How to Make a Flight Attendant Love You

4.24.2013

My first job was in an ice cream parlor. I worked at Gap for a while and folded more jeans than I'd ever care to for the rest of my life. I worked at a Starbucks in an affluent neighborhood where people asked for two-thirds decaf triple venti sugar-free-vanilla half-breve half-whole milk 1 splenda no-foam extra hot lattes. I eventually transferred to a store with a drive-thru, and then transitioned into a couple of office jobs answering a million phone calls before landing this AIR WAITRESS job.

All of that to say, I know customer service and I know how hard it can be. It's made me sensitive to how I treat the people that serve me. It really matters to let them know you appreciate what they do. I've experienced the broad spectrum of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to customers.

I've had this opportunity for two years now to welcome people onto an airplane, and lift their spirits. I want them to feel safe, and to know that if anything should happen that I would do everything in my power to get them off the plane. At any given moment we have to be rule followers, nurses, therapists, trash collectors, waitresses, hostesses, and airplane evacuators. I'm happy to do it, because I love people and I want it to be a positive experience.


I will be the first to agree that there are plenty of flight attendants that are militant trolls. They are a rare breed. WE ARE NOT ALL LIKE THAT. Please, let me be the bridge between passengers and flight attendants. I AM TRYING TO BE THE BRIDGE.

Sometimes we'll fly up to four flights in a day. We don't get off the plane. Sometimes the day seems to be coming to a close, but crew scheduling re-routes the crew at the last minute and adds another flight to the day (that just happened to me yesterday). We don't get paid until the boarding door is closed, and ANY flight attendant would tell you that the worst part of the whole flight is boarding.

Since I really can't remember what type of passenger I was, I started thinking about the passengers that make my day. I thought it would be fun to ask some of my other friends/co-workers what made their day better.


DO THESE THINGS, AND YOU MIGHT GET A FREE DRINK.

Without further ado, here's what my co-workers want everyone to know about the passengers they LOVE.

+ COURTESY. The first things my friends told me was how much it meant to them when someone said hello and asked how they were doing. Make eye contact. Take your headphones out and engage with them when they are serving or helping you.

+ OVERHEAD BIN ETIQUETTE. If you can't lift your bag over your head and stow it, check it to your final destination. Flight attendants are not responsible for lifting anyone's bag. That's not something we made up, it's what we're taught in training. Even twisting a bag in the wrong way can wreak havoc on the body. It's aaaactually not in our job description. One of my friends moved someone's bag and then was out on OJI for three months because it did so much damage to her neck. Put your coat on top of your own suitcase, or hold onto it until the end of boarding and ask for one of us to stow it for you. Another passenger boarding after you might not have space for their own bag because the bins look full.

+ HYGIENE. PLEASE DO NOT CLIP YOUR TOENAILS ON THE PLANE, hide a slice of cheese in the safety information card, go into the lavatory barefoot, or take out your teeth and put them on your seat while you leave and go to the bathroom. (All of those things have actually happened). I'm tempted to add that I'd love to not have to walk through people's silently lethal farts, but I understand that beggars can't be choosers.

+ ANNOUNCEMENTS. Listen to them. I know it's hard, because there is a lot going on. I totally get that. They do exist for a reason, though. You'll find out how long the flight is, when you need to turn off your electronics, and other helpful info that ensures a timely departure. I think this is one of the most frustrating for me. It's hard to say the same thing over and over and over and people still completely ignore you.

+ JUST TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. You're right, your iPhone is not going to make the plane crash. We know your iPhone is not going to make the plane crash. I am sure there is much evidence to prove that. I just know that the FAA still considers it a rule and I can be personally fined if I don't say it.  I truly don't care if you want to hide it from me, I just ask that you have the decency to not think me a complete idiot when I walk by and you say it's off while you're playing Temple Run.

THE HOLY GRAIL OF KINDNESS TO A FLIGHT ATTENDANT: If you're finished with a magazine, hand it to her as she walks through collecting trash and say, "I thought you might like this." Seriously, you'll get so many cookies and extra beverages if you do it. TRY IT. Sometimes when I am on the cart and I see someone with a Real Simple, I will look at their seat number and go back and check afterward to see if someone left it. (And by Real Simple I obviously meant People). Recently on a flight from LAX to JFK, I was talking to a woman in first class about the book she was reading, because I've curiously picked it up several times in the book store (this one). She said she loved it, and recommended it. Later in the flight, as she was walking to the restroom and passing me in the galley, she handed it to me and said, "Here, I think you'll enjoy this. I just finished it and you can have it." I was speechless. I almost cried because it was so kind. I thanked her every time I walked by her seat and I am sure she probably regretted it because I acted like I won a pageant or something.

+ BRING TREATS. A few times when I've been working on Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or New Year's OR JUST BECAUSE, I've had passengers bring us Starbucks cards, chocolates or candies. Starbucks gift cards are always my favorite when I'm flying on the holidays. It's a nice treat to enjoy between busy and full flights. They say, "thank you for taking care of us" and then I almost pass out from the kindness. Can you imagine if we were thoughtful to each other like this on a regular basis? I hope one day I can teach my kids the importance of being brave enough to notice people well.


All sassiness aside, I don't think these suggestions apply only to flight attendants. It's easy to say, "That's their job to do those things," but I love the idea that I could help a person feel a bit lighter on their feet because I helped make their job easier. Even if it was only for a moment.

Please know that if I ever had you as my passenger, I'd be glad to see you and help you in whatever way I am able. I know traveling isn't easy anymore. I know it's hard to go anywhere now and not be a little bit frightened and untrusting of people. If you're not feeling well, I want you to know that I care and I'll get you some ginger ale and pretzels. I want you to know that if you're afraid of turbulence, I will comfort you the best I can -- even though I am sick and I love turbulence. It's my job to make you feel welcome.


What are some ways you've been blessed by customers at your job?