Secrets Flight Attendants Never Tell Passengers

There are lots of airline secrets flight attendants and air hostesses refuse to share. Coming up are some flight attendant secrets they don't want you to know!


Crying babies, random delays and microwave-nuked meals are just some of the reasons many of us find the whole process of jetting off to a new destination to be less than pleasant, but what behind-the-scenes secrets do flight attendants keep hidden from their passengers?

10. Secret Code

If you consider yourself a frequent flyer, you’re probably so used to hearing various chimes at seemingly random times throughout the flight that you don’t think twice about what they really mean.

Flight Attendant Secrets

Although most times a series of chimes might be followed by an announcement from the cabin crew or pilot themselves – these chimes can also be considered a sort of secret code between the flight deck and the cabin crew, partly to prevent passengers from panicking.

Generally, a varying number of dings can indicate a different official message: one alone might advise attendants of some upcoming choppy air, while two usually conveys that the aircraft is approaching 10,000 feet in altitude, and three can mean severe turbulence is guaranteed, advising attendants to be seated immediately.

Flight Attendant Secrets

Besides these practical and effective codes, though, pilots and attendants have also commented that these chimes might be used to communicate private messages between the main plane and the flight deck. For example, one chime from the pilots might mean “hey, can we have a coffee when you’re free?” while three from the cabin crew might tell the pilots “we have a passenger on board with a medical issue which could require a diversion.”

9. Flying with the Dead

It's nothing out of the ordinary to look around during your flight and see most passengers dozing peacefully in their seats, especially if your flight times aren’t exactly ideal – but what if not everyone is just sleeping?

Flight Attendant Secrets dead passenger

While extremely rare, all members of the cabin crew must be prepared for the unfortunate event of a natural death while thousands of feet up in the air, but the truth is there is no real course of action in place for this occasion considering they can’t exactly remove a corpse mid-flight.

If this does happen, the flight attendant’s primary concern is to not alert other passengers by causing a big commotion, so the best thing to do is to ensure that the deceased person has a properly buckled seatbelt and to temporarily cover them with a blanket.

Flight Attendant Secrets Dead Passenger

As very few planes have special lockers or body bags prepared for such circumstances, in some cases the passenger might also be moved to first class where there are fewer people so that their death is more discrete.

Flight Attendant Secrets dead passenger

That’s not all though, because you could also find yourself flying in the company of a corpse being transported for burial or even a cooler full of organs needed for a transplant at any given time, both of which are discretely loaded on alongside all the other luggage.

8. Double-Check Your Safety Equipment

If you’ve already flown a few times in your life, listening to the safety announcement as you watch the cabin crew point out all the available exits might seem like a bit of a chore, but you might just want to pay special attention to all the safety equipment available to you.

The announcement will likely tell you that there is a life jacket stored under your seat in the event of an emergency – but what if this isn’t always the case?

Flight Attendant Secrets Double-check your safety equipment

The life jacket is the most frequently stolen safety item on board the aircraft. While it’s worth double-checking that your own life jacket hasn’t been pinched, you should also listen carefully to the information given about the oxygen masks which will drop down from above your head.

Flight Attendant Secrets Double-check your safety equipment

Although some people have reservations about the amount of oxygen contained in these small bags, research shows that in the event of a sudden aircraft decompression you have about 18 seconds of ‘useful consciousness’ in which to safely install your own mask.

Even though airplane accidents are still super-rare, it pays to observe the smaller details– they might just save your life.

7. Airplane Food is not Good Food

This one might not come as much of a shock, but just how much do you know about the food served up in those little foil containers – besides the fact that no one would willingly eat it if they weren’t stuck thousands of feet up in the air?

Flight Attendant Secrets Airplane food meal

All in-flight meals are cooked in industrial kitchens near the airport way before it's delivered to your individual tray table – which, by the way, is only wiped down once a day.

In-flight meals are generally prepared between 12 and 72 hours before take-off and then ‘blast-cooled’ to 5°C, but they can technically be chilled for up to 5 days before breaching international food hygiene standards.

