Whether your job has helped you rack up thousands of frequent flyer miles or you just fly on occasion to see the family back home, there are some things you, and many others, may not aware of. There is a lot more to flying than just sitting in hard uncomfortable airport seating while waiting to be herded like cattle through a metal tunnel to your assigned middle seat between a crying baby and a linebacker.
Passengers may not notice what’s going on around them with people jamming luggage into the overheads and challenging those who plopped down in the wrong seat, but amid the chaotic boarding process, every last one of them has already been checked out by the flight attendants. Those smiling faces that welcome flyers on board aren’t just being friendly, they’re checking passengers out to see who looks like they could be trouble. They’re making an assessment based on how someone looks, how they are dressed, and their attitude while entering the plane. They continue keeping a close eye out until the plane is airborne. Whether it’s fair of them to do this doesn’t really matter, they are highly trained to detect when something appears out of sorts, and they do it for a specific reason.
A seasoned flight attendant, Jay Roberts said, “Passengers think we are just greeting them at the door. But they’d be surprised at the number of threats we eliminate at that stage of the flight which would have caused a delay or even harmed their health and safety.”
Stephanie Mikel, a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines made the following statement, “I notice who makes eye contact with me and who doesn’t. More often than not, the ones who don’t make eye contact make me investigate… Are they scared of flying? Are they feeling okay? Are they dealing with a personal issue? These are things people don’t tell you outright, and a facet of my job is making sure everyone is having a comfortable flying experience.”
Mainly, the crew is hoping to identify anyone who may have overdone it at one of the airport’s bars or may appear overly aggressive. Not many are aware that flight attendants are trained in basic Taekwondo techniques to handle any acts of aggression, but they attempt thwarting off having to display their combat skills via early detection.
Flight attendants also keep an eye out for able-bodied passengers who may be able to assist in case of an in-flight emergency. They look for those who appear to be in above average physical shape, are traveling alone, and are wearing street clothes, and they make a mental note of where these people are seated.
A flight attendant with American Airlines had this to say about what she looks for. “When I say hello and a passenger responds back, I notice and think, ‘wow, that person is really nice.’ If I ever needed help with something, I’ll probably ask the nice passenger. And if a passenger ever needs help from me, I’ll probably go above and beyond the call of duty for a nice passenger.” Be nice to your flight attendant and it could get you an extra bag of peanuts.
They are also observant of any passengers who may appear ill when boarding. An in-flight medical emergency can be tough to deal with despite the little-known fact of flight attendants being trained as first responders. This enables them to render basic medical aid if need be, but anything beyond this has them hoping there is a doctor on board.
After a certain point in a woman’s pregnancy, they are not allowed to fly without a doctors certificate clearing them for the flight. There have been cases of women attempting to hide their “baby-bump” under loose clothing, but please be aware, this is yet another thing on the list flight attendants are looking for. On an airplane at 30,000 feet is not a valid entry for a birth certificate.
Some people have a fear of flying so any unusual behavior on their part may just be caused by a bad case of the jitters. It is the job of the flight attendants to determine if this is truly the case or if something else may be wrong. “I ask passengers if everything is alright if I have the feeling something isn’t perfect. Passengers with fear of flying get my special attention: I love to care for them and to make them feel comfortable,” said an experienced flight attendant for a major airline.
Now that you aware of what a flight attendants job really entails and how everything they do is with the safety of passengers in mind, you also may not be aware of some of the things you can ask them for in flight, besides a pillow and a blanket.
All airplanes are equipped with an overstuffed first aid kit. If you happen to be returning home after attending your cousin’s all night bachelor party and a couple of aspirins might relieve your throbbing head, just ask for them. Other over the counter medicines are available also. If you have a nasty cold and don’t wish to contaminate the entire plane with endless sneezing, ask what kind of cold medicine they have on board. They’ll have something to help you out.
Did you finish your yummy airline dinner but it wasn’t enough to fill up an ant and you’re still famished? There are usually extra meals on board so just ask for one. If it’s there, it’s yours. No extra charge.
If you are brave enough to be traveling with a squirming kiddo, ask for a coloring book and crayons or some toys. They have those. Also be sure to request a child-friendly meal. Some airlines will even assist mothers with watching their child while they use the restroom or just want to stand up and stretch their weary bones for a few minutes.
The job of a flight attendant is much more complex than we might imagine. Their number one goal is the safety of all on board, and their comfort.