They greet you with a smile, serve you drinks and some seriously questionable food while taking care of all your little in-flight problems. But there’s a lot more to the average flight attendant than meets the eye.
From some rather fruity in-flight slang to the tricks they use to look good even after the most gruelling of long-haul flights – just don’t call them trolley dollies!
1. They only get paid when they plane doors are closed
Despite all the hard work at check in and helping to cram those oversize bags into the overhead lockers, flight attendants only officially clock on when the doors are closed.
Even if the flight is delayed or cancelled they will only be receiving a minimal expense allowance, (about $2 an hour) so bear that in mind the next time you feel like venting your fury on an attendant when you’re left waiting at the gate for a few extra minutes.
2. They have some rather unflattering nicknames
These include ‘Baby Jesus’ for those badly-behaved infants whose parents do nothing to control and ‘Crotch Watch’ for the walk down the cabin to check everybody’s seatbelts are fastened.
However most disturbing of all is ‘Crop Dusting’ for when an attendant just can’t keep their gas in any longer and takes an innocent-looking stroll down the isle to distribute it evenly throughout the cabin.
3. They still must be of a certain height and size
In the golden years of the jet age sexism in the skies was taken for granted.
Attendants were always female and had to be lean, leggy and gorgeous. Pan Am notoriously specified attendants must be unmarried, a minimum of 5ft 2ins, weigh no more than 130 pounds and have no children.
If that wasn’t outrageous enough they also had to retire at the age of 32.
Fortunately thanks to the women’s rights campaigners of the seventies those days are long gone but in the interests of safety flight attendants must still conform to height and weight restrictions.
They need to be able to fit in the jump seats for starters and while they must be tall enough to reach the overhead head lockers, they can’t be too tall otherwise they will bump their heads on the ceiling.
According to one poster, apparently recruiting cabin crew in Thailand, AirAsia requires air stewards to be aged between 20 and 28, university educated and with a minimum height of 5 ft 3 inches.
4. Mile High hi-jinks
We’re not necessarily suggesting you should try, especially on short-haul budget airline flights, but it may come as a surprise for many to learn that it is not against the law to join the mile high club.
However it is illegal for a passenger to disobey the commands of a flight attendant demanding you open the door and let other passengers go to the toilet.
And don’t fool yourself for one moment that you are being discreet – the flight attendants have seen it all before and will know exactly what you are up to.
So if you are really that determined to indulge in mid-air bonk just make it quick and please, for the love of God, remember to clean up afterwards.
And just in case you didn’t know, those airline lavatory doors can be opened from the outside too.
5. They really can fight
They may be there to serve you drinks and food but don’t even think about messing with a flight attendant.
Attendants, both male and female, are now required to undergo self-defence training in which they practise sparring with each other as well as kicking and punching dummies.
This is so they are prepared to deal with serious security threats such as if someone tries to rush into the cockpit and take over the plane.
6. They are helping to stamp out human trafficking
Flight attendants work alongside law enforcement agents to help spot and rescue victims of human trafficking.
In the US, attendants are trained by the Department of Home Security to recognise signs of when a person is being trafficked.
These include when an adult doesn’t know the name of a child he or she is accompanying or if a group of young women who don’t speak English are being escorted by a single person.
Now a new app has been launched that instantly tips off the authorities when airline staff suspect someone is being trafficked. The app even allows attendants to upload video of a suspect to use as evidence.
7. Those headphones that come wrapped up are actually far from new
They may look factory fresh by those neatly-wrapped headsets you find waiting for you on your seat are actually far from new.
At the end of each flight the headsets are collected, given a quick dust and clean before simply being re-packaged for the next flight.
A brand new headset for every single passenger would add up to many millions of dollars over the years and the bottom line for any airline is making money.
8. You can’t use electronic devices but they do
While passengers are ordered to turn off all electronic devices for the duration of a flight the same rules don’t appear to apply to attendants.
When they are safely hidden from view one of the first things many attendants reportedly do is dig out their mobiles to fire off a few texts.
But if you happen to catch them in the act – don’t worry a mobile phone is not capable of bringing down a flight – the worst they can do is cause minor radio interference which can be annoying to the pilots.
9. They’re all beauty experts
They’ve worked their way through a gruelling long-haul flight but when it comes to say goodbye they somehow look as fresh as daisies.
On some airlines, flight attendants are given on-the-job beauty training where they are taught the beauty tricks of the trade.
On Virgin Airlines these include drinking at least at least one litre of water before, during and after a flight, exfoliating the night before a flight, having eyelashes tinted to give then colour, length and volume, using a hydrating facial spray and applying lip balm to cuticles to keep nails hydrated.
10. They have to deal with some pretty crazy requests
As well as the infuriating passengers who insist on repeatedly pressing the overhead flight attendant button throughout the flight, attendants regularly have to deal with some ridiculous questions.
A recent survey of Virgin Atlantic cabin crew revealed the following questions:
Please can I have a cup of tea and book a massage for my Barbie doll?
Can you take my children to the playroom?
Please could you fix my hair?
I have dropped my glass eye, please could you help me find it?
Could you turn the engines down because they are too noisy?
Is there a McDonald’s onboard?
Please can the captain stop the turbulence?
- Daily Mail