- I’ve seen airplane passengers make countless mistakes during my decade as a flight attendant.
- Airplane floors are usually dirtier than they look, so I don’t recommend walking around barefoot.
- Bulkhead seats may have more legroom, but they also increase your chances of sitting close to babies.
After working as a flight attendant on commercial airliners and private jets for 10 years, I have seen all kinds of passenger behavior. At this point, there’s not much I haven’t seen.
These are the top things I advise travelers not to do while in the air.
The floor is probably dirtier than it looks, so you should never walk barefoot
The number of passengers who wander around barefoot in airplane aisles will never cease to amaze me. Some even enter the toilet without socks or shoes.
But if the plane hits turbulence when you’re in a small lavatory, it can cause a mess you probably don’t want to step into, especially not with bare feet.
There are plenty of other ways to stay comfortable on a long-haul flight, like packing hotel slippers in your carry-on.
Not only are they light and easy to slip on and off, but you can throw them away at the end of a flight to avoid bringing airplane germs home.
Being rude to crew members won’t get you very far
Air travel can be stressful and tiring, but your frustration at the people who are trying to make travel easier and safer is not the right solution. Unfortunately, almost every flight attendant I’ve encountered has had a passenger speak to them in a rude or aggressive tone.
You want crew members on your side. Besides, they serve your meals and take care of you in case of emergency.
Just remember that flight attendants are probably awake twice as long as you. Some have probably already taken another flight or two that day. Kindness goes a long way.
Think twice before leaving items in the seat pocket
The next time you go to stash your sandwich in the seat pocket for easy access during the flight, don’t.
Airplanes are cleaned every time they land somewhere new, but there’s often not enough time to thoroughly disinfect the inside of each seat pocket between flights. On many of the airplanes I worked on, this compartment was usually not washed until the aircraft returned to base for deep cleaning.
It goes without saying that passengers shouldn’t use the seat pocket to store things they don’t want the crew fishing for, but I’ve still come across countless dirty diapers and underwear in the compartment. So think twice before storing any food there.
Don’t ignore the flight attendants’ safety instructions, even if you visit often
Frequent flyers have probably heard flight attendant safety demonstrations hundreds of times. Repetition can be annoying, but crew members are just doing their jobs and trying to keep passengers safe.
When flight attendants ask travelers to fasten their seat belts or locate emergency exits, it’s for an important reason. They usually don’t go into details or worst-case scenarios to avoid causing panic.
Also, not all planes have the same exit locations and flights, so passengers should listen to the specific instructions on each flight they board.
A bulkhead seat may have more legroom, but it can also increase your chances of being near crying babies
The seats next to the bulkhead, the built-in partition between sections, look like winners. They tend to have a little extra leg room and sometimes there is no one behind you. Benefits aside, you should weigh your options before booking these seats.
The bulkhead at the front of a row is usually where the bassinet is placed, making it a hotspot for crying babies.
The rear bulkhead is attractive as there is no one to push or kick your chair from behind, but it can be an uncomfortable journey as you can often barely lie back.
Relax with alcoholic beverages — you’ll feel the effects faster in the air
Low humidity on an airplane can cause dehydration and low cabin pressure can decrease in blood oxygen levels, so people tend to feel the effects of alcohol more quickly on airplanes. Many times, they don’t realize how drunk they are until it’s too late.
Heavy drinking has played a role in many of the medical incidents I have seen on board, particularly when passengers mix alcohol with medication.
I have also seen travelers drinking too much alcohol and exhibiting such aggressive behavior that they had to be restrained, arrested and kicked off the airline.
I’m not saying passengers of legal drinking age shouldn’t drink a beer, but they should walk and hydrate with plenty of water. That way, they’ll feel much better when they land.
It’s also illegal to consume your own alcohol on an aircraft, so make sure you don’t open that bottle of gin you bought in the duty-free shop.
If you haven’t taken sleeping pills before, don’t try them for the first time on a plane
I understand the desire to rest during a long-haul flight, but it’s not a good idea to try a sleep aid for the first time in the air, regardless of whether it’s a prescription drug or an over-the-counter pill.
I have seen some passengers wash down the pills with a few glasses of wine, which has led to serious medical emergencies. I’ve also seen passengers wake up drowsy after taking sleep aids, which could be a problem if they need to be on their feet and alert in an emergency.
Whatever you do, check with your doctor before taking a sleeping pill on the plane.
I recommend sticking to bottled water
Staying hydrated during flights is essential, but I recommend avoiding non-bottled water on a plane.
In recent years, research and various studies have cast doubts about the quality of tap water on airplanes and found that it can vary between airlines. Many flight attendants, like me, stick to bottled water and we recommend that you do the same.
I’m fine after drinking boiling airplane water. However, I once drank straight from the tap and got to know the airplane toilet well.
My advice is to play nice and drink water from sealed containers, which is usually available on airplanes and offered to passengers anyway.
Disregarding other people’s personal space is a surefire way to piss off your co-workers
From the moment you step on a plane, you should be aware of your surroundings and aware of the space of others.
There’s nothing worse than having the person across from you slump in their seat just as you’re about to dig into your in-flight meal. And while you may be tempted to stretch, no one wants to rest your fingers on their arm.
Also, think twice before you start painting your nails or opening that homemade egg sandwich. The air conditioning system carries odors throughout the aircraft.
The call button should be reserved for urgent matters, so don’t press it if you don’t have one
Passengers using the call button for small requests were my biggest annoyances during my days as a flight attendant.
The button is there to get the attention of the crew members and they are happy to help all passengers. However, you shouldn’t step on it in the middle of your meal because you want a flight attendant to take your bag out of the overhead compartment.
Using it for non-urgent matters can take crew members’ attention away from passengers who have medical emergencies and need urgent care.
If you need immediate help or attention, I recommend pressing the button several times.