… and other frequently asked flight attendant questions!
Bartenders, musicians, teachers, astronauts, and flight attendants… what’s one thing we all have in common? No one seems to have any idea what we actually do! If you spent the day following a flight attendant around at work, you’d quickly learn why we feel it is one of the most misunderstood gigs in the world. People are constantly asking questions about things that have become second nature to us, so forgive us when we get a little sassy with our responses. We compiled several questions that are most commonly asked by passengers on board the aircraft. We’re here to clear the air!
What is your regular route?
This isn’t a thing. We are not assigned a specific route like the movie “View From The Top” might have you believe. Thanks, Gwyneth. While some flight attendants do prefer to fly the same routes over and over, others prefer variety and will fly a mixture of different types of trips and routes. Plus, seniority plays a huge role. When you first start flying, you barely get a say in where you go and when you go. It’s not until later in our careers that we can even hold specific routes. It certainly keeps the job interesting!
Is this a full flight?
We’ll let you know as soon as we’re airborne! All jokes aside, we may have this information but we might not disclose it to passengers right away. There could always be last minute changes due to cancellations, overbooking, or even weight and balance requirements for our airplane. If you are looking to move to a different seat, we’ll do our best to let you know if that is a possibility, just keep in mind that every airline has different policies and procedures about changing seats so it may not be an option!
What’s your schedule like?
Chaotic and confusing to the untrained eye! Very few flight attendants like to stick to a Monday-Friday type of work week so it’s easier to think of our schedules by month, since that is how we bid. No two weeks or weekends look alike for us! The average flight attendant has probably somewhere between 12-20 days off a month. Some people fly one day trips so that they’re home every night while others are gone anywhere from 2-6 or more days in a row. Again, it’s all about variety and every flight attendant you meet will likely have a very different schedule!
What’s your favorite place you’ve been?
It’s a tie between Greece… and my bed! To be honest, we spend so many days on the road sometimes all we really want to do is go home! With that being said, we are fortunate to see some of the most beautiful destinations in the world. It can be nearly impossible to choose just one!
Do you have to pay for your own hotels and transportation?
Of course not! We get this question a lot but as with anyone that travels for business, the company coordinates and covers all of our transportation and lodging expenses. Would you be a flight attendant if you had to pay for your own hotel? No, thanks!
What are we flying over?
I have absolutely no idea. Rarely do flight attendants have the answer to this question. We’re either busy tending to passengers or simply don’t know enough about the flight plan to provide that information. If you’re nice, though, and the pilots don’t seem too busy – we might just be able to go find out for you!
Can you get me, like, free flights or something?
The short answer? No.
The long answer? Still no. Just kidding, kind of. It’s no secret that flight attendants have what is called “buddy passes.” These buddy passes are non-revenue standby tickets that are sometimes (but not always) cheaper than a regular confirmed fare. Each airline employee is only allowed to give out a specific number of passes, depending on the company. Your priority for standby on a buddy pass is pretty low and flights are so full nowadays that these are almost never worth it. You’re probably better off buying a confirmed ticket. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the risk of not getting on at all. You may be thinking to yourself, “Hmm… my sister’s college roommate’s cousin is a flight attendant. I should hit her up on Facebook for a buddy pass.” Well, don’t. We can assure you that trying this will most likely not end well for you.
Can you turn that noise down?
If you’re referring to the engines or the air whirling around our aircraft at 500mph… we’re going to stop you right there. Airplanes can be quite noisy! There isn’t much we can do about that without putting our safety in jeopardy, so we recommend packing earplugs or some noise-cancelling headphones!
Do you all live together in a house?
Not exactly. This isn’t the Real World. And if it was, it would probably never air because flight attendants are a thousand times crazier than the people on that show. What you might be thinking of, however, is a little something called a crashpad. Airlines only operate crew bases in specific cities based on their route network. If you don’t live in one of those cities, some flight attendants and pilots choose to “commute” to work via airplane. While this may sound absurd to a non-airline person, it’s quite common! Some flight attendants and pilots even commute from other countries! Imagine flying from Paris to New York any time you had to go to work? It’s totally casual. Since getting a place of your own in your base can be expensive and unnecessary, flight attendants and pilots opt to stay in a house together with other crew members to crash for a few nights a month before they go to work. It can be a little hectic, but it’s far more cost-effective. Crashpads aren’t specific to the airline industry, either – think travel nurses or corporate housing! Anyone who works in a city other than the one they call home typically has some sort of alternate housing set up.
Can you call ahead to my connecting flight and tell them I’m coming?
They don’t trust us with cash, you think they trust us with a satellite phone? In all seriousness, flight attendants don’t have that kind of power, but they already know you’re coming, trust us! With technology these days, the folks working your connecting flight have all of your information and know you’re on your way! The silver lining is that if you miss your flight, they will automatically rebook you on the next available flight! Life is a journey. Enjoy it.
What is the craziest thing a passenger has ever done?
