NEW YORK.– Since I was Flight attendant Having been in business for 20 years, it’s easy to put my knowledge of tips and tricks who do the traveling more bearable.
After seeing so many passengers miss major events this summer due to airline cancellations and delays, I knew I had to start share this knowledge. Last month, I offered nine tips for surviving today’s trip, and was amazed at the positive response and thousands of comments from readers.
Curious weekly part of Covid-19 with negative numbers
After publication, I invited readers to ask more questions and received hundreds. I know that for some of you my work is strange and mysterious. It was fun to hear what they were asking, from how fresh we looked after really long flights (the dim lighting) to whether you should drink the coffee on the plane (I don’t , but most of my colleagues do).
Then I present my answers to a selection of your questionssome of which have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
-I was recently assigned a seat in an emergency exit once on board. I don’t want to be the responsible person in an emergency. What if a passenger says they don’t want to sit there?
-We want you to express it. Those who sit in this row have a very important task and we must be able to trust the people who sit there. We ask all passengers in the queue if they are willing and able to help in the event of an evacuation, and it is perfectly understandable that they are not. Nothing bad happens; you can change seats free or we ask someone to change seats with you. There is always someone who prefers the emergency exit to have more legroom.
-What would you like all passengers to do on an airplane to make work easier?
-Recognizing ourselves as people and not treating ourselves as if we were part of the furniture on the plane is a big step forward. It is very disheartening to welcome people on board and have them ignore you without responding. Whether they smile and ask for things to please or say thank you always lifts our spirits. It’s hard to maintain that perfect flight attendant smile when everyone’s giving you dirty looks.
-What are the things that passengers do that drive them crazy?
-Don’t touch the stewardesses. It’s a matter of common sense, but somehow they don’t understand it. We don’t like to be pushed, touched or grabbed.
The lack of education in the use of hearing aids is driving me crazy. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to talk to someone who looks me in the eye and doesn’t care enough to pause their movie or take their headphones off. The funny thing is that I usually ask them what they want to eat or drink. I have the courtesy to ask you three times. If I don’t get an answer, I move on to the next passenger. Here’s the worst: About three rows later, this same person beeps their call button and asks why we didn’t give them a drink.
– If you fly when you are not working, do you inform your colleagues? Is there a handshake or secret code? Do they give you special treatment?
-Yes. There is no secret handshake, we just say hello and say where we are seated. We don’t get any special treatment, other than maybe making a new friend or getting a whole can of soda. As a courtesy, we notify the crew in the event of an emergency on board, so they know where to go if they need an extra helping hand.
Do you have any insider tips for parents traveling with young children? I am a single mother and it terrifies me every time I have to take a flight with my almost two year old son.
-First, and most important: your child will feel your nerves. If you are stressed, he will be stressed. Make the flight as exciting as possible for the children in advance. Give them new special clothes for the plane or buy a new book or a box of crayons. Let them use the screens as long as they want. Download and watch new movies or series. Practice using the hearing aids before the flight so you know how they work. Let them bring their own “hand luggage” with new activities for the plane. Give them permission to eat or drink something they aren’t always allowed to, like a cookie, chips, or a little soda. We don’t always have them, but you can ask the crew for plastic wings and let us know if it’s your first flight.
Carry hand luggage as light as possible and check the rest. Pack diapers, a change of clothes, snacks and any medications you need. We also love when they carry car seats. I know they are heavy and difficult to carry but most of the time small children feel more comfortable as it is something they are already familiar with and it elevates them in the seat so they can look out the window. We like them because they are safer. Finally, it doesn’t hurt to let them run out of energy at the airport before your flight.
-Since losing friends in the 9/11 planes, I’ve been terrified of flying. Turbulence and the behavior of other passengers do not help. What do you recommend to calm my nerves?
-There’s nothing I can say to calm your nerves after losing friends that day. We all lost something, but for you it was something personal. It’s much deeper than an irrational fear of flying. We all have anxiety about flying, even if we’re not really afraid. You’re not alone.
Other passengers may add to all this, but the legitimate difficulties with passengers are really few. I also don’t like flying as a passenger; being around people on my day off makes me slightly anxious. So I understand you. When I travel as a passenger, I started bringing noise canceling headphones and my tablet loaded with movies or shows. I start watching something as soon as I sit down and pretend to be in my living room. I am immediately absorbed by my program.
If you are seated next to someone who is causing you anxiety, a crew member may move you if the flight is not full. It’s also perfectly reasonable to ask a gate agent if you can sit near a window or in an aisle before boarding. A glass of wine can also help you relax and enjoy the flight.
-It surprises me that you chose to be on a plane to make a living. Are you ever afraid?
No, I’m not usually scared. But every once in a while, something startles me. I know all the sounds and feels of my plane, and when I hear something wrong, I get nervous. If necessary, I call the pilots and tell them what I heard, and they check.
I’ve always preferred flying to driving. Driving to and from work is the scariest part of my week. I like to be in the sky looking down. The world looks so calm from above! My office window is a welcome respite from a crazy world of traffic and chaos. Try to think about it. Part of our fear of flying is a lack of control: we have to trust two people we don’t know or can’t see. They have gone through a lot of training to earn this responsibility. We take it for granted, but flying is truly a wonder. Try to ignore the rest and enjoy being able to travel somewhere in hours, compared to the weeks or months it would have taken our ancestors.
-What is the main misunderstanding about your work?
-That our work on the plane is related to customer service. In fact, we are here for safety. Prior to World War II, flight attendants were registered nurses. The requirement to be a nurse ended during the war because nurses stopped flying to join the fighting. Now they give us intensive training to learn how to use all the safety equipment on board and where it is on each plane. They train us in basic first aid skills, like CPR. We learn how to evacuate an airplane in 90 seconds or less in the event of an emergency landing or ditching. We also learn how to fight fires, deal with security threats and unruly passengers.
The second biggest misconception is that our work is glamorous. Our days are very long and our nights are short. Sometimes we are so tired that instead of enjoying our long tourist layovers, we spend them in hotel rooms in our pajamas watching movies. However, some nights are amazing. The craziest thing is that one evening I can be sitting by the sea, drinking prosecco with fresh seafood and the next day I can eat a four-day-old sandwich in the kitchenette next to a bathroom while someone does yoga in front of me. Being a flight attendant is much more than a job; It changes your whole lifestyle, but I wouldn’t do anything else.
By Kristie Koerbel