Different cultures have different expectations of what is and isn’t culturally appropriate—whether it’s what hand signals are offensive, which hand you use to pay or what clothes you’re expected to wear. When flying, we’ve heard of dress codes for non-revenue passengers (remember LeggingGate?) but dress codes for passengers seem like a thing of the distant past. While you may be judged for what you wear, passengers seem to wear whatever they feel is most comfortable.
However, as one passenger learned the hard way this month, there’s at least one airline that still has a dress code for passengers. SkyTeam’s Saudia Airlines denied Forbes contributor Jordan Bishop from boarding a flight from Jakarta (CGK) to Riyadh (RUH) for having an “offensive” outfit. The offensive piece of clothing: His shorts. These are the secrets that airlines don’t want to tell you.
RELATED: Secrets flight attendants know
13 secrets only flight attendants know
13 secrets only flight attendants know
While most of us are being mindful of Mother Earth these days and trying to reduce our waste, Southwest Airlines flight attendant Holly Hansen told Women’s Health that bottled water is best when flying for one very hygienic reason. “Drink bottled water to be safe,” she said. “The storage tanks for the jet’s tap water are difficult to thoroughly clean, and studies show bacteria like E. coli can linger in them. Skip coffee and tea—some airlines make it from that H2O. The ice is OK, though; it’s catered.”
Hey, flight attendants don’t want to survive on airport food, either. When they’re looking for the best eats in whichever city they find themselves in for an extended period of time, they hit the Internet with a couple of specific keywords to zero in on the top spots. To instantly find the best of the best, google the name of your city plus “Food Network,” recommends one savvy flight attendant.
Those bag check fees are for the birds, but one clever flight attendant says there is actually a way to duck and dodge the cost of stowing your luggage, and it has nothing to do with stuffing it in an overhead compartment. “If you want to take your luggage into the airplane and not pay for check baggage fees, take your bags to the gate and just say you are willing to check your luggage at the gate to free up space. The gate attendant will almost always check it free of charge.” Don’t miss these other things your flight attendant won’t tell you.
For more options
First-class fliers, particularly ones who find themselves frequenting American Airlines, this is for you. “If you want your first choice of meals in First Class, book your seat in the first two rows when going north to south or east to west,” advises one flight attendant, who wants to remain anonymous. “If going west to east or south to north sit in the last two rows of first class.” Now that you know what to do, here are 18 things you should never do on an airplane.
And not just your clothes—we’re talking nutrition. When faced with the options available at the airport, you may not necessarily have the will power to say yes to something that’s actually good for you. “Healthy trip snacks: nuts, some small chocolate bites, dried fruit, instant organic oatmeal, and fresh berries,” suggests a flight attendant with Alerion Aviation. “It’s very easy to grab junk snacks when you’re tired.”
Just say no to jet lag
Flight attendants are constantly on the move, and chances are they’re entering different time ones on the regular. This attendant prefers a natural solution to the lethargic feeling so much travel can often leave behind. “When we cross several time zones jet lag can be brutal. I found a homeopathic supplement that works for me. It’s called No Jet Lag,” she says. Here are more easy tricks to help you get over jet lag.
Keep calm and fly on
Fear of flying is very real and can be paralyzing for some. If this applies to you, try this visualization technique utilized by some flight attendants to help passengers cope: Compare flying to being on a boat. There are waves on the water and the boat rocks and goes up and down. Airplanes behave in pretty much the same way, riding invisible waves of air.
Dress for success
Now, this may not always work in your favor depending on availability, but flight attendant Joe Alvarado-DePalma says that wearing a well thought out outfit instead of those comfy sweats may just reap the rewards in terms of upgrades. “If you dress professionally you are more likely to be upgraded to other classes free of charge,” he advises. Find out the craziest things flight attendants have seen on the job.
Checked bag fees are no fun, nor is trying to cram an overstuffed carry-on into the overhead compartment. “Limit the number of shoes you bring. These take up the most space in your suitcase,” an American Airlines flight attendant told Thrillist. “Then, fold all jeans and pants as you normally would and roll them up, placing them on top of the shoes next to each other. Then do the same for shirts. Lastly, all underwear and socks go on the top or in empty crevices.” Try it, it works! Here are 14 other packing tips from flight attendants you should know.
Keep it neat
When you’re going from the airport to a business meeting with little time to spare, it can be difficult to keep from looking ruffled and tired. One flight attendant gave this tip for keeping your clothes tidy on the fly. “Use your flat iron to touch up your clothes when you’re in a rush and there’s no time for the ironing board,” she suggests.
While water and beverages with electrolytes are strongly recommended on flights over carbonated beverages, if you’re really jonesing for that entire can of soda (not just what is placed in the little plastic cup), you can have it. Just ask politely! “The reason we pour it in a cup goes back to the old days of service,” flight attendant Typhanie King told the Huffington Post. “It’s just good customer service to pour your drink in a cup. Many people prefer to drink out of a cup. But you can certainly ask for the entire can of pop.
Safety and security
If you’re traveling with small children, you’re probably already aware of the massive amounts of gear you need to bring. But flight attendants actually recommend lugging that car seat as well. “Car seats aren’t just safer for children,” Veda Shook, an Alaskan Airlines flight attendant told Real Simple. “They also help kids stay calmer, since they’re used to being in them.” When flying, keep these flight attendant pet peeves in mind.
Long flights can dry out your skin, so staying hydrated is key. But packing a couple of little luxuries to use while you’re in the air and after you touch down will go a long way in helping to feel refreshed. “Pack hand moisturizer and lip balm to fight high-altitude dryness,” flight attendant Heather Sanchez told Forbes. “I always pick up some locally made lip balm at the airport shops before boarding, which also makes a great last-minute souvenir.” Next, find out the things airlines won’t tell you, but every flier should know.
SAUDIA is requesting from their guests to abide by a dress code where by they are clothed in a manner that is inline with public taste or not offensive to other passengers.
Turns out that shorts don’t make the cut for being “inline with public taste”—according to Saudia. While the current version of the dress code doesn’t specifically mention shorts, we are able to go back in time thanks to the Internet Archive “Wayback Machine” to find the full version of what the airline finds offensive—at least as of July 2017:
SAUDIA is requesting from their guests to abide by a dress code where by they are not clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers. For example*:
Women exposing legs or arms; or wearing too thin; or too tight clothes.
Men wearing shorts exposing legs.
Note: SAUDIA may refuse to transport passengers, or may remove passengers from the flight at any point for not complying with its dress code. * including but not limited to.
Thankfully Bishop didn’t miss the flight. He was able to buy a sarong at an airport store, which passed the gate agent’s decency requirements, and was allowed to board the flight. On-board, he spoke with flight attendants who recalled “several cases where passengers have not been allowed to fly.” Saudia’s policy for clothing violations is to treat the passenger as if he or she missed the flight entirely; the airline will not re-book the passenger. Instead, the passenger has to buy another ticket. Make sure you stop making these airport mistakes before your next flight.
RELATED: Flight attendants reveal their travel 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."
So, take this as a lesson for even the most frequent flyer: When flying to or through a conservative country, make sure that the airline you’re flying on doesn’t have a dress code. And, it doesn’t hurt to have a change of clothes with you. After all, you never know when checked baggage might be delayed. Next, read about these things you should never, ever do on an airplane.
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