Want to be a better airline passenger? Flight attendants share their pet peeves and the passenger habits to avoid.

Flight Attendant on Plane
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Whether you love your job or are actively and eagerly looking for a new position, it’s safe to say that every profession has its set of annoyances: Small, seemingly innocuous things that don’t ruin your day, but don’t exactly make your job easier, either. That said, the stakes and frustration are taken to a new level—literally—when you’re cruising at 35,000 feet in the sky. A flight is exciting for many passengers—one that is sweetened with the excitement of going somewhere new and robust in-flight entertainment—but for the cabin crew on each vessel? It’s work. Though it is a flight attendant’s job to enforce safety rules while ensuring everyone’s time spent in the sky is as enjoyable and comfortable as possible, there are things passengers do (and don’t do) that make their jobs a lot more challenging. (Not to mention these manner mishaps are downright annoying.) 

To add some insight into a flight attendant’s job—and help you be the best passenger you can be—we chatted with three crew members about the biggest annoyance in their day-to-day routine. While these pros have opinions on everything from boarding the plane to snack time, the number-one thing they ask for is patience and compassion.  “Know we are doing our best with what we’ve been given for that flight,” says flight attendant Harry M*. “We always want you to be comfortable and happy—that makes all of our days easier!”

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1. Dilly-Dallying When Getting on the Plane

Want to be an exemplary passenger? Well, that starts before your flight. Whether you spent a little too much time at the airport lounge or are rushing to make that connecting flight, we’ve all had to scramble to board a plane. However, it really helps to board your flight and get settled in your seat in a timely manner. “Our pay does not start until the cabin door is shut,” says flight attendant Merci Migliore. “If customers had more insight on this knowledge they would understand why the need for a seamless or proactive boarding is beneficial for all.”

2. Owning the Overhead Bins

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In a perfect world, your carry-on would sit in the overhead bin directly above your seat; however, Migliore emphasizes that overhead bins are shared spaces. “When passengers start moving around items, taking them out of bins, or start to show signs of frustration, flight attendants are less likely to want to help you find space,” she explains. Instead, Migliore encourages passengers to pay attention to a flight attendant’s visual and audio cues. (For example, if a bin is closed, it is likely full.) While we’re on the topic of baggage, Migliore wants to make it very clear that it’s not a cabin crew’s job to put your bags in an overhead compartment. “As the old saying goes, ‘You pack it, you stack it.’”

3. Asking for Personal Requests… During Boarding


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From inquiring about an upgrade to requesting a headset to enjoy in-flight entertainment, passengers often have requests to make their flight more enjoyable. Your cabin crew will be happy to help you to the best of their ability, but timing is everything. “It’s much more helpful to use your call bell once everyone is seated and the flight attendants are prepping the cabin to close the door,” Migliore explains.  “When customers have ‘immediately pressing’ requests, it distracts the flight attendants from the tasks at hand, which is the common goal of an on-time departure.” If you have a request pertaining to your seat assignment, Migliore says it’s best to handle that at the gate prior to boarding.

4. Talking Through the Safety Demo

Regardless of your destination, no flight can begin without a short safety demo. If you’ve racked up enough frequent flier miles to memorize the entire spiel by heart, it might be easy for you to tune out the instructions. (No smoking in the lavatory? Keep your seatbelt fastened at all times in the event of unexpected turbulence? Got it.) However, talking over the demo is disrespectful to both your flight attendants and nearby passengers. “You may have been on an airplane for the one-hundredth time, but your neighbor might be on their first flight,” Migliore explains. “The information being told during the demo may sound mundane and not interesting, but it is the information that will save your life should something go wrong.”

Woman Looking Out Airplane Window

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5. Not Being Aware of Your Surroundings

We’re not going to sugarcoat it for you: Unless you fly first class on every flight, you will be dealing with tight quarters. Is it comfortable? No. Does a cramped seat give you permission to take up as much space as physically possible? Also no. 

“The most annoying thing passengers do is be inconsiderate of their surroundings and of others,” Harry M. says. “Everything from causing tripping hazards with knees, legs, and bags to bag straps in the aisle to draping their hair or jackets off the back of the seats into the space of others.” 

An aircraft cabin isn’t exactly cozy, but everyone is in the same boat plane. Instead, do the best you can to follow the golden rule and be cognizant of your surroundings—just like you’d hope your fellow passengers would behave. “Passengers can upgrade their karma points by simply being aware of how their use of space affects others,” he says. “Keep arms, shoulders, feet, and elbows out of the aisle.”

6. Misusing Your Headphones

Make no mistake, headphones are essentials for every flight. “The other guests onboard do not want to hear your crime podcast, or your favorite song on repeat,” Migliore explains. That being said, there is one exception to the rule: Snack time.

“My biggest pet peeve is passengers not taking out their headphones during service,” shares flight attendant Rachel Loporchio. “We have anywhere from 160 to 360 people on our flights and asking the same questions over and over gets very tiring. For example I will ask, ‘Would you like a snack? Cookie or pretzel?’ And their response is ‘water.’ And then I do that 160 more times.”

The next time you see a flight attendant rolling a food and beverage cart your way, pause your program and remove your headphones. It’s a small courtesy that will make a big difference.

*A pseudonym has been used.