If you love traveling, being a flight attendant might sound fun. After all, you get to fly across the country or around the world every day for work. But the job definitely isn’t as glamorous as you might assume. For one, it’s one of the worst for workers’ health. (Think of all those early flight times and unhealthy meal options.) And that’s to say nothing of what might be the hardest part of a flight attendant’s job: dealing with clueless, careless, downright obnoxious passengers — the kind of passenger you don’t want to be to get the best service on a plane.
These passengers don’t seem to realize being rude to the flight attendants is pretty high on the list of things you should never do on a plane. And they don’t recognize treating the flight attendant courteously not only wins you appreciation, but also guarantees you the best service (and maybe even extra snacks or drinks). Read on to check out some of the rude questions you should never ask a flight attendant — no matter how much you wish the plane weren’t so crowded or the flight so long.
1. Do you have an aspirin?
A surprising request you shouldn’t make of your flight attendant? Asking for common medications. The plane has drugs on board that can be released to a medical doctor in the case of an emergency on board. But Yahoo Travel learned regulations prohibit flight attendants from giving passengers so much as an Advil. So if you think you might need something to treat a headache, cope with nausea, or ease the backache of an uncomfortable seat, you’ll definitely need to bring it yourself.
2. Where is my seat?
Your seat assignment is clearly printed on your ticket or included on your electronic boarding pass. That’s true whether you chose your seat at some point during the booking or check-in process or if the airline assigned you a seat. Finding your seat doesn’t require any insider knowledge. So you shouldn’t ask your flight attendant where your seat is. All of the rows and seats are clearly marked. It’s fine to ask for help if you get confused or can’t read the signs. But for the most part, finding your seat is easy.
3. Can you put my bag in the overhead compartment?
It’s always good advice to limit your luggage to a weight you can carry. But that’s especially true of your carry-on bag. Don’t think it’s part of a flight attendant’s job to help you wrestle a giant bag into the overhead bin. It’s not.
In fact, Yahoo Travel reports that flight attendants aren’t allowed to lift your bag because picking up passengers’ bags causes too many injuries. Flight attendants might agree to help you push the bag in once you’ve gotten it into the overhead. And they’ll close the door. But that’s it. If you aren’t confident you can lift your bag overhead, just check it. Otherwise, you’ll have to struggle with it on board — and everybody will know you’re carrying a bag you really should have checked.
4. Why do I have to gate-check my bag?
Sometimes, an airline will require you to gate-check your bag or check it once you’ve gotten on board. That’s because there isn’t enough space in the overhead bins for everybody to stow a bag. And people tend to overuse the overhead bin space instead of putting their things under the seat.
Especially if you aren’t in one of the first few boarding classes, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually find space for your bag on a full flight. If you really want to make sure your things stay with you, you’ll have to pick a bag that will fit in the space under the seat in front of you.
5. Can you make someone move seats?
When you’re flying, you’re almost never seated next to the people you’d prefer. Your friend or partner might be seated several rows away if you didn’t book your tickets together (or even if you did). Or you might be seated next to somebody who’s unpleasant, smells strongly of perfume, or can’t seem to keep their elbows off your arm rest.
But don’t ask the flight attendants to move somebody. They can’t do it. The flight attendants can’t force anybody to change seats, even if you keep tattling about the annoying things that passenger is doing. You’ll just annoy the flight attendants if you keep asking.
6. Can I have an empty seat in first class?
Many passengers walk by the empty seats in the first class cabin and think if they ask nicely, the flight attendant might let them move to one. But that’s just not going to happen. You’ll have to pay for an upgrade, either with money or miles, before you board the plane if you want to sit in first class. And you aren’t entitled to a free upgrade just because there might be an empty seat. Asking your flight attendant for a favor isn’t going to change that system.
7. Can you kick off a service animal?
We get it. If you have a serious allergy to dogs, you might not be thrilled to see somebody across the aisle with a service animal. But the crew can’t remove an animal who’s there to help somebody with a disability or a medical condition. And anyone who has a pet on board has navigated a lot of red tape to fly with an animal, so you shouldn’t ask to have those animals removed, either.
Elaine Glusac reports for The New York Times that fliers should probably assume every plane carries a dog, another pet, or a service animal. Most airlines will try to accommodate passengers with allergies by moving them. But it’s also a good idea to have your allergy medications with you in case you need them.
