11 Airline Secrets from an Airline Insider

Thursday, July 09, 2015


11 Airline Secrets from an Airline Insider









Ever wonder why your seats have to be in the "upright and locked position"?  Why your windows have to  be open during take-off and landing?  What the flight attendants real job is?




Well, I'm about to tell you.  I worked in the airline industry for a number of years, both as an international flight attendant and later on as a reservations agent for some of the big airlines.  At the end of this article, if you can think of any more questions you would like answered, go ahead and ask them in the comments and I might make a Part II.





1.   The most dangerous times while riding in an airplane, no matter the length of the trip is always going to be take-off and landing.  That is when most things can go wrong.  The plane is basically all under the hands of the pilots during those times.  While the plane is actually in flight, a lot of the actual flying is handled by computers,



2.  Ever wonder why the flight attendants always harp on you to have your seat be in an upright and locked position and the tray tables stowed during take-off and landing?  They really don't just love going around to repeatedly ask you to do that, but it's for everyone's safety.  If something were to happen and we needed to evacuate the plane, your seat being all the way back blocks the aisle for people to walk if they needed to get out of the plane.  No, not the aisle down the middle, but the ones that would lead you to escape through the windows of the plane.  In the mad rush that would happen of everyone pushing and shoving to get off the plane, the last thing we need is your seat back or tray table blocking the way, making it more difficult for people to get out.




3.  Don't ever drink the coffee on the plane.  Just don't.  There is a reason airplane coffee gets a bad rap.  It isn't made with bottled water, and let's just say that the airplane's potable water isn't very desirable. The valves for cleaning out the lavatory waste and filling the clean water are very close to each other and sometimes serviced by the same guy...at the same time.



4.  Love that free alcohol in first class?  Well, if you love it a little too much and start getting to the point that we think you need to be cut off, but you keep asking for drinks...there is a good chance that your rum and coke is just coke, with a little bit of rum along the rim of the glass to make it taste like the liquor is in there.



5.  While we're on the topic of drinks- The flight attendants are not actually there to be your waiters or waitresses in the sky.  Sure, we do it, but we are actually thoroughly trained in safety for various situations.  We are trained to do CPR, use epi pens, AED and defibrillators, we take self defense courses and practice what to do in case someone gets unruly or tries to take over the plane, we are there to guard the cockpit so people don't get in during the flight, along with what to do in an evacuation.  The correct way to position all of the passengers for a emergency landing, taking the emergency exit doors off of the planes, ushering everyone out while being the last ones out ourselves.  So the next time we smile, ask you what you'd like to drink and say "buh bye" on the way out- know that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that you will hopefully never need us to kick into action to do.



6.  Secret-  Your flight is probably overbooked.  It has to be.  There are so many people that just don't make it to the airport on time because they are lost, overslept, or changed their minds. Then factor in all of the people who miss the flight because of a delayed connecting flight.  Airlines have to over book flights because if they didn't they wouldn't make any money and would be flying half empty planes.



7.  While we're on that topic. Do you know why airlines have all of those ridiculous fees for everything now?  Because they probably aren't making any money off of your actual ticket.  The plane has to fly at 85% full for them to even make $1 off of your actual airplane ticket.  The money comes in because of the baggage fees, or seat fees, or anything else they can think up.  Otherwise, they wouldn't make the money to fuel the planes let alone be a profitable business to continue taking you where you need to go.  Plus, the ruling was that it was better to charge things separately rather than just adding it all in to your ticket.  That way, if you aren't checking any bags, you won't have to pay for it, etc.



8.  Ever wonder why the windows have to be open during take-off and landing?  Because the flight attendants are looking out the windows during that time to make sure the plane is okay.  To make sure that there is no smoke or fire visible anywhere.  And if the windows are open, a passenger is more likely to see it if a flight attendant misses it and will let someone know-or scream.
Same goes for "dimming the lights".  They don't turn down the lights when the plane takes off so that everyone can relax and go to sleep.  It's so that in the case of an emergency, your eyes will already be adjusted to the dark and you can follow the lighted pathways on the floor to exit.



