21 Things a Former Flight Attendant Needs You To Know

You may think you’re an airplane and airport travel expert, but get ready to be let in on some SECRETS!

There Are SECRETS You Need to Know!

Here at DFB, we’ve been covering all kinds of things that could impact your upcoming flights, including a look at the airlines to avoid if you don’t want to get bumped from your flight, a list of the BEST and WORST airlines in the U.S. ranked by customer complaints, and even a look at just how many bags airlines have mishandled and how to be prepared for the worst. But now we’ve got even more details to share thanks to a very special guest — a former flight attendant!

We had the chance to chat with someone who used to work as a flight attendant (“former FA”) and get their input on all kinds of things — from boarding the plane to what you should be WARNED about when it comes to airplane bathrooms. Of course, keep in mind that this is all based on that flight attendant’s experience, and things can vary depending on the airline you fly with, etc. But here are the top 21 things the former flight attendant we spoke to NEEDS YOU to know!


1 — Your Check-In Process Can Be SO Much Easier

When discussing check-in, the former FA said that people can make everything SO much easier if they set an alarm on their phones and check in on time! They shared that doing this can help avoid stress and panic when you later realize you never checked in.

Orlando International Airport

Another pro tip? Add your boarding pass to your digital wallet (like your Apple Wallet) on your phone so you can make things easier and pull it up quickly when it’s time to get on the plane!

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2 — Crowding the Boarding Area = No Good

We’ve all done it. They’re calling group 2 and you’re in group 4, but you should probably get in line already, right? Those guys from the row behind you got up and you’re pretty sure they also said they’re in group 4. Hold on, are those other people getting up too? Aren’t they in group 5?! Okay, okay, we GOTTA get up and crowd around the boarding area, right?!

Orlando International Airport

WRONG! The former FA shared that everyone has to get on the plane, so “crowding the boarding area will only slow things down.” Their advice? Pack some patience. “Just wait for your group to be called and the gate agent will make sure you are boarded on time.”

3 — You’re Making Boarding MISTAKES

The former FA we spoke to noted that when it comes to boarding, they’d often see people trying to sit in seats that weren’t assigned to them. While you might think this is harmless, rest assured it is NOT. Sitting in a seat that isn’t assigned to you can cause MAJOR issues later on when the person who is assigned to that seat boards the plane.

They noted that it’s hard for “flight attendants to get all of the seat assignments figured out while helping the long line of passengers put their luggage away and find their seats.” So…stick to your assigned seats, friends.

Sit in Your Seat!

If you really need to change your seat, there are some things you can do. First, ask the gate agent. If they can’t accommodate you, you can try to ask the flight attendant, but nothing is guaranteed!

4 — You Might Be Annoying the Flight Attendants

When we asked about the most ANNOYING things people did when boarding, our former FA had a few answers. First, people who try to go to the bathroom right as the plane is departing or right after the safety message can be a huge annoyance. According to Business Insider, generally, a pilot cannot legally take off with a passenger in the bathroom. So don’t be that person delaying the whole flight — take those bathroom breaks BEFORE you board or wait until you’re safely in the sky.

Safety Card on an Airplane

The other annoying thing they mentioned is when people don’t pay attention to the safety message the flight attendants are giving. You may have flown a thousand times and can maybe even recite the safety message for them, but they’re trying to do their job and keep everyone safe, so maybe put down that phone and give your flight attendants a few minutes of your time!

5 — Flight Pros Know One Important Thing

We asked the former FA what things the flight pros know how to do during the boarding process and the answer was clear — they know how to handle their luggage. One big thing the pros can do with ease is place their bags to the overhead bin properly. Proper bag placement can vary depending on the plane you’re going on, so be aware of that and keep an eye out for the little diagram on the overhead bins showing you the right way to stuff your bag in there.

Be Careful Putting Away Your Luggage

Other things pros never forget? They remember to bring their own pair of headphones and they know not to have bags in places they don’t belong (like at the bulkhead — that little division that can separate certain parts of the plane).

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Food & Drinks

6 — Bringing a Snack Can Be Critical

This will come as a shock to no one but food on planes can be expensive. When we asked the former FA for some food advice, they suggested bringing a snack or grabbing a meal in the airport and carrying it onto the plane to help save some cash.

Do You Like to Snack on The Plane?

