Flight attendant's travel tips will change the way you fly forever

If you want to fly the friendly skies, take advice from the folks who are up in the clouds all the time: Flight attendants. They’ve got the best insider secrets every passenger should know.

Seasoned flight attendants spoke with a variety of publications, such as Business Insider, Men’s Health and Reader’s Digest and revealed some of their most surprising secrets to the public. 

RELATED: This is what your crew member is thinking

22 things your flight attendant won’t tell you
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22 things your flight attendant won’t tell you

1. Want to start off on the wrong foot with me?

Put your carry-on in a full overhead bin, leave it sticking out six inches, then take your seat at the window and wait for someone else (me!) to come along and solve the physics problem you just created. By the way, this is what your flight attendant first notices about you.

2. Yes, passengers are incredibly rude...


..but stealing a beer, cursing out passengers, and jumping out of a plane is not the way to handle it. You disarm an unruly passenger by introducing yourself, asking his name, and saying something like ‘I’ve been incredibly nice to you for three hours. Why are you treating me like this?’ Generally, that gets the other passengers on your side—and sometimes they’ll even applaud.

3. We don't have a boyfriend in every city.

 And our median age these days is 44.

4. An all-too-common scenario?

I hand you a cup of coffee and say, ‘Cream and sugar?’ You say, ‘What?’ I say, ‘Cream and sugar?’ You say, ‘What?’ Come on, people. What do you think we’re going to ask after we’ve handed you coffee? Your favorite color? (But in all honesty, you probably shouldn't order coffee on a plane.)

5. If you’re traveling with a small child and you keep hearing bells, bells, and more bells...

...please look to see if it’s your child playing with the flight attendant call bell. These are the things you should never do on an airplane.

6. The lavatory door is not rocket science.

Just push.

7. If you have a baby, bring diapers.

If you’re diabetic, bring syringes. If you have high blood pressure, don’t forget your medication. That way, I’m not trying to make a diaper out of a sanitary pad and a pillowcase or asking over the intercom if someone has a spare inhaler. Here are some other little flying etiquette rules you know.

8. Just in case you hadn’t noticed, there are other people on the airplane besides you.

So don’t clip your toenails, snore with wild abandon, or do any type of personal business under a blanket!

9. If you’re traveling overseas, do yourself a favor and bring a pen.

You would not believe how many people travel without one, and you need one to fill out the immigration forms. I carry some, but I can’t carry 200. Here are some more tips to know before your next flight.

10. Passengers are always coming up to me and tattling on each other.

‘Can you tell him to put his seat up?’ ‘She won’t share the armrest.’ What am I, a preschool teacher?

11. I hate working flights to destinations like Vail and West Palm Beach.

The passengers all think they’re in first class even if they’re not. They don’t do what we ask. And the overhead bins are full of their mink coats.

12. Do you really have to go to the bathroom right now, while we’re wrestling a 250-pound food cart down the aisle?

 You can’t wait 90 seconds for us to pass?

13. Is it that difficult to say hello and goodbye?

We say it 300 times on every flight, and only about 40 people respond—saying "hello" is really the one word you need to get your flight attendant to like you.

14. Do not poke or grab me

I mean it. No one likes to be poked, but it’s even worse on the plane because you’re sitting down and we’re not, so it’s usually in a very personal area. You would never grab a waitress if you wanted ketchup or a fork, would you?

15. We’re not just being lazy.

Our rules really say we aren’t allowed to lift your luggage into the overhead bin for you, though we can “assist.” Try these tips for packing light when bringing a carry-on.

16. I don’t care if you want to be in the mile-high club, keep your clothes on.

Who decided the mile-high club was something that everyone wants to do anyway? It’s cramped and dirty in those bathrooms.

17. If you hear us paging for a doctor...

 ...or see us running around with oxygen, defibrillators, and first aid kits, that’s not the right time to ask for a blanket or a Diet Coke. Here are some other pet peeves of flight attendants.

18. The only place you are allowed to pee...

 ...on the airplane is in the lavatory. Period.

19. Don’t ask us if it’s OK to use the lavatories on the ground.

 The answer is always yes. Do you think what goes into the toilet just dumps out onto the tarmac?

20. You really expect me to take your soggy Kleenex?

 Or your kid’s fully loaded diaper? I’ll be right back with gloves.

21. Sure, I don’t mind waiting while you scour the seatback pocket

 ...and the floor for candy wrappers and other garbage, then place them in my bag one by one. I only have 150 other passengers to serve.

