Never Ask for This One Favor on a Plane, Flight Attendants Warn
While they're usually happy to help, there's one task flight attendants will turn down.
Over the last year and a half, it's safe to say that air travel has hit some serious turbulence. But throughout the ups and downs of the pandemic, flight attendants have kept their heads high. Whether they're bringing a cart full of snacks to each row or explaining the mask policy, flight attendants work hard to ease their passengers' stress, no matter what challenges arise along the way. But regardless of how much you rely on flight attendants when traveling, they can't say yes to every question you ask. In fact, there's one particular task that flight attendants can't help you with, even though you probably expect them to. Read on to find out the one favor you should never ask a flight attendant.
Never ask a flight attendant to put your bag in the overhead compartment.
Before taking your seat on a plane, one of the first things you do is put your bag in the overhead compartment. But while a kind stranger may offer to help with this task, the flight attendants on the plane can't. During a 2019 interview with Inside Edition, flight attendant Jamila Hardwick revealed that you should never ask a flight attendant to store your luggage for you.
"We do not get paid until the boarding door is closed," she explained. "If we get hurt while putting that bag in the overhead bin, we do not get to write it off as an on-job injury."
Airlines only compensate flight attendants for the hours when the plane is in the air.
Some airlines pay their flight attendants an hourly rate, based on the time between when the flight leaves its original location and arrives at the destination, also known as "block hours." For example, American Airlines' contract with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, a flight-attendant union, describes "Block Hours/Block-to-Block/Block Time" as "that period of time beginning when an aircraft first moves from the ramp blocks at the gate for the purpose of flight and ending when the aircraft comes to a stop at the gate for the purpose of loading or unloading passengers at either intermediate stops or final destination."
However, even before the plane takes off, flight attendants have their fair share of responsibilities. "We're only paid for time in the air," flight attendant Heather Poole told Travel + Leisure in 2019. "That flight attendant greeting you at the boarding door, helping you find a place for your bag, guitar, crutches, wedding gown, emotional support pig? They're not being paid."
If you can't put your bag in the overhead compartment yourself, check it.
The act of putting away your carry-on bags for you can cause serious issues for your flight attendants. Brooke Ellis, a physical therapist at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Plano, told the Los Angeles Times that people can potentially hurt their backs, necks, and shoulders when helping with this on-flight task.
"The nature of lifting overhead items, in particular, places added stress and strain on the joints and muscles, and it makes it difficult to maintain proper lifting form and thus can result in injury," she said.
In order to prevent flight attendants from having an accidental and uncompensated work injury, you might want to think twice before bringing a large bag onto the plane. "The rule is if you can't lift it into the overhead bin yourself, check it," former flight attendant Shawn Kathleen told Yahoo! Travel in 2015. Once your bag is in the overhead bin, the most that a flight attendant can do is push it farther in and help close the door.
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There are other things you should never say to a flight attendant.
Asking a flight attendant to take care of your bags isn't the only thing you should avoid saying on the plane. According to Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at the insider-intel platform Scott's Cheap Flights, you should never say "I'm drunk" to your flight attendant. Orlando previously told Best Life that even if you're saying it in a joking manner, flight attendants are put in a position where they must decide "whether you're safe to stay on board." They not only "have the right to kick you off if you're drunk" under federal law, but being drunk could also get you barred from your connecting flight.