8. How much longer will we be delayed?
Sometimes, flights get delayed. There might be lots of other planes that are going to take off first, or maybe you can’t take off because of a dangerous weather pattern. But nobody hates delays more than flight attendants. In fact, Heather Poole reports for Skift that delays are far worse for flight attendants than for passengers.
That’s because even though they’re waiting around at work and dealing with lots of annoying passengers, they don’t get paid until the plane is in the air. Plus, the flight attendant probably doesn’t know how much longer you’ll be delayed. Don’t annoy them by asking.
9. Is this meal gluten-free?
Most airlines have a process for enabling passengers with dietary restrictions to request a meal that’s appropriate for their needs. If you didn’t submit a request prior to your flight, then you shouldn’t assume that the food will magically adhere to your preferences.
The standard snacks or meals probably aren’t gluten-free, vegan, or dairy-free. The meat probably isn’t free-range, and the veggies and snacks probably aren’t organic. (And relatively few flights actually serve meals, so consider yourself lucky if you get a meal in-flight.) If your diet is important to you, make sure you either contact the airline ahead of time or pack your own food.
10. What drinks do you have?
There’s a reason why the seat pocket has a pamphlet that lists the beverages the airline offers. And if you were listening at the beginning of the flight, the flight attendant probably announced what options are available on board. If you don’t know what you want to drink once the beverage services begins, do everybody a favor and pick up the pamphlet. Don’t ask the flight attendant what’s available.
It’s annoying for them to have to list all of the options for you when you’re perfectly capable of reading them yourself. And you’ll just delay the process for everybody if you deliberate about your order while the cart is stopped at your aisle.
11. Can I order more than 2 alcoholic beverages?
Overindulging on in-flight alcohol is never a good idea. You should never ask the flight attendant if you can order more than two alcoholic beverages. The flight attendant isn’t a bartender and will be wary of serving you multiple drinks if your goal is clearly to become intoxicated.
If you drink your beverage of choice at a reasonable pace, you can always ask the flight attendant for another drink. Airlines may not limit the number of drinks you can order. (After all, those in-flight cocktails are usually pretty pricey.) But as The Daily Mail notes, your flight attendants and fellow passengers will be annoyed and inconvenienced if you get drunk and unruly.
12. Will you have a drink with me?
Maybe you’ve hit it off with the flight attendant. And perhaps under normal circumstances, you’d love to take them out for a drink. But don’t ask a flight attendant to have a drink with you. No member of the crew, whether a pilot or a flight attendant, can drink alcohol while they’re on the job.
As an anonymous flight attendant reports for Vice, flight attendants who are in uniform aren’t even allowed to sit at a bar in the airport. Flight attendants can be randomly breathalyzed and drug tested to ensure they aren’t breaking the rules. And think of it this way: Would you ask anybody else to have a drink with you while they’re at their workplace? Probably not.
13. Can I give you my number?
Although many female flight attendants report it’s pretty common to get hit on by businessmen, you shouldn’t assume flight attendants want the attention. Don’t assume the flight attendant wants your phone number. And don’t subject your flight attendant to sexual harassment.
You might think the attention is flattering — but most people, your flight attendants included, would disagree. Do yourself a favor, and spend your next flight reading up on feminism and educating yourself on the patriarchy instead of making advances on the flight attendants.
14. Do you want to join the mile-high club?
If you’ve had a drink (or maybe a few drinks too many) it might seem like a good idea to make some suggestive comments to a particularly attractive flight attendant. Still haven’t read up on the reasons why your comments and your behavior are sexist? Let’s spell this one out. Sexual harassment isn’t cute or flattering.
- And The Points Guy notes that depending on the circumstances, sex mid-flight can get you into big trouble. Plus, having sex with a flight attendant in the plane’s crew rest bunk “may very well land you in jail and your crew member du jour in the unemployment line.” Our best advice? Don’t proposition the flight attendant or another passenger on the flight, for that matter.
15. How long will the seat belt sign be on?
If the plane encounters turbulence, the captain will turn the seat belt sign on. You might be getting restless in your seat, but the flight attendant doesn’t have a crystal ball to predict when the turbulence will have passed. So don’t ask.
If the captain turns on that dreaded light, know it’s for a good reason. The crew wants to keep everyone safe. And they don’t know how long the bumpy ride is going to last. We all want to move around in flight. After all, those seats aren’t particularly comfortable. But unless you want to annoy your flight attendant unnecessarily, stay put and quit asking.
