There are few things worse than being cooped up in a airborne metallic structure thousands of kilometers above the ground with hundreds of other people. It takes a lot of mental and physical fortitude to prepare for a flight – but Mamamia has you covered.
We asked a flight attendant with over 20 years experience on international and domestic flights everything we’ve ever wanted to know: from screaming babies to the mile high club, and do free upgrades even happen anymore?
We’ve called her Sally, but as you can probably guess that’s not her real name…
First things first. Do people really have sex in the toilets?
The quick answer to this frequently asked question? Yes. But according to Sally it’s mostly on long-haul flights to places like London and New York.
“There’s very few people waiting for the bathroom in the middle of a flight when everyone is asleep,” Sally explains, “so if you were wanting to slip off and not get caught that’s when it’s most likely to happen.
“But honestly, I can think of nothing worse,” she continues. “Those toilets are disgusting by the end of a long flight. It would be like having sex in a public toilet.”
What's the grossest passenger habit you've come across?
The moment we asked Sally this question she had an answer. "People leaving used chewing gum in seat pocket," she says unhappily. "Just ask us for a tissue or napkin, we're more than happy to oblige."
Is it ever okay to flirt with flight attendants?
Flight attendants are often some of the most attractive, pleasant and helpful people around. So somewhat understandably, you may be interested in flirting with them. But there's a fine line between being complimentary and harassing someone in their place of work.
According to Sally, it's totally okay, "so long as you're not sleazy about it. Sometimes a little flirt makes people feel nice, so there's no real harm in it."
Is wearing makeup a requirement of the job?
It's no secret that flight attendants are incredibly well put together people. It's probably why we want to flirt with them! But is a flawless face of makeup and chignon a requirement?
Sally says that while it might not be an enforced requirement, "most flight attendants know that wearing makeup is just part of the job, like wearing a uniform is."
She also says that most major airlines have makeup staff on hand to colour match attendants and show them how to achieve a flattering look that suit's the company's aesthetic.
The cabin crew share all the dirty you want to know about flying. Post continues below...
Do flight attendants get sick very often?
Thinking about the amount of coughing, sneezing and snot that flight attendants come into contact with is enough to make you feel sick without even having anything wrong with you. But Sally says that years of air service can give you an incredible immunity.
"I don't think I've been sick in about four years. We get the flu injection every year but we have a bit of a resistance to things."
What can parents with unruly toddlers or crying babies do?
"Some parents think they can't ask us for help, but they can and I think they should," Sally says. "They can come down the back for a while, or if it's a baby and you need to go to the bathroom we're happy to have a hold or do whatever we can to make the flight that little bit easier.
"We had a mother with a screaming baby last week, and I just asked the passenger next to her if they could swap seats, so that the mother was in the aisle seat. He was happy to, and the baby settled down as soon as it didn't feel squished in any more."
Sally also says that another fail safe travelling with kids trick is to bring items of familiarity. "If a child has an iPad or preferred snacks, bring them. Kids like what they like, and being in an unfamiliar environment can be hard, so having some known familiarities with them can be really helpful in getting them settled in those first few moments on board."
Do you mind if passengers ask for more food?
Despite being made up of many small parts, sometimes the trays of airplane food just don't cut it. So if your tummy is still rumbling and you're too scared to ask for more, Sally says you shouldn't be.
"I love to give it all out. Any leftover meals that aren't eaten just get thrown out, so if someone is still hungry we're happy to give it to them."
Apparently snacks (such as cookies, cheese and crackers and other long-life packaged products) are different, but again, "if someone wants something to eat we really don't mind giving them something."
Why do we need to have our phones on flight mode?
Let's be honest here, this is a rule that we've all ignored (or at the very least, wanted to ignore) at some point in our air travelling lives. But according to Sally, the safety concern is all about phone calls.
"The dangerous part is when a passenger receives a call and takes it. It's the answering of the call that makes things dangerous," she explains, adding that "flight mode also helps conserve your battery."
How can I get a free upgrade?
Due to changes in the rules, Sally says getting an upgrade for free is "pretty impossible now." And the reason for that is actually quite simple.
"They haven't paid for it," she says. "People in business and first class pay substantially more for their seats, and if people were getting them for free, they would no longer do that, or they'd ask for a refund."
But if you do want to try for that upgrade, the trick is to be really nice to the people on ground when checking in. "Flight attendants can't upgrade you once you're on the plane, but if you try on the ground it might happen."
What happens to people who die on flights?
Thankfully, this is a rare event, but one that all airlines take extremely seriously.
"If a major health event occurs mid-flight, the plane will divert and land as soon as possible," Sally says. "On the extremely rare occasions where a passenger does pass away, our main priority is to ensure their dignity and privacy are maintained, and to move passengers away from the person as quickly as possible."
*All images via iStock