Airplane disinfection due to COVID-19
izusek/istockphoto

What Flight Attendants Want You To Know About Flying Now

View Slideshow
Airplane disinfection due to COVID-19
izusek/istockphoto
Boy playing on tablet during a commercial flight while traveling with his mother wearing a facemask
Hispanolistic/istockphoto

Please Don’t Make Us Ask You To Mask-Up

Here’s how you decide if now is the right time to get on a plane. Can you wear a mask for the entire duration of your journey? If the answer is no, then hold off until the federal mask mandate (currently extended to Jan. 18, 2022) is lifted. “Please wear your mask over your nose and mouth! Until the federal mask mandate is lifted, we all have to wear them. These days, if you’re asked more than once, you’re at risk of being removed from the flight and not being able to fly that airline in the future,” says flight attendant Ally Case


While most flight crews are courteous enough to provide reminders to passengers about masking up, they really shouldn’t have to or resort to making personal pleas like this Southwest Airlines pilot. “The masks: There is not an eye-roll you can give me that I haven’t seen 750,000 times in the last year,” he announces to the cabin. “I know you don’t like ’em. I don’t like ’em either. We have to wear ‘em. It’s a rule. It’s not a political statement, it’s not me taking your rights away, it’s not me asserting my will on you.”


Related: Masks and Accessories to Make Covering Your Face More Comfortable


Close up view of blurred COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card by CDC in hand.
Evgenia Parajanian/istockphoto

Most of Us Are Vaccinated

The “Are you vaxxed?” question will vex a flight attendant. Legally, they’re not obligated to disclose their status, although many would be vaccinated for health and safety purposes. And now that the FDA has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as of Aug. 23, all United Airlines employees will be vaccinated within a five-week time frame. Other airlines have similar mandates, Frontier Airlines will require all employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1 or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test regularly. Hawaiian Airlines is asking all U.S.-based employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 1. Delta Airlines may not have mandated vaccinations, but it has tacked on a $200 monthly fee on their health plan for unvaccinated employees.   

For more great travel guides and vacation tips, please sign up for our free newsletters.

cabin of airplane with passengers on seats
Demkat/istockphoto

The Crew Can (and Will) Restrain You

Statistics don’t lie, and here are some numbers to mull over from a recent survey done by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO.

  • 85 percent of all respondents had dealt with unruly passengers as air travel picked up in the first half of 2021.
  • More than half (58 percent) experienced at least five incidents this year.
  • 17 percent reported experiencing a physical incident.

While the violent, rude, bullying behavior is limited to a small pool of passengers, the rising number of incidents is not going unnoticed. In an article by The Points Guy, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) explained that while restraining a passenger is the last resort, it is not taken lightly. “Before restraining a passenger, the cabin crew will always seek the permission of the Commander (Captain) who will give their authorization if they perceive a risk to the safety of the flight, the crew, or other persons onboard,” said Katherine Kaczynska, a spokesperson from IATA. 


As for the type of restraint, there is no industry standard and all airlines have their own policy on what equipment can be used to restrain passengers.


Related: Unbelievable Airline Incidents Through the Years

duct tape
Paul Hein/istockphoto

Cut the Bullying

Know this: It takes a lot for a flight attendant to unfurl a roll of duct tape, and it’s only ever done when their personal safety is threatened. While memos have circulated asking flight attendants to not resort to duct tape, other restraints may be employed. John Slater, senior vice president of inflight services at United Airlines has stated: “Please remember that there are designated items on board that may be used in difficult situations, and alternative measures such as tape should never be used.” Considering the uptick of recent incidents, the Federal Aviation Administration has instituted a "zero tolerance" enforcement effort on unruly passengers and has issued more than $1 million in civil penalties since Jan. 1, 2021.

Insider Tip: If an inflight disturbance happens, typically airport police will be called and the disruptive individuals will have an unwelcome greeting party upon landing.

stewardess in the airplane
Igor Vershinsky/istockphoto

Flight Attendants Are Not Power Tripping

If you’re flying for the first time, it’s excusable to not know the standard rules: stowing away tray tables, putting away laptops, adjusting your seat back to an upright position. Anyone else should feel embarrassed for having a flight attendant repeat themselves ad nauseam. 


“A lot of the time passengers perceive requests from flight attendants to be without reason," says flight attendant Ally Case.  "Believe it or not, many people don’t realize just why their tray tables need to be stowed, seat backs forward, and laptops put away — the reason being that there needs to be a clear exit path for each person in each row to exit in case of an emergency and those objects block the egress. Taxi, take-off, and landing are the most crucial times for that. It’s not because we like to tell people what to do — it’s because we need to make sure the cabin is fully prepared at those higher-risk times against any potential emergencies. It’s our job to think ahead and be prepared for anything!”  