16. Can I go stretch in the galley?
The galley is the flight attendants’ only work space. And on some planes, that’s also where their seats are. So don’t ask if you can go stretch your legs or your arms in the galley. A particularly accommodating flight attendant might say yes, but Flight Attendant Joe notes there are many situations in which passengers shouldn’t be in the galley.
Don’t hang out in the galley when a flight attendant is eating, and don’t try to strike up a conversation with a flight attendant who clearly isn’t interested. Also, don’t stand in the galley when you’re waiting to use the lavatory. Don’t get in the way of flight attendants who are working in the galley. And don’t try to do your yoga routine there, either.
17. Can you watch my children for me?
Flight attendants aren’t babysitters. So if you’re traveling with your child or children, it’s your responsibility, not the flight attendant’s, to make sure that they’re safe, quiet, and not slinging food around the cabin. Your 10-year-old will probably be fine if you need to make a quick trip to the restroom. And if you’re traveling with your partner or another adult family member, even multiple children should be fine under the supervision of that one adult.
Don’t ask a flight attendant to hold your baby or to attend to your toddler. That’s not part of a flight attendant’s job, and they probably have other important tasks to complete instead.
18. Can you take this trash for me?
Flight attendants will come around with a trash bag several times after snacks and beverages are served. So don’t inconvenience them (or gross them out) by asking them to take trash from you at other times during the flight. Don’t try to hand them your dirty tissues or your greasy food packaging. And please don’t try to get them to take your child’s dirty diaper or your used air sickness bag.
Airplanes are full of bacteria and unsanitary surfaces. So don’t make it any worse for the flight attendants. And please, don’t try to hand them your trash when they’re passing out food or pouring beverages for other passengers. Just take it to the bathroom to throw it out yourself.
19. Can you call to hold my connecting flight?
Yahoo Travel reports that people ask flight attendants all the time if they can call to hold passengers’ connecting flights. But that’s probably not going to happen — even if you’re a frequent flyer who’s earned elite status with the airline.
Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest the only time an airline will hold a connecting flight is when numerous people on the same inbound flight are delayed. Especially if your connecting flight is taking you to a major hub airport, delaying the departure of that flight would just make lots of other people late for their connecting flights. The airline doesn’t want to deal with a large number of rebookings. So it’s unlikely they’ll hold the flight for you.
20. Am I going to make my connecting flight?
If your flight has only been delayed slightly, you might be wondering whether you’re going to have enough time to make your connecting flight. But don’t bother the flight attendant as you speculate about it. The flight attendant can’t tell the future. And flight attendants don’t have all of the information that the captain is working with. If you think you’ll be cutting it close, you probably will be. There’s no need to pester the flight attendant.
21. Will my bag make it to my connecting flight?
Your flight attendant isn’t in charge of your checked baggage. In fact, if you looked out your window after you boarded the plane, you probably would have noticed there was a separate crew in charge of loading passengers’ checked baggage onto the plane. Your flight attendant doesn’t know for sure whether your bag will make it onto your connecting flight. So it’s pretty pointless to flag them down to ask.
22. Do you have to turn around and go back?
A flight attendant’s schedule might sound interesting to you. But if you’ve just landed after a long cross-country or international flight, don’t remind the flight attendants of the work that still needs to be done. Regardless of whether the flight attendants will still be on duty or finally getting some rest, they’ve just worked a long, tiring flight.
Don’t ask them a question that requires them to sound chipper about a quick turnaround. The FAA allows flight attendants to work 16-hour days, and flight attendants might only have an 11- or 12-hour break between trips. When an airline is low on staff, flight attendants can get reassigned, and they might even have to work six days in a row, with a 24-hour break that might not be at home. Sometimes, flight attendants aren’t even sure when they’re going back home. So don’t ask.
23. Can you help me get off the plane?
It might seem reasonable to ask for the flight attendant’s help to get off the plane — especially if, for instance, you’re injured or have a small child in tow. And you’re probably asking pretty nicely if you want some extra help. But surprisingly enough, the flight attendant can’t oblige unless you want to be the last person off the plane. The flight attendant can call for someone to meet you, which might be a helpful option. But the flight attendant can’t step off the plane until there are no more passengers on board.