Another money-saving tip? “Non-alcoholic drinks on some airlines are free, so take advantage of that.”

7 — Ask for the Can!

Ever ordered a soda on a plane, only to have just a portion of it served to you in a cup? Well sometimes that might be all you’ll be able to get at that time, but if the flight isn’t super long or very busy, our former FA shared that “you should be able to ask for the can so you don’t have to keep ringing your attendant light for refills.”

Ask for the Can!

That saves you and the flight attendants time and effort so it’s a win-win!

8 — Do NOT Order This Food on a Plane…Unless You Want People to Hate You

When we asked about the WORST food to order on a plane the former FA was quick to note that anything fishy or stinky is a big NO! They shared that “Most providers try to steer away from those offerings but they do exist and it’s not fun to have a stinky plane for hours.”

Also, small cups of pringles, bags of Cheez-Its, or other snacks you could have bought for much cheaper at home are also not a smart buy from a money perspective.

9 — Don’t Miss Out on the BEST Plane Food (And Food Hacks!)

Okay, we’ve tackled the worst food but what about the best? The former FA we spoke to said that international flights can have some fun meals. If you’re flying with American Airlines and they have the pretzel bread rolls in First Class, do NOT miss out on them. Our former FA described these as totally “delish!”

You Could Miss Out on the BEST Food!

Also, if you fly with American Airlines and get a little Biscoff cookie, here’s a pro tip — ask for a lime! A LIME?! Yes! According to our former FA, putting lime on these can make them taste sort of like a key lime pie. WOAH. Talk about a food hack!

10 — Don’t Come Unprepared

Want to really impress the flight attendants and make things go smoother? Remember to have your card out and ready to go when it’s time to pay for your food on the plane. If a guest isn’t prepared, the flight attendants will have to move the cart so they can get out of their row, pull out their bag, and grab their card. As the former FA put it, “It just slows down service for everyone. So be prepared if you plan to order anything!”

11 — Prove You’re a Pro

When it comes to being a pro at ordering food on a plane, another tip is to watch out for credit cards that might provide you with discounted food and drinks on a plane. For example, those who have the Citi® / AAdvantage® credit card can get a 25% discount on inflight purchases of food and beverages on flights operated by American Airlines when they use their Citi/AAdvantage card. That can help you save some cash!

Grab Your Wallet BEFORE You Sit Down!

Frequent flyers also know that they might be able to order meals ahead of time on certain flights. Be sure to do some digging ahead of any flights that offer meals to know whether that’s an option.


12 — Wear Your Shoes…Seriously

When we asked our former FA for things they wished people knew about bathrooms on planes, their answer was simple but important — “PLEASE wear your shoes and wash your hands.” 

©Kevork Djansezian/Getty | Obtained via Business Insider

They shared that, at least on the flights they worked, “These bathrooms are not cleaned after each flight and can get really sticky and NASTY.” Between flights, teams might make sure that there is enough toilet paper in the bathroom and that the trash is empty, but toilets and the floor generally aren’t cleaned between flights so yeah…keep those shoes on, you’re gonna want ’em.

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Overhead Bins & Luggage

13 — Be Helpful With Overhead Bins

When we asked about what people need to know when it comes to overhead bins, the former FA shared that the overhead bins truly can and do fill up. If you have something that can fit under the seat in front of you, please use that area so more people can fit their luggage on the plane.

We’ve probably all been in that spot where we’ve had to unwillingly check our luggage because the overhead bin space was full, but if you stick some of it under the available space under the seat in front of you, that can help more people get their stuff onboard!

14 — Be Careful With Expensive Luggage

Another flying pro-tip? Be careful when it comes to expensive luggage. You might be dying to show off that $1,400 suitcase, but think about that carefully. If you’re checking a bag, the bags can and WILL be left out in the rain under certain circumstances. That could mean your cloth-based luggage could see a LOT more water than it maybe should.

Careful With That Fancy Luggage!

The former FA said that bags can also be thrown around and can get banged around. So if you’re bringing an expensive bag, try to make sure it’s one you can carry onto the plane with you so you can keep a close eye on it!

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Getting Off the Plane

15 — Hang Tight After You Land

If you fly around a lot, you’ve probably had experience with this, but it bears repeating. The former FA we spoke to noted that despite already having landed, plans may sometimes need to wait for an available gate to pull into, and that can cause delays.

