Things Flight Attendants Want You To Stop Doing

Flying today isn't as glamorous as it was in the 1950s. Economy seats have less legroom, rarely anyone gets dressed up for their trip, and fresh meals of caviar and stuffed hen have been replaced by bite-sized bags of almonds and pretzel snacks. One thing remains the same: friendly smiles from flight attendants. Responsible for the comfort and safety of passengers as they soar tens of thousands of feet above the earth, these aviation aides can make or break a trip, so it's essential to treat them well. Tick them off badly enough, and they could kick you off the plane, and no one wants that.


Flight attendants live in an age where their every move can be recorded and uploaded to social media without context or permission. That means they're under even more pressure to remain calm and resilient when passengers take actions they dislike. Sometimes, these actions, like tossing a dirty diaper in their direction or overtly flirting, can make a crew member feel threatened or uncomfortable. There are plenty of other things flight attendants want us to stop doing and our research led us to too many to include in this article. By digging through chat boards frequented by airline crew members, reading articles on the topic, and pulling from our experiences as seasoned travelers, we chose the most important don'ts to highlight. Please be a good passenger and heed our advice!


Hogging the overhead bin

There's little more frustrating than finally arriving at your seat to find no space for your carry-on bag. It's enraging when you realize that one person's belongings have taken the entire bin, and that person refuses to remove any of them. Make that double-engraging if you've paid extra to bring your bag onboard. Don't be that person! Stick to your allotted baggage allowance and only place bulky items like coats in the bin above once everyone's bags are stowed. If there's no space, stuff them and your personal items under the seat in front of you or keep them on your lap.


Each airline has a specific policy on carry-on bags, whether you've paid for them or not. Before traveling, do your research to find out what is allowed on the aircraft and what should be checked. For instance, JetBlue and American Airlines carry-on bags can be no larger than 22 X 14 X 9 inches. Travelers are also allowed one personal item that can fit underneath the seat in front of them.

Pretending you've fastened your seatbelt

Always wear your seatbelt on a plane. This seems a little silly to need to say, considering it's a mandatory rule for an important reason — keeping you safe. But it is amazing how many people avoid buckling up even when the fasten seatbelt light is on. Do you really think a flight attendant isn't going to wonder why your sweater is precariously placed on your lap, hiding only the buckle of your seatbelt? Would you ride in a car without wearing a seat belt? 


If you've ever been on a flight when turbulence hit without warning, you'll likely understand how scary it can be. When a plane hits turbulence, it drops. Having your lap belt fastened can help you move with the plane instead of against it, keeping you in your seat and preventing you from flying up and hitting your head on the overhead compartment, which could cause a concussion and other injuries.

Considering pilots encounter roughly 65,000 cases of turbulence each year, 5,500 of which are severe (via the NSF National Center for Atmospheric Research), there's nothing cool about being unfastened, even when the fasten seatbelt sign is off. According to research conducted by the FAA, between 2009 and 2022, 34 passengers and 129 crew members were seriously injured because of turbulence. Since this potentially dangerous condition can happen unexpectedly (clear-air turbulence is invisible and virtually unpredictable), staying buckled throughout your flight is best.


Ignoring the safety announcement

You've been here, done that, and traveled so many times that you believe you could give the airline's safety demonstration yourself. There's just one problem: you've likely ignored the announcement so often that you might forget the essentials. Consider this a reminder to watch the in-flight safety video or demonstration on your next flight. While flying is a safe method of travel, serious incidents have occurred, like the door panel that blew off during an Alaska Airlines flight in January 2024. These rare instances underline the need for passengers to be aware of safety protocols. Wondering what to do if an airplane door flies off during your flight? A flight attendant can tell you.


To get passengers to tune in to safety demonstrations, airlines are doing everything from pausing their inflight entertainment to revamping their videos. United Airlines' video featured Spider-Man at one point. Air Canada's film shows everything you need to know – from buckling a seatbelt to fastening an oxygen mask – without putting an actual airplane on screen. Instead, a girl buckles herself into a dog sled, and a group practices appropriate crash positioning while on foldable chairs in a field. Strange? Some may think so, but it enticed at least some people to watch until the end.

Policing other passengers

No one likes a know-it-all, especially when they're stuck sitting beside them in a glorified sardine tin for hours. Imagine if your seatmate kept telling you to wear a mask, throw out your garbage, or put your tray table up for landing. Would you feel inclined to "accidentally" spill your water on their lap? If you're one of those do-gooders who feel it's your job to educate others about health and safety, please think twice. You'll be more helpful to a flight attendant by biting your tongue (figuratively, not literally) instead of telling fellow passengers how you believe they should act and risking an argument.


Likely, your intent to encourage other passengers to cover their cough or keep their seats upright while landing is good. That said, it's best to leave the reprimanding or gentle coaxing to the trained professionals. If your seatmate is invading your personal space, there are things you can do before losing your temper. Try politely asking them to move over, for instance. If that doesn't work, quietly ask a flight attendant to step in. Causing undue tension by trying to police your neighbor will likely do more harm than good, leading to more work for your flight attendant.

