Skip to content

23 Things That Totally Horrify Flight Attendants

About those bare feet...

Being a flight attendant is no easy gig. You've got ultra-long hours, countless grumpy passengers, cramped spaces in which to maneuver, the constant buzz of a deafening engine, and, of course, the ever-present pressure that it's up to you, in the event of a water landing, to guide 200-plus souls out of the plane and into the ocean in a timely and organized manner. (No sweat!) But while flight attendants are often tough-as-nails, there are still plenty of things that leave them completely and utterly horrified. To learn what they are, read on—and remember to never clip your toenails mid-flight!

Passengers who drink the tap water

drinking water on airplane things that horrify flight attendants

"Drinking water from the tap on a plane is horrifying," says flight attendant Craig Wilcox. And, according to one 2015 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Wilcox has a right to be scared. The research found that many flights' water supply tested positive for a range of bacteria that could cause illness (though no dangerous infectious microorganisms, such as E. coli, Legionella, and Enterococcus, were found… Phew!).

Passengers who tell them that anyone could do their job

flight attendant displaying safety measures on airplane things that horrify flight attendants

In case you needed a reminder, flight attendants aren't simply the waitresses of the skies. As one Reddit user and flight attendant explains, flight attendants receive extensive training to be able to keep you safe.

"I'm always surprised at how people feel the need to just be unnecessarily rude," the Redditor wrote. "I've been in the middle of a safety demo and had people feel the need to interject [about] how easy my job is and how they could do it without a second thought."

"You don't see me getting to the plane an hour and a half early to preflight all emergency equipment and do a security check on the plane," she explained. "You don't know about all of the intensive training we go through that teaches us extensive first aid, emergency procedures, survival techniques—even aviation basics. We've been trained in almost every eventuality that could happen on that flight."

Couples who attempt to join the mile-high club

couple kissing on airplane things that horrify flight attendants

Flight attendants always know when you're plotting to join the mile-high club. So if you think you can retain your dignity on your walk of shame from the lavatory, think again. The same goes for in-seat action as well. "Yes, we know when you're getting handsy with each other," wrote one Reddit user and flight attendant. Your travel blanket setup isn't fooling anyone.

Passengers who take off their shoes and socks

man's bare feet on blue carpet

No flight attendant wants to see your bare feet. "I had a passenger in the first row [of first class] take off his socks and shoes and run his bare feet up against the bulkhead (the front 'wall' of the aircraft)," wrote another Reddit user and flight attendant.

And passengers who use the bathroom barefoot

airplane bathroom things that horrify flight attendants

The only thing worse than passengers who remove their shoes and socks are the ones who take those bare feet to the bathroom. Flight attendant Craig Wilcox confirms that the plane staff will always notice—and always judge—those who enter the lav and expose their bare feet to anything that may be have missed the toilet and is lurking on the floor. (Ew!)

Passengers who groom themselves in their seats

woman clipping her nails

Though you may want your nails to look their best before your plane touches down, your flight attendant would rather not have to clean your toenail clippings from the cabin floor. A Reddit user and former flight attendant recalled one time two passengers took personal grooming to the next level during a flight. "As soon as he sat down, he wasted no time in taking off his flip flops and before I knew it, his wife was on her knees cutting his toenails," the Redditor wrote. "Click, click, off they scattered all over the floor."

Drunk passengers

Drinking on plane things that horrify flight attendants

Most flight attendants have absolutely zero tolerance for passengers' drunken shenanigans. "If you drink too much and we cut you off when you ask for your fourth double vodka tonic in an hour, don't try and pull the wool over our eyes and ask someone else," wrote one Redditor. "We know about you, the onboard manager will know about you, and the captain will know about you."

"As soon as I cut someone off, I let the crew working with me know that I've stopped giving 28B alcohol," they continued. "When the manager calls us (every half an hour at my airline) we let them know that 28B has been cut off, and in turn, they'll let the captain know. … I don't think a lot of people realize how much we keep the flight deck in the loop on everything that's going on."

Passengers who get inappropriately flirty

flight attendant talking to man things that horrify flight attendants

Just like most people who are on the clock, flight attendants don't want you to flirt with them. "My friend (who's a flight attendant) always talks about how weird it is when passengers try to flirt with her," wrote another Redditor. "She has a weird work schedule, you probably live on the other side of the country from her, not to mention the fact that she's on the job. It's not that she doesn't like being flirted with, there's just an appropriate time and place. (Hint: It's not while she's trying to serve drinks to the passenger behind you)."

