Flight Attendants Reveal Airplane Secrets and Hacks to Make Flying More Convenient

By: Mia Williams | Last updated: Jan 20, 2023

Flying can be a dreary experience for some people, but there are ways to make it not just tolerable, but convenient and enjoyable too. And flight attendants have a unique perspective on all the things that go on behind the scenes. We’re going to share with you some of the most valuable hacks from experienced travelers. These tricks are sure to make those dreary trips seem shorter and a lot more enjoyable. Get a pen and paper or note-taking app ready, and let’s dive in!

Keep the Air Vent On

Some passengers might want to turn the air vent above their seat off, thinking this would expose them to airborne viruses from other travelers. The truth is that you don’t have to turn off the air unless you’re cold. Indeed, the ventilation system will actually keep you from getting sick.


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Ventilation is necessary for your health and safety in the air, and the constant flow ensures the air from other rows doesn’t reach you, acting as a barrier against microbes. So, if you can, keep the air on for comfort and safety. 


No Ice, Please

Passengers like to sleep during long flights to kill time and ensure they are well-rested when they reach their destination. Iced drinks cause your body to expel the liquid much faster, translating to many more toilet breaks. This will interrupt your sleep and disrupt the passengers around you.


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Your situation could get even worse if the ice served comes from water tanks – as is often the case in air travel. These tanks may not be entirely clear of bacteria. The vacation time ahead of you could be ruined if you pick up a stomach bug, so it’s worth saying no to ice!

Stay Connected

Even if you leave the house with a fully-charged device, communications with family or business associates while at the airport might be needed, or boredom could strike and mobile games could easily drain the battery. Traveling without a means of communication is like traveling blind for most of us.


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Charging outlets can be found in many places at the airport, but with so many travelers around, these are often either broken or in high demand. If you’re really stuck, look for a television set and plug your cable into its USB port to recharge your phone. 

People Become Entitled in the Air

A former flight attendant shared a horrifying story of an entitled passenger who wrote her up for not paying him enough attention. As it happens, she was unable to get the guy a coffee because she was a little preoccupied giving another passenger CPR!


She explained, “I had been doing CPR on a passenger in the aisle next to this sociopath who repeatedly pressed his call bell and called me ‘sweetie’ and ‘honey'”. Some people!

Strategize Your Seating Arrangements

Sitting by the aircraft window gives you more than just a view. You also get a wall to lean on and a place to rest your head. It makes the flight a bit more relaxing, which means a lot in the long haul. The aisle seat, on the other hand, grants a passenger more space to stretch.

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A duo should book both seats and leave the middle for someone else. Chances are, no one’s going to take it as long as other seats are still available. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the whole row to yourself. If someone takes the seat, at least the two of you still have the best seats possible.


The Third Wheel

Passengers who are booked in the middle seat of an aircraft will find that their flight seems to take longer than the actual travel time. Legs could get cramped in the small space, and movement on both sides can be annoying.

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If you’re seated in between a couple who followed the tip above, you could be faced with the odd experience of being their third wheel. Arrange to be notified through ExperFlyer.com of any ticket cancellations and seat reassignments, so you can move out and settle in a better spot.


Wear More, Pack Less

If there’s something you can wear as an overlay or underlay to your outfit, that’s one less thing weighing down your bag. Wear it and travel lighter. Match the colors with its functionality and you can even look fashionable with your extra shirt, coat, or scarf. Throwing a jacket or hoodie over your arm can come in handy later if the temperature gets cold mid-flight.

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These items can be used as a cushion if you think you’ll need one later, creating padding between your head and the wall. You get to lighten your load and feel more comfortable – wins all around!


Tune Everyone Out

A long trip somewhere might also be a time to weigh things in one’s life. It’s an opportunity to be alone, do some soul searching, or read a book that’s long overdue. This can be difficult when people are seated too close to each other, especially if one is in the middle seat.

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Cancel out all the fuss around you with headphones, and say goodbye to noisy chattering, sneezing, and snoring. Play music that improves your mood, or just use it as a prop to avoid unnecessary conversation. Noise cancellation headphones are even better!


Swap Soda and Coffee for Water or Fruit Juice

This tip is not just about the long-term effects – diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay – of sugary soda. When you’re spending long hours on a plane, soda and coffee can bring much discomfort. This can create awkward moments when you need to burp or break wind with other passengers seated close to you. 

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Even if you’re a dedicated coffee or soda drinker, it’s best to pause your drinking habit and choose water on flights. If that’s too much, try coconut water or fruit juices. Bonus tip: Avoid having them served over ice.


If You Misbehave You'll Wind Up in Air Jail

Another flight attendant shared her own horror story which was one of many she had over 10 years in her career. A few men had a few too many drinks and when they were refused to be served they started to become very rowdy.

