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8 Things Passengers Do That Flight Attendants Hate

By Rachel Gresh
Read time: 6 minutes

While flying on an airplane, following directions, limiting loud noises, and not making a mess (hopefully) goes without saying. Still, there are plenty of other things passengers do that make flight attendants’ skin crawl — and they might not even realize they’re doing it. Here are some of the most annoying things airline passengers do, according to flight attendants. 

Talking During the Safety Demonstration 

Flight attendant performing safety demonstration on airplane
Credit: ake1150sb/ iStock via Getty Images 

It’s not just that flight attendants want passengers to pay attention during safety demonstrations — the Federal Aviation Administration requires it. You never know when you might need this vital information during an emergency. Wearing headphones is one thing, but flight attendants say it’s incredibly annoying when passengers talk loudly during the safety presentation. Not only is it evident that they aren’t paying attention, but they’re also distracting nearby passengers and possibly preventing them from hearing potentially lifesaving safety information.

Special Requests During Trash Time 

Flight attendant in airplane aisle serving passengers  from beverage cart
Credit: Me 3645 Studio/ Moment via Getty Images 

A simple way to make flight attendants’ lives easier is to let them handle one task at a time. During trash collection, try not to make any extra requests requiring them to return to the galley. This is especially true when asking for drinks or snacks while flight attendants are collecting trash — they can’t write down orders with both hands on the trash bag, so it’s all from memory. As one flight attendant pointed out on Reddit, “How am I going to remember that 6B wants a Coke, 10A wants coffee with three creams, 12F wants a vodka soda, 13F needs headphones, and 20D wants a beer by the time I’ve finished doing trash for 30 rows?” 

Of course, flight attendants are there to assist you, but they’re primarily focused on safety. Any other needs are secondary and should be addressed while they aren’t preoccupied. For example, try not to ring the bell for trash collection (unless you’ve made a big mess and need assistance). Flight attendants come around at least once before the flight is over. 

Invading Their Personal Space

Flight attendant walking down aircraft aisle checking on passengers
Credit: Anchiy/ E+ via Getty Images 

It may seem obvious, but unfortunately, this is one of flight attendants’ most common complaints: Never poke or tap airline staff to get their attention. Instead, politely wait until they’re done with their task. You’d never poke a bus driver, waiter, or retail employee to get their attention, but for some reason, passengers don’t seem to honor personal space on planes, according to many flight attendants on Reddit. Similarly, customers should always respect crew members’ personal space in airports

Not Obeying the Fasten Seatbelt Sign

Airplane passenger fastening seatbelt
Credit: urbazon/ E+ via Getty Images 

When the “fasten seatbelt” sign is on during periods of turbulence, both passengers and flight attendants should be seated. This isn’t a good time to ring the call bell for a drink or to get up and go to the bathroom — you could hurt yourself and others. After all, turbulence accounts for around 75% of annual weather-related incidents on commercial planes. A good rule of thumb: If flight attendants are in their jumpseats, you should be in your seat, too. 

Not Properly Disposing of Diapers 

Mother reading to baby on airplane
Credit: tatyana_tomsickova/ iStock via Getty Images 

Flight attendants work to make you more comfortable while flying with your little ones, but they ask you to extend the same common courtesy to them. Passengers should take used diapers to the lavatory and dispose of them in the trash can, and never try to flush them. And please, don’t hand the diaper to a flight attendant (yes, it happens) or try to put it in any other onboard trash bag aside from the one in the bathroom, because doing so can result in a smelly cabin. The same goes for changing diapers: Always take little ones to the onboard lavatory for that task. You might be surprised at the number of flight attendants who have witnessed parents changing diapers on a seat or tray table.

Swapping Seats

Traveler walking up airplane aisle toward front of cabin
Credit: Dobrila Vignjevic/ E+ via Getty Images

Only move to an empty seat after checking with a flight attendant first. Chances are, that seat is taken, and the passenger with that seat assignment hasn’t boarded yet. Plus, there’s often an extra charge to reserve specific seats, explains one flight attendant, who says their biggest annoyance is “seat problems.” When someone sits in a seat they didn’t reserve or pay for, it “causes a huge delay during boarding because we have to figure out who’s sitting in the wrong seat.” 

Another flight attendant adds that passengers often move to an upgraded seat, and “they get angry when they have to move to the correct seat.” Of course, flight attendants are happy to work with you if you’re separated from your children on a flight, for example, but the best course of action is to determine seating with the gate agent before you board (if you didn’t already pick out your seats during booking).

Poor Lavatory Etiquette

Illuminated lavatory and exit signs on aircraft
Credit: Jackal Pan/ Moment via Getty Images 

If you need to use the lavatory during your flight, always wait until the seatbelt sign is turned off. If you try to use the restroom before the plane takes off, you could delay the flight because everyone needs to be seated while the aircraft is taxiing. “People don’t realize we have to wait for everyone to be seated before we can taxi,” a flight attendant explains on Reddit. 

Many flight attendants have also seen passengers walking to the bathroom in only their socks — or worse, bare feet. This is not only unsanitary, but it also wouldn’t be considered normal behavior anywhere else in public. And remember to lock the lavatory door while you’re in there to avoid any in-flight mishaps and shut it on your way out. Flight attendants spend most of their time near the bathroom during flights, and they say it can get smelly if the door is left open.

Baggage Blunders

Flight attendant stowing passenger's bag in overhead bin
Credit: Hispanolistic/ E+ via Getty Images 

Large carry-ons such as roller bags and duffel bags go in the overhead bins, but smaller items — purses, jackets, hats, and small backpacks — belong on the floor in front of you. This is especially important on fully booked flights or smaller planes where overhead space is limited. Takeoff can be delayed while attendants reorganize overhead bins.

“When the flight is completely sold out, and we know we’re gonna run out of bin space, people will fill the overhead bin with their jackets and purses and small things that could go under the seat in front of them,” a flight attendant explains, adding that people do this even when they are specifically asked to move small items under the seat. For safety reasons, flight attendants aren’t supposed to help you lift your bags, either, so keep that in mind when putting something in the overhead bin.

What Flight Attendants Love: Courteous Customers

Flight attendant directing passengers down airplane aisle
Credit: Caia Image/ Collection Mix: Subjects via Getty Images 

The best gift you can give a flight attendant is simply following their directions. This makes their job easy and keeps things running smoothly. But perhaps the second-best gift you can give them is a smile. Sadly, one of the biggest annoyances of flight attendants is that plenty of passengers don’t say “hello,” “goodbye,” or acknowledge them at all — so sometimes, simply asking how they’re doing goes a long way. Some flight attendants feel extra special if a passenger goes out of their way to give them a small gift, such as candies, a Starbucks gift card, or even a thank-you note. After all, it’s always nice to feel appreciated.

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