Cabin Crew Insider Part I: 8 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Flying

May 9, 2016
Written by: Yasha Wallin
Image via Ho-Yeol Ryu

Ever wonder what happens behind-the-scenes when you fly the friendly skies? To find out, we gathered all our pressing questions and turned to Lily Meyer, a seasoned flight attendant who agreed to answer everything from why we have to turn phones off in-flight to whether the cabin crew and pilots get chummy. Here, she demystifies what it takes to make us feel safe, comfortable, and looked after, while we fly.

I know it’s taboo to use the word stewardess—is flight attendant the best alternative?

Stewardess and flight attendant are born out of different eras, and they’re both fine, but they’re limiting in that they only emphasize the service aspect of our job. We like the European term for our job—“Cabin Crew.”

What kind of training did you go through?

We go through 5+ weeks of training to identify, confront, and handle medical, safety and security threats. At any given moment, we’re ready to throw down our soda cans to fight a hidden fire in the ceiling, restart the heart of the guy next to you, or identify and isolate a potential bomb threat. Behind our polished smiles, we see ourselves first and foremost as safety professionals.

Why do we have to turn off our phones during flight?

They can stay in “airplane mode,” but phones connected to cellular waves could become an issue with the avionics of a plane because the FAA says so, whatever…just do it. Or at least hide the fact you’re texting during taxi, so both of us don’t feel like idiots when I call you out for it.

Do flight attendants eat airline food?

My airline had Thai chicken curry that was so good, the crew would save some for themselves instead of eating the first class meal provided for them. One interesting thing about food on planes is that our taste buds are 30% less effective. Thus, a lot of extra flavor is added to make it taste good.

What’s the most obnoxious thing a passenger has ever done?

One situation I hate dealing with is when people move from regular seats to seats with extra legroom. It sucks to tell a nice passenger that they have to return to their assigned seat or pay $129, and it wouldn’t be fair to let them sit there for free when others paid for extra legroom.

I went on a date with a pilot who couldn’t drink because it was 10 hours before flying. Does the cabin crew also have a 10 hour grace period?

Yep. In the US, the rule for all aircrew is nothing to drink eight hours before the flight. I don’t know how they came up with that time limit, but I’ve seen people get wasted on layovers right up to that eight-hour mark.

Are pilots and flight attendants friends?

We’re totally friendly with each other. Nowadays we don’t have the opportunity to hang out as much because our schedules are different, and we often stay at different hotels. When I first started, the whole crew would stay together for every flight and be at the same hotels. We’d be together up to six days, and it was a lot of fun.

What’s one thing you wish more passengers knew before they flew?

Hey everyone, put your shoes on when you go to the bathroom. You don’t want to know what’s all over those floors. We cringe when we see socked feet go in and lock the door.