22. I’m sorry it’s taking forever to get you a wheelchair.

That’s one thing you can’t blame the airline for. The wheelchair service is subcontracted to the cities we fly into, and it’s obviously not a top priority for many of them. Want more insider air travel info? These are the secrets your airplane pilot won't tell you.


One of the biggest shockers was the truth behind cell phones and planes -- it doesn't matter if yourphone is turned off before the plane gets off the ground! 

"Nobody turns off their phones. I don’t, even," said Betty in an interview with Vice.

Passengers aside, even flight attendants are on the phone right up to takeoff, according to an airline worker Men’s Health spoke with.  

To fight the dry cabin air at around 35,000 feet, drink water, shove some moisturizer in your carry-on, bring eye drops and medicated lip balm. And if you're going to bring one drink with you after security, make it ginger ale, since planes often almost run out.

13 secrets only flight attendants know
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13 secrets only flight attendants know

Bottle it 

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.”

Restaurant savvy 

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.

Baggage check

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.

Pack ahead

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.

Pack smart

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.

Can do

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.

Smooth landing

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.


If you didn't know already, never, ever eat directly off the tray table. Flight attendants are witnesses to some horror stories, like people changing diapers and clipping toenails on them.

If you’re traveling overseas, you should bring a pen to fill out the immigration forms. Flight attendants have a few to spare, but not 200! And annoying or rude passengers can have a note placed in their file, which will red-flag them to gate agents on upcoming flights.

You’ve made your bed, now lie in it -- well, that is if your seat reclines more than a few inches.

32 things your airplane pilot won’t tell you
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32 things your airplane pilot won’t tell you

I've been struck by lightning twice

Most pilots have. Airplanes are built to take it. You hear a big boom and see a big flash and that's it. You're not going to fall out of the sky.—Airplane pilot for a regional carrier, Charlotte, North Carolina

You need to stop believing these common myths about airplanes.

You may not be getting the airline you paid for

You may go to an airline website and buy a ticket, pull up to its desk at the curb, and get onto an airplane that has a similar name painted on it, but half the time, you're really on a regional airline. The regionals aren't held to the same safety standards as the majors: Their pilots aren't required to have as much training and experience, and the public doesn't know that.—Captain at a major airline

If you're a nervous flier, book a morning flight 

The heating of the ground later causes bumpier air, and it's much more likely to thunderstorm in the afternoon.—Jerry Johnson, airplane pilot, Los Angeles (You should also follow these air travel tips to make your next flight as smooth as possible.)

The smoothest place to sit is often over or near the wing

The bumpiest place to sit is in the back. A plane is like a seesaw. If you're in the middle, you don't move as much.—Patrick Smith, airplane pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential (By the way, these are the best airplane seats for every type of need.)

The general flow of air in any airplane is from front to back. So if you're really concerned about breathing the freshest possible air or not getting too hot, sit as close to the front as you can. Planes are generally warmest in the back.—Tech pilot at a regional airline, Texas 

People don't understand why they can't use their cell phones

Well, what can happen is 12 people will decide to call someone just before landing, and I can get a false reading on my instruments saying that we are higher than we really are.—Jim Tilmon, retired American Airlines pilot, Phoenix

We don't make you stow your laptop because we're worried about electronic interference. It's about having a projectile on your lap. I don't know about you, but I don't want to get hit in the head by a MacBook going 200 miles per hour. And we're not trying to ruin your fun by making you take off your headphones. We just want you to be able to hear us if there's an emergency.—Patrick Smith

Some FAA rules don't make sense to us either

Like the fact that when we're at 39,000 feet going 400 miles an hour, in a plane that could hit turbulence at any minute, (flight attendants) can walk around and serve hot coffee and Chateaubriand. But when we're on the ground on a flat piece of asphalt going five to ten miles an hour, they've got to be buckled in like they're at NASCAR.—Jack Stephan, US Airways captain based in Annapolis, Maryland, who has been flying since 1984

These are things you can still get for free on an airplane.

It's updrafts, not turbulence, we really worry about

A plane flies into a massive updraft, which you can't see on the radar at night, and it's like hitting a giant speed bump at 500 miles an hour. It throws everything up in the air and then down very violently. That's not the same as turbulence, which bounces everyone around for a while.—John Nance, aviation safety analyst and retired airline captain, Seattle

Pilots find it perplexing that so many people are afraid of turbulence. It's all but impossible for turbulence to cause a crash. We avoid turbulence not because we're afraid the wing is going to fall off but because it's annoying.—Patrick Smith

(Here's what really happens when your plane experiences turbulence.)

