You think you are so cool – – the perfect flyer.
You don’t overstuff that overhead bin with your entire kitchen sink. You are prepared and ready to order your 3 ounces of watered-down Coke the moment the drink cart gets to your row. Heck, you even yield the armrest to the poor sap sitting in the middle seat.
But did you ever stop to think about what flight attendants REALLY think of you?
CNBC recently asked a few flight attendants that very question. You might be surprised by what annoys them.
Flying can be quite miserable.
Packing the night before, a sleepless night with a 4am wakeup call so that the Uber you order will get you to the airport on time, checking your bag and praying that yours isn’t the one the airline loses, passing through security hoping you’re not randomly selected for a mindless search.
But finally, you make it to the gate, which means the hard part is over right? Not so fast.
Next you’re faced dealing with the ever-irritating way your fellow passengers board the flight, like they’ve never stood in a single-file line before.
Then you’re on the jetway waiting to board the plane, praying you’re not seated next to a full-on case of the flu.
All that stress. All that worrying. It’s exhausting.
And you endure this tedious and painfully annoying process just to ride a giant tube in the sky.
Then finally, as you pass through the tiny airplane door, you get a pleasant greeting from a flight attendant or two, who may make amiable small talk while you wait patiently for people to figure out which seat is, indeed, their seat.
Sometimes harshly referred to as “glorified waitresses,” you’ll find a sweeping spectrum of all kinds of flight attendant personalities—from the bubbly spry to the unbearably miserable misanthropes.
Let’s be honest though, passengers’ range is at least that broad of a spectrum.
But has it ever crossed your mind what flight attendants think about lil ‘ole you?
Are you polite and responsive?
Drunk? Drugged up? Rude? Sick? Angry? Afraid?
The reality is that you’re labeled almost immediately when you step onto that plane, as if flight attendants strategically stand there as you board for that exact purpose. Imagine a complex and completely self-objective algorithm to gauge whether you’ll be a disruptive threat post-take off.
You may not realize it, but you’re probably irritating the heck out of them in some way unknowing way during your flight.
So here are some answers from a few anonymous flight attendants who were queried by CNBC about what they really think of you:
Question: What annoys you most about your job?
Answer: When passengers don’t pay attention to us during the safety demo, it’s both annoying and insulting. We know people fly a lot, but planes vary. When you have a newspaper in front of your face, it signals that you do not think this is important. Also, when passengers wear headphones while we’re asking you what you want to drink and we have to repeat the question. Plus, if you keep them on, you end up screaming at us without realizing it. And you’d be shocked at how many people barely even look at me when I’m serving them. Did their parents not teach them to say please and thank you? And it never ceases to amaze me the number of passengers that prop their feet up on the bulkhead as if it were their ottoman at home. Your scuffed shoe marks and dirt from your shoes remain after you deplane. Oh, and why would people ever think it’s OK to cut their fingernails or toenails on board an airplane?
Q: What can passengers do to make the boarding process faster?
A: One of the biggest irritations for us is watching people reorganize their bag when they get to their row. We’re constantly reminding people to step into the row so that other people can board but it falls on deaf ears. Then there are the people that place their small backpack or jacket in the overhead bin, taking up valuable space. People rarely think about their fellow passengers, which often results in gate-checked bags. And please place your wheeled carryon bag with the handle first, not sideways.
Q: What complaints do you hear from passengers about annoying things other passengers do?
A: Oh we hear it all, from smelly people to talkative passengers who think everyone wants to hear every word they say. Passengers sometimes ask to move seats because their seatmate is overly talkative. Almost every flight has someone who thinks everyone on board is there to be a part of his or her personal talk show.
Q: Do you treat customers differently if they are dressed nicely?
A: I don’t make a concerted effort to treat them differently, but instinctively I find myself serving them in a more respectful manner. You just know that the well-dressed passenger probably paid more for his ticket than the flip-flop-and-shorts-wearing flyer. Courtesy is important to all passengers, but our airline would not be flying were it not for the premium travelers who subsidize the leisure travelers’ low fares. And if I have to upgrade someone, either just before takeoff or once we’re airborne, everything else being equal (frequent flier status, etc.) of course I’m going to choose the well-dressed passenger over the one who’s dressed in a tank top.
You have to consider that the necessary journey of air travel is fraught with inherent dangers that flight attendants are specifically trained to identify and diffuse.
The best thing any of us can do is just be kind. The smallest polite gesture can go a long way – – especially since we’re all in this together, and for just a short period of time.
So swallow your frustrations until your head hits the pillow at your destination – – then scream into that.