We interviewed two flight attendants from different airlines with different levels of experience to help you enjoy your flying experience a little more. FA1 works for one of the largest airlines in the world. FA2 works for a budget airline that has domestic and international flights. Here are their tips. Some may surprise you.
How long have you been flying?
FA1- 22 years.
FA2- 2 1/2 years.
What tips do you have for passengers who are afraid of flying?
FA1- The plane has several backups for the backups, so in the event of an emergency your flight attendants are more than capable of handling the situation without a doubt. Take motion sickness medication if you feel like you are going to pass out or get sick but even then we are capable of taking care of you!
FA2- Don’t be afraid because everything on a US airline is very safe. Don’t be mad if you have a delay for safety reasons. There’s always a good reason. Flight attendants have to get certified every year so that we know how to react during an emergency. This includes evacuation techniques, dealing with medical issues such as heart attacks, and fires- remember, there are no firefighters in the air!
Do you eat airline food? If not, what do you pack to keep yourself hydrated and fed?
FA1- Yes, I eat it but it makes you fat! However, the airlines are changing the way we eat for passengers and flight attendants for healthier lifestyles. I drink plenty of water (at least 48oz a flight) because it helps with headaches, body aches, and just simple mobility of body movement. I also keep fruit, snacks like almonds or cashews, and chewing gum, which helps with ear popping as well. I have fruit snacks, prunes, apples and peanut butter packs, anything that can go in a small tote or bag. Anything can happen so always keep something to snack on.
FA2- Yogurt, chicken, salad, rice, beans etc. I also carry nuts and drink lots of water.
Many parents fly with infants or young children and need advice on how to keep them from crying or getting bored. What have you seen that works?
FA2- Toys, movies, food but most of all milk. Many kids suffer from the ear popping so drinking milk or water helps keep their ears open.
FA2- Depending on the child’s age, make sure to have a bottle, gum or candy available so they don’t fly with pain in their ears. Bring lots of games, be flexible and make it fun. Get your child a first-time flyer certificate so s/he can color etc. Some airlines have stickers that look like pilot wings. Flight attendants often have treats for children. Just ask.
What tips do you have for avoiding jet lag or time zone changes?
FA1- Sleep and hydration. You must give your body proper rest.
With more airlines charging more for checked bags and carryon, what advice do you have for packing?
FA1- Pack what you need only. Many times people pack for 7 days for a 3-day day trip (I’m guilty!) Also, if you wait until you get to the gate, they will check the bag for free to your final destination (hidden secret). (Nomad note- most of the larger carriers will do this, but budget airlines will not!) Always check the weather report and pack accordingly.
FA2- Roll everything and wear your heaviest clothes on the flight. For bulky items like sweaters, roll them and tie with the arms of the sweater.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that travelers make when coming on a flight?
FA2- Not paying the fee for extra bags online and then having to pay when you get to the airport.
What are some things that travelers don’t know they can ask for on a flight? What do they commonly ask for that they shouldn’t?
FA1- Each airline is different but it doesn’t hurt to ask for whatever it is you need. Either the flight attendants have it or can tell you how to get it. Passengers often ask us to change their seats or give them a better seat. The gate agent is the only one that can do that.
FA2- Under certain circumstances, airlines will let you bring your wheelchair on the plane if there’s space. Call your carrier in advance for more information. (Nomads note- for more, read here). Flight attendants can move a seat for any passenger when the flight is not full as long as it does not disturb weight and balance. Passengers shouldn’t ask flight attendants for a free upgrade.
Are there some things that passengers probably shouldn’t order to eat or drink on a plane?
FA1- Coffee is great it helps calms some people but too much alcohol is a danger.
FA2- Don’t drink too much alcohol because altitude changes how you metabolize it and you can be totally drunk when you land. You should also know that all of the water is recycled on the plane and comes from the tap. Drink bottled water only and don’t order coffee or tea!
Do you recommend tipping or giving small gifts to flight attendants to show appreciation?
FA1- YES lol. It’s not required but when people are nice, flight attendants greatly appreciate it.
FA2- Yes. We get tipped a lot on Vegas trips because passengers want more alcohol. I don’t accept them because then passengers may feel entitled.
How do you deal with drunk passengers?
FA2- We are trained to provide alcohol based on the passenger’s weight and how they drunk they look so we will delay giving drinks to slow the passengers down if we need to. Sometimes we pretend we are helping other passengers and just “forgot” to get the drink.
Are there tricks to getting upgraded without paying anything extra or using points?
FA1- No. Not on my airline.
Does it matter how passengers are dressed on a flight? Do flight attendants treat some passengers better than others depending on their dress or demeanor?
FA1- No, but we strongly suggest that you are in proper attire. Everyone should be treated the same but you will see where someone in a suit or casual attire may be treated better than someone with a pajama outfit on.
FA2- It helps to dress well. Well dressed people are often more well-mannered.
What are your biggest pet peeves about travelers?
FA1- Packing a bag that is too heavy and expecting flight attendants to carry it.
What’s been your worst experience on a flight?
FA2- Emergency evacuations. We had one situation where the avionics were warming up and we smelled smoke so we had 15 minutes to get everyone off the plane. We hadn’t taken off yet. I have also had to deal with emergency landings.
What’s your favorite travel destination and why?
FA1- Any place with a beach and warm weather, I just love fun in the sun.
What’s on your bucket list?
More people are traveling with pets onboard. How do airlines deal with passengers who are afraid of or allergic to animals?
FA1- We will accommodate passengers the best way we can by reseating them or sending them on another flight.
As a flight attendant, you have to wear comfortable shoes. Do you have recommendations for stylish but comfortable shoe brands that travelers can use on and off of the flight?
FA1- Tennis shoes are always comfortable and easy to take on and off. Any shoe with good cushion and support is great for airport travel. I like Clarks, Rockport, and Skecher because they are great for walking and have great padding.
Why should people consider a career as a flight attendant?
FA2- We fly free or with great discounts on other airlines. I flew to Switzerland from the US on another airline for less than $200!
Any other tips for passengers?
FA1- When you have to use the bathroom (#2) please place the seat covers inside the bowl first. It helps the mess from sticking and showing!