Airplane Etiquette from a Flight Attendant Perspective

Airplane Etiquette. Does such a thing exist? Etiquette is defined as “the customary code of polite behavior in society”. I don’t understand why people get on an airplane and then forget polite behavior. Airlines shrinking space and full flights probably have something to do with it but consideration for others will make the flight more bearable.

People like to ask me what passengers do that drive me crazy. A lot of stuff. But here’s my list of how to be a decent human being on a flight.

1. Don’t order a wheelchair unless you are handicapped. What is wrong with people? Who orders a wheelchair unless you need one? You would be surprised that the answer is a lot of people. We call it “Jetway Jesus”. As in, 8 passengers in wheelchairs boarded the plane. Yet the wheelchairs remain empty in the jet bridge when we arrive at the destination. The passengers all walked off the plane. So “jetway Jesus” strikes again and cured all the passengers. Why do people do this? For a couple of reasons, they want to board first, so if they request a wheelchair they can get on early. They want a seat at a crowded gate. I’ve seen passengers sitting in their wheelchair get up and walk to go get some food and then go back to the wheelchair. Sometimes they are going through a big airport like Atlanta and don’t want to figure out how to get to next gate. Ask someone! Do not get a wheelchair unless you need one! It’s just wrong. Bad karma.

2. If you are going to take awhile to get off the plane, remain seated until the end. I can’t tell you how many people take their sweet time getting their belongings together while hundreds of people are right behind them. And I’m not talking about the time it takes to pull one rollerboard luggage down. They literally will get all their bags together, put stuff away, and generally not care how long they take. Put their jacket on, put their backpack on, situate themselves like there is not 100 people standing behind them. Have some consideration for your peers and don’t take forever.

3. Using the lavatory during boarding. I just don’t get it. Airplane bathrooms are small and disgusting. Why not use the big spacious bathroom in the airport terminal before you board? Oh because you would rather go to the small plane bathroom and then fight your way back up the aisle and slow the boarding process.

4. If you are waiting to get off the plane to gather your belongings, you still can’t take all day. I’ve seen people taking their time, slowly gather stuff and then decide to go to the bathroom. All while the entire crew is waiting. The flight attendants can’t get off the plane until the last passenger exits the aircraft. We have worked all night with no sleep. We need sleep. We aren’t getting paid to sit on the ground. We don’t want to stare you down, waiting for you to take your time. Get the hell off.

5. Fake service animals. I understand everyone loves their pets, but if an animal isn’t trained, don’t bring him on a plane as a service animal so you don’t have to pay the pet fee and keep them in a soft sided container. I’ve watched people walk their dogs in the airport and let them pee on the rug. I’ve watched “service” dogs bite people. I’ve seen people’s dogs get sick on the plane and poop midair right in the aisle. Can you imagine the smell in the plane for the next six hours?? I understand accidents happen but service dogs are trained for a reason.

6. Follow the two bag rule. One rollerboard bag that goes into the overhead bin and your smaller bag goes under your seat in front of you. Why do we always run out of space in the overhead bins? Because the passengers in front of you put all their crap up top and didn’t leave you any space. I understand the seats are small and the space is tight. But that’s airline travel. Drive if you don’t like it. Once again another example if people who could care less about others.

7. Buying the cheapest seats possible that don’t get a seat assignment even though you are a party of 4 and now your seats are all separated. If you need to sit together on a plane, buy your seats together. Don’t buy the the cheapest seats and expect the gate agent to seat your party together or worse yet, ask passengers to move to accommodate you. Selfish!! When you purchase a ticket without a seat assignment, the website makes it very clear your seats may not be together. People feel they are entitled to sit together and you are not if you don’t pay for it. Guess what? The passengers on the aisle or window paid a little more for their seat. They don’t want your crappy middle seat because you were too cheap to pay for a seat next to your kid. That long line to speak to the gate agent before your flight? The majority is people trying to get better seats. Someone has to sit in the middle. If you can’t afford it, don’t fly.

8. Ordering drinks you don’t even want because you want as much as possible for free. People just order everything they can to get the most for their money. We have several drink services and meal services on international flights. People will take it and when I return for trash, they give it back opened but unused. They order tea or coffee have a sip and throw it away. If you aren’t hungry or thirsty, don’t order it or take it. If you aren’t using it, it’s just called waste.

