An anonymous flight attendant has worked for a well-known commercial airline for 12 years. She dishes on what irritates her most in passenger behavior.
1. Bring your pet on the plane and then act like an animal.
Over the years, I’ve seen a pet on a passenger’s lap, a pet tucked into a seatback pocket, and a pet loose in the aisle (I nearly hit one with my beverage cart). All of this is against federal regulations. People tell me how well-behaved their pet is, but they can’t follow the rules themselves! Your pet must stay in its carrier while you’re on the plane. Yes, even if you’ve paid a “pet-in-cabin” fee.
2. Shove your bag into the first bin you see and then walk to your seat in the back of the plane.
You think you’re clever, I know. You expect to grab your bag on your way out of the plane, but you’re selfishly inconveniencing others. I can’t lie and say we flight attendants don’t take some small satisfaction when we tell you, “We couldn’t identify the bag’s owner, so we sent it to cargo.” It’s a security issue, for real. Carry-ons need to stay near their owners! So don’t look so shocked when we say, “The signs will direct you to baggage claim. You can pick up your bag there.”
3. Think that because you’re on an airplane you’re off-duty as a parent.
Stop expecting us to have spare diapers, formula, medicine, toys, playing cards, or batteries for DVD players or Game Boys. It’s an airplane, not a 7-11. Take your kid to the restroom before you board. Leave the dry cereal and Legos at home and bring snacks and toys for your kids that won’t make a horrible mess.
4. Drag on an oversize bag that’s too heavy for you to lift by yourself.
I won’t be compensated for any injuries I might sustain if I heft your bag into the overhead compartment for you. (And other passengers shouldn’t have to step up and take the risk either.) The guideline is simple: You pack it, you stack it. Try this at home as a test (and this is to you ladies, especially): After you’ve packed your bag, put on the shoes you plan to wear on the plane and see if you can lift your bag and place it on top of your refrigerator. You can’t? Pay the fee and check the bag.
5. Gripe that you haven’t been seated in a roomy exit-row seat.
The exit rows weren’t created as a reward for people who are tall, overweight, or just plain nice. They were designed to help passengers get out of the plane in an emergency. The people seated in an exit row must be able to see and speak clearly, open the emergency door, and help others. I prefer to see uniformed military, firefighters, law-enforcement officers, or off-duty pilots and flight attendants sitting in those seats. While the gate agent may assign exit-row seats first, the flight attendant makes the final determination about who gets to sit in them. And the quality of our choices is one of the frequent concerns of Federal Aviation Administration officials when they audit airlines for safety practices. So please don’t complain. I’m just doing my job.
6. Act like you don’t know the meaning of the words “under the seat in front of you.”
Someday I will be muttering “under the seat in front of you” in the old-age home for flight attendants. What is it that you don’t understand? To be clear, items should not be stowed behind your calves, under your feet like a footstool, in the open seat next to you, or in your lap. It’s under the seat in front of you. And it applies to everything you carry on board. Items stored carelessly can trip others, or dislodge during takeoff and get lost, or inconvenience others. And while I’m on the topic: Please don’t wrap your purse (or umbrella strap) around your ankle to keep from forgetting it. What will happen in an emergency, when every second counts and there’s no time to disentangle yourself from your precious bag? Will you drag it ball-and-chain-style down the aisle of a burning plane?
7. Whine about the high price of flying.
When I hear people complain about coach airfares, I know they’re not keeping up with the news. Fares have rarely been cheaper. In recent years, it’s not uncommon for you to be able to cross the continent for under $130 each way, with a maximum of one layover. It’s a bargain! At that price, you’re barely paying for the fuel to get your body there—never mind the cost of shipping your 50 pounds of gear. You’re already on the gravy plane. People point to first class ticket holders and want to know why they don’t get the same treatment. Wake up folks: You’re getting a great deal. If you want even more, pay more!