Every flight attendant has their own story for this one so keep asking, but until you see a flight attendant in person next, we’ll go ahead and share ours:
Rich: I was doing a cabin walk-through on a late flight that was pretty much wide open, everyone was spread out and had their own rows. It was quite nice. The seatbelt sign had come on and the Captain had told us it would be getting pretty bumpy so to go ahead and sit down. A passenger waved me down while I was walking through and asked to go to the restroom. I kindly informed him, “The Captain asked everyone to stay seated, including the flight attendants, because we’re about to hit a rough patch of turbulence.” He didn’t seem happy, but I kept walking. About 20 minutes later, I went to walk through again and noticed a smell. It wreaked of feces. I get to the same row that gentlemen was in and asked if he was okay, but before he could respond, I gasped. There was literally a piece of shit on the floor next to his seat. I said, in as professional of a tone as I could muster up at this point, “Sir, what exactly is going on here?” His response? “You told me I couldn’t get up and I needed to take a dump. So here we are.” Needless to say, he didn’t enjoy talking to the authorities when we landed, but you can’t just go around pooping in public.
Andrew: I was working as a flight attendant in the back of the airplane and one of my duties was to confirm the amount of passengers on board. The flight attendant up front called back to confirm that I had the same number that was listed on the paperwork, which included an infant. As I was walking through the cabin, I didn’t notice any babies on board. We notified the gate agent and then went to double check with the passenger who supposedly had an infant with her. Her response was, “You asked us to stow everything in an overhead bin.” When I opened the compartment above her seat, I found a mound of blankets and toys and sure enough, there she was – the baby in a bin. Somehow, the mother couldn’t seem to understand why babies aren’t allowed in the overhead bin. Don’t worry though, we had a nice long conversation with her about why babies and suitcases cannot be stowed in the same way.
Do you turn around and go right back or do you get to stay a while?
Depends on the type of trip and the type of flight. If we’re flying from Philadelphia to Athens, do you really think we “Turn around and come right back?” Of course we stay there! It’s usually only for a day or so, but we can’t really work back-to-back 10ish hour flights without a nap! Our layovers vary anywhere between 10 hours and a few days! It just depends on the airline’s operational need and how far we’re traveling. Now, if we’re flying from New York to Washington, DC, sure – go ahead and ask how many flights we’ve done today. It’s probably a lot!
Have you ever joined the mile-high club?
Uh, as flight attendants, we’ve seen the way those lavatories are cleaned so it’s not even something we’d consider honestly. Also, do you go around and ask people if they have sex at work, or is it just crew? This doesn’t occur nearly as much as you think it does and it is far too romanticized in the movies. Spare yourself the hassle and embarrassment and save it for the hotel!
What is a reserve?
Like many other industries, airline’s have employees on-call. While each airline operates their scheduling systems differently, they all have what is called reserve flight attendants. Reserve schedules can be confusing, but it’s more straightforward than you might think. Reserve flight attendants know which days of the month they are working and which days they are not. The catch is that they don’t know where they might be traveling to or if they’ll be traveling at all. If someone calls in sick, their car breaks down, or the airline adds a new flight last minute for some reason, crew scheduling will call in a reserve to work the flight. If the company has no need for the reserve, then they continue to remain on call at home. Typically reserves have a limited amount of time to get to the airport in order to help keep the flight running as close to on time as possible. Whether the reserve works or not, they still get paid a guaranteed number of hours. Every airline’s reserve system operates differently. A lot of this applies for pilots, too!
Why were you late for work?
We weren’t! Delays happen often in the airline industry. It’s just the nature of the game. Despite what announcement you may or may not have heard, the crew was likely not “late” and if they were, it typically was out of their control. Chances are, someone called out sick or didn’t make it to work last minute because of something like a broken-down car, and a flight attendant has to be called in quickly. That flight attendant is called a reserve and is usually sitting either somewhere in the airport or within a couple hours driving distance. Or, we could be working multiple flights in a day – one right after the other – and we started off with a delay for some reason now causing the rest of the day to be off schedule. Another scenario could be that the day prior to a crew’s flight was so delayed that they needed extra rest. Our rest is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration and there are requirements set for flight attendants and pilots. We need to be as alert as possible in order to operate on board the aircraft in case of an emergency. They’ll get there as soon as they can, but none of this is their fault, so at least be nice to them! They’re really just saving the day!
Do you get to travel a lot?
Believe it or not, we’ve answered this question more times than we care to count. Yes, of course we travel a lot, and no, we don’t think you fly more than we do!
Do you think you’ll ever get a real job?
Not sure what you’re implying here, but being a flight attendant IS a real job! We get to see the world for little to no money. On occasion, we get to fly in First Class without actually having to pay for it. We can take up to three weeks a month off without having a scheduled vacation or losing any pay. We have some of the most amazing coworkers that make feel like family. Many flight attendants have master’s degrees or doctorate degrees, run their own companies, practice law, work as nurses full-time, and so much more! People from all walks of life take to the sky everyday because they have a passion for aviation. It’s the greatest career in the world and is very much a “real job.” Now, if by getting a “real job” you mean being chained to a desk for forty hours a week… we’ll pass!
When all is said and done, the people that need to read these answers the most may never see them, and keep asking these questions, but we’re doing our part to spread the word about this weird, quirky, fun world that we call being a flight attendant! So do us a favor, and go share this article and tell all of your infrequent flyer friends what they need to know! Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to remind the frequent flyers, either.
Special Thanks to our friend Kelly Kincaid, creator of Jetlagged Comic, for allowing us to feature her work in this post! If you aren’t familiar with Jetlagged Comic, check out the Facebook page or visit them online at www.jetlaggedcomic.com!
Kelly Kincaid creates and produces original artwork, please share her work and support her business as a patron on Patreon! Every little bit helps her to continue creating the cartoons that make us all laugh so much each and every day!