I Asked the Flight Crew About Travelers’ Most Common Questions So You Don’t Have To

More often than not we keep to ourselves while traveling, especially on planes. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have pressing questions — everyone from anxious travelers to frequent fliers has, at some point, wondered about the technicalities behind the flight crews’ jobs.

I asked flight attendants and pilots from various airlines and of varying experience levels the questions they frequently receive and the answer they give to customers. Now you can fly happily with some expert tips to boot.

Will you help moderate conversations between passengers?

Women sitting on an airplane
Flight attendants help keep everyone in order. | iStock/Getty Images

“Often times passengers are unsure if it may be considered rude to offer special accommodations for elderly, disabled, exceptionally tall passengers or small children on their flights … If you’re ever afraid of unsure about asking someone if they may be more comfortable in your seat, … feel free to ask the flight attendants to moderate the conversation.” – Mandi, Thai Airways crew office manager

We’re told planes basically fly themselves … how true is that?

Technology can’t replace the pilot. | Ep_stock/Getty Images

“The best analogy, I think, is one that compares flying to medicine. Essentially, high-tech cockpit equipment assists pilots in the way that high-tech medical equipment assists physicians and surgeons. It has vastly improved their capabilities, and certain tasks have been simplified, but a plane can no more ‘fly itself’ than a modern operating room can perform an organ transplant ‘by itself.'” – Patrick, pilot, author of Ask the Pilot

Can I use the bathroom on the ground?

Occupied bathroom sign
You can use the restroom while you’re waiting for takeoff. | frontpoint/iStock/Getty Images

“The answer is yes. I’m not sure where this thinking comes from, I assume they think it’s maybe like old-fashioned trains where you couldn’t use the bathroom at the station.” – Betty, host of the podcast “Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase”

How do you keep your skin fresh after a 10-hour flight?

beautiful businesswoman resting on airplane
For beautiful skin, make sure you stay hydrated before, during, and after your flight. | michaeljung/Getty Images

“Prepare your skin. The hours before your flight are important for keeping your skin feeling good [sic]. Drink extra water before you even get to the airport … During the flight, avoid drinks that can dehydrate you.” – Abbie, Owner of Flight Attendant Career Connection

What’re your tips for making a quick connection?

Young happy couple getting up with baggage on the escalator to the departure
Keep yourself updated about the status of your connecting flight. | RossHelen/iStock/Getty Images

“If your inbound flight is delayed due to weather, the odds are good that your outbound connection was delayed … to increase your odds, pull up your airline’s website after landing while taxiing and check for gate changes. Also, check out a map of the airport so you know what direction to head as soon as you deplane.” – Abbie, Owner of Flight Attendant Career Connection

How often do you get to switch routes?

Flight Attendant
Flight attendants can enjoy variety in their work. |
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

“I don’t have a specific route. I can fly anything from a 1-6 day trip, international or domestic and I am part of the charter program and fly sports teams to their away games.” – Jamie, flight attendant for Delta Airlines

How much training do you receive for emergency protocol and unruly passengers?

They know what they’re doing. | Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images
“We have 8 weeks of training, then one or two days every year. Unruly passengers aren’t as big a problem as the media might make it seem.  We see everything at 35,000 feet, we use situational awareness and a sense of humor to assess every situation as it arrives.” – Betty, host of the podcast “Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase”

Does the airline pay for your hotels?

Flight crew and passengers on board
Airlines make sure their staff has somewhere to get their rest between flights. | pcruciatti/iStock/Getty Images

“Yes they do, it would be quite difficult to have all the crew members going to different hotels that they
booked themselves. We all go together and it’s all taken care of by the airline.” – Betty, host of the podcast “Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase”

Are cell phones really a safety threat?

Woman using smartphone at airplane
It’s best to put your phone on airplane mode anyway. | iStock.com/yuran-78

“It depends on the gadget and how and when that gadget is used … the main reasons laptops need to be put away for takeoff and landing is to prevent them from becoming high-speed projectiles during a sudden deceleration or impact.” – Patrick, pilot, author of Ask the Pilot

There is still some controversy over the use of mobile phones on flights. “Can cellular communications really disrupt cockpit equipment? The answer is potentially yes, but in all likelihood, no. Even if it is not actively engaged with a call, a powered phone dispatches bursts of energy that can, in theory, interfere with a plane’s electronics. Aircraft are designed and shielded with this interference in mind, however, and this should mitigate any ill effects.”

Can you throw this in your microwave?

flight attendant serving a meal
That’s not part of their job. | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

According to a Delta Airlines flight attendant, Julia, it’s a common misconception that flight attendants have an easily-accessible food preparation station in the cabinet. Past delivering your in-flight meal or complimentary snacks, flight attendants can’t help you with your own self-serve meal.

“I respond with my finest sarcasm and suggest they wait until I empty the dishwasher and do a load of laundry.” – Julia, flight attendant for Delta Airlines

Can you sleep on long flights?

Airplane passengers relax during flight
Flight attendants need their rest on long flights too. | CandyBoxImages/iStock/Getty Images

“Yes. On the Beijing flight, which is 14 hours, we have four-hour breaks. We do the beverage service, the meal service, we pick up, do the dessert service, we pick up again, and then we start taking breaks,” – Annette, flight attendant of 13 years, talking to Business Insider

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?

They get to see many beautiful places. | iStock.com

“My favorite place that I have been internationally is Brugge. It’s by Belgium and there is a lot of history there! Domestically I like any of the “mountain destinations” out west. Like Jackson Hole, Missoula, Bozeman. It’s beautiful and the people are really nice!” – Jamie, flight attendant for Delta Airlines

How do you react to patrons with flight anxiety?

Stewardess talking to passenger
The flight crew tries to be kind and understanding. | Ruben Ramos/iStock/Getty Images
“Most of us are very kind to nervous flyers.  I tell them I forget we are on an airplane altogether, it’s just my work environment.  I have been podcasting for many years, I have received many emails from listeners who say my podcast helps with their fear of flying.  I tell funny stories, I guess all the stories about people doing weird on the airplane tends to make it a less scary environment.”- Betty, host of the podcast “Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase”

Do you regularly fly the same route?

Tampa, Florida, skyline with warm sunset light with a commercial passenger jet airline
Their schedules change often. | mokee81/ Getty Images

“No way! One of the reasons you become a flight attendant is because the same thing day in and day out sounds horrible! Some flight attendants do have favorite destinations that they try to work more often, but we all like to switch it up from time to time.” – Abbie, Owner of Flight Attendant Career Connection

Why all the rules about window shades, seatbacks, tray tables, and reading lights?

Couple talking on an airplane
The rules are meant to keep passengers safe. | DigitalVision/iStock/Getty Images

“Your tray has to be latched so that, in the event of an impact or sudden deceleration, you don’t impale yourself on it.  Plus it allows a clear path to the aisle during an evacuation. The restriction on seat recline provides easier access to the aisles and also keeps your body in the safest position … Raising your window shade makes it easier for the flight attendants to assess any exterior hazards — fire, debris — that might interfere with an emergency evacuation.  It also helps you remain oriented if there’s a sudden impact, rolling, tumbling, etc.” – Patrick, pilot, author of Ask the Pilot

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