She was forced to lock them in “plane jail” which is actually the bathroom. Fun fact: flight attendants can lock the bathroom from the outside so you better behave while on a plane if you don’t want to be thrown into the bathroom for the rest of the flight!


Airplane Ears

Hungover from last night’s party and can’t wait to doze off during a flight to recover? There’s a reason flight attendants approach passengers to wake them up before takeoff and landing. Some become annoyed by this minor interruption, but this is necessary.

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Takeoff and landing are the most crucial stages in any flight, so it’s always best to stay awake at these times. It is also necessary to avoid airplane ear, which is caused by the rapid air pressure change. It can be relieved by swallowing, but you won’t know to do this if you’re asleep.


Sanitize Surfaces

Despite the compartmentalized application of aircraft ventilation, there’s still a high chance a passenger might get a bug, if not directly from the crowd, it could be from one’s immediate vicinity. Microbes could be left on surfaces that may not have been completely disinfected, like on the elbow support, or the foldable table.

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Keep wipes handy to sanitize surfaces around you. Make sure not to miss the handles, even the aircraft window where someone before you with a virus might have sneezed or rested their head. As of now, face masks are also required on flights, but this too can help keep you from catching something on your next trip.


Stay Fresh

It might be challenging to stay fresh all throughout a flight that lasts around twelve to fifteen hours. If you’re going for the whole gamut, the longest non-stop trip could last around 18 hours.

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Staying fresh and comfortable is key in a situation where you’re practically tied to a chair for so long. Change your clothes, bring extra underwear, freshen up, and avoid drinking liquids other than water. You wouldn’t want to wake up the next morning smelling like yesterday.


Cover Your Razors

Going out on a long-distance trip implies occasional inconveniences that people try to prepare for in advance. Airport experiences are rarely luxurious or comfortable. After all, public seating isn’t ideal during these times, nor is it fun having to share a crowded public restroom with your luggage in tow. 

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Many travelers have cut themselves on a stray razor while rummaging through a bag of toiletries. Use binder clips as a substitute for its easily misplaced cover. Keep some handy as these clips have plenty of other creative uses as well.


Say No to Reused Pillows and Blankets

This has nothing to do with being squeamish. Some people may be delighted to see that airlines offer free blankets and pillows to make you feel at home while traveling long hours, but it’s better to say no to this offer.

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These can be rich sources for microbes unless they are sealed tight. The worst scenario could be that your blanket has been re-used without being washed and merely been neatly folded to appear fresh. Bring your own lightweight travel blanket if possible, and only use one offered by the airline if it is completely sealed in plastic.


Standing in Line for So Long

Depending on one’s location in relation to the airport, traffic is something practically every traveler has to battle against on a regular basis. Once inside the airport, passengers are greeted with even more lines that add to the delay.

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This is especially true when flying during the holidays as this is a time when everyone seems to be going somewhere. Stay alerted regarding the waiting time in security lines by using the MyTSA app.


Drink Lots of Water

Lengthy flights could mean more hours of nothing much to do for some people who, unable to move around as often as they want, prefer to drink booze until they pass out. Of course, you don’t need us to tell you that this is a bad idea. 

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This will only dehydrate you more, and when flying, you’re already being subjected to the dry, cold, thin air of the cabin. Drink water instead, going for an average of eight ounces per hour.


Entertain Yourself

Ten hours of travel might seem like a life sentence for a bored passenger who can’t wait to leave the aircraft the moment they’ve settled. Others take this opportunity to read, listen to podcasts, and watch movies they’ve been meaning to see.

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Entertain yourself with books, an e-reader, saved music, podcasts, movies, or even meditation. If you find you’re never really interested in what’s available on the flight, download some content you know you’ll love a few days before you’re scheduled to depart.


In-Flight Burials?

In the unfortunate instance where someone passes away during a flight, there is a procedure that flight attendants must follow. They will discreetly and quickly cover the passenger with blankets so as not to alarm the other passengers.

While it doesn’t happen often, it is one of many things that flight attendants must be trained in before their first flight. Creepy!


Bring Some Goodies

Those who love to munch while on the go will soon realize that there aren’t many options to choose from at the airport, with only a few rows of shops filled with products that are invariably expensive.

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Prepare an assortment of goodies for the long trip, packed separately in a plastic bag to avoid having to delve into your handheld luggage. Feel as if you’re just snacking in the living room while watching a movie on a Friday night.


Security Policy on Frozen Liquids

Water is the most advisable drink for those who plan to hop on a plane for a long flight. However, bringing liquids along is going to be a problem once screened by security. Of course, that doesn’t mean a passenger has to sneak in a bottle of water, coffee, or tea.

