It’s the time of year most flight attendants dread. Holiday travel. Not so much because we hate working the holidays (although we do 😉 ) but because many people onboard travel only once or twice a year and this is when they do it.
Certain routes are more prone to holiday and vacation travelers — Hawaii, Orlando, and Las Vegas but during peak travel season all cities can become more challenging. I asked my fellow flight attendants for their best tips for inexperienced travelers. Even if you aren’t inexperienced, take a look at the following and consider passing this on to anyone who you feel might benefit from it.
When buying tickets
If you need to be there Thursday, leave on Tuesday. If you buy a “basic economy” ticket and you are traveling with other people, be prepared to pay for seat assignments at the airport so you can sit together. Do not expect gate agents or flight attendants to change your seats. If you are making a connection, make sure to allow sufficient time in the event you are delayed.
What to pack
- A carry on bag that fits under your seat containing essential items such as: medication, keys, passports, toothbrush and possibly a change of clothes. You never know if you may get stuck overnight due to a mechanical or a snowstorm. Be prepared to check your other carry on (such as a roll aboard suitcase) due to lack of overhead space. And, make sure you can lift your bag into the overhead! We can’t do it for you!
- Ziplock bags. These can be used for lots of things. A place to keep your important documents, your chargers, boarding passes, trash, or even dirty diapers.
- Snacks and water. Either bring an empty water bottle to refill or buy a bottle at the airport. Snacks because you may not like what we’re selling, we may run out, or we may not have any food onboard.
- A pen. Especially for international flights (or a crossword puzzle— does anyone still do these?) Your crew does not have extra pens and you’ll need them for customs and immigration forms — even going to Hawaii.
- A blanket, scarf or jacket in case the plane is chilly. A neck pillow if you plan to sleep.
- Clorox or Lysol wipes if you’re a germ-a-phobe to wipe down tray tables. I’ve seen babies changed on them!
- A charger, and possibly extra battery pack for your phone. Some planes do not have powerports so you won’t have any way to charge your devices. An extension cord is nice also in case you are looking for a place to charge your phone in the terminal. (Don’t use onboard the plane though.)
- Download movies or shows ahead of time to watch (or even bring a book!) and please bring headsets. I once had a passenger scream at me on a flight from MIA to LAX because we had no headsets. He said, “What am I supposed to do for the next 6 hours?” Not my job to entertain him…
At the airport
Arrive earlier than you think you need to. Thirty minutes extra is not enough time. Traffic and security lines can be horrific during the holidays. Fill up your empty water bottle or buy water and/or food. Use the restroom in the terminal. A big pet peeve among flight attendants is passengers using the lavatory as soon as they board the airplane. The bathrooms in the terminal are much cleaner than the ones on the plane. Of course things happen. Short connections and emergencies do happen. But, do both of us a favor and go before you board.
On the plane
We are busy during boarding. Checking catering, setting up the galley. Please don’t come to the back of the plane and ask us for water or any other drinks. That’s why you already have your water.
Dress in layers. Temperatures can vary widely and similarly to your car, it may take a while to heat up or cool down. Pay attention when we get to your row. Take off your headsets — we do not like asking you what you want to drink three times. We really appreciate it if you know what you want to drink when we get to your row.
We are required to tell you the seatbelt sign is on. I know you have to go to the bathroom but when the captain tells us to be seated, it really isn’t safe to get up. By the way, when you do use the bathroom,please shut the door on the way out. We are constantly shutting that bathroom door when people come out.
If there is a delay, chances are we don’t have anymore information than you do. Many times we are the last to know as passengers are now getting updates and notifications on their phones as soon as anything changes. I promise you, we are not holding out or keeping information from you. Keep in mind, we want things to go smoothly. We have plans wherever we are going, headed home or potentially may even be losing money if a trip doesn’t go as planned.
Don’t over do it on the alcohol. My airline offers free drinks to passengers with special status but also to certain seats. Just because the drinks are free does not give you license to get drunk. It’s fine to have one or two to take the edge off but one in the air will hit you like two on the ground. If we notice you’re intoxicated before take off, we’ll have you thrown off and airlines have been known to divert (make an unscheduled landing) to another city to pull off an unruly, intoxicated passenger.
In any case
My friend Alma Straffon said it best, “Bring your patience and kindness with you.” I love this! We are all in this together and we want to get you to your destination as safely and quickly as possible. Remember, someone is giving up their holiday with their family so you can see yours. If you want to score points with the crew, bring treats. We do appreciate it and you’ll probably get a little extra attention for being thoughtful. Happy Holidays!
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