Flying on an airplane is a luxury as much as it is a privilege for travelers. Sometimes, this privilege is a smooth process from start to finish; and other times it’s uncomfortable and displeasurable for everyone involved – especially the flight attendants. Whether you are flying for the first time or 100th time, part of having a good flight requires being prepared with all the necessary flying tips and tricks to make yourself more comfortable. The other part is having pleasant interactions with your flight crew and fellow travelers so that they’re comfortable as well. Flight attendants have some of the toughest jobs in the world: they are hosts, waitresses, bartenders, customer service representatives, safety personnel, and sometimes, they are even your therapist or babysitter. They work long, unpredictable hours despite jet lag and sleeping in new destinations every night, and also have strict requirements for how they look, dress, and present themselves.
My friend Haley is a commercial flight attendant for a top airline and is also learning to be a pilot. She has travels the world as an air stewardess and has become a real expert through her years of working in the airline industry. Haley has graciously shared her top 15 tips for air travel, and divulged some insider secrets, too. Her first time flyer tips will make sure you are physically, mentally, and maybe even spiritually prepared to have a smooth and comfortable flight. “We have a saying in the industry,” Haley laments, “people check their brains with their bags.” Keep reading to hear Haley’s tips for making air travel better for you, your fellow passengers, and the lovely crew who are servicing your plane.
“It seems as though there’s a common theme among passengers on the planes that involves pure, unadulterated desire to make everyone else’s lives harder. People walk through the aircraft door and float to their seat in a haze of confusion and discomfort, then take all the necessary steps that they possibly can to inconvenience flight crews and their fellow onboard guests.”
Flight Attendant Shares Her Best Tips for Flying for the First Time
1. Keep Your Travel Essentials for the Plane in Your Personal Bag
Rather than keeping your personal items in your rollerboard, keep your travel necessities on you before takeoff so it’s easily accessible while you’re in the air. Few things are less convenient than having to get up constantly to get your charger, book, laptop, and headphones from your carry on, after it’s been stowed in the overhead bin. It is also unpredictable when it is safe to unfasten your seatbelt, so it is better to be prepared than to wait for the seatbelt sign to go off.
2. BYOS! Bring Your Own Snacks
TSA allows for people to bring their own food through, as long as there aren’t any liquids over the 3.4oz maximum. Oftentimes, airlines don’t have extraordinarily extensive menus and the food that they do have is pricey, so it may be best to come prepared with your own food or buy some while you’re in the terminal.
3. Come Prepared With Your Own Entertainment
If you have Netflix or another streaming service, download movies and shows before you come onboard. Most planes nowadays have in-air WiFi, but it’s not very fast, so inflight entertainment can be spotty and unreliable. Come prepared with all your shows loaded up and ready to go, especially if you have children! Everyone around you will thank you.
4. Bring Along a Refillable Water Bottle
For every hour you spend in the air, your body requires 8oz of water in order to stay fully hydrated, due to the change in altitude and pressure. It’s easy to get dehydrated when flying, which can lead to nausea, vomiting, and fainting. To prevent these potential risks, ask your flight attendant to fill up a refillable water bottle for you rather than continuously asking for those tiny cups of water. The water on board our planes is potable and safe, but can be questionable on other airlines. If you’re worried, you can make sure the water on board is bottled or purchase your own large water bottles in the terminal convenience stores.
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5. Inform Your Flight Attendants of Any Relevant Medical Conditions
Nervous flyers, people with allergies, and those with medical conditions like epilepsy should always let us know about their conditions so that we can be fully prepared in the event of an emergency.
6. Bring Gum or Something Chewy
Chewing will help to equalize the pressure in your eustachian tubes. If you’re feeling congested, bring decongestant and nasal sprays with you. I cannot stress that enough! Ear pain is one of the most common complaints I have received over the last couple years, and there is not much I can do to help passengers with it (because we aren’t allowed to chew gum and we cannot give out medication), so come prepared.
7. Control Your Behavior and Alcohol Consumption
We have restraint devices onboard for when passengers get exceptionally unruly, but we try to diffuse the situation before it gets to that. Luckily I’ve never had to use it. Verbal altercations do occur between passengers. However, the most aggression I’ve personally experienced was someone yelling in my face and waving their hand at me, but I’ve never been actually attacked, knock on wood.