Being on time is more important than getting everyone there

The Department of Transportation has put such an emphasis on on-time performance that we pretty much aren't allowed to delay a flight anymore, even if there are 20 people on a connecting flight that's coming in just a little late.—Commercial pilot, Charlotte, North Carolina (That's why airlines use this method to board as fast as possible.)

No, it's not your imagination: Airlines really have adjusted their flight arrival times so they can have a better record of on-time arrivals. So they might say a flight takes two hours when it really takes an hour and 45 minutes.—AirTran Airways captain, Atlanta

I'm constantly under pressure to carry less fuel than I'm comfortable with

Airlines are always looking at the bottom line, and you burn fuel carrying fuel. Sometimes if you carry just enough fuel and you hit thunderstorms or delays, then suddenly you're running out of gas and you have to go to an alternate airport.—Captain at a major airline

You'll never hear, "One of our engines just failed"

What they'll say instead: "One of our engines is indicating improperly." (Or more likely, they'll say nothing, and you'll never know the difference. Most planes fly fine with one engine down.) You'll also never hear, "Well, folks, the visibility out there is zero." Instead they'll say: "There's some fog in the Washington area."

Here's what actually happens when you flush an airplane toilet.

There's no such thing as a water landing

It's called crashing into the ocean.—Airplane pilot, South Carolina (But don't freak out yet—if you end up in a worst-case scenario, here's how to survive a plane crash.)

The truth is, we're exhausted

Our work rules allow us to be on duty 16 hours without a break. That's many more hours than a truck driver. And unlike a truck driver, who can pull over at the next rest stop, we can't pull over at the next cloud.—Captain at a major airline

When you get on that airplane at 7 a.m., you want your pilot to be rested and ready. But the hotels they put us in now are so bad that there are many nights when I toss and turn. They're in bad neighborhoods, they're loud, they've got bedbugs, and there have been stabbings in the parking lot.—Jack Stephan

Sometimes the airline won't give us lunch breaks or even time to eat. We have to delay flights just so we can get food.—First officer on a regional carrier

Most people get sick after traveling not because of what they breathe but because of what they touch

Always assume that the tray table and the button to push the seat back have not been wiped down, though we do wipe down the lavatory.—Patrick Smith (For the healthiest flight, never do these things on a plane.)

It's one thing if the pilot puts the seat belt sign on for the passengers ...

But if he tells the flight attendants to sit down, you'd better listen. That means there's some serious turbulence ahead.—John Greaves

Driving is WAY scarier than flying a plane

People always ask, "What's the scariest thing that's ever happened to you?" I tell them it was a van ride from the Los Angeles airport to the hotel, and I'm not kidding.—Jack Stephan

You probably had no idea these hidden features existed on an airplane.

Most of the time, how you land is a good indicator of a pilot's skill

So if you want to say something nice to a pilot as you're getting off the plane, say "Nice landing." We do appreciate that.—Joe D'Eon, a pilot at a major airline who produces a podcast at flywithjoe.com (Be sure you're awake to see that landing. Here's why it's bad to sleep through an airplane landing.)

The two worst airports for us: Reagan National in Washington, D.C., and John Wayne in Orange County, California

You're flying by the seat of your pants trying to get in and out of those airports. John Wayne is especially bad because the rich folks who live near the airport don't like jet noise, so they have this noise abatement procedure where you basically have to turn the plane into a ballistic missile as soon as you're airborne.—Airplane pilot, South Carolina

At some airports with really short runways, you're not going to have a smooth landing no matter how good we are: John Wayne Airport; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Chicago Midway; and Reagan National.—Joe D'Eon

Remember: Bad weather exists BETWEEN cities, too

This happens all the time: We'll be in Pittsburgh going to Philly, and there will be a weather delay. The weather in Pittsburgh is beautiful. Then I'll hear passengers saying, "You know, I just called my friend in Philly, and it's beautiful there too," like there's some kind of conspiracy or something. But in the airspace between Pittsburgh and Philly there's a huge thunderstorm.—Jack Stephan (If you ever get stranded at an airport due to a weather delay or layover, here are some fun ways to pass the time.)

Is traveling with a baby in your lap safe? No

It's extremely dangerous. If there's any impact or deceleration, there's a good chance you're going to lose hold of your kid, and he becomes a projectile. But the government's logic is that if we made you buy an expensive seat for your baby, you'd just drive, and you're more likely to be injured driving than flying.—Patrick Smith

Passengers: PLEASE be more mindful of yourself and others

Most of you wouldn't consider going down the highway at 60 miles an hour without your seat belt fastened. But when we're hurtling through the air at 500 miles an hour and we turn off the seat belt sign, half of you take your seat belts off. But if we hit a little air pocket, your head will be on the ceiling.—Captain at a major airline

If you're going to recline your seat, for God's sake, please check behind you first. You have no idea how many laptops are broken every year by boorish passengers who slam their seat back with total disregard to what’s going on behind them.—John Nance

Whatever you pay to fly, we pay more

Please don't complain to me about your lost bags or the rotten service or that the airline did this or that. My retirement was taken to help subsidize your $39 airfare.—Pilot, South Carolina (Take an insider look at what it's like to be a pilot.)

