Q&A : 26 Questions Answered by a Flight Attendant

Questions Flight Attendant

I thought today I’d answer some questions passengers frequently ask me and that I’ve seen out there on the web recently:

1) How do you keep from getting a cold or the flu when you spend so much time in an airplane?

It’s hard. When I first started flying I got sick all the time. I suppose with exposure my immune system has naturally bulked up. That being said I try to get stay hydrated and eat well. The most important thing is to try and stay well rested. Usually when I get sick from flying, it’s because I’ve had to stay awake for an excessive amount of time.

2) What makes for the best passengers?

My favourite pax are those who are very friendly and want me to chat them up while I’m working. I find it really interesting to learn about what people do with their lives, and naturally I enjoy talking about my job as well. Of course I realise many passengers want to be left to their own devises when they fly. In that case, I would just ask you be polite and respectful when interacting with me. I’d be happy to return the favour.

3) What makes for the worst passengers?

It pretty much boils down to people who don’t treat the crew with any respect. Sometimes people need to remember we’re more than just objects. Similarly though I know flight attendants who seem to forget that “passengers are people too”. So this issue definitely goes both ways.

4) How often do you see people join the mile high club?

Rarely. Most people discount the idea when they see the size of the lavatory on a 737. What’s funny though is that people who do it usually just end up embarrassed. Because of the size and location of our lavs, it’s obvious to other passengers and crew when two people try to fit in there. So when anyone attempts it, (successfully or not) it’s usually followed by a “walk of shame” back to their seat.

5) Ever heard of crew joining the mile high club with passengers?

Nope. At hotels though is a different story…

6) How do you react during turbulence?

Light turbulence: I stop serving hot beverages, but otherwise ignore it.
Moderate turbulence: I secure the galley and take my jumpseat.
Severe turbulence: I secure myself where ever I can and soon as I can.

7) Why must the shades be open for take off and landing?

I can’t speak for other airlines, but where I work this is only required at the emergency exits. It’s so you can look out the window without delay and see if it’s safe to go out that way.

8) Have you ever had anyone famous on one of your flights?

I fly for a low cost vacation charter. So, no one super famous, no.
That being said, I’ve flown team members of the BC Lions, as well as a main cast member from the show Ice Pilots NWT.

9) Do you have medical training?

All flight attendants at my airline are trained for Emergency First Aid for Health Care Professionals. We can also contact doctors who are available to us 24/7 via satellite phone who can help us as needed and advise us to administer certain medications if necessary.

10) I’m looking at becoming a flight attendant. Should I apply to for a flight attendant course at a local college?

No. In my opinion those courses are a waste of time and money. The airline is required to retrain and certify you anyway, so what they look for from you is customer service excellence and a general knowledge about what the job entails. You can research all the information you need online.

11) Is it okay to ask for the whole can of pop? How about multiple drinks and snacks at one time? Does that work for alcohol too?

By all means, if you’d like the whole can you’re welcome to it! Extra drinks and snacks are fine by me too. As far as alcohol goes though, it’s one serving at a time, since that comes down to liability.

12) Why don’t you just give out the whole can of pop be default? Do first class passengers get the whole can?

There are a few reasons; first of all is limited space on the aircraft. My airline especially. We have a lot of other service items on board and the 737 is already a tight aircraft when it comes to galley space. If we simply gave everyone the can, we’d run out. On top of that, you’d be surprised the number of people who don’t finish the half can we serve. A lot of people don’t actually want all that pop. And finally, I’m sure the company doesn’t mind the cost savings by not serving the full can per passenger.

My airline is entirely economy, buy you can bet business and first class pax get the full can on any airline. They also get a real glass to drink out of too.

13) What does “Arm Doors and Cross – Check” mean?

That’s the command given for cabin crew to “activate” the slides so that if the door is opened, the slide will deploy. When the slide is “activated” the door is armed. Cross Checking is when the flight attendants check the opposite door to ensure the other flight attendant has properly armed their door.

14) How easy/quick is it to become a flight attendant? Is it something I can do for a summer?

Once you find an airline that is hiring, you’ll need to compete against hundreds of other applicants for the position. After the interviews it can take months before you work your first flight. At my airline you’ll usually have your interviews in August, training in mid September (at the earliest) in order to start flying in November. (Other airline’s hiring dates vary by market/busy season, but in Canada at least they all usually all start hiring in a similar time frame) Becoming a flight attendant involves medical exams, at least 6 weeks of training exams, and drills, and tonnes of paper work around security clearance.

So the short answer is No, it’s not something you can do for a summer.

15) Can you become a flight attendant if you have a fear of flying?

Yes! But don’t let it show. Especially in your interviews and training. On board is important to, as passengers take their queues from the cabin crew. I have flight attendant friends who got into this industry in part because they wanted to get over their fear of flying. Once flying regularly, they got over it pretty quickly. They say the best way to get over a fear is to face it head on, you know.

