5 Tips For Being a Better Flight Attendant, Courtesy of Carrie A. Trey

Nov 12, 2016

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A few years ago, I wrote a little post called “10 Ways to be a Better Passenger.” From reading through the comments, I could tell many of you really seemed to get a good chuckle out of it, some of you learned a little something from it and quite a few of you simply got angry — probably because you realized that you were being awful passengers. Now, from one flight attendant to another, in an effort to capture both sides of the passenger experience, here’s Carrie A. Trey’s list of five ways FAs everywhere can step up their game.

1. Dress the Part

This first one is mostly for my colleagues in the US. For Americans, dressing down has become culturally acceptable and too many of you are also bringing that to work, along with your my-airline-values-me-as-an-individual-and-therefore-I-can-dress-how-I-want attitude. Well, guess what? You’re wrong. Neither your airline nor your colleagues — who are forced to be seen walking the terminal with you — have any interest in your gaudy costume jewelry or your hair that hasn’t been combed, conditioned or styled in years, nor your un-ironed, unwashed, stained uniform pieces (many of which aren’t even part of the uniform) that you’re wearing to work. Enough is enough.

Wear the uniform the way you’re supposed to wear it, sans your own personal touches. And have enough self-respect to put on some make-up and put your hair up, shave (faces for guys, legs for girls) and look like a respectable human being when you show up for work. Oh, and all those pins you’re adorning your aprons and vests with? Until you start flying for TGIFridays Airlines, lose them! They are tacky. Very tacky.

2. Know When to Call it Quits

Again, this mostly pertains to my American colleagues out there, since the rest of the world is blessed with a mandatory retirement age — and annual required medical checks. Please, know your own limits and when it’s time for you to take a break and retire. Too many flight attendants are determined to fly straight into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the longest-working FA, but you’re really not doing anyone any favors at all by doing this. Can’t lift your own bags into the overhead bin, never mind helping passengers with theirs? It’s time. You can’t wear heels anymore because your arthritis/bunions are that bad and you need to ask us “young kids” to open your water bottles for you? It’s time. What if there’s an evacuation and no way you’d be physically able to jump down that slide or haul a fellow crew member or passenger to safety? Yup, time to say “ciao!” Please, for the sake of your passengers and fellow colleagues who have to constantly pick up the slack, have the good sense and self-respect to bow out gracefully and enjoy your retirement.

The same goes for those of you who don’t enjoy the job anymore. There are so many flight attendants out there who are just determined to be unhappy — they aren’t getting paid enough, want to be part of a union (or don’t like the one they’re already in) or they’re upset about being scheduled for trips they just don’t like. The list goes on and on but boils down to this: if you’re not happy with your job, go get another one. I recently read a post on Airliners.net about a United Global Services passenger traveling in First Class who had to listen to a flight attendant carry on about how she wouldn’t wear the uniform hat because that could be mistaken as showing loyalty to the company. Honey, if you’re that upset, bitter or disgruntled, please quit! There are so many young, enthusiastic people out there who are willing to serve and do it all with a smile — if that’s too hard for you then it’s time to go.

3. Remember, a Little Empathy Goes a Long Way

For some, the days of travel being an experience to look forward to and savor are long gone, with passengers now arriving at the airport and waiting on long lines to pay to check their luggage. Then they wait on longer lines at security to be felt-up by disgruntled TSA agents, and when they finally get to the gate, they’re shouted at and belittled by overworked and underpaid gate agents. At the end of it all, travelers sit down in seats with increasingly smaller legroom, where more often than not, they’ll have to pay for everything from a TV show to a much-needed drink. It’s no wonder they’re a feisty bunch!

So when passengers end up losing their cool or snap at you, don’t snap back — it’s really not you they’re upset with, but the whole experience. We just happen to be at the tail end of a long line of frustrating steps and we spend the most time with them so it’s only natural we’ll bear the brunt of their stress-driven reactions. Rather than letting it get to you, give them a smile — which at this point, I promise will be unexpected — say something nice and see if you can’t turn their day around. I promise you it’s easier than letting them drag you down to their level.

4. Leave Your Baggage at Home

This one’s a little complicated. First of all, too many FAs have too much physical baggage. This isn’t entirely your fault though, as airlines in the US require crew members to carry all of their things on board with them, as opposed to their more civilized foreign counterparts, which allow the crew to simply check their bags. Until management gets its act together, please learn how to pack lightly and not bring the kitchen sink — in other words, your entire collection of hair dryers and 18 different outfits — for your layovers. Not only are you taking up valuable storage space on the plane (which frustrates our passengers, who have increasingly more carry-ons these days), you look like a mess in the terminal (which frustrates your colleagues) and you’re generally contributing to a poor professional image that we don’t need. Instead, pack only what you need and consider leaving a few things at your base in between trips. I promise you won’t need that extra pair of orthopedic, custom-made, hot-pink, high-heeled running shoes for the run you want to take during your layover but inevitably won’t — you’re going to end up at the bar with the rest of us, so just pack a little black dress and let’s get on with it!

And as for any emotional baggage, that should stay at home, too. As I’ve already mentioned, your passengers have enough to deal with and don’t need to get on the plane and be barked at by you because you’re dealing with heaven-knows-what back home. Leave it there, turn up to work on point and put on that award-winning smile you were hired for 63 years ago.

5. Just Keep Smiling

I know, this is probably the toughest one of all. The airlines we work for are cutting our benefits, merging with each other, nickel-and-diming our passengers — which, in turn, puts them on edge — and cramming our work spaces only to add more seats and fill them with more unhappy customers. In short, there are so many reasons not to smile at work anymore — all the more reason to do just that! We seemed to have gained a reputation for being a surly, rude, condescending, bossy and generally unpleasant bunch and it’s time to change that.

Do what you can to reverse that trend and surprise your passengers with a smile. You may even surprise yourself! Plus, it’s so much easier to just say yes and smile than to say no and have to argue about it. You’ll find that the way passengers and colleagues respond to you changes drastically for the better, and, best of all, you might even enjoy going to work again. In the short run, it’ll make the flight go by faster, while in the long run, maybe we can bring back even a little bit of the glamour of the golden age of flying, not to mention the fun of getting paid to travel the world and meet new people, which is why we’re doing this in the first place, isn’t it?

Do you have any tips that would help flight attendants make your in-flight experience better? Let us know in the comments, below.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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