I know pilots who spend a quarter million on their education and training, then that first year as a pilot, they qualify for food stamps.—Furloughed first officer, Texas

We miss the peanuts too.—US Airways pilot, South Carolina

We don't wear our hats in the cockpit, by the way 

On TV and in the comics, you always see these pilots with their hats on, and they have their headsets on over the hat, and that always makes us laugh.—Joe D'Eon

There's a good reason for everything we ask you to do

We ask you to put up the window shade so the flight attendants can see outside in an emergency, to assess if one side is better for an evacuation. It also lets light into the cabin if it goes dark and helps passengers get oriented if the plane flips or rolls over.—Patrick Smith

We hear some dumb things

Here's a news flash: We're not sitting in the cockpit listening to the ball game. Sometimes we can ask the controllers to go to their break room to check the score. But when I fly to Pittsburgh on a Sunday afternoon, the passengers send the flight attendants up at least ten times to ask us the Steelers score.—Commercial pilot, Charlotte, North Carolina

I am so tired of hearing "Oh my God, you're a girl pilot." When you see a Black pilot, do you say "Oh my God, you're a Black pilot"?—Pilot for a regional carrier

People tend to think the airplane is just flying itself. Trust me, that's not true. It can fly by itself sometimes. But you've always got your hands on the controls waiting for it to mess up. And it does mess up.—Airplane pilot, South Carolina

Flight attendants get some crazy comments, too. These are their biggest pet peeves.

Those buddy passes they give us?

I give them only to my enemies now. Sure, you can get a $1,000 airfare to Seattle for $100. But since you have to fly standby, it will take you three months to get back because you can't get a seat.—Pilot, South Carolina

Some insider advice

I always tell my kids to travel in sturdy shoes. If you have to evacuate and your flip-flops fall off, there you are standing on the hot tarmac or in the weeds in your bare feet.—Joe D'Eon

Cold on the airplane? Tell your flight attendant. We're in a constant battle with them over the temperature. They're moving all the time, up and down the aisles, so they are always calling and saying, "Turn up the air." But most passengers I know are freezing.—Captain at a major carrier

Here's the truth about airline jobs:

You don't have as much time off as your neighbors think you have, you don't make as much money as your relatives think you make, and you don't have as many girlfriends as your wife thinks you have. Still, I can't believe they pay me to do this.—Commercial pilot, Charlotte, North Carolina

Some airline lingo:

Blue juice: The water in the lavatory toilet. "There's no blue juice in the lav."
Crotch watch: The required check to make sure all passengers have their seat belts fastened. Also: "groin scan."
Crumb crunchers: Kids. "We've got a lot of crumb crunchers on this flight."
Deadheading: When an airline employee flies as a passenger for company business.
Gate lice: The people who gather around the gate right before boarding so they can be first on the plane. "Oh, the gate lice are thick today."
George: Autopilot. I'll let George take over."
Landing lips: Female passengers put on their "landing lips" when they use their lipstick just before landing.
Pax: Passengers.
Spinners: Passengers who get on late and don't have a seat assignment, so they spin around looking for a seat.
Two-for-one special: The plane touches down on landing, bounces up, then touches down again.
Working the village: Working in coach.

You should never do these 18 things on an airplane.

Don't ask for directions

I may be in uniform, but that doesn’t mean I’m the best person to ask for directions in the airport. We’re in so many airports that we usually have no idea. –Pilot for a regional carrier, Charlotte, North Carolina

We sleep in the cockpit

Do pilots sleep in (the cockpit)? Definitely. Sometimes it's just a ten-minute catnap, but it happens.—John Greaves, airline accident lawyer and former airline captain, Los Angeles

We don't dress up for cargo flights

One time I rode in the jump seat of a 747 freighter, which carries cargo, not passengers. As soon as the doors closed, the first officer went in back and put on a bathrobe and slippers. No kidding. He said, ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to wear a tie for a bunch of boxes.’ –Tech pilot at a regional airline, Texas

Don't complain

Remember this before you complain about the cost of a ticket: Fares today are about the same as they were in the 1980s. –Patrick Smith

These are the secrets your flight attendant won't tell you.


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