16) Have you ever had a crush on a passenger?

Haha! I’ve certainly found people attractive or charming. But a crush? No, I don’t think so. That’s not to say it hasn’t happened to other flight attendants though.

17) What the nicest thing passengers do for you?

When they write into the company explaining how happy they were with my service, it makes my day!

18) Is it possible to have a stable relationship if you’re flying all the time?

Yes, certainly. Lots of flight attendants are married or in long term relationships. This includes myself. However I was in my relationship well before I started flying. I’ve heard its pretty hard to get into a long term romance when you fly. But I know for a fact its not impossible.

19) What are the height/weight requirements to be a flight attendant?

In Canada, there are none. Just like being required to be a nurse, or single. That’s a thing of the past.

20) Can you tell when a passenger gets on the plane if they’re going to be a problem?

Many times during boarding, I make a mental note when I think I have a problem passenger. I can say happily though that I’m usually wrong. So I don’t ever say anything to the passenger unless it’s clearly necessary to intervene. I find most of the time, people are just crabby from going through the whole “airport” experience. Once in flight they’re usually more relaxed. That’s why its important to ignore any negative first impressions of people unless it’s clearly apparent we have a problem.

21)  What can I do to make getting through airport security easier?

The key to getting through security efficiently starts with preparation at home. Search the web for security information for each airport you’ll be passing through. Security protocols will differ from country to country. For example: Be aware of how much carry on baggage you can take through security at different airports. Vancouver International might allow two pieces, where as London Heathrow might only allow one. The next step is to pack smart. Don’t exceed the limit for liquids. Pack your laptop at the front of your bag so you can remove it for inspection promptly. Laptops usually need to run through the scanner separately from your bags. Also be sure to keep your boarding passes and identification in the front pocket of your carry-on for easy access.

Once you’re at security be sure to remove your keys, wallet, loose change, belt, shoes and anything else containing metal. Try to have everything ready before you get to the scanner. Once you’re through the scanner try to move as far out of the way as possible when reassembling your belongings. Keep the area clear for the next people coming through.

And for the love of all that is good, DO NOT make jokes while going through security!

22)  How should I dress when flying?

There are two things to consider here: Comfort and Appearance. While flying, especially on long haul flights: you want to be comfortable. But at the same time airlines have dress codes. That being said you’re unlikely to be denied boarding due to dressing poorly. That is unless you are dirty, smell bad, or are indecently exposed. Still it’s important to dress nice because it’s more pleasant for those around you, and even more importantly it might qualify you for an upgrade. Often times airlines might need to up upgrade a passenger in economy to business class. Depending on the airline’s dress code, you may be disqualified for the upgrade if you don’t meet their standards. I recommend business casual attire, or as the very minimum nice jeans that are in very good condition. Don’t wear itchy or uncomfortable clothes in the name of appearances. You want to be comfortable on your flight, so find a balance between the best of both worlds.

23)  What can I do to help out the flight attendants while onboard the aircraft?

I swear I didn’t plant this question! Honestly if you are taking the time to consider this, then you are probably already doing more than enough to help out! If you somehow let your flight attendants know that you appreciate their amount of work and crazy hours I’m sure it’ll make their day. Being generally polite and considerate goes a long way in this industry. As an added bonus, in return I’m sure your flight attendants will go the extra mile to make your flight a pleasant one. I’m always super courteous to all airline employees when I fly as a pax, and I have to say I rarely have negative experiences on any airlines.

24)  Do flight attendants get jet lag on long haul flights and, if so, do they get used to it with time?

Yes! Flight attendants are just as susceptible to the effects of crossing time zones as everyone else. An added factor is that Flight Attendants often have whacky schedules. They can be flying at all times of day and night. This causes a very unusual sleep schedule, so they are often out of sync with their home base. As far as I’m aware, there is no way to get used to jet lag. Although FA’s tend to be very good at re-syncing themselves with their local time. For me, this usually involves living life according to my local time when at all possible. If I arrive home after working all night, I’ll try and stay up until 9 or 10pm local time. That is unless I have another red eye flight that night… in which case I’ll be in bed all day.

25)  Do you get to eat while in flight? if so, do you eat the same food as the pax?

Flight Attendants might not eat on a short flight, but they certainly do on longer flights. As with any job they get break periods and usually eat at that time. If an airline doesn’t provide in flight meals to passengers, then they probably won’t offer meals to crew members either. The same works vice versa, if pax are served meals than so are the crew. Usually. In this case flight attendants are normally able to choose from any meal selection available onboard the aircraft for their crew meal. That being said, airlines usually offer the same meal options for about a month at a time before switching up the menu. Flight attendants will often bring their own meals on board since the in flight selection gets boring pretty quickly.

3)  When pets are transported, do flight attendants look after them?

Nope! And the same goes for children. Flight Attendants are not baby sitters. They are safety and security personnel who also have a major role in customer service. It is the job of the owner/parent to take care of their loved ones on the flight.

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