Related: Your New Air Travel Checklist

Thank You Front Line Workers
shaunl/istockphoto

We Are as Nervous About Flying as You Are

There has been no shortage of news of front line workers falling sick or dying from COVID-19, so have some heart for the front-line flight attendant who faces members of the public in close quarters day after day with no control over whom they come in contact with. According to a World Economic Forum/Visual Capitalist report, flight attendants have a 75.7 COVID risk score, surgeons ranked just a bit spot higher with a 76.3 risk score. 


Related: Are You Required to Put Yourself in Harm’s Way? Know Your Rights When Returning to Work


Emergency Exit in airplane
vanbeets/istockphoto

Emergency Exit Seats Come With Responsibility

That extra legroom you want comes with strings attached. Before pushing for that emergency exit seat, watch this video and see if you’re up for the task. On the airline end, their job is to ensure whoever sits there is able-bodied and at least 15 years old, but they'll also have to judge if you’re able to grasp, pull, push, turn, lift easily and with “sufficient visual capacity to perform applicable functions without the assistance of visual aids beyond contact lenses or eyeglasses."

Insider Tip: According to a post on Medium by an ex-flight attendant, there is a 90-second time limit to evacuate passengers, which means if the worst happens, you also have to be physically and mentally prepared to act fast. 


wireless white headphones
Ana Belen Garcia Sanchez/istockphoto

Take Your Headphones Off

If you talk to your Starbucks barista with your headphones removed or switched off, please do the same for your friendly flight attendant. “When the flight attendants are in the aisles asking what you like to drink, please take your headphones off so they don’t have to repeat the question three times to every person,” says Case. 

No alcohol sign
Supersmario/istockphoto

Stop Asking For Alcohol

They are not being discriminatory; a flight attendant can’t serve you a beer if the airline has prohibited it. Blame the previously rowdy passengers who’ve gotten blind drunk and violent (front teeth have been lost) for this ruling. Take note, American Airlines has extended its ban on the sale of alcohol in economy class (including main-cabin extra) through Jan. 18, 2022, except for long-haul flights. If you’re flying business or first class, though, booze is available. 


Insider Tip: Just because you can buy alcohol duty-free doesn’t mean you can consume it on board, according to FAA regulations: “No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him.”


Related: Ridiculous Things People Have Tried to Bring on Planes

Traveler waiting for a travel bag on the belt in airport
NeoPhoto/istockphoto

They Don’t Have To Help You With Your Bag

While many passengers assume lifting bags is part of a flight attendant’s long list of duties, it isn’t. According to the website These Gold Wings, aside from basic pay and meal allowances, flight attendants only get paid for their flying time, which means that until the plane’s doors are locked/unlocked, they’re unpaid, and if they injure themselves during the boarding and disembarkation process, their insurance might not cover the injury. 


Seats for children in minivan
Tramino/istockphoto

Car Seats Can’t Be Installed in the Exit Row

While this ruling has not changed, parents should be reminded that while car seats are allowed in the plane, according to the FAA, they cannot be installed in the exit aisle or the row behind and directly in front of it. To play it safe, be sure the seat is FAA approved and that your airline allows it to be brought on board.

Insider Tip: Spirit Airlines seats tend to be narrower, so it’s best to check directly with the airline you’re flying with if the seat is wide enough to accommodate your car seat.

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
Nikada/istockphoto

They Are Not As Well Paid As You Think

The perks of the job are plentiful, free-to-cheap plane travel, swish hotel rooms in exotic destinations, meeting new people regularly, but there are downsides: health and safety, a lot of waiting around, being treated like the hired help, and invariably becoming some irate passenger’s punching bag. Pay-wise, it’s also pretty complicated, but flight attendant Case breaks it down in this video

02.05.2020 Turkey İstanbul Kurtköy / Coronavirus daily. It began durt domestic and international flights in Turkey.
kenancinkis/istockphoto

The Outfits May Have Changed

For health and safety reasons, the once chic (and sometimes designer) in-flight uniforms have now been given a more practical, dare we say, clinical touch. The new get-ups can include a visor, apron, gloves, and a mask. For a visual of what to expect, check out flight attendant Jessica Grace Whalen’s Emirates uniform here. 

