12 Polite Habits Flight Attendants Actually Dislike—and What To Do Instead

Flying can be an enjoyable experience when passengers and flight attendants establish a respectful and courteous environment. However, certain habits that may seem polite to passengers can cause flight attendants frustration and make things worse for everyone. Here’s what they prefer you would do instead when it comes to these flying pet peeves.

1. Constantly Rearranging Overhead Bins

Stewardess helping passenger to loading luggage into overhead bin
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It’s one thing to move around your own carry-on items but avoid touching other people’s belongings. Leave organizing the overhead compartment to the flight attendants — that’s their job, and never, ever take bags out of their hands that belong to someone else because you think you’re helping them.

Touching other people’s things is an easy way to get people riled up. If you elect yourself to be the organizer in chief of the overhead compartment, you will be taking up a lot of space, wasting time, and causing confusion when no one can find their bags at the end of their flight.

Instead: Put your stuff away in the overhead compartments as fast as you can and get to your seat right away so you’re out of everyone’s way, and there will be less commotion surrounding the overhead compartments.

2. Being the Plane Hall Monitor

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Some passengers think they’re sparing flight attendants the burden of having to police passenger behavior by calling out or disciplining the people around them who may be breaking the rules. Whether someone isn’t wearing a mask, should have their tray tables stowed away, or have their seatbelt buckled, it’s not up to you to correct them, and you should refrain from doing so.

Confronting other passengers increases the risk of escalating conflict that could become a physical altercation, which is the last thing your flight attendant wants to deal with.

Instead: Call the flight attendant and let them know what’s happening. They’ll decide what the appropriate response is.

3. Serving Yourself Refreshments or Not Preparing for Dietary Requirements Ahead of Time

Female flight attendants in the cabin of the plane prepare lunch and serve refreshments
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If you weren’t aware, it’s rude to serve yourself refreshments by helping yourself to whatever is in the cart next to you. A specific catered amount of refreshments are allotted to each passenger, and they keep tabs on how much food and drink has been dispensed.

By helping yourself when the cart is next to you, you mess up their system, are disrespectful, and contaminate the cart. The flight attendant will get to you. Other habits you should avoid include asking for multiple different types of drinks and failing to request meals that fit your specific dietary requirements ahead of time.

Instead: Wait patiently for your turn. If the cart is next to you, your flight attendant is just behind it. They will ask each passenger what they want to eat or drink. Just wait an extra minute, and you’re less likely to annoy them. Always book special dietary meals ahead of time or pack your own food so you aren’t left starving on a long flight.

4. Asking the Flight Attendant To Fill a Large Water Bottle

flight attendant talking with passengers on airplane
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While it’s reasonable to ask for water during beverage service in the middle of your flight, it’s pushing it to request a large volume of water at once. In addition, if you don’t already have water on you, you will receive a single serving of water because flight attendants have an entire plane full of passengers who also need water.

Instead: Bring a water bottle or fill a reusable one after security and bring it onboard the plane, especially for long-haul flights. You can ask for water multiple times, but it’s better to be prepared, and flight attendants will only provide you with a small cup of water.

5. Calling Them an Overly Friendly or Objectifying Name

ฺBusiness male passenger and a senior female passenger bring Bording Parts to ask a flight attendant for a seat during the flight.
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Leave “toots,” “sweetie,” “honey,” “babes,” and “darling” in the past. It’s very Pan Am, and that airline has been out of business since the 90s. It’s disrespectful and likely only to make the attendant dislike you, if not accuse you of sexual harassment. All of this can be avoided by not speaking down to the people whose job it is to make your flight run smoother.

Instead: Refer to the attendant by the name on their name tag or say, “Excuse me, ma’am/sir.”

6. Only Thanking the Pilot at the End of Your Flight

Ready to flight. Rear view of confident male pilot showing his thumb up and smiling while sitting in cockpit
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You don’t need to get your flight attendant a gift, give them a tip, or do anything extra to show your appreciation. However, given that passengers almost unanimously thank the pilot for a safe flight upon departure, remember to thank your flight attendant for accommodating you during the entire flight. It’s an exhausting and demanding job, and they get little thanks for it.

