19 Things That Are Guaranteed to Annoy Your Flight Attendant

See recent posts by Neil Gladstone

If you think flying wears on you, consider being a flight attendant. They are required to act as referees, sheriffs, bartenders, and group therapists, all while trying to maintain their balance walking up and down an airplane aisle. If you want to be a happy traveler (and not get kicked off an airplane), you should learn a bit about what bugs flight attendants. From boarding to deplaning, here are some of the things that irk your in-flight crew.

Paul Stocker/Flickr

Paul Stocker/Flickr


1. Passengers Who Refuse to Move: “Many times we would get families that got separate seating in the boarding process and it would be left to the flight crew to resolve [the issue],” recalls Sarah Walbolt, a former flight attendant for SkyWest who now blogs for the site Roof and Skillet. “The majority of people are great and help out. But it is annoying when you have business travelers who are flying alone, but are unwilling to change their seat for a family with children trying to travel together.” If a passenger gets opposition from a person unwilling to move, Walbot advises ringing the service button as soon as possible and letting the flight crew take care of the problem. “We can reach out to other people and there’s always someone who’s willing to assist. We can even make that unwilling passenger move, but we don’t like to force anyone.”

2. Haphazard Bag Storage: You’ve probably seen those passengers who throw their bags into the first available overhead bin. Well, that happens a lot. “It drives me crazy when I see a guy shoving his 26-inch Tumi into a bin above row 6, then continuing on to his assigned seat in row 52,” says Capain. Patrick Smith of Ask the Pilot. “I know it’s tempting, but this causes the forward bins to fill up quickly. Those seated in the front must now travel backward to stow their belongings, then return upstream, slowing everybody down. After landing, these same people have to fight their way rearward again while everybody else is trying to exit.” Smith thinks assigned baggage bins should accompany assigned seating.

3. Lazy Large Men and Women: A surprising number of tall men and women expect flight attendants, who are sometimes shorter, to lift their bags into the overhead compartment, says Walbot. It’s more funny than aggravating, she says in recollection.

Preparing for Takeoff

4. Cramming Carry-Ons: We’ve all seen the passenger who tries to convince the flight attendant that a carry-on that’s too large to fit under the seat will be just fine as a foot rest. “Many passengers don’t realize that it’s an FAA regulation that the aisle must be clear if they need to exit quickly,” says Walbot. 

5. Hiding the Seatbelt: If you think you’re being clever by putting a blanket over your lap to hide whether or not you’ve latched your seatbelt, the flight attendant is probably on to you. Walbot’s in-flight crew had an inventive way to combat the problem. “My captain would often tell me that when I do a final walk-through of the cabin to provide him with the seat numbers of passengers who were trying to conceal the fact that they did not fasten their seatbelt,” says Walbot. “I handed over the seat numbers before closing the flight deck door. The captain would announce over the intercom that his seatbelt indicator panel revealed that the given numbers were not yet secured. He asked everyone to check and ensure that their belts were fastened. Suddenly, you saw passengers scrambling to buckle in!”

6. Not Turning Off Electronics: Trying to outwit the flight attendant and keeping your cell phone turned on probably occurs on every airplane. On one flight that Walbot was working on, a businessman refused to turn off his laptop because he had too many emails to write. The flight had to delay its departure and the captain walked back to the man’s seat and asked him to turn off his computer. “The businessman kept saying, ‘Just give me one more minute. I have something I need to finish,’” Walbot remembers. “The passenger shut his computer, but when we were on the runway, another traveler pointed out that he was typing again.” Walbot explained the situation to the captain who responded, “Tell the [passenger] to deplane last. There will be authorities waiting for him.” Walbot followed orders, and said the man turned as white as a sheet. “He didn’t realize we had that authority,” says Walbot. The passenger had to give a statement to the authorities and was placed on an FAA watch list for non-compliance.

7. Showing Up Drunk: Dealing with a drunk passenger is no fun for a flight attendant. On one flight that Walbot worked, a drunk flier came on and screamed: “I’m going to get laid tonight!” When the flight crew tried to get the partier to leave the flight, which was the last one taking the route that night, the passenger pleaded and said, “No, I’ll be good. I’ll be good.” Using her group psychology skills, Walbot got onto the flight intercom and explained the situation to the passengers: “We have a person who really wants to get home tonight, but he has had a lot to drink. We’re going to make this decision together, and if we decide to take him, he’s ours for the entire flight.” The assembled passengers voted the intoxicated individual off with a show of hands. “That was how we showed him that we wanted him to stay — sober up and fly home the next day.”

8. Asking for Things During Takeoff: On most flights, there will be plenty of time to get a cup of water or deck of cards. Unless it’s an emergency, the best time to bug your flight attendant isn’t during takeoff.

During the Flight

9. Treating the Flight Attendant Like a Customer Service Agent: Although few people see flight attendants as having a commanding role, that’s actually the truth, explains Walbot. They’re on the plane to make sure passengers are safe and healthy — not to wait on their every whim. 

10. Snapping: No one likes being snapped at, but plenty of people still consider it a great way to get someone’s attention. If you think the flight attendant isn’t seeing you, think again. Chances are, he or she is just busy and focusing on another passenger. 

11. Hanging Out in the Galley: Do you want a stranger to come sit at your desk or stand beside you while you’re trying to work? It’s one thing to stretch your legs, and another to turn the galley into your standing office.

12. Keeping Your Earphones in During Conversations: Taking out your earphones during a conversation isn’t tough. When you leave them in, you often wind up shouting at the flight attendant.

13. Making the World Your Footrest: Don’t hang your legs or feet on the armrest, window, or seat back. If you need more space, buy a first-class ticket.

14. Going Barefoot: Jamming hundreds of people into a metal cylinder will inevitably create a germ-filled environment. Going barefoot just adds to the less-than-ideal atmosphere.

15. Complaining About Your Meal: There are many reasons why most airplane meals don’t deserve Michelin stars. Your in-flight crew can’t do anything to improve the quality or selections of the vittles.

16. Requesting a Temperature Change: Differences of opinion about the most appropriate cabin temperature will likely crop up. A flight attendant can’t change the temperature inside the airplane, so it doesn’t help to ask.

17. Hitting the Can During Landing: You know you’re supposed to stay seated after the wheels for landing drop. So, if you know you’re going to have to use the restroom, try your best to plan ahead. 


18. Leaving Trash Behind: The flight crew comes through with garbage bags several times during the flight. Do you really need to stuff that empty cup in the seatback pocket three minutes before deplaning?

19. Forgetting Cell Phones: While losing a cell phone may be aggravating to the owner, it can also be a hassle for the flight attendant who needs to report the item and do his or her best to return it. Do your best to double check your seat area before leaving.

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