Unoccupied airport seating
BarrySeah/istockphoto

The Middle Seat May Not Be Blocked

Depending on the airline’s seating policy and how full the flight is, the middle seat may not be blocked. At the start of the pandemic, this policy was established so passengers could travel socially distanced, however, all U.S. airlines have stopped this policy. While you can ask the flight attendant to politely ask a passenger if they will consider switching places or moving to another seat, they can’t enforce this. If you feel strongly about sitting too close to another traveler, perhaps it’s better if you move to another row.

Snowplow working during a blizzard
WoodysPhotos/istockphoto

The Flight Attendant Knows Only So Much

Posing incessant questions to a flight attendant about turbulence, why the plane is circling, or what time the flight is expected to land at the destination is going to earn you brief answers and possibly a flicker of side-eye. Often, the flight crew outside of the flight deck knows only what they’re told by their captain. While most are happy to try and help you get your answers you’re only adding to their workload. When in doubt, safety and weather are often the reasons why things are going awry.

Ibuprofen tablets
clubfoto/istockphoto

Bring Your Meds

It is the traveler's responsibility to come prepared with personal medications. Be it Advil or even an aspirin, a flight attendant cannot give it to a passenger as it is against regulations. According to the aviation-safety site SKYbrary, “Cabin crew are not trained or qualified to administer drugs and the contents of this kit can only be accessed and administered by a licensed medical practitioner, should one be on board.” 


Insider Tip: All the flight crew is trained in first aid and CPR/AED and oxygen administration, and if there isn’t medical personnel onboard, emergency medical service providers are available and can be contacted in-flight. 


Related: 25 Carry-On Essentials to Pack for Your Next Flight

Tasty meal served on board of airplane on the table
DeSid/istockphoto

Be Specific About What You Want

Flight attendants aren’t mind readers and they prefer if you get specific with your order. Under normal circumstances, repeating the same question sentence over 100 times is already trying, and now with mask mandates (and fellow surrounding passengers feeling nervous and anxious about droplets) going through any conversation repeatedly, as re-enacted by flight attendant Tommy Cimato is simply unnecessary.

Man pours coke
chabybucko/istockphoto

Stop Asking Us for Diet Coke

Flight attendants universally hate to serve one specific drink, Diet Coke. It has to do with the overspill factor, and some fast hand and eye coordination (as seen in this TikTok video by Trolley_Dolly) is needed to ensure a mess isn’t made. These days though with new COVID-19 conscious service stipulations, you may just get handed a can to drink at your leisure.

Young woman traveling with her little child by an airplane
Onfokus/istockphoto

Child Minding Is Not Part of the Job

Most flight attendants love kids, but if a child is running up and down the aisle, it is the parent's job to restrain and control the child, not a flight attendant's. While most will be happy to help distract the little tyke, they do have a fixed set of duties to complete. Also, don’t hand over a dirty diaper for disposal. According to this post on the parenting site BabyCenter, the Food and Drug Administration prohibits attendants from handling garbage of any kind while serving food. So seal and bag it, and preferably carry it off the plane with you or dispose of it in the bathroom garbage before landing.

Air Canada Flight Preparation
tomeng/istockphoto

Don’t Get Upset If We Don’t Refer To You As Ladies or Gentlemen

Many airlines are going gender-neutral or introducing a pronoun policy to be more inclusive. If this sounds complicated, just know that you’ll be hearing “folks,” “everyone,” and “all” more moving forward. Airlines like Air Canada, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Brussels, and Eurowings have eliminated gender-specific references, according to this post at the travel site One Mile at a Time.

Close-up shot of student hand holding pen and writing in notebook, working at home. E-learning
Oleksii Didok/istockphoto

There Is a Limited Supply of Pens

Aside from reducing the number of shared contact surfaces, a flight attendant does not have an unlimited supply of pens to dispense. If you do have to borrow one, please return it as some other passenger will likely require it.

cookie
agitons/istockphoto

A Little Courtesy Goes a Long Way

While being nice to your flight attendant or on-ground staff might get you a bump to business or first class, this shouldn’t be the only reason to extend a warm hello or thank you to the crew. The industry literally came to a halt in 2020, and many staffers were furloughed or forced to take early retirement overnight. While hiring efforts have kicked off to match travel demand, there have been numerous hiccups (delays, cancellations, etc.) making a flight attendant's job extra challenging these days. How to show your appreciation beyond the niceties? Gift cards, coffee, cookies and snacks will always be appreciated. While flight attendants are paid a per diem, many choose to save this portion and bring their own food instead. Check out this flight attendants food bag!