Making your flight attendant’s job easier makes for a better trip for all passengers

Posted October 24, 2014


For many travelers, flying to a location can be the worst experience of a trip.

Between trying to navigate through the sometimes giant airports, getting past lengthy security checkpoints waits and doing all that while possibly rushing to catch your flight, the time before getting on the plane is stressful enough.

Once you get on the plane, a new set of ordeals arises: finding the right place for your carry-on bag, getting to your seat without stepping on anyone and hoping that the overhead bin space has not been completely exhausted.

The list of issues that could go wrong in this process is endless, but one group of people has to deal with these every day: flight attendants.

Just as the commercial aviation industry has changed, the once glamorous and coveted position has transformed over the past couple decades. Flight attendants face a whole host of new safety challenges and the job has lost some its shine. Dealing with bag policies, safety precautions and irritated or down right mean passengers are just some of things flight attendants contend with every work day.

Yet, for those who chose the career, working as a flight attendant becomes a lifestyle and a rewarding one at that.

“I love talking to passengers, love helping people, and it was my dream as a girl,” said Alison McCrink, a flight attendant for Delta. “I get to meet tons of people and travel the world, I couldn’t think of anything better.”

McCrink has worked for Delta for 32 years and seen almost everything a flight attendant can see. While she loves the job, McCrink obviously dislikes some of its aspects.

“Sometimes, you become a babysitter for people,” McCrink said. “It can be exasperating for us when a few passengers ruin our flight and the flight experience for others.”

In order to avoid those annoying behaviors, IMcCrink and three other delta flight attendants recommended ways to enjoy the flight. Angie Truitt, Julie Hardy, and Barbara Stehle, along with McCrink, combine for almost 120 years of flight attendant experience.

Each of them to described the worst part of the job and all four had different answer with a similar theme: passengers. While they all said most passengers are great, they all mentioned a few things that passengers do to irk them.

“The perception many passengers have of flight attendants; they think of us as service workers instead of professionals,” said Angie Truitt. “We are here to help you have a good experience and make sure you get to where you’re going safely, not to be your servant.”

The other flight attendants echoed Truitt’s feelings. They say that many passengers feel they are the only ones on the aircraft and the flight attendants are there to serve only them.

They also had concerns about a couple problems specific to today’s society.

“The headphones in the ears concern me because no one listens to announcements anymore,” said Barbara Stehle. “People just think that they know everything.”

Julie Hardy noted a novel way to combat this problem. A passenger asked her to repeat a question five times before finally removing his headphones to respond with his drink choice. Hardy decided to teach him a lesson.

“The next time I came by his seat with drinks, I put headphones in my ear, and skipped over him,” Hardy explains. “He looked up and asked why I skipped him. To which, I replied ‘What?’ He got the point.”

Emotional support animals have become a cabin concern in recent years. Passengers are now allowed to bring animals on the plane as long as they’re registered as emotional support animals. The process to register your animal is not very rigorous, which has led to excessive use of this designation.

“The emotional support animals are getting out of control,” said Barbara Stehle. “Those people tend to be a handful.”

Alison McCrink recalled two stories about these animals. The rules about emotional support animals say they must be in a carrier or on the owner’s lap. On a flight, a Pomeranian was on its owner’s lap. It got anxious and went onto the passenger’s lap in the next seat. It proceeded to urinate on the man’s lap. On another flight, a well-known tennis player tried boarding the plane with a small dog in her purse and a pet squirrel in her hand. Unfortunately for her, rodents are not allowed on planes and she stayed with the squirrel on the ground.

So if you’re looking to get the most out of flying and don’t want to annoy your flight attendants, here’s what to do:

  • Remember your flight attendant is not a waiter. They’ll help you as much as they can, but you’re not their only concern.
  • Listen to and follow their instructions. Everything will run smoothly if you do and you’ll be happier if things go well.
  • Get off your devices until the crew says it’s okay to use them. While you’re looking up, you might see something interesting like another person. Acknowledge their existence.
  • If you’re bringing an animal, follow the rules and don’t let it roam about.
  • Talk to your flight attendant. Most of them love to talk and their job requires them to be friendly so there’s no pressure to be witty or entertaining.
  • Above all, don’t be a jerk and use common sense.

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