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Galley Gossip: Flight Attendant Pet Peeve #3: You want me to do what?

You've packed the bag. Actually what you did was stuff it full, and then most likely you had to sit on it while you zipped...the thing...up...there! You did it, you actually got that thing closed! You feel good, you really do, because you are not going to pay that ridiculous checked bag fee for the life of you. No freakin way!

Then you dragged that bag to the car and somehow managed to get..the bag...inside...the trunk...there! You did it, and now you're off to the airport where you'll have to get...the bag..out of...the trunk. Now you're dragging that thing over to the airport shuttle bus.

Finally you're in the terminal where you pass all those losers standing in line to check their bags. It's your turn to go through security, so up...goes...the bag...there! It's on the conveyor belt and slowly moving to the other side. As you wipe the sweat from your brow, you meet the bag on the other end and yank...it off...the belt. Now you're off and running to the gate where boarding is already in process. Down the jet-bridge and onto the airplane you go, where miracle upon miracles, there's an available overhead bin right above your seat. Now, where's that lazy flight attendant?

"Excuse me, miss," you say, trying to get the attention of the one and only flight attendant in the cabin who is already busy trying to re-seat a family of four together. "Can you help me get my bag into the overhead bin?"

You want me to do what?

I'm looking at a bag, a very big bag, that belongs to a passenger, a passenger that looks a lot like me, and I'm a little confused here. You're not elderly. You're not an unaccompanied minor. Nor are you handicapped. You packed it, and somehow you managed to get it into the car, on the bus, and through the airport. But now, for some reason, you can't get it up into the overhead bin? The funny part is you and I both know that you knew you weren't going to be able to do this before you even packed the bag!

Okay, you see where I'm going with this, don't you?

Due to the fact that most bags are ROLLING onto the aircraft these days - not being carried - the bag situation has gotten a little out of control, particularly in the size and weight department, which is why, I'm sorry to tell you, I'm not going to be able to lift that enormous thing into the overhead bin for you. It's too heavy! For both of us.

THE NUMBERS:

  • 1:50: That's 50 passengers per flight attendant. Nowadays flights are staffed with minimum crew, which is why, in most cases, you only see one flight attendant in the cabin during boarding. The rest are either setting up the galleys, greeting at the door, or in the terminal taking tickets.
  • 1-4: Flight attendants work anywhere from one (if they're senior enough) to four legs a day (from anywhere up to 14 hours a day)
  • 16 : The average number of days a flight attendant works a month. But ever since our pay was decreased by 30% most flight attendants are forced to work more hours and days to make up the pay. (Don't forget, one of our days is like two of yours, and we don't get to go home at the end of the day.)
  • 145: There are AT LEAST 145 passengers on-board our smallest aircraft - the S80. The 777 can carry anywhere from 283-368 passengers
  • Now add all that up: 1 (Flight Attendant - minimum crew, remember) X 4 (legs - the max) X 16 (days - the average) X 145 (passengers - the least amount) = an awful lot of passengers with bags that need lifting by flight attendants, resulting in an awful lot of flight attendants getting injured on duty. Not that that has anything to do with you...

What's that? Your little one would like to visit the cockpit while we're sitting at the gate? Certainly, come along with me, kiddo, and don't forget your camera! You'd like something to drink? I'll be right back with your (insert drink order here). You'd like me to help you find two seats together? No problem, I'll see what I can do after everyone is on-board and seated. You'd like a blanket? Let me go see if I can find one. You'd like me to check on your connecting gate? I'll call the captain right away and see if he's gotten an update. You want to know if I can suggest a good place to eat in the airport? Oh have you asked the right person! You'd like to know the football / basketball / baseball scores? I'll call the captain. Again. You'd like me to hold your baby while you go to the bathroom? Of course, hand that little princess to me! Maybe we'll even go for a walk so you can have a break. You'd like me to take a picture of you and your loved one? I'd love to! You'd like to know where we are right now? Calling the Captain. Again. What, someone fainted in your row and you think they're unconscious? I'll grab the medical kit along with the AED and page for a doctor right away! What, there's no doctor on-board? I'll start CPR now!

That, in a nutshell, is my job. That's what I'm there for. And I like being there for it. But lifting your bag into the overhead bin is not, nor has it ever been, a part of my job description, even though I work in the service industry. Oh I'll help you find a place for your bag, no problem. Of course I'll move things around in the bin to make room for your bag. I might even ASSIST you in lifting that bag, if it's not too heavy,into the bin. But the key word here is assist. As in team effort. As in WE can do it together. What I won't do is do it for you. Not unless you're elderly, handicapped, or an unaccompanied minor. Sorry, I do what I can to avoid injuring myself and going out on disability. Hey, like you, I've gotta pay the bills!

"But I've got a bad back!" passengers often cry when I test a bag to see how heavy it is. Yeah, and so does my mother who is also a flight attendant, who has had two back surgeries that took her out of work for two years because she lifted too many bags for too many passengers who should have checked them in the first place.

Look, It's not like you don't know you're too short, or too pregnant, or too frail, or your arm is too broken, or your back is too weak to lift your bag into the overhead bin before you come on-board the aircraft, right? I mean when I traveled as a passenger, I always checked my bags when I was pregnant. And I did it again when I had to hobble on-board the aircraft on crutches. And I still do it whenever I'm traveling with my son, which is pretty much once a month. It's just the responsible thing to do.

Responsibility, is anyone responsible for anything anymore?

That's a question I once asked Mark Matteson, a passenger on one of my flights, who in turn handed me a book, Freedom From Fear, a book he'd written, a book that actually changed my life, a book about...you guessed it...responsibility. In other words it was a book about how to change your life for the better by not being a victim and taking responsibility for the things that happen to you. Taking responsibility for oneself is something I believe in passionately, it's a trait I admire greatly in people, and it's a trait I'd like to pass along to my two year-old son. Taking responsibility for oneself also includes taking responsibility for ones bag, the bag the self packed and brought on-board the airplane.

Honestly, I don't know what bothers me more, the fact that a passenger will come on-board and EXPECT me to lift their bag, or the fact that they actually get upset when I won't lift the bag. Like I mentioned above, unless the passenger is elderly, or an unaccompanied minor, or handicapped, AND / OR is traveling with a bag that is NOT heavy, I am not touching that bag. No way! And when I do lend a hand, rest assured I'm wondering to myself why the bag wasn't checked in the first place.

Responsibility, that's what I'm talking about.

In Jeffrey White's post, A note of Apology to the helpful, dedicated flight attendant out there, after he kind-of-sort-of apologized to flight attendants everywhere after scolding the Ryan Air crew for not helping a wheel-bound passenger be lifted up the stairs and onto the airplane (flight crews are not responsible, nor are they trained, to lift passengers up stairs and onto airplanes), he then went on to write, "I feel that many flight attendants won't help you these days to the degree they used to, say, 10 years ago. As one attendant, "Ann," puts it: "Bottom line, you pack it, you stow it. If you can't stow it, then check it.""

And the reason flight attendants won't help to the degree that they used to 10 years ago is because bags are now being rolled, not carried, onto the aircraft, resulting in much heavier bags. Don't believe me? Try lifting a few.

Responsibility, it's the word of the day, and that's all I'm going to say.

Now go read Mark's book!

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