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The Transportation Security Administration allows passengers to bring their drinks on board the aircraft provided these are frozen, and we mean solid like a rock. You can drink up when they eventually melt during the long hours of travel.


Absorb Odors

Trekking in the countryside is known to be beneficial for the mind and body. It’s become popular as it allows you to get close to nature while exploring lesser-known paths.

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It won’t take long for your clothes to smell in a humid atmosphere, especially once you’ve changed and put used items in your bag. Simply pack a dryer sheet in your belongings so it can absorb odor while keeping everything fresh for longer.


Stretch It Out

Staying in the same position for a long time is not a healthy practice, but some passengers think they don’t have a choice but to stay put after take-off. This can cause muscle stiffness as well as leg cramps. 

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Feet may be swollen as a result of body fluids collecting around them, and the knees may feel strained, depending on one’s sitting position. It is best to stretch and move whenever possible. Roll your neck and shoulders, raise your knees, and take short walks.


Bad Passengers Get the Tape

Most passengers are easy to deal with. They sit down, eat a meal, doze off, and then wake up when the plane has safely landed. Other passengers are difficult to deal with – they sit down, then get up, sit down, get up, yell, complain, and more.

Most flight attendants have probably had to deal with at least one unruly passenger. Sometimes it’s simply their personality that causes it. Other times they had one too many drinks before boarding the flight. Whatever the reason, flight attendants have to deal with it. Occasionally, they do so by duct taping the passenger to the seat.


Browsing Incognito for Cheaper Fare

Book ahead of time to catch the best fares, especially during the prime booking period of a month to four months from your departure date. Oddly enough, you may notice that ticket prices go higher if you search repeatedly. If this happens, don’t panic buy.

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This is because the cookies installed in your browser notify travel websites of your previous searches. They know you’ve been looking into certain flights with given rates, and they’ll use this as a starting point for an increase. To start fresh, clear your browsing history and delete cookies. Then, remember to always search for flights in an incognito window to prevent this from happening again.


Power Source

Mobile phones are now a constant companion, especially for travelers who need to contact distant friends and family. In a new city, finding your way around via the many useful apps and maps your phone has can be a lifesaver.

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Phones have become indispensable, so it makes sense to bring a portable power source to ensure your lifesaving device never dies. Choose one that’s light and sleek to bring along during long flights.


Handle with Care

Most passengers travel with at least one thing that needs to be handled with care. If a delicate item is placed in luggage that isn’t marked fragile, it could be thrown around or damaged under the weight of other bags. 

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Mark luggage as fragile to keep the bag from being mishandled. Even if you don’t have breakable items in it, at least you won’t have to wait long at baggage claim as they see to it that these items are prioritized.


Be An Early Bird

Don’t waste your limited vacation time by traveling late in the day. These flights are more susceptible to delays and cancellations. Start your itinerary early, and you’ll get more things accomplished and manage your day better.

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The good thing about early morning flights is that airlines are likely to offer cheaper tickets during these hours. Planes are rarely delayed at these times too. Data also shows that flights are less likely to experience turbulence in the morning compared to late flights that are hit with irregular air motion and thermal convection.


Jog Off Jet Lag

Traveling across different time zones will make you feel out of sync when you arrive at your destination. The body will need time to adjust, and jet lag may make you tired, vulnerable to mood swings, and unable to slip into your desired sleeping pattern.

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Step outside and slow jog in the morning sun. Run your pace, and don’t strain yourself. This will help the body adjust as you’re exposing it to the new daytime hours, leaving you energetic for the rest of the day.


Liquids in Vials

Reports and leaked videos sometimes show airline staff mishandling passengers’ luggage behind the scenes. If you travel without a fragile sign taped on your bags, you could be at risk of unwanted breakage of items such as perfume bottles that could spill and stain your clothes.

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Instead of bringing the whole bottle on a long flight, store portions of it in vials. This way, you can bring a range of scents and other useful products like aftershave.


Soft Copy

Staying organized is key when traveling, especially when flying to a foreign country where communication can be a major barrier. Losing a passport far from the Consular Office can cause hassles, especially if a wallet is lost along with it. Renewal will take days, so it’s possible that flight schedules may have to be changed.

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Have the passport and its contents scanned for backup, stored in an email inbox for safekeeping. Who knows when such records may be needed for validation and further documentation.


Empty Drinking Container

While waiting for a flight at the airport, the restaurants, cafes, and colorful variety shops seem to twinkle at every passenger, beckoning for a short visit and product purchase. As tempting as these shops may be, it’s not wise to shop at airports because the prices are high to make up for their operating expenses. 

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Bring your own sealed snacks to save money. You can even bring your own travel mug and some sealed tea bags or sachets of coffee to make your own drinks at the airport. Empty mugs won’t be a problem passing through security.


