Top 4 ways to get a flight attendant to go Steve Slater

After an altercation with a passenger, JetBlue flight attendant Steve Slater quit his job on the spot and made a heroic (albeit possibly criminal) slide from an exit hatch. Yes, passengers can be incredibly obnoxious. Here’s a list of what annoys flight attendants most.

1. Seat-back pockets are not trash cans, folks

There is a reason that flight attendants go down the aisle several times before landing. Those trash bags they’re carrying aren’t Armani accessories. Yes, trash can build up on long flights, but stuffing refuse and gum into seat-back pockets, fold-up trays, between seats, on the floor, in overhead bins — basically anywhere they fit — is sure to anger your onboard crew.

“A big gripe on longer flights is the amount of trash and debris that seems to accumulate around some passengers’ seats,” writes Bobbie Sullivan, an occupational health psychologist based in Hawaii, in an e-mail. “ ‘Do they throw their cups and tissues and newspapers on the floor like that at home? I think not!’ said one flight attendant I interviewed.”

Remedy: Use the trash bags, people. Otherwise, if you’ve forgotten to throw something away, bring it out with you when you deplane — or at least don’t hide it. The next passenger will surely find it and complain to the flight attendant.

2. Seat upgrade? Don’t go there.

Just because there is an empty seat in business class doesn’t give flight attendants the supreme authority to allow you to set up shop there. If you cop an attitude about this, your flight attendant will not be pleased.

“Flight attendants are not the ones who have the authority to provide upgrades,” writes Sullivan. “That usually is the job of the gate agents or other customer service reps. If a flight attendant will not let an economy passenger move to an empty business class seat, it is because she or he is not allowed to do so.”

Remedy: If you didn’t book ahead online — where you can often choose your precise seat — and if you don’t have a serious reason why you need to change your seat (versus want to change your seat), get over it. You’re pretty much stuck.

3. Safety rules aren’t optional

Remember, most flight attendants aren’t making up the rules as they go along. Each rule has a reason behind it. Moreover, flight attendants didn’t make the rules, they just enforce them. So if a flight attendant asks you to put that carry-on all the way under the seat, it’s probably not a secret conspiracy to make your flying experience miserable.

“Passengers who won’t comply with safety rules — or who comply, but only after arguing with the flight attendant” are an annoyance, writes Sullivan, who has closely researched the lives of flight attendants and writes about her studies on and “Passengers often seem to view flight attendants as nit-picking and bossy when they hear, ‘Sir, I need you to put on your seatbelt NOW,’ or, ‘Ma’am, if that bag does not fit under the seat in front of you, you’ll have to put it in the overhead bin.’ “

Remedy: Please do what the flight attendant says. Generally, they’re just trying to make sure you — and everyone else — are safe.

Besides, if a safety violation is made, regardless of how minor and even if no damage is caused, flight attendants can be held responsible through fines and termination.

4. Flight attendants are people, too

Yes, your phone conversation is engrossing, but can’t you just say ‘hello’ to the flight attendant as you board? You and your flight attendants are starting a brief relationship. Why not get off on the right foot and acknowledge their existence?

One peeve of flight attendants: “No eye contact at the first point of contact. Not even hello,” writes 20-year veteran flight attendant John Safkow of Castro Valley, Calif., in an e-mail. “Most are already tuned out on cell phones or other electronics. Many hand over used food containers they’ve been eating from the terminal, instead of disposing of it properly before entering the jetway.”

Remedy: “Just say ‘hello.’ Listen, this experience is no longer a walk in the park for us, either,” writes Safkow, who blogs under the name Martha Stewardess.

“A smile, a little eye contact, and saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ always are appreciated,” writes Sullivan.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/12/2010 - 04:07 pm.

    Customer Service Agents, too, are sometimes on the receiving end of incredible rudeness from passengers who throw sandwiches or swear or spit.

    My favorite story is from a “worst customer” article I read several years ago. A United Airlines CSA was having to find flights for 200 or 300 passengers whose flight was cancelled. The line was long and not moving fast enough for one gentleman at the back end.

    He elbowed his way to the front of the line and loudly asked, “Do you know who I am?” Rather than react testily, the CSA picked up her microphone and told the crowd that the gentlemen unfortunately did not remember who he was. And could anyone who recognized him help him out?

    This got a big laugh, of course, and a “F… you” remark from the gentleman. “Oh, sir, I’m sorry but you’ll have to stand in line for that, too.”

  2. Submitted by Larry Copes on 08/13/2010 - 06:46 am.

    I appreciate the reminder. In fact, I’d like to know what flight attendants find to *like* about their jobs.

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