Don’t Get Up Until It’s Time!

In other words, “Just because the plane stops, that does NOT mean it’s time to get off.” Don’t start grabbing your luggage and standing up until it’s really time to go. “Wait for the fasten seat belt sign to go off and then you are good to go.”

16 — Help Those Who Need to Get Off ASAP

Another thing the former FA shared was a piece of advice for helping out your fellow travelers. Particularly with all of the flight delays that have happened lately, you may have found yourself in the unfortunate situation of being stuck all the way at the back of a plane that got delayed. And maybe you’ve pulled up to the airport with just 10 minutes left to RUN to your gate and hop on your connecting flight. Just typing about it puts us in a state of stress. 😟

We Can Literally FEEL the Stress from Here

The clock is ticking and you need to catch that connecting flight, but there’s just one problem. EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER (literally) who is in front of you has stood up and is blocking the aisle. Our former FA had a piece of advice to help out others (and hopefully get that same courtesy in the future when it’s your turn to rush to a flight) — if you don’t need to worry about a connecting flight at all or aren’t pressed for time “please be accommodating and let those people [who are rushing to catch another flight] deplane first so they can try to make their connection on time.” It’s all about building up that good karma, am I right?!

Click here to see our best tips for flying through Orlando International Airport

Flight Attendant Power

17 — Flight Attendants Don’t Have All the Power You Think They Do

You might think that your flight attendant can do ANYTHING and talking to them (or, complaining to them) will get you what you want. But that’s not necessarily the case. While flight attendants DO have power over some things (more on that in a sec) they do not necessarily have power over seat upgrades, delays, how long it takes to get to/from a certain destination, or even how many sodas/meals are boarded onto the flight.

Flight Attendants Aren’t Genies Who Can Grant Your Every Wish!

So have a little patience and a lot of compassion for those helping on your journey through the clouds.

18 — But They CAN Do Things You Probably Don’t Know About

Flight attendants may not be able to grant all your wishes, but they actually do have power over some things you may have never realized. The former FA we spoke to noted that they do have some power over security while in the air, to a certain extent. They also have power over certain medical situations and making calls on what needs to happen. These things are, however, usually decided after a discussion between the pilot and the flight attendants.

Which airline do you fly with?

Evacuations are another area that flight attendants have some power over. It’s another situation where there is a discussion between pilots and staff, but the flight attendants are well trained and know what has to be done to get people off the plane if there is an emergency. So remember that if you’re in need, the flight attendant is an important person to turn to for guidance.

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19 — Flight Attendants Are NOT Paid When You Think They Are

You might think that flight attendants are getting paid from the second a guest steps on the plane, but you’d actually be wrong. On most airlines, flight attendants “are not paid when you are boarding, they are only paid when the plane pushes back.”

Kindness Can Go A LONG Way

The former FA’s big note on this? PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE be kind to the flight attendants, especially during this time. They aren’t even being paid and still have to help as you’re getting settled in. “Flight attendants can do a lot to make your trip and time in the air special, but you have to show them kindness.”

20 — There Are SECRET Goodies

Got on the plane and totally forgot those headphones only to find out that the plane wasn’t boarded with any headphones for guests to buy? You may not be totally out of luck! The former FA shared that sometimes flight attendants might have a few pairs of headphones available. The keyword here is “might.” This isn’t always the case, but if you ask nicely, they might be able to see what they can do!

21 — Don’t Ask for a Pillow, Just Don’t

This isn’t necessarily a secret, but it is something the former FA just had to share. If you’re doing a regular ole domestic flight, let’s say from Dallas to Alabama, don’t ask for a pillow and blanket…just don’t. The former FA said that regular flights like that don’t typically have all of those fancy accessories for guests, so, in their words, “please stop asking.” 😆

Keep Your Pillow Requests to Yourself

And that’s it! 21 things a former flight attendant NEEDS you to know! Which of the things from this list surprised you the most? Be sure to tell us in the comments.

For more flight tips, click here to see air travel tips that’ll CHANGE your life! You can also click here to see what major U.S. airline is cutting thousands of flights this fall, or click here to learn about the upgraded boarding feature you can now do online for Southwest Airlines.

We’ll continue to look for more travel news that could help you become a pro, so stay tuned for more!

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 What tip or secret surprised you? Tell us in the comments!

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