8. Don’t Try to Join the Mile High Club
That means no funny business in the bathroom, and don’t go into them without shoes. Seriously… Just, ew. I’ve seen some seriously disgusting scenes in those restrooms (think bodily fluids all over the floor, walls, sink, and mirrors), so the last thing you should be doing is getting naked in there. Yuck. Speaking of bodily fluids, dead bodies do get shipped on planes sometimes, but not often. It’s usually not something that anyone is really concerned about, but we have had fallen soldiers onboard and family members flying back with their deceased checked into the luggage compartment. it’s interesting for sure. it seems a little impersonal, but they’ve gotta get home somehow! This is also a good reminder to treat all passengers with respect. You never know who is having a bad day or the reason for their trip.
First Time Flying Tips to Make Flight Attendant Duties Easier, and to Make Your Flight Crew Happy…
9. Be Kind
Traveling is stressful. From driving through the airport, going through security, the excruciating boarding process, sitting in a cramped seat, and then making it all the way to baggage claim, it’s easy to get irritated along the way. We empathize. Try to remember that we’re all here for different reasons (some people are going to attend funerals, others heading to graduations, many are vacationing, but a lot are also going to work); but we all have the same goal in mind: to get from point A to point B. Exercise some kindness and patience to your fellow passengers and your cabin crew. After all, you’re literally flying through the air, which is a modern miracle worth celebrating.
10. Bring Gifts for Flight Attendants
If you want to get on the flight crew’s good side, treat your flight attendants. We are always extremely appreciative to receive any sort of thanks from our passengers, because it is a fairly thankless job, especially in the current climate of flying. If you bring something small along with you, like chocolates or mints (or maybe Starbucks gift cards if you’re feeling ambitious), you just might get a free drink out of it, too!
11. Don’t Ring the Flight Attendant Call Button
Don’t ring the call button unless there’s an emergency or you’re unable to get up from your seat (like when the seatbelt sign is on). Otherwise, it’s better to get up, come to the galley, and ask us for whatever it is you need. During training, we’re taught that call buttons must be answered IMMEDIATELY so we automatically assume that there’s an emergency if you ring it, and it’s easy to get annoyed when a passenger hands us trash instead of actually needing us for something important. we come through with trash bags periodically, and if you really want to get rid of it, you can bring it to the bins we have in our galleys. The same goes for drinks!
12. Keep Your Window Shades Open for Taxi, Takeoff, and Landing.
Our pilots, maintenance, engineers, and cabin crew are all trained to spot potential dangers throughout the aircraft. That being said, it’s very possible that something could go awry after we’ve done our checks, so you can help us be aware by keeping your shades open and observing what’s going on outside. If you see excess fuel coming from the engine, or a fire, or something just doesn’t look right, you may be the first to notice and the person to save the day. Don’t ever hesitate to ask questions or point out things that seem off to you — safety is our number one priority.
13. Be Considerate That a Plane is a Shared Space
Galley yoga, leaving massive messes in seats, causing a scene by being unruly, etc. are all sure to piss a flight attendant off. We’re all just trying to get to our destination comfortably and peacefully, and nothing irritates me more than a person that has no regard for the comfort of others.
14. Yes, You Really Should Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode
Airplane mode is required because the transmissions from your phone can interfere with the frequencies put out by some of the aircraft equipment. it seems like a small deal, but I’ve actually had pilots call me and tell me that their equipment was acting up and I needed to go through the cabin to ensure that everyone’s phone was actually on airplane mode.
15. Don’t Catcall Us in the Aisle
I’m not afraid to stop what i’m doing to embarrass you for being rude. Don’t grab at me, poke me, or holler at me – that goes for both men and women. If you are interested in me and want to get my attention, take the time to talk to me like a human being and I may agree to go on a date with you or give you my number. There’s this fetishization of flight attendants that is really quite gross, and we can spot it from a mile away. That being said, I have gone on a few dates while on layovers with passengers and had a blast! People often wonder, and there is some truth to the flight attendant and pilot romance rumors for sure. We spend days at a time together when we’re on trips, wake up and go to bed at the same time, stay in the same hotels, eat at the same restaurants… it’s easy to get comfortable. Even more so if there’s an attraction there. I’ve had my fair share of pilot experiences. I know a lot of flight attendants that refuse to date pilots, but most of them are actually really great guys.