Airline rules and regulations are designed to ensure your comfort and safety, as well as the comfort and safety of everyone else on board. But there are also quite a few unspoken rules that should be followed while you’re soaring through the sky.
LifeSavvy spoke with two flight attendants about the travel mistakes they commonly see on the job, and what they recommend doing instead.
Using the lavatory on an airplane during the boarding process is a major contributor to the slowdown in boarding procedures, according to Christa Treat, who has been a flight attendant for 15 years. When you head to the bathroom while passengers as still shuffling onto the plane, everyone has to wait for you to make your way back to your seat heading the opposite direction.
Flight attendants are also not allowed to close the door of the plane while someone is in the restroom, so you may end up delaying the flight if you take your time. Christa recommends using the large restroom in the airport before your flight instead of relying on the “portable flying outhouse” on the aircraft.
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One of the most common travel mistakes that Katie, a flight attendant of eight years, sees is people taking their shoes off on the plane. While it’s fine to slip your shoes off for a few hours while in your seat (if you have clean socks on!), Katie strongly advises against moving around the plane without shoes.
“I have seen so many people, including some celebrities, go into the bathroom in socks,” said Katie. “Let me tell you, that is not always water on the floor.”
Play it safe and keep your shoes on during the flight.
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Flight attendants do their best to help you feel comfortable, but they only have so many resources available. Christa shared that she often has travelers request items like milk, heavy-duty snacks, and items that airplanes simply don’t carry.
Christa recommends packing everything you think you’ll need for the flight without relying on planes to accommodate your needs when it comes to physical items. She also pointed out that delays happen that can make your trip much longer than expected, so it’s best to be as prepared as you can be.
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“I often notice passengers purchase economy tickets or tickets from a third party for their family and are often seated away from each other,” said Katie. “When you purchase these tickets, you’re going to take the seats that haven’t been chosen by other passengers.”
You may not always be able to buy seats together, and you are always free to ask a flight attendant before boarding if you and your party can be moved closer together. However, if you are trying to save some money by not paying for your seats or purchasing tickets that do not let you pick your seats, understand that you may not be able to sit together.
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Christa shared that she sees people trying to bring as much as they can on flights all the time. While she understands trying to save money on baggage fees, she also believes that many travelers make things harder for themselves.
“It’s really easy to sign up for mileage plans and get one bag checked for free,” she said. “It allows you to be hands-free more and not have to worry about where your bag will fit in the already full overhead bins.”
If you really want to avoid checking a bag, which is a travel practice we understand, make sure you’re aware of your airline’s baggage policies. Most airlines only allow a carry-on and a personal item on board, and will not let you on the plane if you have more than two items. Some airlines also have weight and size restrictions for carry-on luggage.
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If you look forward to your free drink on a flight, you’re not alone. But Katie advises sticking to that drink, if you decide to drink at all.
“A lot of people don’t realize that at a high altitude/lack of oxygen, you can become intoxicated very very quickly,” she said. “One drink on the ground becomes two or three in the air.”
Katie recommends pacing yourself once you get to the airport and especially once you get on the plane. You should also drink plenty of water on the flight, as it’s very easy to get dehydrated in the air.
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Christa told us that she has people ask her why the movies on their phones won’t play during a flight. Most of the time, she said, it’s because they did not download the media to their devices, so they’re unable to play anything without high internet speeds.
To avoid this issue, Christa recommends testing the movies and music on your phone before you head to the airport to make sure they will play without internet access. Make sure you’ve charged your devices before a flight too, as not all planes have chargers.
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There always seems to be one person on every flight who jumps up the second the plane lands, grabs their things, and runs to the front of the plane. While Katie understands wanting to stretch your legs, she points out that it’s rude to cut everyone else in front of you when it comes to getting off of the plane.
“Having manners is important,” she said. “It also helps the deplaning process go much quicker if everyone just waits until their turn.”
If you have a tight connection (which Katie recommends avoiding when possible), let the flight attendants know. They’re usually happy to make an announcement asking other passengers to let you and your party off first.
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No one knows how to have a great flight more than flight attendants. We spoke with two about the most common travel mistakes they see on the job, and what to do instead for happy travels.