Airline Employees Reveal Secrets About Air Travel

No. 5 is a little unnerving ...

I actually like airports. I don't mind security lines. I hate being late to airports, however. Not just because I dislike rushing, but because I rather enjoy the boredom of transience — the pacing, the waiting, the anticipation. I have the utmost respect for airline workers. I doubt they're as fascinated by airports as I am.

A recent post on Ask Reddit revealed some of the lesser-known mysteries of air travel. We thought you might be as interested as we were to read them. Here are some of the very best.

Safe travels. 


1. Flight attendants know more than you think.

"Flight attendants have a list of who is who and what seat they are in," writes Redditor paradoxofchoice. "As well as what level of frequent flyer they happen to be. Or if they are employees or family and friends tickets. This is why you will see them being rude to someone or bending over backwards for jerks."

Ihatcoe adds that a little courtesy can pay dividends. 

"The nicer you are to us, the more we can do for you. Ran out of beef? Ask politely and we will get you a fillet mignon from first class.

Your neighbor is noisy? Tell us nicely and we might be able to get you a better seat.

You're 35,000 feet in the air but you'd like to know the results of the game? Be nice and we can send a message to ground and ask.

More often than not when passengers are aggressive and nasty we'd render minimal service and not extend more help than need be."

2. That immovable aisle armrest ... can actually be moved!

Oh, but we are, Cmdr. Striker! You can thank Goat_Porker for this tip:

"You know how all the other armrests can be raised except for the one next to the aisle?

Turns out that one can be raised as well via a small button in a divot on the underside of the armrest. Useful if you want to spread out a bit more, though some flight attendants may tell you to put it back in place."

3. Relax, turbulence won't bring down the plane (but here's why you need to keep your seatbelt fastened).

Redditor PM_ME_YOUR_EMPENNAGE wrote:

"Turbulence CAN NOT bring down a plane. Period. It is thought to have only ever possibly perhaps maybe happened ONCE in the whole history of aviation. I bet many on here will claim that I'm full of sh*t, that they've experienced "severe" turbulence. No, you haven't. I've had hundreds of passengers jump out of my plane b*tching about how it was "the worse flight ever and so horribly bumpy", as if it was our fault. 99% of the time, those bumps they felt are what we call, and what is defined by the FAA as "light chop". Big deal, it's little more than a nuisance. Moderate chop will be what most people complain about but it's still not even enough to spill a drink. Legitimate severe turbulence WILL toss you around violently enough to slam your ugly face against the seat in front of you, against the ceiling if your seatbelt is off (WHICH IS WHY YOU NEVER EVER TAKE IT OFF UNTIL WE ARE PARKED AT THE GATE AND THE SIGN IS OFF) and snap your neck and die (yes, it has happened), open up the bins and spill bags everywhere, potentially cracking your skull if a hard suitcase hits you. In other words, the stuff you see in Hollywood. Extreme turbulence will actually bend a plane, and that is extremely rare, maybe a couple of times year in the US."

Um, OK. Got it. (Sits quietly and stares at the seat back for the rest of the flight.)

4. Your pilot might be seriously underpaid.

"Sometimes your pilot can be on food stamps because they only make 19k/yr," writes Mudbutt7.

Wow. Going to make sure I thank EVERY person in the cockpit when I land from now on.

5. Chances are, there's a dead body on board ... but don't worry, it's in cargo.

Mm_cake notes that "Almost every commercial flight you ride on has a dead body on board. Possibly 2 if you're on a wide body (large) air craft (sic)." "Former cargo agent" Wulfpussy confirms, "If you ever see a large white box being loaded onto the plane. Boom. That's a dead guy."

Probably the only person not complaining.

6. You really do need to invest in good luggage.

"Baggage handlers see hundreds of bags a day. No bag is treated special, unless it is OBVIOUS," writes Mudbutt7. "Even then, depending on the person, sometimes they're not (which is rare). Bags are not intentionally harmed. They are, however, intentionally thrown, slid, jostled, stacked under hundreds of pounds of other bags, and exposed to the elements because that is the nature of the job. You can safely assume that your bag is touched and handled by at least 7-8 people, per flight segment, if you are connecting, at least 10 different people, not including TSA."

7. Got a problem? Don't yell at the person behind the counter. Twitter is probably your best bet.

"The most power you could probably wield is twitter," says Mudbutt7. "The employee in front of you has so little power to actually remedy tough situations. Baggage handlers are usually short staffed. As well, customer service agents are usually limited in their options. Also, it would help us get a message to higher ups because our work is not being supported as it should be. Hell, I'd even recommend asking an employee about the problem and say something like, 'if I were to take my complaint to twitter, how could I phrase it in a way that would help you too?' "

Here are some of the most popular airlines Twitter accounts:

1) American

2) Delta

3) JetBlue

4) Southwest

5) United

Also, don't yell at the people behind the counter. Or on the phone. Chances are, their day is much worse than yours. Be nice — they'll be pleasantly surprised and might be able to work some magic for you. 

8. Here's how bags get lost and delayed:

"I work in the bag room, and let me tell you how bags get left behind/'lost' going from most frequent to least (keep in mind I'm speaking from experience at my station/airline, yours may be different):

TSA pulled your bag for extra screening and took way too long doing it and got it to the airline like 10 minutes after your flight left.

Somebody in the bag room f*cked up (usually a new hire, my company, at least, cycles through employees like a movie theater) and put it in the wrong cart for a flight that leaves 2 hours after yours and it didn't get caught until the ramp crew started loading that flight.

Your bag got caught somewhere on the bag belt or it sent it to the wrong place.

Curbside was supposed to bring your bag to the bag room because it was oversize or the computer that sorts the bags couldn't scan your bag tag (in either case it gets sent to a special carousel) but they were busy/forgot to check and didn't get to it until it was too late.

You checked your bag really close to departure time and it just didn't make it through the belt system in time (takes about 15 mins if TSA doesn't get involved at my station) so we didn't get it until after departure.

You checked your bag really early (like 5+ hours) and since there wasn't room for it's flight in the bag room yet it went in a corner so people wouldn't keep tripping over it and was forgotten about.

It fell off the bag cart on the way to the plane and nobody noticed (highly unlikely).

... and that's how your bags get lost in 95% or cases."

— RabbitMix

9. Yes, you can visit the cockpit ... on the ground, though.

"Yes, you CAN visit the cockpit ON THE GROUND, there's no law (in the US at least) saying you can't," says pilot PM_ME_YOUR_EMPENNAGE. "That's up to our discretion. Just ask us. (preferably AFTER we land, if it looks like we're not packing our stuff to get off the plane). 

I've never turned down anybody that asked and many of us gladly will show people around, it really is nice to connect with passengers interested in our profession for once. If the cockpit door is locked for whatever reason (probably because it's hot/cold as hell outside), just tell a flight attendant to ask us."

Got any air travel tips? Horror stories? Let us know in the comments below.


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