Overusing the call button

While it might be a nice change of pace to have someone serve you seatside, don't take advantage of a flight attendant's kindness by requesting another pack of cookies via the call button above your head. Yes, that button was designed to get a crew member's attention no matter where they might be in the fuselage, but the main reason it's there is safety. Usually outlined with a person's head and torso, the little button alerts flight attendants to an emergency. We're talking about a heart or panic attack kind of emergency, not the one caused by your empty rum and coke.


When passengers misuse the button, they risk flight attendants tuning them out for annoying behavior. Instead of pinging away, wait until a flight attendant is nearby to ask for the blanket, headphones, or drink you crave. There are some instances where using the button in a non-emergency situation is reasonable. If you're stuffed into a window seat and the people next to you are zonked out, for example, feel free to use it. 

Going barefoot

If you've never had the bad luck of sitting in front of another passenger who stretches their bare feet between your seat and the window, consider yourself lucky. In addition to the overt grossness of this act and the rank smell that often accompanies it, having a barefoot plane mate is pretty icky. Please do not join the ranks of rude passengers who consider airing their toe fungus an acceptable habit. Do you still want to wiggle your piggies in public? Think twice before taking your shoes off on a flight.


First, the floor of an airplane is pretty disgusting. While cleaned frequently, there isn't enough time to deep clean all areas of a plane before every flight. That means you could be tracking dirt and bacteria on your naked tootsies and transferring it later to your socks, shoes, and potentially your hotel room. Second, being barefoot can cause serious issues if an emergency occurs. Remember, turbulence can cause people (and their things) to fly about the cabin. Being devoid of shoes can make it more challenging to maneuver around these obstacles if you must exit the aircraft.

Being rude

Have you ever noticed how smiley flight attendants are? Even on a 6 a.m. flight, cheerful faces will welcome you onboard. Crew are friendly because they are required to be, even when you're acting like a jerk. But don't act like a jerk! When flying, follow the Golden Rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Being respectful and polite won't cost you anything, but it could make a crew member's job (and your flight) more enjoyable. Say "hello" when you enter the aircraft and "thank you and goodbye" when you deplane. Remove headphones when a flight attendant speaks to you, and pay attention when they make announcements or ask you to put up your window shade.


Flight crew members often work long hours yet usually still have a smile plastered to their faces despite dealing with some less-than-ideal customers. Always be kind, never treat a flight attendant as if you are better than them, and be thankful. Also, think twice before asking flight attendants for a seat upgrade. If you're rude, there's pretty much no chance you'd get one anyway, but crew members can be fired for giving a better seat to someone who isn't on the upgrade list.

Hanging out in the galley

The galley is akin to a flight attendant's break room. This is where they can have a moment to eat their lunch when on a long flight or take a brain break before a passenger once again pings them to deliver a drink or snack. While it's important for passengers to get up and move to avoid blood clots on long flights, taking up residence in the galley to do squats isn't doing anyone any favors.


The galley is also the crew's workspace and the airplane's kitchen. This is where flight attendants prepare your drinks and meals, so they need all the space they can get. Having passengers hanging around to pass the time, asking random questions, practicing a sun salutation, or lunging from side to side can make it difficult for a crew member to do their job. If you're visiting the galley while waiting for the bathroom, that's understandable. Just don't park yourself there for a long time. Do your business, flush, and head back to your seat.

Going to the bathroom during drink or meal service

When you've gotta go, you've gotta go. But try to time your bathroom visit wisely. Flight attendants hate when people decide to use the bathroom during food or drink service. An airplane's drinks and food cart is bulky and difficult to maneuver. According to an American Airlines document on the Physical Demands of a Flight Attendant (pdf), it might take between 30 and 60 pounds of push/pull force for a flight attendant to move a full cart. If your bathroom trip forces them to move out of the way, you're causing a crew member more physical labor and delaying service for other passengers.


Has a flight attendant ever served you a drink from a tray? Imagine how challenging it is to balance a tray of sloshing drinks aboard a plane that can jostle from side to side at any moment. Now, picture asking that person to squeeze out of the way so you can pass on your way to and from the toilet, their tray-topped hand hovering over another passenger's head, trying desperately not to spill its contents. Just hold it!

Piling everything on your meal tray

While you may think you're being helpful, stacking empty food containers on the tray before handing it to a flight attendant can create more havoc. Each airplane tray and the food containers that top it slide perfectly into the cart, making it easy for a flight attendant to quickly whisk away the remnants of your meal while grabbing the next passenger's tray and so on down the aisle. By piling up garbage and empty food containers atop your meal tray, you are unwittingly causing more work for the crew. Add your neighbor's tray to the stack, and yikes!


