11 annoying questions not to ask a flight attendant

I really enjoy bringing people to their destinations and hearing their stories. That’s why being a flight attendant is the job for me. I laugh with my passengers, plan their activities and help them get to weddings, funerals and great vacations. All this at 38,000 feet in the air! I started when I was 20 and have a teaching qualification. I thought I’d only do this for a couple of years – it sounded like fun.

After 38 years of flying, and all kinds of questions, I thought I had heard it all! Until last week when a passenger asked if we had toothbrushes on board. When I said no, she asked if I had one for myself. When I said yes, she asked if she could use it! I’m still shaking my head! Here are some questions that make us flight attendants cringe.

1. What does the pilot drink?

This will excite us as we consider ourselves security experts. This gets filed in the same column as talking about “bombs” – you only Do not do it say it. Our pilots are very diligent about your safety and spend hours studying their aircraft, practicing unsafe events in the simulator and truly care about your safety on board. It’s not “just like driving a car”.

2. The gate agent said you could put us together?

There’s a reason you’re not sitting together. Nobody likes paying extra fees and most of the time it will eliminate the problem, but if you get to the airport and not everyone is sitting together, it’s time to reconsider. Can you sit two by two instead of four together? I’ll try my best to help you, but I can’t ask someone who paid extra for a window seat to move to a middle seat. I can usually find a solution, but it might not be the one you were hoping for.

Pro tip: Ask the passengers around you to switch. If people see you with children, they are usually understanding and want to help.

3. Can I just sit here?

“It’s my anniversary, my birthday, my honeymoon.” I’m sorry to say that those days are gone, along with the hot meals we used to serve – “chicken or steak”. We do not upgrade seats on board. It’s all handled at the gate, thank goodness. I know the first class seat is empty, but the person next to me paid for it and would understandably be upset if I just let you sit there. If it’s your honeymoon, I’ll find some champagne and we’ll celebrate!

Pro tip: Bring candy or a small gift for your flight attendants. It can get you a lot of attention.

4. Which hotel are you staying at?

Safety is a big thing with airline personnel. We can’t tell you where we live. In some foreign cities we have armed escorts who take us to the hotel. I usually say, “I’ll tell you, but then I have to fire you,” and laugh because people should understand that we need privacy.

5. (Rings the call button) Can I have a Coke?

I’ll admit that when the bell rings, we all look wildly at each other and think: who will take it? It’s a mixed feeling. We are there for you to call us. But don’t call to give us your trash. We walk through the aisle with garbage bags every quarter of an hour. If someone in your row calls us for a drink, please let us know if you’d like one too! I’d rather bring two drinks at once rather than on another trip.

6. What? What did you say?

Please! When you see the drinks cart approaching and you want a drink, press “pause” on the movie and take off your headset, preferably before we get there. Flight attendants really don’t like asking you three times if you want something to drink. When I talked to my colleagues about these questions, this was the first thing that made us cringe.

7. How many days do you work?

Flight attendant jobs are a completely different animal. We can take a 3-day trip and then have 4 days off, or we have the option to work 2 weeks in a row and have the rest of the month off. Trying to explain this to people who work regular jobs is difficult and they usually think I only work part-time or that we don’t work very hard. But if you’ve ever been with me on a long mechanical delay, hours in the making, you’d know we’re there for you. Recently on a delayed flight, my crew chose to agree to extend our hours to get you home (voluntarily extending our work day to over 16 hours).

8. Is this your usual route?

In the old days, we used to have “routes”. We would fly the same city pairings every week for a month. I miss them as I wanted to get to know the business people who flew every week and I also wanted to get to know the city. Technology has enabled us to choose our flights and the dates we want to fly them, all based on seniority, so ‘regular’ routes are a thing of the past. When you ask us this question, we have to bring you into the 21st centurySt century – although I do miss the old go-go boots!

9. What lake is it down there?

I really don’t know which lake it is and I would like to call the pilots and ask for you. But I had to leave the drinks cart and it slows down service and people get anxious about their drinks. If the flight attendant immediately replies something like “Clear Lake” you know they are fibbing. We don’t know what city, lake or mountain is outside your window. We are too busy to look out the windows.

10. Can you lift my bag for me?

I’ve known snarky flight attendants who will say, “You take it, you throw it.” We cannot lift your bag for you, but I am happy to check it to your final destination free of charge. In a single day I could fly with over 600 passengers, if I lifted their bags, think how much lifting that would involve.

11. Can you call and hold my connection?

Trust me when I say my employer knows we’re running late. We have a team monitoring connections in each city and they are top notch! They will usually have you rebooked on the next flight or have someone there in a cart to take you to your connection. Technology has really helped with connections.

Additional travel tips

  • We are all there to help you with your life journeys. I feel excited when families are reunited, when soldiers come home, and when children see their grandparents.
  • Check your luggage. Airline apps track your luggage so you know it’s traveling with you.
  • Bring a small blanket or sweater with a hood. In terms of temperature, it is difficult to make everyone in the cabin happy, and the blanket could also be used as a pillow.
  • Always have a pen. You need it for travel forms.
  • Grab a bottle of water and a snack at the airport.
  • If there is turbulence, the flight attendants stay seated.

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