But what really makes airplane food taste so bad? It actually comes down to basic science: as air pressure drops and humidity at 30,000ft sinks below 12% (which is dryer than most deserts) our taste buds and nasal cavity, which accounts for 80% of what we consider ‘taste’, become so dehydrated that food tastes significantly blander than it would on the ground.

Secrets Flight Attendants Never Tell Passengers

To enhance the basic sweet and salty tastes, extra salt, sugar and fat are usually added to food, meaning that the average in-flight meal contains around 1,500 calories alone.

Although the pilots must also choose their meal from the very same menu, they aren’t allowed to pick the same option as their co-pilots as a preventative measure which ensures that both will not suffer from potential food poisoning at once.

Flight Attendant Secrets airplane food meal

6. Tea, Coffee or Champagne?

Onboard beverages can hardly be considered a safe bet either, especially the hot kind. A slow cabin pressure means that water boils at 90°C instead of the usual 100°C mark, you can’t expect an on-flight cup of tea to taste the same as your home brew while cruising above ground.

Flight Attendant Secrets Tea, Coffee or Champagne

Similarly, our increasingly dried-out sinuses are also proven to alter the familiar taste of coffee, if that’s more your thing. That’s not all though, because your favourite hot drinks are almost definitely not prepared using safely bottled water but rather the aircraft's own tap water, which is far from ideal.

This is because the process of emptying the toilet and refilling the plane with enough water for its next journey is usually carried out by the same person right next to one another during layover periods, while a build-up of grit and minerals in valves and pipes is also common because of the lack of time to properly clean between flights.

Flight Attendant Secrets tap water

Although many people enjoy a drop of the hard stuff while relaxing on-board, you should also know that even the best wine might taste entirely flat up in the air because liquid thins out and becomes leaner at higher altitudes.

If you’re looking for a better option to wet your palette and calm your nerves, I suggest you go for a classier glass of champagne which has its own system of preserved flavor delivered through all those tiny little bubbles.

Flight Attendant Secrets Tea, Coffee or Champagne

5. Your Phone Won’t Bring Down the Plane (Probably)

One of the most common myths about flying is that if you don’t adhere to the strict instruction to set your personal electronic devices to Airplane mode before taking off you could bring the whole plane down in flames.

Flight Attendant Secrets smartphone radio signal airplane mode

This is not entirely true. In fact, electronic carry-on devices like a laptop or your smartphone aren’t individually capable of interfering with any of the critical electronics required to keep the plane airborne.

The primary concern is that the radio used to access your cell network can interrupt signal communication between the flight deck and the control tower, and a plane full of people using their mobile phones could cause a fair deal of potential confusion due to combined radio emissions.

Secrets Flight Attendants Never Tell Passengers

Although the US has considered changing rules to enable cellular signals to be connected for passengers on planes above 10,000 feet, it is likely that the ban on receiving or making calls on-board will stay firmly in place, because the last thing a cramped aircraft could do with is a bunch of people having loud telephone conversations.

4. The Best Seats in the House

Some people aren’t all that bothered about seat allocation while preparing for an upcoming flight, while others will actively avoid the middle seat or the ‘unlucky’ aisle 13, which has even been removed from certain planes to ease flyers' minds.

Flight Attendant Secrets best seats

But where is the safest place to sit while flying? Research has shown that - despite the extra legroom, comfier seats and generally more peaceful experience – first class is actually the last place you want to be sat in the case of a real emergency.

In 2012, scientists purposely crashed a Boeing 737 aircraft and discovered that none of the crash dummies positioned in first class would have survived in a real-life scenario, with some of the seats even found around 500 feet from the original crash site.

Secrets Flight Attendants Never Tell Passengers

It is generally believed that seats closest to the wings are ‘stronger’ and therefore safer, while seats nearest to the emergency exit allow you the best chances of escape should the plane catch on fire, in which case you have about 90 seconds to get out safely.

