From the secret button on planes to the one drink that crew members repeatedly advise against ordering, befriending a flight attendant is not without its benefits. Learning the tricks of the trade might even earn you a first class upgrade, without the extra charge that frequents the promotion.
Sometimes, getting an upgrade isn’t about those frequent flier miles or knowing the right people. Sometimes, it’s about something as simple as what’s in your closet.
RELATED: More flight attendant hacks
Flight attendant's favorite travel hacks
Flight attendant's favorite travel hacks
Get more attentive service from your flight attendants
"While most passengers tend to choose seats that are at the front of the aircraft so that they can disembark first and have a better chance of securing their preferred meal option, flight attendants know that if you're sitting towards the back, you'll receive the most attentive service," a flight attendant with 2.5 years' experience wrote for Oyster.
"The reason is simple: We like to avoid responding to call bells from the front of the plane because answering one means potentially flaunting whatever item the passenger has requested to everyone else along the way," she wrote. "This can cause a problem since planes often don't have enough extra vodka, pillows, earplugs, and toothbrushes, or the time on shorter flights to deviate from the service schedule.
"For passengers sitting near the back of the plane, however, it's much easier to slip in that second mini bottle of wine," she wrote.
Iron your clothes faster
"Use your flat iron to touch up your clothes when you're in a rush and there's no time for the ironing board," a flight attendant with 30 years' experience told Business Insider.
Always sleep in clean sheets
"Don't sleep on hotel sheets that don't have creases from being folded; someone slept on them already," a flight attendant with 19 years' experience told Business Insider.
Keep the hotel room dark
"Use the clips on the pants hangers in the hotel room to clip your curtains together so there is no light coming through,"a flight attendant with 15 years' experience told Business Insider.
Avoid doing damage to your hearing
"Avoid flying if you have a severe cold,"a fight attendant with 4 years' experience wrote on Quora. "It can damage your eardrums, and you may lose your hearing. It happened to me once — I couldn't hear properly for a week, and it hurt like hell."
Avoid being seated near a baby
"While there's no escaping (or blaming) the shrill of an upset child, you can lower your odds of sitting directly next to one by choosing a seat that's located far from the partitions on board," a flight attendant with 2.5 years' experience wrote for Oyster.
"These partitions, which go by the technical name 'bulkheads,' are the only places on an aircraft where a parent can safely secure a baby's bassinet — and are, therefore, where most children under one year old will be situated," she wrote.
Fight jet lag
"What helps me sleep is having a bedtime ritual," a flight attendant wrote on Quora.
"Stop using electronics one hour before bedtime, have a cup of tea, and read a bit," he wrote. "Usually that does the trick, but if I can't sleep after an hour I just get up, do something else, and then try again."
Don't get stuck with a heavy bag you have to check
"Less is more," a flight attendant with three years' experience told Business Insider.
"The best way to travel is to pack exactly what you need and nothing more, besides maybe a couple of extra underwear," he said. "But other than that I would pack only what I need for that specific trip."
"Before your trip, call your hotel and check to see if they have a washer/dryer available," a flight attendant with one year of experience told Business Insider. "If so, bring a couple detergent packs and dryer sheets in a Ziploc bag, and it eliminates two to four days' worth of clothes, depending on your stay.
Save space in your suitcase
"My favorite travel hack is definitely the clothes-roll technique," a flight attendant with one year of experience told Business Insider. "I am often gone from home for several days, even up to three weeks, and I save space by rolling my clothes instead of folding them."
Get through customs in a jiff
"Pay for Global Entry — it's totally worth it," an anonymous flight attendant told Business Insider.
Never miss out on free breakfast
"If you know you're not going to be able to attend whatever complimentary meal they're offering because you're leaving before it starts or you know you're not going to be up until after it's over, check with the hotel to see if there's some kind of snack or sack lunch they can provide before or ahead of time," a flight attendant with one year of experience told Business Insider.
"Usually it's just a piece of fruit, a bottle of water, and a thing of string cheese, but that's saved my growling stomach on several occasions," they said.
Get a cheaper upgrade
Some airlines offer reduced-price upgrades the day of the flight, Celessa Dietzel, a flight attendant with three years' experience, told Business Insider. There are even first-class seats available for upgrading sometimes, she said.
"So be in the boarding area good and early during boarding, because this is when you'll hear the announcements for last-minute upgrade purchases you might be able to get," Dietzel said. "It's not for every airline, but it does happen."
Don't miss out on the first-class upgrade if you qualify for it
"I think it's great we don't have to travel in suits and high heels anymore. You can be comfortable," Dietzel told Business Insider. "But you can also be classy and comfortable."
"Check your air carrier's rules — there are still dress codes sometimes in first class and, who knows, maybe, miracle of the day, you'll get that cheap upgrade to first class. Be comfortable, but if you can avoid wearing your pajamas, that's great," she said.
Get free stuff ... sometimes
United Airlines flight attendant Robert Bingochea previously told Business Insider that, if something goes wrong on your flight, flight attendants are empowered with resolution options, from offering a free drink or meal to upgrading fliers and giving them more points. "We can't fix everything, but at least we can try to give it a chance and try to make things acceptable," he said.
But there's a catch.
"Complaining gets some people free stuff," a flight attendant with 30 years' experience told Business Insider. "But with the airline computer systems today, we can track all the free stuff given. We know who takes advantage."
