Flight Attendant Pet Peeves: 6 Ways to be the worst
I rarely gripe about my job because it’s kind of the best thing ever, but often people ask about my worst stories, flight attendant pet peeves, the worst thing someone could do on a plane. The simple answer is it’s different for everybody. Some things that bother my coworkers I could not care less about. And then there are some other little things that bring me to the feeling of Britney that time she shaved her head and umbrella-smashed a window. Since I am just one girl in a big, airplane-filled world, I can only speak to my own experience & opinions. These personal pet peeves are mine alone and are not representative of flight attendants as a whole.
*An important caveat: I love my job, and these things honestly don’t cause me much aggravation. The truth is that the good days and good people far outweigh the bad, but that’s not what you’re here for. So here we go.
Let’s get petty.
Top 6 ways to make my personal flight attendant Sh*t list.
1. Waking other people to ask if they want a drink.
Or snacks. Generally, drinks & snacks are not a now-or-never occurrence. If your neighbor is thirsty when they wake up, they can easily ask me for a drink then. This is especially egregious if it’s a child you’re waking up. If you are the parent, you already know what your child drinks. Order it, get a water, or say no thanks for now. You can always change your mind later—when they’re awake.
Truthfully, I don’t think this is a common flight attendant pet peeve. I don’t know why it bothers me so much. Maybe it’s my own love of sleep or maybe it’s thinking shaking a stranger awake is rude. Either way.
2. Asking if you can go to the bathroom when the seat belt sign is visibly illuminated.
This one, on the other hand, is easily one of the TOP flight attendant pet peeves.
I honestly don’t care if you go to the bathroom and hurt yourself. (Unless you’re a small child, in which case your parent had better be in there, hurting themselves with you.) For adults—Do whatever the heck you want but leave me out of it.
Are teachers are allowed to tell kids not to show up for school? Do nurses tell patients to not take the medicine prescribed? Can news anchors detail a snow emergency on air and then follow up with “But go outside if you feel like it.”?
The answer is no.
I know this is hard to believe, but flight attendants are safety professionals above all else. And even if you’re too skeptical to buy that, you probably know enough about liability to understand that if an airline representative gives you permission to disobey the rules and use the bathroom, any negative outcome you experience would be the fault of that representative, and therefore the airline. Since we operate in the U.S., where people sue one another over the color of a dog’s nails after a pooch-pedicure, the fact is we must think about liability.
If you hurt yourself after I gave you permission to break the rules, you could ostensibly come after the airline for compensation—and I know, if nothing else, your ass is coming for free flights. I SEE YOU. You come after the airline, and then my employer comes to me wondering why I broke literally the number one tenet of employment, which is to follow FAA safety regulations.
Your bathroom break isn’t worth my job. If you need to go while the sign is on, get up and go. But stop trying to drag me into your decisions. And while you’re at it: Please stop telling me about your UTIs and periods and diarrhea. I’m not a doctor.
Use at your own risk.
3. Thinking your wants are more important than everyone else’s
If you’re not experiencing a medical emergency, a good rule of thumb is this: Wait your effing turn.
It’s incredible how many people will stop me walking down the aisle or wave their hands at me to blurt out an order when I’m very clearly assisting another person. The memes about passengers asking for a Coke while Flight Attendants tend to a medical emergency are 100% true. Please try to have some self-awareness to not be that person.
When I’m setting up the beverage cart in the galley, cups piled high and giant water bottles atop, when it could not be more obvious that I’m about to offer drinks to everyone, passengers will still pop out of the lav: “Oh, drinks! Can I have a coffee?”
YA, CHAD, You can. When I stop by everyone’s seat, *including yours*, to offer drinks, at that point you sure can have whatever beverage you’d like.
You know the drinks are coming. So the fact that you’re asking early tells me that you think your thirst is more thirsty than everyone else’s. Your wants trump all of theirs. In fact, you asking for special service in the galley right now is delaying the process of me getting in the aisle to give beverages to everybody else.
You are officially the worst.
Now, are there exceptions to this one?
Yes, there are. If you’re feeling unwell, if you are going to faint from low blood sugar, something along those lines, of course ask for what you need. But *most* of the time, for run-of-the-mill service items like drinks and snacks, you should probably just take a chill pill and wait.
And on the subject of taking pills: There are water fountains all over the airport, and you are allowed to bring your own bottle. If it is really medically necessary for you to “take a pill” you may want to consider taking some responsibility for your health and ensuring you have what you need before you board. Also, I will give water whenever I can, no matter the reason, so you don’t have to lie to me about taking a pill. I just don’t care that much.
Stay hydrated, Karen.
Please stop telling me about your UTIs and periods and diarrhea.
I’m not a doctor.
4. Ignoring me.
Oh, hey Mr. & Mrs. Important. Looks like you’ve chosen to fly amongst the general public today instead of on your chartered private jet. Well, here’s the way things work around here in Economy-ville: I offer you drinks and snacks and sometimes other merchandise. You may accept or decline these items. What is not permitted is blank-staring me like I’m some kind of mythical creature from Narnia or failing to acknowledge my presence altogether. That, friends, is what we call “rude”.
