I was a flight attendant for 10 years. Here are 10 of the biggest mistakes passengers make.

·7-min read
flight attendant standing at airport with a carryon bag
I have worked as a flight attendant for a decade, and there are things I wish passengers would stop doing.Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock
  • I watched plane passengers make countless mistakes during my decade working as a flight attendant.

  • Plane floors are usually dirtier than they look, so I don't recommend walking around barefoot.

  • Bulkhead seats might have more leg room, but they also increase your chances of sitting near babies.

After working as a flight attendant on commercial aircrafts and private jets for 10 years, I've witnessed all kinds of passenger behavior. At this point, there's not much I haven't seen.

These are the top things I advise travelers against doing when they're in the air.

The floor is probably dirtier than it looks, so you should never walk around barefoot

interior of plane
Passengers should always wear shoes, even during long flights.Shutterstock

The number of passengers who wander up and down the plane aisles barefoot will never cease to amaze me. Some even enter the restroom without any socks or shoes.

But if the plane hits turbulence when you're in a small restroom, it can cause a mess that you probably don't want to step into, especially not with bare feet.

There are plenty of other ways to make yourself comfortable on a long-haul flight, like packing hotel slippers in your carry-on bag.

Not only are they lightweight and easy to slip on and off, but you can toss them at the end of a flight to avoid taking plane germs home.

Being rude to crew members won't get you very far 

Air travel can be stressful and tiring, but taking your frustration out on the people who try to make the journey easier and safer isn't the right solution. Unfortunately, almost every single flight attendant I've met has had a passenger speak to them in a rude or aggressive tone.

You want the crew members to be on your side. After all, they serve your meals and treat you in the case of emergencies.

Just remember that flight attendants have probably been awake twice as long as you. Some have likely already worked another flight or two that day. Kindness goes a long way.

Think twice before leaving items in the seat pocket

back of plane seat
back of plane seat

Don't store food in the seat pocket.Shutterstock

The next time you go to stow your sandwich in the seat pocket for easy access during the flight, don't.

Planes are cleaned every time they land somewhere new, but there often isn't enough time to thoroughly sanitize the inside of each seat pocket between flights. On many of the planes that I worked on, that compartment usually didn't get washed until the aircraft returned to base for a deep clean.

It should go without saying that passengers shouldn't use the seat pocket to store things that they don't want the crew to fish out, but I've still come across countless dirty diapers and underwear in the compartment. So, think twice before storing any food in there.

Don't ignore flight attendants' safety instructions, even if you're a frequent flier

Regular fliers have probably listened to flight attendants' safety demonstrations hundreds of times. The repetition may be annoying, but the crew members are just doing their jobs and trying to keep passengers safe.

When flight attendants ask travelers to fasten their seatbelts or locate emergency exits, it's for an important reason. They usually don't go into detail or worst-case scenarios to avoid causing panic.

Besides, not all planes have the same exit locations and operations, so passengers should listen to the specific instructions on every flight they board.

A bulkhead seat might have more leg room, but it can also increase your odds of being near crying babies

Seats by the bulkhead, the built-in partition between sections, seem like a win. They tend to have a bit of extra leg room, and sometimes there's no one behind you. Benefits aside, you should weigh your options before booking these seats.

The bulkhead at the front of a row is usually where the bassinette is placed, making it a hotspot for crying babies.

The rear bulkhead is appealing since there's no one to push or kick your chair from behind, but it can be an uncomfortable journey since you can often barely recline back.

bulkhead seats on plane
Fliers should consider the benefits and drawbacks of bulkhead seats before booking.Shutterstock

Pace yourself with alcoholic drinks — you'll feel the effects more quickly in the air

Low humidity on a plane can cause dehydration, and low cabin pressure can decrease blood oxygen levels, so people tend to feel the effects of alcohol more quickly on planes. A lot of the time, they don't realize how intoxicated they are until it's too late.

Copious alcohol consumption has played a role in many of the onboard medical incidents I've seen, particularly when passengers mix alcohol with medication.

I've also witnessed travelers drink too much alcohol and exhibit such aggressive behavior that they've had to be restrained, arrested, and banned from the airline.

I'm not saying that passengers of legal drinking age shouldn't have a beer, but they should pace themselves and hydrate with plenty of water. That way, they'll feel much better when they land.

Also, it's illegal to consume your own alcohol onboard an aircraft, so make sure not to crack open that bottle of gin you bought at the duty-free shop.

If you haven't taken sleeping medication before, don't try it for the first time on a plane

I understand the desire to get some rest during a long-haul flight, but it isn't a good idea to try a sleeping aid for the first time in the air, regardless of whether it's a prescription drug or over-the-counter pill.

I've seen some passengers wash the pills down with a few glasses of wine, which has led to serious medical emergencies. I've also seen passengers wake up drowsy after taking sleep aids, which could be an issue should they need to be on their feet and alert in the case of an emergency.

Whatever you do, consult your doctor before taking a sleeping pill on a plane.

I recommend sticking to bottled water

flight attendant serving bottled water on plane
flight attendant serving bottled water on plane

Drink bottled water during your flights, just to be extra cautious.Shutterstock

Staying hydrated during flights is essential, but I suggest avoiding unbottled water on a plane.

In recent years, research and various studies have cast doubt on the quality of tap water on planes and found that it may vary between airlines. Many flight attendants, like me, stick to bottled water and recommend doing the same.

I've been fine after drinking boiled plane water. However, I once drank straight from the tap and became well-acquainted with the aircraft toilet.

My advice is to play it safe and drink water from sealed containers, which is what's typically available on aircrafts and offered to passengers anyway.

Disregarding other people's personal space is a surefire way to anger your fellow fliers

From the moment you step on a plane, you should be aware of your surroundings and conscious of other people's space.

There's nothing worse than having the person in front of you recline their seat just as you're about to dig into your inflight meal. And even though you might be tempted to stretch out, no one wants to have your toes resting on their armrest.

Also, think twice before you start painting your nails or open up that egg sandwich you prepared at home. The air-conditioning system carries smells around the whole aircraft.

The call button should be reserved for urgent matters, so don't press it unless you have one

the call button on pane ceiling
the call button on pane ceiling

Passengers should only press the call button for urgent matters.Shutterstock

Passengers who used the call button for minor requests were my biggest annoyances during my days as a flight attendant.

The button is there to get crew members' attention, and they're happy to help all passengers. However, you shouldn't press it in the middle of meal service because you want a flight attendant to retrieve your bag from the overhead compartment.

Using it for non-urgent matters can take away crew members' attention from passengers who have medical emergencies and need urgent care.

If you do need immediate help or attention, I recommend pressing the button multiple times.

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