Instead: Don’t ignore your flight attendant when getting off the plane. Make sure to say thank you each time they help you out during the flight and when you’re getting off.

7. Cleaning After Other Passengers

While cleaning up your mess is helpful, you should avoid throwing away your neighbors’ trash. For one, you don’t know if they’re still using it or if it’s something important. If you do end up accidentally throwing away someone’s things, it burdens the flight attendant to go fish it out of the trash or search through the entire plane.

Instead: A lot of drama surrounding lost items can be avoided if everyone sticks to their own personal space. Keep your hands on your own items.

8. Keeping Your Fear of Flying to Yourself

Woman on a plane fear of flying
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If you’re scared of flying, you don’t need to keep your fears to yourself. Your flight attendant would prefer that you didn’t. If you keep everything bottled up inside, it can all pour out at the wrong time or lead to a public meltdown. Plus, flight attendants don’t like seeing passengers needlessly suffering.

Instead: If you feel like you will have an anxiety attack or feel uneasy up in the air, talk to them about it. They can help you relax, offer you some extra amenities, and teach you breathing techniques that will help relax you or assure you that there’s nothing to worry about.

9. Flirting With the Flight Attendant

Cabin crew give service to passenger in airplane .
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Remember that flight attendants are working, and being overly flirty or persistent in propositioning them for relations outside of work can be considered sexual harassment.

Avoid making them uncomfortable with excessive compliments, flirty language, and requests to go out or have their number. Just because they are helping you and being nice to you does not mean they are returning flirty banter.

Instead: Put yourself in their shoes. Do you like being hit on in places where you have no escape? If you feel it’s appropriate, some flight attendants claim it’s okay to give them your number or business card if they want to contact you. However, if they have ignored all your advances, this is a bad move.

10. Calling the Flight Attendant Over Just To Chat

Flight Attendant
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While your airline steward is likely very kind and interesting, they do have plenty of things to do and people to accommodate, so you should only call them over if you genuinely need something.

Some travelers get bored or lonely and may want to chat with the cabin crew to pass the time, but this can get them in trouble or take them away from their other responsibilities.

Instead: Don’t bother your attendant with conversation unless you have a legitimate request. They aren’t there to socialize.

11. Snapping, Whistling, or Tugging at Their Sleeve To Get Their Attention

Flight captain or stewardess in air hostess uniform talking with passengers on airplane
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You should never, under any circumstance, touch the cabin crew. Even if you think it’s a small thing to tug on their sleeve to get their attention, it’s violating, rude, and may provoke a big reaction.

Instead: Press the call button on your seat, and an attendant will be over shortly. If you see them passing by, you can politely say, “Excuse me,” to get their attention. No whistling, snapping, or touching is necessary.

12. Asking Them Where Exactly You Are in the Sky

Flight attendant woman using digital tablet choose food order service businessman passenger on airplane
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Believe it or not, flight attendants are not constantly tracking the GPS coordinates of your flight. They have a lot of responsibilities and people to attend to for many hours, so chances are, your flight steward knows just as little as you do.

Instead: If you’re on a long-haul flight, you can often see how far along you are on your journey on the digital screen in front of you. Check this before asking.

Avoid pointing out your window and asking the attendant what or where something is. They may have a general idea, but don’t be surprised if they don’t, and they have too much to do to bother the pilot to answer your question.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt
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Jaimee Marshall is a writer who hails from the suburbs of Philadelphia but has spent the past few years living abroad in Australia. She considers herself a bit of a movie buff with a knack for horror and clever sci-fi flicks. When she isn't watching or writing about movies, she's probably either posting political memes, cooking vegan food, or being active. She covers entertainment news, and reviews films and television for Wealth of Geeks. You can also catch her deep dives on sociopolitical issues at Evie Magazine, Katie Couric Media, and Her Campus or watch her appearance on Popcorned Planet, where she discusses heated issues like due process in our current social climate.