Let me just emphasize that I do not care what you eat or drink. At all. I certainly will not take it personally if you decline my goodies. But kindly look up at my face and say it so that I can move on to the next person in a timely manner. A simple “no thanks” will suffice in any situation in which you are declining a good or service.
Beyond being a flight attendant pet peeve, this is really just common courtesy.
Do you ignore the waiter standing at your table, asking you if you want a drink?
Here’s a bit of shocking news: You may think I’m here to pick up your trash, to serve you, and to lift your bags, but I’m actually here for your safety. And while I’m not a waitress and I’m not a garbage collector and I’m not a personal assistant, I do have something in common with the people in all of these professions: They’re people.
Please do me a favor and treat me with basic mutual respect. You know, like a fellow adult human. While you’re at it, consider extending that courtesy to other service professionals.
This ignoring move is especially problematic during the exit row briefing. And since the FAA doesn’t care how many times you’ve sat in the seat and heard the spiel, I guess I don’t either. I ask for your attention nicely and it takes under 60 seconds for me to explain the exit row responsibilities. Look up from your phone (Let’s be real, they’re probably not going to text you back in the next minute, if at all.), pay attention for UNDER ONE MINUTE, and say “yes.”
It’s not rocket science, but you would be amazed at the amount of defiance that can rear its head during this very brief portion of the flight. The bottom line is if you can’t handle a simple act like listening and saying “yes” then I certainly don’t trust you to be listening to evacuation commands and assisting. Off to a new seat you go, jerk.
If I'm standing before you and my lips are moving, chances are I'm talking to you.
5. Having zero awareness of your surroundings.
Repeating the same sentence 1000000 times is my favorite game.
Listen, I know there are a lot of rules and I know there are a lot of options and I know it is tough to remember sometimes what you are supposed to be doing. And this pet peeve is not about forgetting to put your bag under the seat in front of you or forgetting to buckle up or forgetting the drink and snack options available to you. This is about you forgetting these things after I have just reminded the person sitting next to you. And the person directly in front of you. And the person next to them. And the person sitting directly in front of them.
I know, my sentences are so annoying and repetitive, right?
Just a tiny bit of awareness of your surroundings goes so, so far. I get that we are all glued to our screens, oblivious to what else is happening in the world. But try to keep a sliver of your hearing and awareness available, not only to save my poor voice from stating the same thing 75 times in a row, but for your safety. I want all of us to get out quickly and safely in the event of an emergency, and if you’re too distracted by Tik-tok to realize the plane’s on fire that is bad for everyone.
Another tip to save my poor aching vocal cords, and to grant you a sense of thrilling independence, is to check out the menu card in your seatback pocket. Here, you can find out which items are offered for sale and for free, what your beverage and snack options are, how to connect to the wi-fi and information about onboard entertainment. Consider it your own personal guide to today’s flight.
Imagine the joy—the pure liberation—in knowing your snack and beverage options before I arrive at your seat to offer them. It’s almost too much autonomy to handle, but I think if anyone can do it, you can. Thank me later.
Then she leaves you on read...
6. Waiting until everybody else is off the airplane to begin gathering your belongings,
and (here is where the parents will hate me) dressing your child.
Let’s just get this out of the way: No, I do not have children. And I’m not in any way giving suggestions on parenting. I do, however, know a shit ton about getting off of an airplane. And this is one of the biggest flight attendant pet peeves of all.
The thing is, as long as that flight felt for you (as you told me during your three yoga sessions, stretching in my workspace) I probably flew another flight before that one. Maybe even two. The end of the workday is as awesome for me as yours is for you, and I want to go home. I also am not getting paid to hang out with you anymore once that door opens. So it kind of changes our relationship. If you know your family or party needs a bit more time to get ready, that is OK. But start getting yourselves ready sooner, rather than later to counteract it. There may be nothing that sets a flight attendant’s blood a-boil more than standing around, ready to go, on an otherwise empty plane, while the person in the last row is just starting to wake their child.
I get it, honestly. The kid is gonna cry, and you’re trying to minimize discomfort. I know you’ve got a lot of stuff and it takes a while. Let’s start the process maybe when 75% of the other passengers are gone, instead of when I’m supposed to be in my car driving home.
Just like you sometimes are worried about catching a connecting flight, missing a scheduled bus, making your ride wait, or your cruise ship departing without you, we are too. (Well, not the cruise ship thing, because a flight attendant knows better than to travel day-of for a cruise.) But the point is, what seems like a few extra minutes to you could cost someone else their ride or flight home—for the night.
If you need that extra time or want to wait until the last moment to wake your sleeping child, I say go for it, but please be mindful and proactive. Do what you can. Put your own coat on, pack up all the other items, and do this during, and not after, deplaning.
Win-winning is the name of my game.
``You don't have to go home, but...``
So, there it is. My list of flight attendant pet peeves. In a nutshell, they’re all just golden-rule universal standards. They can be translated to any industry because they’re about basic human decency, concern for others, being mindful, and treating people how you would prefer to be treated. And if we can’t all get on board with these principles, you should consider that private jet life.
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Share in the shade! Leave a comment below with your biggest air travel pet peeves. And other service industry professionals—I’d love to hear the best pet peeves from your job!
As always, thanks for stopping by!