Unexpected Changes to Your Itinerary

Even if you’re scheduled to fly and busily imagining your escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, a last-minute change could ruin everything. The culprits could be bad weather, aircraft maintenance issues, or a previous flight delay that has a domino effect on the rest of the day’s flights.

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If you want to be prioritized on the next plane out, either on a connecting flight or a rerouted trip, skip the long lines at the airport counter. Call the airline’s hotline or your travel agent instead, and get it done in minutes.


Advisory on Flight Departures and Arrivals

Even if you arrive for your flight well in advance, breeze through security before the lines build up, and find yourself a prime seat at your gate, complete with access to a charging station, there’s still a problem. If you want to see updates on your flight status, you’ll have to leave your seat to check the boards from time to time.

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The FlightBoard app is a lifesaver in this situation, keeping you updated from wherever you are. It sends information to your phone, so you won’t have to stand up just to know what flight is up next.


Flight Fashion

It’s not a bad idea to dress in a way that makes you blend with your environment, which is why many people like to look dapper when flying in business class. For long flights, however, the priority should be placed more on comfort than fashion.

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Wear clothes that allow you to stretch when you need to, rather than unwieldy ones. Go for something comfy and smooth, which allows you to sleep well, in contrast to using rough fabric that makes you feel enmeshed in an already cramped space.


Smooth Ride

Organized people get to plan and arrange for the best seats ahead of time. Those who book their flight at the last minute often get the back seats that tend to absorb more turbulence. It is also warmer there compared to the fresher air available to those seated at the front.

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The most stable seats are located close to the wings of the aircraft. Sitting a little forward is also a quieter spot, best chosen for long flights.


Meet New Friends

Traveling in the company of old friends is hard to organize in a real-world setting. It can be hard to agree on a given date, and money could be an issue, among many other things. Still, it’s nice to have somebody to share your adventures with.

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Thankfully, apps like Backpackr and Travel Buddies allow you to meet other travelers for these exact reasons. You can chat, meet up, and travel together if you wish. At the very least, you can swap travel hacks and advice.


Navigating the Easy Way

When out and about on an adventure, it is a good idea to use a map to familiarize yourself in advance. Wireless connections are not always guaranteed in all areas, and your network operator might have roaming connectivity issues in the location to which you’re heading.

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Download the map when you have the chance for a quick study. That way, if Google Maps can’t be accessed when in the field, your offline version can be pulled out, allowing you to navigate to wherever you want to go.


Spontaneity Is Key

A long flight to a new city or country can be an escape from everyday life for those who are tired of uniformity. It is symbolic of a new start and a brand new outlook that is exciting and spontaneous.

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There’s magic in knowing you’re going places unplanned, without the typical restraints. Enjoy a trip without an itinerary and see where each day takes you. You may be surprised at how relaxing and enlightening such an adventure can be.


Blend in with the Locals

Instead of going out to popular tourist spots for selfies, delve in and meet the locals. It can be a fascinating experience to gradually learn a new language and be immersed in customs and traditions other than your own.

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Party with a Local is an app that allows you to get to know the locals, and of course, party with them. It also gives updated suggestions on where to hang out when you’re in the area. 


Rescheduled Flights

Some passengers need to get to their destination without delay. If you’re not in a special hurry and wouldn’t mind hanging around for a couple more hours until the next flight is up, you can give up your seat on a fully booked flight as a humanitarian gesture.

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Generosity is often rewarded by way of more perks, like being bumped up to business class. You can even save money with offers of free meals and overnight accommodation.


Touring and Backpacking

To go on a tour or backpacking excursion requires more detailed planning. Otherwise, the journey could quickly become costly and time-consuming, which defeats the purpose of attempting to become the pro-traveler all backpackers are perceived to be.

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You don’t have to unload your bag at every hostel you visit for a quick stay. Only take out what is needed, and plan what those items will be. Place them in easy reach in your bag to save time getting prepared for the next adventure.


Independent Tour

Finding a dependable tour guide can be tricky, especially for a first-timer in an unfamiliar region. If you’re traveling solo, any tour you take could be priced as a one-on-one, making it many times more expensive than regular group tours. It’s even more challenging when traveling off-season. 

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With this in mind, it might be best to be your own tour guide. If you haven’t done this before, now is as good a time as any. Use the Google Goggles app to take pictures of landmarks and other beautiful locations, and the app will send you interesting facts about them.


Keep Clothes Dry

Experienced travelers prepare themselves for all types of circumstances. Potential dramas to be considered include a delayed flight, bad weather, and having to get to the hotel in difficult conditions. 

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While a cap and waterproof jacket will keep you from getting soaked if it rains, you need to protect your luggage too. If it’s not already waterproof, seal the inside with a bin liner. That way, your clothes and water-sensitive devices will be kept secure.