By Tani Erickson
Secrets your flight attendants want you to know before takeoff
Seasoned Methow Valley travelers may know many of these tips already, but for those who fly occasionally, here is some insider advice to make your next flight go better.
• Just like summer camp. Put your name and contact information on everything: your phone, laptop bag, your backpack, your Kindle and of course your carry-on bag. Eager to get off the plane, passengers leave their goodies behind all the time. Or, bags get switched by mistake. Put your information inside your carry-on and checked bags too.
• Does your carry-on bag fit? Carry-on regulations continue to get stricter. Two major carriers flying out of SeaTac now require your carry-on not exceed 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches (total not to exceed 45 inches). By the way, if you carry it on, you have to lift it. Big surprise, flight attendants are not supposed to lift your bag. Can you imagine our shoulder injuries?
• Leave early. Allow plenty of time for traffic, check-in and security. Having plenty of time sets the scene for a nice trip.
• Where are the best seats? It depends. First Class is lovely, of course, and now you can pay extra for premium seats in the first few rows of coach that bless you with extra leg room (and probably a free cocktail).
If you will help in an emergency, then the most generous leg room is in the exit rows. Get to the check-in desk an hour before your flight and see if you can snag an exit-row seat. Tip: the front exit row doesn’t recline so first request the back exit row which does recline. If you do get one of these coveted seats, please be attentive when the flight attendant briefs you on your responsibilities.
In general, there are fewer crying babies and less turbulence forward of the exit rows. Less leg room and more families in the back. This is usually reflected in the price!
• Water, water, water, water. An informal poll of my flight attendant friends listed this as the No. 1 best tip. Drink water before your flight and during your flight. Eco-friendly Methow-types will no doubt bring their own water bottle and fill it in the terminal after security (we can pour you glasses of water, but we are not actually supposed to fill your bottle during flight — it’s a sanitary thing). Or buy one of those big water bottles at the gift store. The air is dry on the airplane. Hydration is key.
• Snack yourself. This goes along with the previous tip. Bring durable snacks like granola bars, trail mix, dried apricots. And/or buy one of those over-priced sandwiches at the airport. Sometimes there is a long delay before take-off, or turbulence during the flight that prevents the flight attendants from serving you. Don’t be hungry — flying is stressful enough.
“I don’t eat wheat, dairy, nuts, meat, fish…” Airlines do their best to provide for special food requests but the galleys are tiny and we can’t run out to the store to accommodate you. Bring your own.
• “Excuse me, Miss, do you have a blanket?” No. Sweet young things heading to Cabo or Maui — wearing skimpy clothes and flimsy sandals — are usually most at risk. It’s rare to find a blanket on an airplane these days unless you’re flying overseas (sometimes on all-nighters in First Class). Cabin temps are kept low because it makes for more comfortable flying than an over-heated plane. In short, bring your own blanket or wear layers. You can change into your tropical gear later. Ditto pillows. We don’t usually have those either.
• Can we talk potty talk? Stop at the restroom before you board. Sometimes there’s a long delay on the tarmac, or turbulence that keeps you in your seat longer than you can bear. Did you know that if your 3-year-old has to get up to use the lav during taxi we have to call the captain and he has to stop the plane until all are seated again?
When you use the lav in flight wear your shoes. Sure, we clean the plane before you board, but during flight those lavs get a lot of use. Enough said.
Also wash your hands thoroughly and use a paper towel on the lav lock and handle when you exit. That’s what we do.
• Watch the cocktails. OK, a drink with a meal is nice. But don’t slam them down. Alcohol hits you harder in the air than on the ground and even one drink can have you feeling woozy. Or queasy. If we cut you off, it’s our job — we just can’t over-serve you on board. Take it easy before you board too. If you appear tipsy, we can refuse to let you board or we can take you off the plane. It’s best to go to Tip No. 1 and drink a lot of water.
• Don’t fly sick. If you have tummy troubles or flu-like symptoms, stay home. If you feel funky now, you’ll feel way funkier once you are in the air. Plus, we don’t want your germs!
• How to be happy on an airplane. Electronics relieve boredom, but the happiest fliers are writing notes, knitting, reading or coloring (yes, coloring is in vogue with adults now). Napping is terrific too. Serious nappers have eye masks, ear plugs, blankets and pillows.
When not napping, get up periodically and stretch or walk the aisle. Be mindful of the carts, of course.
• And, finally, be kind to your flight attendants. All the glamour of the job is walking through the airport in a smart uniform with heels and a roller-bag. The reality of being a flight attendant is long hours, early sign-ins, working at 8,000 feet cabin altitude and walking at a tilt, staying in strange hotels with capricious AC systems and missing your family. Still, we really do want to be nice to you and give you great service. When you give us eye contact, a smile, a positive remark, a please and thank you — we love it.
Flying can be stressful, but it beats driving. It’s a good reminder. Enjoy your flight!
Tani Erickson, recently retired to the Methow Valley, has worked as a flight attendant for three major airlines and still loves to travel.