It’s far better to look "smart but understated,” said one flight attendant to Travel and Leisure. "You should look like you travel often ... It helps; someone who is potentially due to get an upgrade can be knocked back if they aren't dressed suitably.”
So, is it worth forgoing our airport sweatpants for a nice pair of pants, in exchange for some first class service? 100 percent!
Watch the video above to learn some more insider airport tricks!
RELATED: Foods you should never buy from the airport
Foods you should never buy at the airport
Foods you should never buy at the airport
“A big old soft pretzel is not a meal,” says registered dietitian Marjorie Nolan Cohn, owner of MNC Nutrition in Philadelphia. Those fluffy carbs might smell enticing, but carbo-loading before a long flight will leave your tummy rumbling again by takeoff. Look for something with protein and fiber that will keep you satisfied until you land, or better yet, pack a meal from home. Nolan Cohn recommends making a sandwich at home to save money or packing leftovers like pasta salad or grilled chicken in an old, washed plastic container, such as a cottage cheese tub.
Try not to lump your waiting time at the airport in with the “treat mentality” of the rest of your vacation, says registered dietitian nutritionist Libby Mills, founder of Dig In Eat Up. “Even though it might be the kickoff to vacation, you want to save those calories for something unique when you arrive,” she says. Skip the specialty coffee drink and stick with plain coffee if you need a caffeine fix, or leave room for ice cream at the beach instead of gobbling a bag of cookies at the airport. Don’t miss these other 15 secrets to staying healthy on vacation.
You’ve seen yogurt touted time and time again as one of the healthiest snacks you can get, thanks to its satiating protein. But that fruit and yogurt parfait isn’t the healthy and fresh choice that it seems. “Yogurt has its halo over it as a healthy food, and obviously it is, but in context of what additives are in it,” says Nolan Cohn. By the time you turn plain yogurt into a sugary flavored yogurt topped with granola and fruit (which, unlike fresh berries, is full of added sugar), it isn’t a healthy choice anymore, she says. Skip the parfait and choose a regular yogurt from the fridge, or try these 19 nutritionist-approved travel snacks you can buy anywhere.
Even yogurts that aren’t covered in granola or chocolate chips can be a stealthy sugar bomb. Fruit-on-the-bottom varieties are “not really fruit—it’s more like jelly,” says Nolan Cohn, and the dessert-like flavors and toppings can have almost as much sugar as the treats they’re named after. A cup of unflavored Greek yogurt is a safe bet, but if you need something less tart, vanilla varieties tend to have a bit less sugar than the fruity ones, she says. Try these other 13 healthy tricks for actually losing weight on vacation.
Granola bars are often designed to look like a smart choice, but there’s more than meets the eye. “Some are like candy bars in a really strategic marketing package to make it look like something way healthier than it is,” says Nolan Cohn. Granola bars can be packed with added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other decidedly unhealthy ingredients, especially if they’re covered in a waxy (and melty) coating. That said, a shelf-stable, portable snack is convenient when you need to take the hunger off during your travels, so hunt down an option with 12 or fewer grams of sugar, she says. Check out these other 10 ways to eat healthy on vacation.
A cheap, low-calorie cup of coffee might seem like the perfect treat while you’re waiting, but you might regret it once you’re seated. “Coffee has caffeine and can agitate the nerves, which might not make for the most relaxing flight,” says Mills. Plus, if coffee goes through you fast, you could end up making multiple bathroom dashes, she points out. Try a calming herbal tea instead, Mills suggests.
Large bar tab
While a glass of wine as you wait for your flight won’t do much harm for most people, you’ll want to keep your drinking to a minimum. Not only could it dehydrate you before an already dehydrating plane ride, but alcohol isn’t good for deep sleep. You might crash quick, but the alcohol will wake you up and keep you out of deep REM sleep as your liver works it out. “A less restful trip, especially if you’re going overseas, may be counterproductive to enjoying yourself fully when you arrive,” says Mills.
You might not have too many choices at a quick-grab sandwich station, but keep your calories in check by avoiding excessive fillings, says Mills. “If it has triple layers of meat or bread, that’s a tipoff that you’re getting triple servings,” she says. “‘Crispy,’ breaded,’ and ‘fried’ … are words on a menu that are tipoffs of an extra serving of carbohydrates, plus the extra fat.”
You might not want to rely on the bottled water from the airport terminal—and not just because of its sky-high prices. Normally we’d never discourage some good-for-you hydration, but hear us out if you have a small bladder. “You’re guzzling water before getting on the plane, then sharing a toilet with how many people?” says Nolan Cohn. Because hydration is important, especially when you’re stuck in a dry plane cabin, she recommends sipping extra water the night and morning before your flight so you aren’t dehydrated when you board. Especially if your flight is more than a couple hours, though, don’t ignore your thirst in the name of avoiding the bathroom, she says.
Anything your stomach isn't used to
When you’re about to sit in close quarters for hours on end, you’ll want to avoid foods that don’t tend to sit well with your digestive system. Steer clear of foods that normally might upset your stomach, such as certain types of fiber or greasy foods. “A hamburger and French fries or fried chicken before you get on a plane might not be the best idea,” says Nolan Cohn. “They have a higher potential for triggering diarrhea or GI issues.”