The Weirdest Rules Flight Attendants Must Follow

There’s something undeniably glamorous about being a flight attendant. Sure, for them it’s just another day of work, but most people don’t get to spend all their time jet-setting to foreign destinations and getting to travel the world as one of their job perks.

Of course, flight attendants put up with plenty of stress on the job, from unruly passengers to long shifts and jet lag. They also get a lot of awesome perks which help balance out all the less-than-favorable aspects of the position. Still, flight attendants can’t just do whatever they want. In fact, there are several strict rules that flight attendants must follow that most other employees never worry about. Read on to find out what they are.

1. They can’t be too tall or too short

Flight Attendant
Flight attendant | Alexander Hassenstein/ Getty Images

No, it’s not that the airlines discriminate against people because of their height – in the case of flight attendants, height plays a very important role in job function. Flight attendants can’t be too short because they need to help passengers stow their bags in overhead compartments and reach medical kits. If they’re too tall, they won’t be able to carry out essential duties in the aircraft.

Different airlines have different requirements. For example, at Southwest, a flight attendant must be between 5’2 and 6’1 and be able to reach items that are 6’7 off the ground.

Next: Aspiring flight attendants might want to go on a diet.

2. Flight attendants can’t be fat

young healthy girl on home scales
Weighing in | Ensuria/Getty Images

Like height, discrimination against overweight individuals isn’t personal. One stipulation at Southwest is that the flight attendant must have a weight “in proportion with height” to ensure that person will help “allow safe operation of the aircraft.”

In other words, a flight attendant must be able to move quickly around the plane if needed and not block the aisles in the event of an emergency.

Next: If you have this one bad habit, you can’t become a flight attendant.

3. They’re not allowed to smoke

Ash tray
Ashtray | VladyslavDanilin/iStock/Getty Images

Alaska Airlines mandates that flight attendants be nicotine free for at least six months prior to submitting their job application. If you think about things like long flights and nicotine withdrawal, that stipulation makes a whole lot of sense! It also negates the issue of finding employees breaking the rules and taking smoke breaks in the bathroom.

Next: This personal decision affects your job prospects at the airline.

4. Flight attendants can’t have visible tattoos

Tattoos | ashlarc/iStock/Getty Images

That tiny butterfly you got on your hipbone won’t cause a problem, but the neck tattoo would cause you to find other employment. Most airlines won’t allow flight attendants to have visible tattoos even if they’re covered by a bandage or makeup. Even foot tattoos aren’t allowed since they can’t be covered with hosiery.

Next: Bad skin? Forget about becoming a flight attendant.

5. They also can’t have acne

young woman stewardess flight attendant with green eyes
Flight attendant | smoderek/iStock/Getty Images

Struggle with breakouts? Then you best not try to make it as a flight attendant. JetBlue rules hold that “Physical features: Pleasing personality, clear complexion (scars, pimples and blemishes not accepted) and good eyesight.” In other words, it’s time to stock up on concealer and get your contact prescription updated.

Next: There’s no self-expression through hair color permitted.

6. They have to style their hair a certain way

Flight Attendant
Flight attendant talking with a passenger | Ruben Ramos/iStock/Getty Images

Forget excess volume and 80s teased poufs – American Airlines has this rule: “Hairstyles may be no more than three inches in fullness and may not wave or curl outward to extreme volume.” You also can’t have unnaturally colored hair, mohawks, or dreadlocks.

Next: Here’s why having a spouse might mean you don’t get the job.

7. They can’t be married

Wedding proposal
Wedding ring | Nadore/iStock/Getty Images

This rule seems like a leftover from olden times – but it’s still valid today. JetBlue flight attendants must be single (not married) to apply for the “inexperienced” crew member job while “experienced” crew may be married.

Qatar Airways used to have a policy where crew members who got married or became pregnant in their first five years of employment got fired, but they’ve since phased it out.

Next: A flight attendant can’t let you do this.

8. They won’t look the other way when you BYOB

Drink on a plane
Drink on a plane | Ruben Ramos/iStock/Getty Images

FAA regulations require that you only consume alcohol that’s served to you on the plane, meaning you can’t just crack open that bottle of wine or liquor you snagged from the duty-free shop in the airport. Even flirting or being super nice won’t get your flight attendant to break this rule – getting caught could mean cost them their jobs.

Next: They can’t even use this safety feature on the plane.

9. They can’t use everything in the onboard medical kit

First Aid Kit
A first aid kit | jovanjaric/iStock/Getty Images

It makes passengers feel better knowing that their flight is outfitted with a medical kit including a defibrillator. But flight attendants aren’t permitted to use all the instruments in the kit such as syringes and IV tubes if they’re not officially trained. For those types of emergencies, they have to wait for a doctor on board.

Next: There are some serious rules about makeup.

10. They can’t express their personality through makeup

Woman gets blush applied
Putting on makeup. | SerrNovik/Getty Images

Dark eyeshadow, bold lipstick, neon nail polish – any makeup that’s overly expressive is not allowed for flight attendants. Emirates requires female flight attendants to wear red lipstick and lip liner during flights while the United flight crew must “apply makeup conservatively” with no “extreme colors.” Nail polish must be shades of red or none at all.

At American Airlines, “Makeup should be freshened as necessary, but never in view of the customer.”

Next: They’re not allowed to do this even when they’re off the clock.

11. They can’t drink in uniform

Flight attendants relax after arriving at O'Hare International Airport
Flight attendants | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Obviously flight attendants aren’t allowed to drink alcohol while they’re at work – most people have to follow that rule. But some airlines take it one step further and won’t allow airline employees to enjoy alcoholic beverages while they’re wearing their uniform or company ID badge, even if they’re technically off the clock.

Next: Here’s why your male flight attendant always packs razors.

12. Men can’t have crazy facial hair

bearded man
Bearded man | Khosrork/iStock/Getty Images

That whole beard craze that’s making a comeback right now? It’s not acceptable for male flight attendants. United Airlines has a policy that beards can’t extend 1 inch below a man’s chin and mustaches can’t be grown ¼ inch below the mouth. A beard and mustache can be connected, but goatees and “trendy” facial hair isn’t permitted.

Next: This is a vital skill for flight attendants.

13. They must be able to swim

young man swiming in oceans water
Swimming | IakovKalinin/Getty Images

They say that there’s no such thing as a “water landing” – pilots know it’s just called crashing into the ocean. But still, in case of an emergency evacuation into the water, you’ll want your flight attendant to be a strong swimmer to help passengers who can’t. British Airways flight attendants must be able to swim 55 yards and tread water for three minutes in addition to being able to help people while doing so.

Next: This jewelry is forbidden.

14. Flight attendants can’t wear multiple earrings

Earrings | ViDi Studio/iStock/Getty Images

The modern trend for cartilage piercings and multiple earring holes has no place in a flight attendants world. Usually, flight attendants are only permitted to wear one pair of earrings at a time, and even then those earrings must be small and discreet. United flight attendants must wear earrings which are no larger than a quarter if they’re posts and no bigger than a dime if they’re dangly.

Next: Here’s why arm workouts matter.

15. They must be able to lift heavy items

man putting luggage on the top shelf on airplane
Overhead bins | LiudmylaSupynska/iStock/Getty Images

Think about how hard it is hefting your luggage into the overhead compartment. Now imagine doing that multiple times over the course of a 10-hour shift.

One airline requires flight attendants to be able to lift 50 pounds from the floor to waist height and 22 pounds overhead. That’s a whole lot of upper arm strength.