Ask a Flight Attendant

George Hobica, October 27, 2011
Fares from Washington DC:

    Airfarewatchdog.com staff

    We've been flying around the world asking flight attendants about their jobs. Here's our latest installment...

    What complaints do you hear from passengers about annoying things other passengers do?

    Oh we hear it all! From smelly people to talkative passengers who think everyone wants to hear every word they say. In fact, our nonstop flight to Delhi is known amongst crew as the Smelly Delhi route as the plane is quite malodorous. Our schedulers even try to keep the same aircraft flying that route back and forth if possible so as not to inconvenience passengers on other routes. While the route is worth a lot of hours, it often ends up being a rather junior crew due to the special fragrance.

    We often hear from passengers asking to move seats because their seatmate is overly talkative. While we truly try to find them another seat, sometimes the plane is full. Almost every flight has some passenger that thinks everyone on board is there to be a part of their personal talk show. Some people just cannot take a hint! Inevitably, that same annoying seatmate of yours will end up in the galley trying to chat the crew up for hours too. I guess we can all take pleasure in knowing we don't have to spend our whole lives with these people. Surely, someone does!

    Is there a passenger request that irritates you the most?

    Oh yeah. On short flights, when someone asks for a complicated drink. It amazes me how passengers have no comprehension or even respect at how when we have 10 minutes to serve 16 people in first class that a complicated mixed drink with three special requests really complicates our ability to serve the rest of the passengers. We are more than happy to serve fancy drinks, but on short flights, have some respect for your fellow passengers! Sometimes our carts only have certain things in them, and we have to go to the back to get mixers. A Bloody Mary with a lime, extra pepper, no ice, and a splash of tomato juice and olive juice is just not feasible within a short window of time in a cramped galley.

    Returning a meal in business or first class that is not to your liking is understandable. However, passengers sometimes do not realize that we have a limited availability of certain items on board. Once we set a tray down in front of you, we cannot serve it to someone else. So, that meal goes wasted. It's not like we have an endless supply of food up there. Traveling in a premium cabin is expensive, but some people do not realize that returning meals three times is disrespectful to other passengers on board who may want to try that dish when the cart eventually reaches them.

    What's with the surly attitude of many flight attendants?

    While most of us try our best to be friendly to our customers, there are a few bad apples in the bunch. Believe me, we can tell when we are working with a sour puss on our flights. While it's not acceptable to be rude, many people fail to realize we may have been flying all day. Some crews may fly three or four short flights in a day. The hardest part of the flight for us is boarding the aircraft. We will happily schlep a beverage cart up and down the aisle all day, but boarding passengers with oversized carryon bags and smelly containers of fast food is tiring. It's really one of the most frustrating parts of the job.

    Our airline does not pay us enough to be extra nice to each person. If management wants us to treat passengers like customers, then they should treat us like valued employees.

    In Asia, our competition includes major airlines like Singapore and Thai so we have to truly go above and beyond to impress our passengers. We, as flight attendants, know that people have many choices these days, and low-fare carriers are on our tail. It's very important that we go above and beyond especially in specific markets (but, ideally on all flights) to please customers.

    Part of the problem these days is that major U.S. carriers have contracted out much of the domestic flying to regional carriers. These are independent airlines that operate under the major airline's brand. The customer perceives this as a flight by the major airline despite the smaller airline's crews operating the flight. They are supposed to follow the larger airline's service standards and procedures, but the crews are often very young or not as experienced. It translates negatively towards our brand image and leaves a bad impression with customers.

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