The 20 questions you’ve always wanted to ask a flight attendant

After six years as a flight attendant, Kristina Galvydyte, 30, has plenty of insight

After working for six years as a flight attendant for a major British airline, 30-year-old Kristina Galvydyte has a wealth of knowledge about an industry that still holds a curious fascination for many. Here she answers the 20 questions you’ve probably always wanted to ask.

“I’ve never seen British drinking culture anywhere else”

1. Which type of passenger annoys you the most?

There are several: those who spend the majority of the flight blocking the aisle, or letting their children get on and off, as well as those who have to be told repeatedly to put on a seatbelt. But people who get too drunk will always be the worst.

2. Are the British more rude and rowdy than any other nationality?

I’m sorry to say that the stereotype is true. Brits tend to start drinking, or even drinking, at the airport at any time of day, so many already board the plane drunk or at least tipsy – and then carry on. As an Eastern European person, I have never seen this kind of culture anywhere else.

There are strict rules on how much alcohol we can sell to passengers during a flight (two drinks per person per service), but people still smuggle their own drinks and often get completely out of hand. Subsequently, the British are the worst passengers to deal with in terms of disruptive behavior.

As for the best behaved nation, I would say that most passengers from mainland Europe – but especially Scandinavia – tend to be quite docile.

“I saw boys snorting cocaine and fighting”

3. How do you handle drunk passengers?

Drunken behavior is the biggest problem in flight, and it happens often, so we receive annual training on how to deal with disruptive passengers and responsible alcohol sales. It’s almost unbelievable how drastically people’s behavior can change once they’re under the influence. When the going gets tough, we give disruptive passengers a final warning, taking whatever drinks we find until the end of the flight, and we continue to monitor the situation. If they continue to behave antisocially, we take their passport details so the airline can ban them permanently. Usually, when they realize that their actions could have real consequences – like not being able to board their flight home – it helps.

I never had to personally restrain anyone (we are trained in self-defense, but not how to restrain someone), but we had to involve the police on several occasions. One incident that comes to mind was a robbery in Alicante with three separate bachelor parties. Two of the groups got into a physical fight that needed to be broken up, and a bachelor party was snorting cocaine down the toilet. I don’t know how they got home as they were all banned by the airline for life.

4. Have you ever seen a passenger attempt to join the Mile High Club?

It was the first question I was asked in online dating, no surprise! Hopefully not. That would be absolutely disgusting, as the toilets are only cleaned at the end of the day. Unless you want to catch anything and everything, don’t try. This water on the ground is not water.

5. Has there ever been alcohol at work?

I know airlines that are more accepting of drinking at work, but at home it never even crossed anyone’s mind to do something like that. Most of our flights are very busy, but to pass the time on quiet days we usually talk about random topics and get to know our colleagues, go into the cockpit to chat with the pilots (they’re the ones who are really s bored), read books or play an old school game like Stop The Bus.

“Nobody seems to know how to open the toilet doors”

6. What is the dumbest question a passenger has ever asked you?

It happens every day: no one seems to know how to open the bathroom doors – even though there’s a sign right in front of them explaining it.

7. Has anything else ever disappeared from an airplane?

I wouldn’t say it happens often, but some parents have taken the life jackets with them. I like to believe in the goodness of mankind, so guess it’s because they just put it in their purse and forgot to take it out.

“My colleague broke her cheek against the ceiling of the plane”

8. What is the worst turbulence you have ever experienced?

Fortunately, I never had an emergency landing, but the worst turbulence I had was arriving in Madeira – one of the most difficult airports in the world to land – when drinks were flying in the airs. My colleagues have seen worse – one even broke his cheek hitting the ceiling with his face. But even on those occasions, neither of us thought we were going to crash.

