There's no doubt that being a flight attendant requires more patience than most jobs. Imagine coping with hundreds of passengers at a time, each one convinced that his or her needs are the most important. Demands can be wacky, unreasonable or outrageous, while the smallest of slights (or perceived slights) can spark fiery tantrums. Amid all the craziness, flight attendants serve as calm mediators with the forbearance of saints. Most of the time, anyway.
In 2010, as the plane was pulling into its terminal, flight attendant Steven Slater claimed that a belligerent passenger hit him with her suitcase while pulling it prematurely from the overhead bin. Slater snapped, announcing over the PA system, "I've been in this business 28 years, and I've had it!" Then he grabbed two beers, exited via the emergency-evacuation slide and was soon taken into custody.
Sometimes, even the most professional and courteous flight attendant can barely bite his or her own tongue. We asked two veterans to share the things they'd love to tell passengers… if only they could.
1. "Your shoes are so cute, but they would smell better on your feet."
Tracy Christoph, a seasoned, Boston-based JetBlue flight attendant and travel blogger, notes that an airplane is no place for olfactory assaults.
2. "We love your child, but would appreciate if he didn't use the flight-attendant call button to compose the next great symphony."
Before you take a nap and let Junior play freely, remember that someone like Christoph has to deal with the noise.
3. "You know, you do have the opportunity to select your seat in advance."
Not all airlines allow passengers to choose their seats before flights, but many do. A flight attendant who began her career 25 years ago with Pan Am and wants to remain anonymous (we'll call her Pam) is baffled when tall people stuck in the middle seat beg for an aisle only after they're on the packed airplane.
4. "We know our comfy leather seats and individual TVs make you feel like you're on your couch, but we have some great hotel partners for those more intimate moments with your loved one."
Sure, travel is romantic, but there are far better — and more private — places for getting frisky.
5. "Why are you asking me that now?"
It might be a request for a drink two minutes before takeoff or for the vegetarian option during meal service, but attendants get frustrated when passengers have bad timing or resist planning ahead.
6. "You can't fit a 10-pound bologna in a 5-pound bag. Let me gate-check that for you."
It never fails: Someone's always trying to slip a little more luggage onto the plane.
7. "What was it like being raised by wolves?"
Pam says her parents always taught her to make requests with a "please" and respond with a "thank you." But for some reason, too many passengers seem to check their manners at the gate.
8. "Compassion goes a long way."
All too often, a childless passenger ends up seated next to a parent with an upset, fidgety baby on a fully booked airplane. When Pam hears, "Can't somebody shut that kid up?" she often wants to hand the child to the complainer and relocate the parent to first class with a tray full of drinks.
9. "So you're mad because someone's asked you to do your job?"
Pam admits that sometimes it's her fellow flight attendants who frustrate her, returning in a huff to the galley to complain about having to serve someone yet another Coke.
10. "I'll be right back."
OK, this one is really spoken out loud. But Pam says this is a flight attendant code phrase for something a little more, let's say, expressive — usually in response to an overly demanding, absurd or downright rude passenger request.