Ask a flight attendant

A staggering 2,586,582 passengers board domestic or international flights every single day and at any given hour there are over 61,000 people airborne over the USA. A flight attendant’s job is not easy, they are entrusted to keep those aboard safe and comfortable. Hannah, a Denver-based Flight Attendant took a moment to answer a few questions that people frequently have for their aircraft staff. 

What happens if I don’t switch my electronics to airplane mode?

This is a question passengers ask me all the time! It’s not like the plane is going to fall out of the sky or anything, we just ask that passengers keep their cellphones in airplane mode during flight because phones transmit signal to find service in the area, and that can disrupt the pilot’s communication to the ground as well as other pilots in the area. When people ask me specifically why, I tell them there is a reason why everyone’s phone is equipped with airplane mode and it’s for everyone’s safety.

How does switching time-zones affect you?

I thought when I first started flying that I would get used to it. Truth is, I still haven’t! On any given week, I can be in multiple different time zones. It’s tough getting set in any one time zone, especially when I come home. The time for me in a day can vary about +/- 4 hours.

What are some of the most annoying things a passenger can do on a flight?

The most annoying thing a passenger can do on a flight is get up while the fasten seat belt sign is on. It happens ALL the time, and we are unable to make people sit down. Our job is to inform, not to enforce, so people are always looking for permission where we can’t give it to them. It also drives me nuts when people open overhead bins that are shut. They are shut because they either have emergency equipment, or other passengers stuff in them, and some people just don’t understand that!

Are you being paid while you commute to the airport, wait for the plane to board, get your luggage, etc.? Or are you only being paid when you’re up in the air?

The only time I get paid anything other than flight time is when I’m away from my home base. When I am away from base, then I make Per Diem, which isn’t a lot of money. So anytime we are dealing with a delay, gate change, change of aircraft, cancellation, or even boarding, I am not getting paid. So as frustrating as it is for passengers in these situations, it’s equally as frustrating for the flight attendants and pilots because we aren’t getting paid to be there.

What question do passengers most frequently ask, and what do you tell them?

I frequently get asked how long my workdays are, and I tell them that it varies greatly! Sometimes I do one flight in a day, and sometimes I do 4 flights in a day! I also get asked all the time where my favorite place to go is, and I always tell them my favorite place to go is home.

What is the ideal flight to be working on? (Time of day, destination, etc.)

My ideal flights are always the ones where I have a long layover afterwards. I love exploring all the different places I get to visit. I don’t necessarily have a favorite time to fly, but I always love flying anywhere in the Midwest, because they tend to be the nicest passengers.

What does your schedule look like? Is it the typical 5 days on/2 days off that many people have?

Being that I’m relatively new to the airline industry, (I’ve been flying less than a year) I am what is called a Reserve Flight Attendant. This means that I am not actually scheduled specific flights or trips, but I am on call for a specific amount of time. I usually have reserve blocks for anywhere from 2-6 days at a time, which means I can fly anytime between then, or whenever operationally necessary. Once I get enough seniority with my airline, then I will get specific trips assigned to me, so I will always know when/where I am going generally a month in advance.

Do you fly for free? Are you able to fly family members/friends for free?

I do fly for free with my airline! I have my parents and my significant other listed on my flight benefits, which means they fly for free as well. I am also given 28 buddy passes a year, which means I can give them to whomever I choose and they only pay taxes on the flight. The bad thing about having flight benefits is it is all stand-by flying. Stand-by flying can be incredibly stressful depending on where you are going.  

What are the physical requirements for being a flight attendant? (age, sex, weight, appearance etc.)

One of the coolest aspects of this job, is there really is no restrictions as far appearance, age, or sex goes. They are very tolerant as far as having many different types people in this position. They only ask that your body is proportionate to the aircraft dimensions, meaning that you can fit in the flight attendant jumpsuit, walk through the aisle without having to duck, or that you’re able to reach the overhead bins without heels/shoes on. To get into this position, you do have to pass a 4-8 week training course (depending on the airline is how long the course is). The training is what determines if you are fit to be a Flight Attendant.

What’s the best part about being a flight attendant?

I absolutely love my job, and it’s hard to choose what the best part is. I love the spontaneity of not really knowing where I am going to be next. I also love that I get to see the world for free, and meet all different types of people from all over the world. I have met some of the most interesting people because of this job. I love seeing little kids and how excited they are to be on an airplane, and I also love being able to calm people down when they are nervous flyers. This job is really unlike any other, and I feel incredibly lucky that I get to be in the position I am.

 

When boarding your next flight, remember that Flight Attendants often work long hours and are away from their family and friends. Many are just as anxious to reach the destination as you are. Please treat them with kindness and respect.   

Happy traveling,

Emma

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LIFE AS AFLIGHT ATTENDANT