In fact, those sitting in the safest seats in the aircraft are the flight attendants themselves, who are positioned in backward-facing seats at the rear of the plane, which provide much more back and neck support.

Flight Attendant Secrets best seats

The reason why the rest of the seats on board aren’t also backward-facing is quite simply because they cost more to install, given that these seats are heavier and therefore increase fuel consumption. Safety first, right?

3. Time is Money

A delayed take-off can be frustrating for us all and sitting with your seatbelt fastened awaiting the announcement that the plane is finally preparing to move can often feel like a lifetime. But have you ever considered that the flight attendants patiently answering everyone’s questions during this period aren’t actually getting paid yet?

Flight Attendant Secrets pay structure

Although individual pay structures may differ between airlines, both the pilots and cabin crew generally don’t start getting paid until the parking brake is released or the main exit door is closed and pay stops again when the brake has been reapplied and the door re-opened.

This also means that all necessary means of pre-flight preparation including any pilot checks like weather, route coordination and briefings as well as attendants assisting passengers with boarding the plane and finding their seats are technically unpaid work.

This has been the traditional way of ‘accurately’ calculating the shift time of airline workers for years and, unfortunately for them, airline regulations aren’t too keen on changing it now.

Flight Attendant Secrets pay structure

From now on you should probably remember to be nicer to your cabin crew because dealing with rude passengers is hard enough, but dealing with difficult individuals for free is a whole new ball game.

2. Sleeping on the Job

Working on an aircraft can be a seriously stressful job that comes with long, irregular hours and some serious multi-tasking requirements, especially if you’re the one flying the plane.

It’s no surprise, then, that in a survey of 500 pilots, half agreed that at least once a month their ability to fly was compromised by lack of sleep, while in another study 43-54% of UK, Swedish and Norwegian pilots asked admitted to actually falling asleep while flying.

Flight Attendant Secrets sleeping on the job

Don’t panic just yet, because the autopilot is always a handy solution, plus the co-pilot can take over at any time, except for when a quarter of the pilots from that same study claim to have woken up to find the co-pilot dozing too.

Sleeping on the job doesn’t just happen accidentally though, as both pilots and flight attendants are given private sleeping quarters so they can sneak off for a much-needed kip during long-haul flights.

Flight Attendant Secrets private quarters

Some sleeping quarters like those on a Boeing 777 and 787 can be accessed by a secret locked staircase near the cockpit, while others like the Boeing 773 cabins are disguised as a regular overhead storage locker.

These hidden areas can have anywhere from 6 to 10 beds or bunks depending on the airline and can contain a reading light, blankets, pillows, private storage and in some cases pajamas.

Flight Attendant Secrets private quarters

Although flight attendants can barely stand up, overhead sleeping quarters for pilots are a little plusher and can fit two business class seats, two sleeping areas and enough room for either a closet, sink or toilet. Think about that next time your legs are squashed by the reclined seat in front of you.

Flight Attendant Secrets pilot quarters

1. The Fake Lock

Popping to use the toilet is something few of us can avoid during a lengthy flight, and oftentimes you might find yourself peering up the aisle waiting for that red ‘engaged’ light to turn green.

Secrets Flight Attendants Never Tell Passengers

But what if I told you the bathroom lock is little more than an illusion? In fact, anyone can open the lavatory from the outside, if they happen to be a flight attendant who knows how that is.

As with everything else on board, the toilet must be easily accessible in the case of a sudden emergency, so the locking system has been designed with a secret latch or switch hidden beneath the ‘lavatory’ sign which will disable the lock and allow cabin crew to open the door if someone was passed out or stuck inside.

Flight Attendant Secrets toilet lavatory lock

Much like the sleeping quarters, this is probably something you never thought to look for, and as mechanisms vary between airlines the chances of you figuring it out are slim anyway, not to mention facing a potential criminal offense.

I hope you were amazed at these airline secrets. And better think twice before ordering food or beverages on board. Thanks for reading!

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