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?
“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?
“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?
“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?
“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?
“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?
“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?
Does the airline pay for your hotels?
“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?
“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?
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?
“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?
“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?
Do you regularly fly the same route?
“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?
“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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