Whatever your line of work, odds are someone got frustrated with you or was rude to you at some point, triggering an "if they only understood or appreciated my job" sentiment from you. Flight attendants have got to be right at the top of the heap for experiencing this.

As a frequent business traveler, I've personally witnessed far too many instances of passenger behavior that certainly must have elicited such responses. I found myself wondering, "What must that flight attendant be thinking after that?"

Well, now I know.

USA Today Travel recently shared some insight from these airline employees which I've blended with my own unscientific research. It leads to these takeaways after takeoff--seven things flight attendants wish you already knew (and would keep in mind). 

1. Their No. 1 job is your safety, not filling your every request.

Attendants are not room service or housekeeping in the sky. They have a critical job to do and so as a passenger, it's helpful when you accommodate. Snipping at them because they asked you twice to close your laptop is not helpful (guilty as charged, I sadly confess). That leads us directly to the next point.

2. Pay attention during safety instructions--if for no other reason than flight attendants are human beings, too.

Even though you think you've heard the instructions 1,000 times, would you really know what to do in an emergency? More importantly, if you were presenting in a meeting and the 12 people right in front of you visibly weren't paying attention, how would that make you feel?  

Take the 45 seconds to make eye contact with the flight attendant and perhaps nod or smile. It shows you're listening and is a great way to practice your empathy skills.

I don't do a lot of things well, but I'm at least not the worst in the world at showing empathy and helping others feel valued. I've learned as a leader how desperately employees want that from you. Same goes for humans.

3. Flight attendants only get paid for the time when the airplane door is locked.

This one really surprised me. Honestly, I tend to be a laggard. If I have no connecting flight sometimes I'll take my time in gathering my things and leave at my leisure. No more. I realize now I'm on their personal time once I'm at the gate, so from now on it's "Don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya!"

4. They get jet lag, too.

As the USA Today piece pointed out, "Many haven't been home in days, are tired, and haven't eaten on a normal schedule."

Yes, it's part of their job, just like travel is probably a part of yours. But imagine if you were on the road every single day for your job (and maybe some of you are, so you already know)--constant travel wears on you. Keep that in mind in your mindset of "airplane behavior".

5. Pharmacists and dispensing meds? Yes. Flight attendants, no.

Attendants can't give you aspirin, by law, so don't ask and don't get frustrated when they decline. Remember to pack a few Excedrin if you frequently get headaches on planes.

6. The fasten seat belt sign is there for a reason.

And they have to follow it too. So pretty please don't make them reprimand you like a fourth grader caught with a hall pass. Once again, been there, done that.

7. Flight attendants don't have time to power wash after every flight.

Actually, research shows what you instinctively knew--airplanes are kinda filthy. Flight attendants do their best but they often only have time for the lightest cleaning between flights (they're trying to do their part to keep flights on time).

So feel free to bring travel-sized anti-bacterial wipes to go to town on places like the headrest and seatbelt (which research says are the dirtiest spots). Stop leaving gross things behind in the seat pockets, and cover your mouth when you sneeze. The big aluminum tube shouldn't be a test tube of germs any more than it already is.

OK, so now you know. You're free to move about the cabin (as long as the fasten seat belt light isn't on).

Published on: Feb 16, 2019
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