9.  A lot of times you might be able to get a first class seat at a huge discount within 24 hours of your flight leaving.  If first class isn't sold out, and there aren't many premium frequent fliers to upgrade on that flight, most airlines discount the upgrade to first class.  Call your airline's customer service number within 24 hrs of the flight departing to check.



10.  If your plane is cancelled or delayed, don't wait in the long line with everyone at the gate or ticket counter.  Call the customer service number to the airline.  We get you rebooked too.  We also don't need the whole story on what happened.  Just your record locator.  Seriously, seconds matter here.  All those people in line at the gate along with probably a bunch of other people that you don't see (if it's weather related) are all trying to get out of that city that you are in.  The gate agents, ticket agents, and reservations agents- hundreds and hundreds of airline workers throughout the country are all working with people wanting to get out of your city.  While you are talking to us, we can literally see that the next plane only has 10 seats left and see the number dropping as other agents snatch those seats up for whoever is on the phone with them.  Seconds matter.  If you want out quickly, skip the explanations or the yelling about being cancelled.



11.  Secret- Award tickets frustrate us too.  It's not a conspiracy against you.  We're sorry it's extremely hard to get those seats for a free ticket.  We don't make the rules.  It helps to be extremely flexible on dates, neighboring cities, etc.  This was my (and many others) least favorite part of the reservations agent job.  Even more than getting constantly yelled at for weather messing up people's vacations plans.  I'm sorry about that too.  I really am, even if you don't think so in the moment, I actually am a human on the other end of the phone and am very sorry that your vacation plans are being disrupted.  It sucks, I get it.  But I don't control the weather.  I have had multiple people threaten to sue me ( not the airline mind you, but me personally) if I did not make a plane magically appear and good weather happen within an hour of their regularly scheduled flight. Multiple people.  If you happen to be one of those people, no hard feelings.  Sounds like you really needed that vacation.  We all do.




That does it for this installment.  If you can think of anything else you've always wondered about the airline industry- comment below and I might make a Part II to this article!




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39 comments

  1. Thats a great article. What happens if when you over book, all people actually show up? Where do they seat?

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    1. Thanks. Good question! If everyone does show up and the flight is overbooked, that is when they start asking for volunteers to move to another flight and start handing out flight vouchers! A decent number of people will always take this offer, they still get a flight, just maybe an hour or two later...and cash towards their next flight.

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  2. This is great info. I will never get coffee on a plane lol! I do know about the overbooking because it happened to us once. We didn't check in until we got to the airport, and were told the flight was overbooked and there was a chance we wouldn't get on it. Thank God we did, because my mom was terrified of flying and just wanted to get it over with. Also thank you for all of your hard work as a flight attendant - I know it can't be easy sometimes!

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    1. Hi Becky! Sorry that happened to you guys, glad you were able to make it on though! So it probably worked out where someone didn't make it to that flight on time- or they started passing out vouchers and someone took them up on it? Glad you guys made it! And thank you for that statement, sometimes it was hard- like with any job, but I did love it. I am out of the industry now though!

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    2. Oh, and checking in online before you get to the airport does help in those situations!

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  3. This was super informative. I never even thought about why they dim the lights or open the windows, so it's great to know!

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    1. Hi Liz! Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, I always find it interesting to learn little tid bits about other people's jobs. There are so many things that we just are used to doing because we're told to and don't really know why. I love when people tell me stuff like this about where they work!

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  4. Wow this was very eye-opening. I had no idea about many of these things - especially the coffee! Duly noted!!

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    1. Hi! Ha, yes, it's always a good rule of thumb to stay away from the coffee. Everyone always complains that coffee tastes bad on planes, but some still order it!

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  5. Wow! This is so interesting. I have never ordered coffee on a plane, but now I will absolutely know not to do that. Haha! Thanks for sharing all of these. =)

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    1. Hi Miranda! Glad you enjoyed reading it! I love when people share these sorts of things!

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  6. OMG!!!! Love this tell-all!!!!! I never knew any of these things!

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    1. Ha! Glad you loved it. There's many more where that came from!

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  7. You have resolved many of the mysteries! And offered some helpful tips. I travel a lot, and a few times have suffered from the overbooking ritual..nice tips! thanks

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    1. Hi Midge! Sorry you've had to deal with the overbooking situation too! They actually have a whole department who focuses on all of these algorithms to figure out how many people to overbook by. Some flights are only allowed to be overbooked by 2 people....some can be overbooked by 15!

