are 15 facts about the life of flight attendants.
1. A Personal Search
When you get on an airplane, the flight attendants have lists with all the passengers on board. They know your seat number alongside your full name. This is done for safety, but it can lead to mildly creepy habits.
In particular, the habit of checking out the passenger’s online presence. Although they don’t always do this, flight attendants can get bored on long flights. So, to pass the time, some of them type in names from the list to see if they’re sharing the flight with someone famous – or infamous.
2. Flight Attendant Wages
Although being a flight attendant may sound glamorous, it (often) doesn’t pay a glamorous wage. Not only that, but for many airlines, the rules for when you get paid are quite strict. For example, flight attendants only get paid for their flight time.
That means when the flight is delayed and everyone is waiting by the gate, they’re not getting paid. Despite that, they still have to put on a friendly work smile because they’re in their company uniform and they don’t want to give a bad impression.
3. Sky Burial
Although it’s not something that many passengers think about when boarding their flight, but for some people, it’s the last flight they will ever take. That’s right, some passengers die in mid-flight about 30,000 feet in the air.
Flight attendants deal with this in as discrete a way as possible. Often, they try to wrap blankets around the person to not draw too much attention to them or alarm the other passengers. That’s a logical option, but it’s also pretty creepy to think about.
4. Bring the Tape
Most passengers are easy to deal with. They sit down, eat a meal, doze off, and then wake up when the plane has safely landed. Other passengers are difficult to deal with – they sit down, then get up, sit down, get up, yell, complain, and more.
Sometimes it’s simply their personality that causes it. Other times they had one too many drinks before boarding the flight. Whatever the reason, flight attendants have to deal with it. Occasionally, they do so by duct taping the passenger to the seat.
5. Where the Gas Goes
This next fact isn’t pretty, but it’s a part of life. Flight attendants are, as you might imagine, people, and people can get a bit gassy at times. Maybe they ate too quickly or ate the wrong thing. Whatever the reason, they need to let out a toot.
So, what do they do? Well, the attendants often take a stroll down the aisle and let one rip during their walk – perhaps by one of the most annoying passengers. With so many other passengers, it’s nearly impossible to figure out who did it.
6. Read and Fly
First off, pilots are incredibly well trained. They know their planes inside out and they know how to operate each and every dial and lever in the cockpit. That being said, most cockpits are highly automated nowadays – hence, there’s not always a need to keep an eye on everything.
Sure, during take off and landing, pilots need to be supremely focused. Outside of that, however, there’s a lot of downtown. So, like most other passengers, they like to relax a bit by cracking open a book or enjoying a can of soda.
7. Coffee Spills
Flight attendants are people first and attendants second, so, just like everyone else, they make a few mistakes. The big difference is that their mistakes are usually funny. For example, one flight attendant was walking down the aisles when she accidentally spilled coffee creamer on a passenger’s bald head.
Lucky for her, the passenger was still sleeping – so she walked away carefully. Although it caused a few chuckles and laughs among her co-workers, she also felt pretty guilty about it. Luckily, it wasn’t a life or death situation.
8. Protect Your Ears
The inside of an airplane is a very unique environment that requires people to follow certain rules. One of those rules is to avoid flying when you have an active ear infection or extra fluid in your ears.
That’s because this infection or extra fluid may cause your eardrums to get ruptured mid-flight. That, in turn, is going to require an ER visit once you land. This risk is something that flight crews have to be extra careful with because they’re constantly moving between pressurized and de-pressurized environments.
9. Door Greetings
Flight attendants are known for having a cheerful attitude when greeting you at the door. Partly this is a matter of kindness. It’s similar to how certain stores employ greeters at the door. However, there’s also a far more specific reason they do this.
They want to know if someone has had one too many drinks at the airport bar before getting on the flight. If they spot someone, they’ll make sure to keep an extra eye on them during the flight.
The flight attendant in this photo seems to have a pretty endearing sense of humor, as she hid in the baggage loading area.
10. No Home
When people imagine being a flight attendant, they imagine a glamorous lifestyle. The reality, however, is more mundane and grim. Alongside long work hours and finicky pay rates, there is the fact that most don’t have a home.
That’s mostly because they’re moving around so much – they start the day in one city and end in an entirely different city or country! Paying rent at an apartment you’re barely in doesn’t make much sense in that context. Instead, it’s suitcases, break rooms, and hotels.
11. Where the Food Goes
This may be heartbreaking to hear, but it’s important to get it out of the way. When flights are done, all the uneaten food has to be discarded! That means all those uneaten (or half-eaten) chicken dinners are chucked in the trash.
Considering how many people take flights and how many flights go per day, that’s a lot of wasted food. Flight attendants luck out, however, during private plane flights. If the flight gets delayed or canceled, they can gorge on the delicious treats all they want.
12. Lock the Galley
This next fact comes from a flight attendant who used to work for the airline Emirates. They had regular flights to Saudi Arabia, but during those flights, management had specific rules they had to follow. Chief among them was to lock the galley!
That’s because some Saudi authorities thought they owned the place. So, they were known to waltz in, take a look around, and grab food, goods, and whatever else they wanted. The flight attendants were helpless to do anything, so locking the galley became a useful precaution.
13. The Book of Everything
Airplanes are amazingly complex machines. That’s why pilots need to study and train so hard to get an understanding of how to operate everything. Despite all that training, there are certain components that pilots may not be familiar with.
Luckily, there’s a book for that – a very large book that stays in the cockpit. In its 600 or so pages, this book explains exactly how to manage any situation that may arise. These range from dealing with a bomb threat to dealing with an engine malfunction.
That book literally contains every single thing that could possibly go wrong on a flight. There’s everything from a bulb going out to a bomb threat to an engine malfunction or even a biohazard warning. Honestly, that book is very much needed.
14. Emergency Words
The security measures that airports take – X-ray machines, scanning bags, police dogs, etc. – spill over into the airplane itself. Although not as strict, airplanes do have ways for dealing with emergency situations. One is the emergency codeword.
If something dangerous happens (like someone dangerous coming onboard), then the flight attendants can discreetly let the pilots know by using this codeword. The word itself changes regularly and can be any word in the dictionary – from astounding to sensational. When the crew says the word, the pilots quickly lock the cockpit.
15. They Know the Jokes
Although it may be tempting to try and slip in a clever joke (or punny line) when chatting with a flight attendant, it’s highly likely that they’ve heard it before. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say it, it just means don’t expect a huge belly laugh.
Like most customer service jobs, flight attendants know how to be polite to all the passengers – even the super rude ones who may not deserve it. The best thing passengers can do is return the favor.