When I worked as a flight attendant, I always hoped that the airlines would play a video explaining mandatory onboard etiquette before the safety briefings.
Since the pandemic has exacerbated social fear and violent behavior on board planes, I think the focus on how to behave on a plane is long overdue.
After four years working as a flight attendant on both domestic and international flights, I strongly advise passengers not to do the following while in the air.
To rise during take-off and landing or in turbulence
Pre-flight safety instructions often seem redundant, so passengers don’t pay attention to them.
But they help remind people that for their own safety, they should stay seated with their seat belts on when the “fasten your seat belts” sign is on.
This sign illuminates during unpredictable and critical phases of flight, such as take-off, landing and turbulence.
Please note that the cabin crew will most likely refuse your request to get up during these times for your own safety.
Attacks on cabin crew or other passengers
In recent years, listening to flight attendants seems to have become as difficult as finding lost luggage.
In the year 2016, when I started as a flight attendant, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted 102 investigations into passenger misconduct. In 2021, when flights resumed almost as normal in the final phase of the corona pandemic, there were more than 1,000 such investigations.
These incidents include hitting cabin crew, fighting with other passengers or refusing to follow instructions from flight attendants.
In response to this massive increase in misconduct, the FAA has a stricter policy and zero tolerance for passengers who use force, threaten, intimidate or antagonize crew members. With the new policy, no warnings are issued and the FAA can take immediate legal action.
So treat cabin crew and fellow passengers with respect.
Attempting to disrupt the flight or damage the aircraft
I’ve seen some nervous passengers tap the plane door hoping for luck, but keep in mind that physical violence against any part of the plane will get you in trouble,
On a flight to Cancun, Mexico, I once saw a passenger bang hard on the ceiling vents to try to silence those behind him.
I warned him that any serious attempt to damage the aircraft is an offense and any further disturbance may lead to legal action.
Intolerance and prejudice on board
Difficult passengers can’t stand fun, but if they’re really intolerant, they can’t fly.
People need to realize that airlines, pilots and fellow passengers depend on flight attendants to be the ears, eyes and moral compass on board an aircraft.
Passengers must be tolerant and understand that they will be sharing a small space with all kinds of other people. And they must do so with respect.
If the crew feels that there is intolerance or discrimination, it can have serious consequences.
Smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes on board
My biggest fear when flying is not a hijacking or crash, but smoke and fire on board. Even a puff on an e-cigarette can set off the fire alarm in the toilet.
As a flight attendant, I noticed that passengers on long international flights regularly violated the smoking ban. The fire alarm went off once a week and then we as a crew had to run quickly through the corridors.
During our training, we learned that in the event of a fire, the air in the cabin can quickly turn to toxic smoke or worse, the fire can become uncontrollable. The cabin crew only have a very short time to extinguish any flames.
Most oxygen masks provide protection for up to 14 minutes. But an uncontrollable fire, depending on the size of the plane and the location of the fire, takes only a few minutes to engulf the entire plane in flames.
If the crew catches a passenger smoking secretly, he or she may be fined or reported to the authorities.
Boarding a flight drunk or consuming alcohol you brought with you
If passengers smell of alcohol or appear intoxicated, they may be refused boarding.
According to FAA regulations, the crew must keep a watchful eye on people sneaking sips of duty-free liquor. Opened bottles are confiscated without mercy until after landing.
Medicinal use in combination with alcohol
Taking drugs in combination with alcohol can be dangerous, and yet I have seen many people do it, especially on long flights.
It can sometimes take a few hours for the effects to become noticeable. I once saw a drunken woman sitting on the lap of a fellow passenger’s husband. The couple laughed the moment I escorted the woman to a seat in the back row.
The woman was very confused for hours and kept asking if she could call her mother. I had to say “Yes, of course in a few minutes” over and over to calm her down.
In her seat I found a stash of orange pills and empty wine bottles outside the airline.
In the end, she looked more like a toddler on the loose and had to fasten her seat belt several times during an 11-hour flight.
I confiscated the rest of her alcohol supply and told her not to use the bathroom without help. After putting on a movie and forcing her to drink water, she finally fell asleep.
Forgetting the essentials to make the flight more comfortable
As a flight attendant, I always kept the cabin cool, not only because I was always walking around the plane, but also to prevent unpleasant smells. Also, the air in the cabin is often dry and the people around you are sometimes noisy.
This means that, in addition to your passport, medicine and phone, there are more important things you must bring on board. Flying without warm clothes, humidifiers and things to entertain yourself can make a flight very uncomfortable.
Make sure you have a jacket, a scarf and socks in your hand luggage. Also bring hand cream, lip balm and a water bottle. And don’t forget to bring snacks, a book and headphones so you can be sure of a comfortable and peaceful flight.
Walk around the cabin without shoes or socks
The floor of the toilets is less clean than you might think.
The stains on the carpets in the corridors are probably not dried coke and elsewhere in the plane the floors have seen many types of debris and the bottoms of many thousands of shoes.
At a minimum, wear socks and hotel slippers if necessary to walk around the cabin.
Fly when you are sick
Stewards are trained to diagnose symptoms of illness in passengers.
In addition to complying with all international corona regulations, you must also take other precautions and ensure that you are completely healthy before flying and spreading harmful bacteria.
Use the folding tables to change nappies
Folding tables are designed for eating and working on, not for cleaning a baby bottom.
If you are traveling with several children and do not want to leave them alone to help someone else to the toilet, ask the crew for help. We love to take a break, hold babies and spend some time with children.
Stewards are caregivers, spouses and members of a family who understand well what it means to be away from home.