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  8. Very interesting. Especially number 4 ;) My mom is a ticket agent at Delta so we fly a lot, but it's cool to hear the flight attendant's inside scoop.

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    1. Hi Natalie! Ah, so you probably knew a good number of these...and more! I thought about being a ticket agent, but I don't think I could deal with that! So i stuck to being a flight attendant and then a reservations agent, so I only had to deal with people on the phone! haha. It's nice that you get those flying perks with your mom! ;)

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  9. Very cool article! I love this post so much because it's so true! People just don't get it sometime!!

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    1. Hi Samantha! Thanks! Have you worked in the airline industry too? I know- i love learning the little tricks and secrets to other people's professions.

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  10. Wow! Definitely makes me look at travel differently.

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    1. Hi, thanks for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed it and that I could shed a little light on some of those practices for you!

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  11. love this!! I actually hate flying anywhere, I just know it's way faster than the 2 days it takes for me to drive to Minnesota. Makes me look at flying differently though. Thank you

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    1. Hi Jessica! Oh wow, 2 days, yes that is a long time! Where are you coming from? I feel you on not liking to fly. I used to hate it- I was scared. But I loved to travel- so I figured, what's a better way to get over my fear? And I became a flight attendant, haha. Before that, I used to take a 24 hour Greyhound bus ride to go visit family. Now that was scary! Glad you enjoyed the article!

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  12. This was so fascinating! I fly at least once a year and only new less than half of this. Loved this behind the scenes peek!

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    1. Hi Mona! Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it! Now when you fly, you'll be noticing all of those little things! haha.

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  13. Very interesting, I don't fly that often but it's nice to know why they do things.

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    1. Hi Jenny! Glad you found it interesting! I love hearing all of those little tips and tricks to industries that I'm not that familiar with.

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  14. Crazy that flights have to be overbooked! Thank you for the coffee tip, I will definitely remember that one! Thanks for the behind the scenes look, this was very cool to read!

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    1. Hi Chantal! Yes, most flights are overbooked. But there is a lot of planning that goes into it, like some flights can only be overbooked by 2 people...some I've seen being allowed to be overbooked past 15! Those are usually the early morning ones where people don't wake up on time and there are many flights later in the day. Glad you enjoyed the read!

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  15. I will NEVER drink coffee on a plane again! Thanks for these valuable tips!!

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    1. Ha, good idea Jennifer! Glad you liked them!

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  16. This was really cool information; I had no idea why the windows need to be open during landing and take off but that totally makes sense!

    xo Chelsie @ Life with Rosie

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    1. Hi Chelsie! Glad you enjoyed the little secrets! I always like the behind the scenes look stuff!

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  17. I loved, loved, LOVED reading this! Very interesting post. I'm a travel junkie and I'll admit with all the recent bad news, I get a little nervous flying. I know the chances are better to get in a car accident and die than die in a plane crash, but I still get a little nervous every time our plane takes off and lands!

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    1. Hi Chelsea! Glad you loved it! I love to travel too, but it is scary sometimes! Here's a little secret of my own- I used to be afraid to fly and would take the Greyhound- 24 hours!- to visit family when I went away to college. But I loved to travel too much, so I decided what better way to face the fear then be trained in it and become a flight attendant and get free trips! haha. But you got to take all the bad news with a grain of salt- the news is always harping on all the bad things, you'd think this stuff was common place and happened all the time. Your right- still safer than driving.

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  18. This is such a great read! I don't drink coffee, but I guess the tea might be made from the same water ;) So, I'm staying away from the tea now too :D

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    1. Hi Kat! At least for the airline that I worked for, the water for the tea did actually go through different water pipes. I can't speak for the other airlines though, so...better safe than sorry! haha.

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  19. What a great read! Insightful and I even learned a thing or two. Being a flight attendant certainly isn't for everyone, but it's a tough job with little respect.

    That's disgusting about the water. Thank God for bottled water.

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  20. That's so funny about the rum and Coke and the coffee??? Ick! Thanks for sharing via Fab Female Blogging.

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