So if you have the guts, how do you do that?
Budget Travel has spoken to some chatty flight attendants-on condition of anonymity–to deliver the 411 on how to enjoy the comfiest, safest, and most delicious flight, not to mention getting extra help when you really need it. (Hint: The call button is not your friend.)
CALL BUTTONS: THE MOST EFFICIENT WAY TO SAY “HATE ME”
What is your biggest job-related peeve? The nature of the customer or co-worker behavior that just sends you to the wall no matter how well intended? For flight attendants, it is the “call button.” You should basically never, ever, ever pressure. I mean, ever. Some passengers regard the call button as their ticket to snacks and drinks for the rest of the cabin–no. Or a quick way to get rid of their trash while the flight attendants are still other passengers–well, no. Wondering when your plane will land? Or when that boxed lunches will be available for purchase? Your flight attendant passes by your seat about every 10 or 15 minutes (except in cases of serious turbulence), and you can wait your turn like everyone else.
YOU MAY MAKE MORE THAN YOUR FLIGHT ATTENDANT
The flight attendant business is dogged by several myths, the most pervasive being that they are rolling in the dough, and extras–and get rich off overtime. Nothing could be further from the truth. Flight attendants are paid for the time that is spent in flight, and delays just mean that they can work, say, 12 hours for seven hours’ pay. The median of the salaries for flight attendants are about $37,000, with starting salaries around $16,000.
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THE TIP OR NO TIP?
The airlines and the Association of flight Attendants discourage tipping, so if you have a tip it is very likely your flight attendant will turn you down. But if you have a second time, or slip a few bills in his or her hand, usually very much appreciated–and maybe earn you a free snack or even an extra stiff Bloody Mary (if you’re into that sort of thing). When you receive truly extraordinary service, though, a letter or email to the airline praising the work of a specific flight attendant or crew is most appreciated and can sincerely help a flight attendant’s career.
PARENTS: YOUR FLIGHT ATTENDANT IS NOT A DIAPER GENIE
New parents of newborn babies are in an admittedly tough spot (my nine month old spilled orange juice all over me on our first cross-country flight together, but let’s be honest, that was my mistake). But just because you’ve heroically succeeded in changing a poopy diaper on your lap in the middle of an inflight movie amid turbulence at 30,000 feet doesn’t make you Wolverine–and not give you the right to hand the folded up diaper to a flight attendant as if they can wave a wand and send it to fairyland. Instead, travel with sturdy Ziploc bags that not only Junior’s expulsions but also orange rinds, apple cores, and granola bar wrappers until the crew is ready for one of their frequent trash collection rounds.
NO, THERE IS NO “SECRET” TO GETTING AN OVERSIZE BAG INTO AN OVERHEAD BIN
We understand that you don’t want to pay $25 for a bag both ways. But that means that you need to pack smart and, should you happen to sneak past the gatekeepers with a bag that is too large for the overhead bin, fess up and let them check it for you. Turning to an available flight attendant and asking, “What do you suggest I do with this bag?” is only an opening to a conversation about what that overworked, underpaid flight attendant might wish you actually would do with that bag. (Tip: One of the best ways to avoid paying for checked-in luggage to sign up for an airline credit card, like the Citi Aadvantage Platinum Master Card, that allows you to check bags for free.)
Flight attendants go through careful screening during the hiring process, then comprehensive training before they get to work with the public. For a good flight attendant, a smile and a friendly “sir” or “madam” is not only a good idea, but also a job responsibility. For the best possible service, a page from their playbook: Make eye contact, smile, address them the way you would a friend or neighbor, and you’ll be amazed at how much more chance you’ll have to go that extra blanket, cup of water, or a listening ear. (Certainly, this requirement should be clear–but take a quick look around the plane to see how little it is observed among busy, cranky fliers!)
KEEP YOUR FEET OFF THE WALLS
Ever asked a friend over for coffee only to have them prop their feet against your living room walls? We did not think so. If you are in a bulkhead seat, keep your feet off the walls. It is not only a pet peeve of flight attendants and pilots (who may call you out in public over it), but it can also be very dangerous to you during turbulent takeoffs and landings.
THERE IS NEVER A GOOD REASON TO TIE YOUR CARRYON BAG TO YOUR LEG
This is a bit of a mystery to most flight attendants, since it only increases the chance that you will stumble and fall when you try to get up from your chair–or in the rare cases where an urgent evacuation is required. But everyone has considered it at one time or another–including yours truly. But this is easy: Your carryon belongs under the seat in front of you. (not on your lap, not on the empty seat next to you, and not someone else), and your feet belong on the floor, and no mingling of bag and feet is ever, ever, ever a good idea.
YOU CAN HAND OUT SNACKS
Frequent fliers glance at the snack cart and wince at the same old, same old. Guess how flight attendants who already have seven or more hours a day onboard feel about those packaged “treats”? If you really want to be your flight attendant’s day, the flight with snacks not only for yourself and your loved ones, but also for the crew! We always recommend that you travel with high quality chocolate, not only because it is a nice surprise for the crew at the check-in and boarding, but also because it can really open up a flight crew to going the extra mile for you should you in the event of weather-related travel delays or cancellations.
SPECIAL OCCASION? SPREAD THE LOVE!
If you are flying on a honeymoon, anniversary or other special occasion, flight attendants love to be looped. They can help you make a little onboard fuss (the good kind!) and maybe even congratulate you over the PA system. If you are traveling with children, it is in principle always a special occasion, and the team will do its best to have a cockpit visit when the plane is on the ground. Demand-but not on the call button!