7 Items All Flight Attendants Carry in Their Bags

See recent posts by Annie Kingston

Having a packed bag is part of a flight attendant’s job description. What most people don’t realize (and neither did I until I became one) is that every so often flight attendants are rostered on airport standby shifts. Because an airline can’t wait for anyone (it costs thousands of dollars to reschedule a flight), there must always be a crew member ready to step in and take the reins. Oftentimes, this means sitting in the crew lounge for four to six hours, dressed in uniform, and ready to be pulled out and placed on a flight at a moment’s notice. That being said, flight attendants must pack their bags with clothing that’s suitable for anywhere, from Moscow (think parkas) to Mauritius (think bikinis).

The contents of a flight attendant’s everyday carry-on, however, are a little less wacky. These are mostly stashed with mandatory things that are needed during the flight. While the requirements vary slightly by airline, here are seven of those must-haul items.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/MIKI Yoshihito
Photo courtesy of Flickr/MIKI Yoshihito

1. Passport

Being a flight attendant is one of the only gigs in the world that requires having your passport handy every day. Consider the document an equivalent to a building ID. You can’t enter the office (or in this case, an aircraft) without it.

2. Up-to-Date Licenses

More than just a waiter or waitress in the sky, flight attendants are trained to handle several safety procedures and medical emergencies that might occur during a flight. That being said, toting around their up-to-date licenses to perform such tasks is a must. If they forget the license at home (or worse, are carrying around an expired document), they’ll be removed from the flight.

3. SEP Manual

The hefty Safety and Emergency Procedures (SEP) manual provides a step-by-step guide for every possible in-flight scenario, from handling severe medical emergencies to managing rough turbulence. Many major airlines have transferred their SEP manuals to iPads, so that they can be easily updated on a regular basis. This leaves only a few physical copies on board the aircraft.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/LASZLO ILYES
Photo courtesy of Flickr/LASZLO ILYES

4. Flat Shoes

Chances are you haven’t noticed that flight attendants always have two pairs of shoes on them — one for show and the other for service. Once the doors close and the plane pushes back, crew members usually change into a more comfortable pair of kicks.

5. Tabard or Waistcoat

In keeping with the comfortable theme, most flight attendants opt for wearing a tabard or a waistcoat instead of a fitted blazer when they’re on the clock. They’ll usually slip into one before kicking off the in-flight service.

6. Oven Gloves

Responsible for heating up the meals as well as getting them out of the oven and onto the plastic trays, flight attendants use oven gloves to avoid any mishaps.

7. Pajamas

When working on flights longer than seven hours (times vary according to airline), flight attendants must pack their company-issued crew pajamas and bust them out during their required rest period. On every long haul aircraft, there’s a hidden resting compartment for the crew. Flight attendants must be easily identifiable in case of an emergency, whether they’re asleep or not.

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