These busy flight attendants must now spend their valuable time undoing your leaning tower of rubbish to fit each tray back into the cart properly. Your careful balancing act could cause garbage to fall on the floor, forcing the crew member to stoop to pick it up, possibly getting their hands dirty in the process. This seemingly thoughtful gesture could now cause the slowdown of tray removal for everyone onboard.

Not parenting your kids

We're sure you're already aware of this, but just in case, we'll spell it out – an airplane is not a playground. Your children should not roam free in the aisles or climb under seats for several reasons, the most important of which is their safety. A kid could trip, hit their face on the armrest of another person's chair, get thrown about the cabin during clear air turbulence, or worse. Instead, help them get energy out by holding their hand and walking up and down the aisles to ensure they stay upright.


Kids who aren't dissuaded from repeatedly kicking the seat in front of them, pulling the hair of other passengers, or being generally rude and rambunctious can make a flight horrible for everyone around them, including flight attendants. While you can't prevent a child from crying on a plane, you can ask them to behave well enough to keep other passengers happy. Don't let them color the tray table, either. This is something flight attendants have complained about on Reddit. Speaking of the tray table, don't use it or the seat to change your baby's diaper. Take them to the bathroom. One more thing: flight attendants are not babysitters. Please don't treat them as such.

Hitting on them

An airplane is not a dating service. There's no swiping right on the flight attendant with the cheeriest smile and brightest blue eyes. Crew members are there to do a job -– get you safely from one destination to the next, with a few drinks and food in between. That's it. Just because their eyes twinkle when they look at you doesn't mean they're hitting on you. They probably blinked too many times to combat the cabin's dry air.


Being a flight attendant is similar to a service industry job, with added responsibilities like keeping hundreds of passengers safe in a giant flying tube. They are paid to be nice to their customers, which is most likely why they're being so friendly to you. Don't misinterpret this as interest in sparking a relationship that will travel across miles. Instead, treat your crew members with the respect they deserve and recognize them as professionals with an important job to do. Don't make them feel uncomfortable by hitting on them, and definitely don't touch them anywhere!

Handing over your trash at inappropriate times

Flight attendants make a point of coming through the cabin multiple times to pick up garbage. They'll either have a garbage bag in their hands or push a trash trolley through the aisle, collecting your bits and pieces as they go. If you happen to be sleeping when they pass, wait until the next pick-up to place your trash in their receptacle. Do not randomly stick your garbage-filled hand into the aisle when they walk by, assuming they'll take your dirty rubbish with their bare hands. Would you want to handle someone's dirty tissues or a half-eaten banana?


Additionally, don't hand the sick bag to the flight attendant if you have to use it. Instead, take it to the closest bathroom and dispose of it in the trash bin. If you don't feel up to that, take the bag with you when deplaning and throw it in the bathroom garbage in the airport. Flight attendants serve food and drinks to other passengers; they are not allowed to take vomit-filled bags due to health precautions. This advice goes for dirty diapers, too. No one wants to touch those!

Being too fast or too slow upon arrival

Two annoying types of people deplane an aircraft. The overeager traveler jumps up before the seatbelt light is turned off. Not only is this dangerous (the plane is still moving), but this behavior can force the plane to stop on the tarmac. Passengers aren't allowed to stand while the aircraft is in motion. This eager beaver blocks the aisle with their suitcase while awaiting the door opening, sighing intermittently or complaining about how long it's taking to exit.


The lollygagger sits quietly while their overzealous counterparts rush the door. They may finish their book's next chapter as the plane spews humans onto the gateway. Once they realize everyone's deplaned, they stretch, stand up, and search for their overhead bags. Sometimes, they may be so lost on that last page that they must be reminded to leave.

Don't be these people. Instead, pack up everything you can before landing, double-check that the seat-back pocket is free of your things (take garbage with you to throw out later), and stay seated until the plane has stopped at the gate. When it's your turn, pop up to grab your suitcase from the overhead compartment. If your bag is stowed three rows behind your seat, wait to collect it.


Asking other passengers to switch seats

Depending on the airline, passengers may not get to choose the location of their seats without paying an additional fee. However, some flight attendants say this doesn't give anyone the right to disturb other passengers or coerce airline employees into pressuring someone to switch spots. Expressing her frustration on TikTok, flight attendant @hashtagmariah complained, "We see this all the time, all the time, where people just don't wanna pay for seat selection, or they wait until the last minute and all the seats are gone." Worse, she added, most passengers would rather "involve a flight attendant" than handle it themselves, possibly to circumvent potential confrontation or due to the perception that the request will seem more authoritative.


This all-too-common plane seating question drives many flight attendants up the wall because they view it as unfair to the person asked to switch locations, forcing the attendant to make some of their guests feel uncomfortable. While certain passengers won't have trouble saying no to a request to move, others might feel pressured to make the trade even if they don't really want to switch seats. For example, a passenger may have chosen a particular spot for reasons they don't wish to disclose to strangers, like incontinence or anxiety about flying. To get the seat you want when booking, use a travel agent or pay the pre-selection fee to ensure you end up sitting near your crew.