9. What happens if someone dies during a flight?

Only a doctor can legally declare a person dead. So in the event of a serious medical emergency, we are trained to continue performing CPR until the plane lands and the paramedics arrive, even if the person is clearly dead. If a death is properly certified on board, there is a lot of paperwork to complete, the plane would divert to the nearest airport and we would try to give the deceased and their traveling companions as much privacy and dignity as possible in such a small space.

I’ve dealt with many medical emergencies over the years, and each time an unresponsive person complains that they’re still waiting for their Diet Coke.

‘You can make an extra £1,000 a month if you sell enough drinks’

10. How much does a flight attendant earn?

At my airline, as a mid-level stewardess, I make around £35,000 a year because we earn a good commission from onboard sales. However, not all airlines have such good salaries. We have to work on public holidays, but we have 40 days off a year, and as this is a short haul airline, our shifts involve one flight out and one back home. So we sleep in our own beds every night.

11. Do you get a bonus for selling the most in-flight snacks and drinks?

Yes. The staff receives between 1% and 5% of the total sales of a flight, depending on the quantity sold. This means we can withdraw between £300 and £1000 per month in commission alone. This means that we will sometimes ignore the two drinks per person rule, but only if the passenger is clearly sober.

12. How bad was the situation with delays and cancellations last summer?

Because we were understaffed, there were a lot of sudden changes in our rosters, which made it difficult to plan our lives. You would simply get your entire week changed at any time. Delays were also frequent, which meant that our long days (10-16 hours) got even longer. Everyone has worked very hard to get people on vacation and we’ve been through the worst in August.

“A lot of pilots and flight attendants end up dating”

13. Do flight attendants often end up dating pilots?

Yes, it happens a lot. In my group of friends, two couples are pilots and cabin crew.

14. Is sexism still a problem among airline staff?

Unfortunately yes. It’s sometimes slight undertones of sexism, but I’ve heard pilots say downright predatory things about cabin crew. According to my friends, the conversations that take place behind closed cockpit doors are extremely sexist, but if anyone did speak, they would be called a snowflake. It has become more unacceptable to be openly sexist, so hopefully attitudes will eventually change – but there is still a long way to go.

15. Are there any unusual requirements to be a flight attendant?

There’s a minimum and maximum height, and you need arms long enough to open an airplane door in an emergency. As for appearance, tattoos must be covered, exposed piercings are also prohibited, hair must be worn either in a neat bun or a short ponytail, and only red, nude, clear or manicured nails. French are allowed. They used to make us put our heels on when we weren’t on the plane, but luckily the Equality Act 2010 finally caught up with them – 10 years later.

“If you’re afraid to fly, sit near the front”

16. What is the best and worst place to sit on an airplane?

If you are afraid to fly, sit near the front – the rear of the plane experiences the worst turbulence. And if you’re flying over the sea for long periods of time, sit close to the wings as that’s the main exit if you have to land on water.

17. What is your favorite airline and why?

I enjoy flying as a passenger with SAS – the service is always pleasant and the passengers are quiet. I don’t have least favorite airlines – I have least favorite routes, based on the type of passengers flying to those destinations. Alicante, Antalya, Palma and Ibiza come to mind.

18. Do you eat airplane food?

Yes, I like a greasy breakfast all day!

“No, we don’t clean the toilets”

19. What are the best and worst parts of the job?

Money and free time were good. When you’re on a quick and easy flight to Italy with lovely passengers, it might seem like the best job in the world.

Dealing with rude or disruptive passengers is the worst – and, in case you were wondering, we don’t clean the toilets, only the cabin. Even if there is a very serious accident, we will simply lock the door for the rest of the flight and wait for the cleaners to arrive when the plane lands.

20. What questions do people always ask when you tell them you’re a flight attendant?

This is often not a question, but a guess: “You must have seen so many places!” Next, I have to explain that short-haul airlines like mine fly to so many places, but come right back. Not so glamorous after all.

What would you ask a flight attendant? Please leave your comments below and author Kristina Galvydyte will respond as best she can.

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