9. Ringing your call button. You better be dying. I can’t even tell you how many people get on the plane and ring me for a glass of water for their pill. (PS we hear this bogus request every flight. So many pill takers). We are still on the ground. The drink carts come out during the flight. If you were so desperate for water, buy a bottle outside. Or bring an empty bottle and fill it up at the water fountain. Stop being cheap! Don’t ask me to serve you more drinks while I’m still in the aisle serving the rest of the plane. We walk through the cabin often enough that you can ask me for something then. There’s other people on the aircraft too.

10. Stealing mini liquor bottles. Once again, cheap people trying to get more bang for their buck. Stop taking advantage. Alcohol can not be carried off the plane. We monitor how much we serve a passenger. So we will eventually catch on that you are not drinking them. And don’t forget there are hundreds of other passengers behind you that might also want a cocktail. To actually drink on the plane. Airplanes have limited space. Once we run out, that’s it.

11. Complaints about things out of my control. Bad weather? Guess what? I have no control over it. Delays? I have no control over it. Flight attendants are not in control of the weather or aircraft. We want to reach the destination more than you do. Don’t like the food choices? That’s all we have. They board us one meal per passenger. Special dietary restrictions? All we have is what the caterer gives us. I can’t whip up something.

12. Asking a flight attendant to hold your connection flight. Ha ha. The airline knows every passenger and their connecting flights. The airline will only hold the flight if the number of passengers missing the flight is more economical for the company to hold the flight. I’ve seen a flight go out with 70 missing passengers who were delayed. It’s better business for the airline to have an airplane depart on time than wait even one minute for a delayed passenger. It’s even happened to my full fare medallion husband. With me begging inside the plane. I was sitting inside and he was outside while the gate agent closed the door. One minute. And the flight left 5 minutes early.

13. Upgrading yourself. Everyone has a seat app these days and can see what seats are open. But if you didn’t pay, don’t think I’m going to let you sit there for free. Flight attendants check the first class seats and economy comfort seat passenger lists for paying passengers. If I notice you don’t belong there, I will move you. People pay a premium for those seats. If the airlines gave away premium seats for free, people would stop paying for that premium seat. So it’s our job to make sure there are no free upgrades. Ask me before you move.

14. Lying. Don’t lie to me. I’m not stupid. No, the gate agent didn’t upgrade you for free. We get a master list after boarding of all the passengers in every seat. I know where you are supposed to be. And no, you didn’t try to purchase first class fare but the computer system didn’t let you. Ha ha.

15. Threatening me. Go ahead, never fly my airline again. That makes less work for me. Go ahead report me, I’m filling out a report also why you should never be on this airline again.

16. Letting your kid walk around. I see all kinds of bad parents on planes with horrible children. It’s one thing if the kid is crying and you can’t get them to stop. It’s a whole other thing when you let your kids 1) kick the seat in front of them, 2) run around the plane (you have a seat, not free rein to run all over the plane) 3) let them walk down the aisle holding up everyone behind you because you think they are cute (they aren’t). Don’t let your kids kick the seats in front of them. There’s a person there.

17. Don’t change your kids diaper on the tray table in front of you. People eat on those. They do not get cleaned. Have some courtesy for your fellow passengers. And it’s not a place for your feet. In fact, your feet belong on the floor. Not on the armrest in front of you. And for that matter, keep your shoes on. I’ve smelled passengers who have removed shoes and at least I can get away. Your seat mate is stuck there. No one wants to see your disgusting feet. And while I’m discussing smells. Please bathe and use deodorant before your flight.

18. Ignoring me. We come through the airplane cabin with the carts. You are so engrossed in your movies, you ignore me or worse, rudely keep watching your movie while asking me for something. Take off your headphones and address me. I have hundreds of people to serve and don’t need you taking all day to decide. Know what you want. The seat pocket has a menu. I’m not repeating everything over and over. When you see me approaching an aisle or two before, stop your movie, take out your earphones and know your order. This isn’t rocket science.

19. Don’t use the seats as your personal walking stick. People are sitting in those seats. Every time you jerk their chair it jerks the passengers.

20. Going to the bathroom in socks or barefoot. GROSS. There’s urine all over the floor. It’s pretty disgusting. And while this doesn’t really affect me, it’s still yucky.

Airline travel has never been cheaper. Every plane is packed. Airlines cram as many people as they can into smaller spaces than ever before. It’s basically the subway of the air now. Etiquette on a plane is more necessary than ever. So try and be considerate of those around you.

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