When you board a flight, you generally find members of the cabin crew waiting by the airplane door. They welcome you aboard (usually), and then you head to your seat (sometimes with their help), you put away your bags, and you settle in for the hours ahead. But have you ever wondered what the crew is thinking during all that? What are the things that flight attendants notice when you board a plane?
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An old but popular Quora thread drew some great answers to this question. It sheds some good light on the job of a flight attendant and the in-flight experience. One thing flight attendants look for first, for example, is whether you’re inebriated. According to Sjaak Schulteis, who was a cabin attendant for Lufthansa for 30 years, drunk passengers can be refused entry aboard the aircraft. ‘If a guest coming aboard is drunk or intoxicated by any drug, it can happen that he or she is not allowed to enter the plane. […] The first impression is often the right one, and we do refuse passengers who might be a danger for the safety of that flight. So far I have refused four passengers and was luckily backed up by the purser and captain. All of these were drunken passengers.’
There’s no doubt that intoxicated passengers should be refused boarding. Just last week, a drunk passenger on American Airlines threw up on fellow passengers in first class. You can read about what happened here, along with American Airlines’ response.
What else do flight attendants notice when you board the plane?
On the Quora thread, Shreyas Parikh says, “We check plenty of things and it will all happen in a glance.” He goes on to outline the types of things flight attendants are on the lookout for, like what kind of clothes you’re wearing, whether you’re traveling alone or with someone, are you patient and do you lend a helping hand to other passengers in need, like the elderly?
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Parikh also says that flight attendants take notice of strong, able-bodied passengers who may be able to help in the event of an emergency and whether you’re reading a medical journal, so they know who to approach for First Aid.
“In short, lots of things are noticed,” says Parikh. “If you like things to go smooth and the crew to be nice (which I know isn’t the case these days and that makes me very sad), just be polite not only to crew but also give a helping hand to the fellow passengers and more importantly, be courteous to everyone.”
According to Dani Sherlock, “I think we subconsciously check a series of things to ensure that we are going to have a safe and peaceful flight. Our main function is the safety of the passengers, crew and aircraft.” First, he says he’s looking out for baggage size and quantity. “Trust me, not every airport checks the actual size of passengers bags, so we are constantly looking for space in the over head lockers even before they are through the door.”
Along with intoxicated passengers and the elderly who may need help, Sherlock says flight attendants also keep an eye out for famous people. “Celebrities are always much more open to have a chat and picture taken with crew. Better ask them first once they have taken their seat,” he says.
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While flight attendants are helping you with your bags and serving food and drink, remember that they’re just passing time. They are the aircraft’s first responders and as such, are charged with the safety and health of passengers and crew. When passengers are boarding the aircraft, flight attendants are mainly looking for risks, potential threats and passengers who can help in the event of an emergency. Anything you can do to help make their jobs easier and the flight less stressful for everyone is sure to be appreciated.
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