Confessions of a Flight Attendant

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Anyone who has ever flown will have a story or two to tell about the experience – the stand-up fight over who gets the armrest, the gassy seatmate, the hens party that clearly spent too much time in the airport bar. Now just imagine the incredible yarns someone who flies hundreds of times a year must have up their sleeve!

The team at Cheapflights spoke to Betty in the Sky, a flight attendant who reveals exactly what goes on behind the aisle curtain. Her podcast, Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase, offers a quirky view of life at 35,000 feet.

Being a flight attendant is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. It’s the crew’s responsibility to get a bunch of passengers from A to B safely and comfortably. Naturally, some passengers are more demanding than others and it’s the job of the dedicated cabin crew to make sure everyone on board receives the same level of professional service.

The ‘real’ Betty remains anonymous, but she’s been praised for revealing truly fascinating insights into the world of air travel. Each episode, Betty and her guests let slip plenty of juicy behind-the-scenes travel gossip; from glamorous stopovers to tipsy travellers, no two days are alike, and the antics of some passengers (and crew members) are jaw-droppingly hilarious!

We asked Betty to let us in on a few of her more extreme inflight experiences…

What’s That Smell?

“About 20 minutes before landing a woman rang her bell: ‘My stomach is really upset, so can you not release that smell you put out on landing? I don’t think my stomach can handle it.” What? What scent do we release on landing? We don’t have some sort of air freshener fog that rolls through the airplane before landing. Where do people get these crazy notions?”

When Betty shared this story on her podcast she was surprised to discover the the woman wasn’t the only one convinced airlines like to use a little bit of inflight aromatherapy.

“Many people insisted that some airlines do indeed release a scent on landing. One listener thought it was the scent from the hot towels, another suggested it was people spraying perfume and hairspray in the bathroom as they freshened up for landing. But my very favourite email said “maybe she just took the pilots landing PA literally: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to begin our DE-SCENT into New York’!”

Confessions of a Flight Attendant: No - pilots do not release a scent through the cabin on landing!
No – pilots do not release a scent through the cabin on landing!

Unconventional Travellers

“As we were boarding the airplane a woman was seated in 31G so I told her to cross over (through the galley to the far aisle). She crossed over all right – onto the catering truck!

“The passenger who talks into the speaker overhead ordering a drink like it’s the McDonald’s drive through.

“‘Where are the lines between the states?’ – You would be surprised how many people think there are actual lines between the states, like on a map.

“On the customs and immigration form it says ‘Sex M – F’. Passengers will ask if it means how many times they have sex, Monday to Friday!

“A middle-aged woman rang her bell on a red eye [an overnight flight] and said ‘I called ahead to tell the airline I need to sleep on this flight. What sort of sleeping pills can you offer me?’”

“A woman asked ‘That blasted noise is driving me crazy.  I demand that you make it stop!’. I nicely responded, ‘I think you are referring to the engines – and we better all pray that they don’t stop’.”

Confessions of a Flight Attendant: ‘Sex M - F’ doesn't mean how many times you have sex, Monday to Friday!
‘Sex M – F’ doesn’t mean how many times you have sex, Monday to Friday!

A First Class Passenger is a Happy Passenger

“I think first class people are happier simply because they are more comfortable. First class folks are eating good food and drinking nice wines in a big comfortable chair – of course they are in a better mood. I see the same effect on the (ever more rare) flight that is not full. If you are on a flight that is only half full and the economy passengers have more room and are more comfortable they are happier and nicer to us. It’s like magic!”

Strangest Requests

“Diapers. You have a baby but forget to bring diapers!

“Deodorant; on certain international flights, I truly wish we had deodorant to give to passengers.

“A passenger actually said, ‘Do you have a pen? I need to clean my ears’.

“Tweezers. I just had to ask, ‘What do you need tweezers for,’ as I assumed they had a splinter or something. The response I got really surprised me. ‘I fell into a plant before getting on the airplane and need to get the thorns out of my butt.’  I actually had my own personal tweezers in my bag that I might have offered for a splinter, but definitely not for thorn in the butt removal.

“A screwdriver. I obviously don’t have a screwdriver, but I just had to ask. ‘What do you need a screwdriver for?’ He replied: ‘To take the seat apart’.  ‘Um…. that’s not going to happen!’

“A cup and lid, a straw and a knife. I need to make a catheter.”

Confessions of a Flight Attendant: “Do you have a pen? I need to clean my ears”.
“Do you have a pen? I need to clean my ears”.

Soap

“Passengers (especially women) often complain about their feet cramping up while flying. It may be an old wives’ tale, but apparently, rubbing a bar of soap on your feet can alleviate cramping. So I now take the complimentary little bars of soap from hotels. I know it’s silly and sappy, but I love to ‘cure’ a small problem for a passenger. It’s like the Jimmy Durante song that says, ‘Make someone happy/ Make just one someone happy/ And you will be happy too!’.”

Bathroom Behaviour

“You might expect the words spoken most often by a flight attendant would be ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’ or even ‘I’m sorry’, but it’s actually ‘push!’

“It’s amazing how many people can’t figure out how to get into the bathroom. The lavatory door says push but the ashtray is just too inviting, so most people reach for that and are surprised when nothing happens. It’s like bathroom rocket science!

“They ask ‘Can I use the bathroom on the ground?’ I believe this hearkens back to trains where the waste just fell out onto the tracks. Can you imagine if we just dumped human waste all across the country?”

Confessions of a Flight Attendant: Push people. The lavatory door says push.
Push people. The lavatory door says push.

Listen Up

“Passengers are now all sporting giant noise-cancelling headphones – flight attendants should probably be taught sign language. We constantly have to wave our hands about or reach over two people to nudge them. But what’s most annoying is that after we finally get their attention and say ‘something to drink?’, they inevitably say ‘what?’ I mean, we have a three-hundred pound beverage cart in front of us, and we always ask the same thing, but you have to say it three or four times. Don’t get me started on ‘do you want cream and sugar’!”

Confessions of a Flight Attendant: Would you please remove your headphones!
Passengers: please remove your headphones!

Betty’s Top Tips for a Pleasant Flight

1. Book the first flight of the day. Yes, you have to wake up really early, but the morning flights have a huge advantage because the airplane is already there. You don’t have to worry about delays or weather in some other city where your plane is flying in from.

2. You might be asked to take off their shoes in the airport security line so you may want to think of how many people are traipsing through the metal detector barefoot — and what you may catch in the process. I suggest wearing socks!

3. It’s a good idea to have a printed copy of your driver’s licence and passport inside your suitcase in case your carry-on is lost or stolen. And, for the ultra-scary event where your suitcase and carry-on is lost, I scan my ID, passport, and travellers cheques and email copies to myself. This way, you can go to any computer and print a copy of your documents.

Read more of Betty’s revelations on her blog, bettyinthesky.net. You can also subscribe to her free podcast in iTunes now.

Featured image by LASZLO ILYES

Confessions of a Flight Attendant was last modified: November 11th, 2015 by Kara Segedin
Author: Kara Segedin (256 posts)

Writer, traveller, Tweeter, blogger and part-time adventurer. A kiwi living in London off to explore the world! I can never travel enough!