Passengers who don't clean their trash

Waste basket

"We walk through the aisle with trash bags, there's often a big trash bin on your way out and, if not, a trash can right inside the terminal. The seat-back pocket is not a trash receptacle," a former flight attendant and Reddit user wrote. "We typically have very little time between flights to tidy up and perform a checklist of tasks, and finding unpleasant surprises tucked in those seat-back pockets is not fun."

Passengers who refuse to follow simple instructions

flight attendant talking to man on airplane things that horrify flight attendants

At the beginning of your flight, flight attendants require your attention for a brief demonstration of how to stay safe while cruising through the air. And as you can imagine, they just get a bit frustrated when you decide to disregard the rules set by airline regulators.

"It really bothers me when I tell someone something simple, for example, 'I need you to stow your purse underneath the seat in front of you,' and they argue as if it's my personal preference," wrote a Reddit user and flight attendant. "I always very sweetly explain that it's a federal aviation regulation, and sometimes even then, people argue. Why? They want to know. And that's fair. So I tell them, 'If we need to evacuate the aircraft, your purse could get caught on an armrest and slow not only you down but all of the people behind you.'"

"Usually, at this point, people comply," the Redditor continued. "But I had one lady continue past that point, telling me how expensive, and handmade, and Italian her purse was. … All I could think was, Wow. You are seriously implying that a bag is more valuable than the lives of those around you."

Parents who don't supervise their children

children on airplane things that horrify flight attendants

Flight attendants understand that children aren't always the best at following directions—but it does make their jobs more difficult when kids are given a free rein of the cabin, explained a Reddit user and former flight attendant.

"The aisle is not a plane-sized play pin. The floor under your seat is not a diaper bin (yes, actually found one there). I am not a babysitter (yes, I was told this once by a mother with a child that was entirely out of control)," the Redditor wrote. "The seat-back/tray table is not a coloring book. The lavatory is not a tree house. I could go on and on." And if you're looking for ways to keep your little ones busy, check out the 14 Best Car Games for Kids So You'll Never Hear "Are We There Yet" Again.

Crying babies

crying baby on airplane things that horrify flight attendants

It's a fact of life that babies cry. And because of that, no new parent should feel ashamed if their little one starts to fuss in the middle of a flight. Still, sometimes the tantrums are overwhelming. "We once had quadruplets on the plane and they all started crying at the same time," Ali Grey of JetGO told Best Life.

"If we got two of them to quiet down, the other two would keep crying and it was a total domino effect," she said. "We tried to separate the babies but still couldn't calm them down. They cried for about five hours on and off."

Passengers who do not believe in personal hygiene

Two People Flirting on an Airplane things that horrify flight attendants
Syda Productions / Shutterstock

Taking the extra precautions to shower and wear deodorant is not only appreciated by those within your immediate vicinity on a plane, but also by the flight attendants who have to interact with you.

"PSA: If you plan to travel in a sealed tube with hundreds of other people, please check that your body odor does not burn the eyes of fellow travelers," wrote a Reddit user and former flight attendant. "Seriously, how hard is it to spray a little deodorant before/between flights?" And for more insider airline information, check out these 20 Secrets Your Flight Attendant Won't Tell You.

Passengers who are way too chatty

flight attendant talking to male passenger things that horrify flight attendants

One Reddit user and pilot explained that chatting with your flight attendant for too long makes it difficult for them to do their jobs. "Please don't monopolize their time," the Redditor wrote. "They have stuff to do and a limited time to make it happen. Be courteous and friendly, of course, but let them get their job done."

Passengers who don't acknowledge them at all

passengers boarding airplane things that horrify flight attendants

On the other hand, totally ignoring your flight attendant isn't kind either. "I was a flight attendant for five years and I spent every boarding standing at the front saying hello to every single person that walked on," Redditor mercury624 wrote. "Less than 30 percent would say hello back. Have some decency, treat your flight attendant like a human and say hello. We aren't happy the plane is small, late, etc., either." Speaking of…

Passengers who blame delays on flight attendants

annoyed woman on airplane things that horrify flight attendants

As one Reddit user and former flight attendant shared, delays are just as annoying for flight attendants and pilots as they are for passengers. Perhaps even more so, since they do not get paid until the plane begins moving. "Delays are not my fault," the Redditor explained. "Even if you're going to visit your dying mother, there's nothing I can do to make the maintenance men work faster or make the snow stop falling."

Passengers who stand while the seatbelt light is on

seatbelt sign on airplane things that horrify flight attendants

The seatbelt light is there for a reason. "I don't care how bad you have to go to the bathroom, as a rule of thumb if [the flight attendants] are sitting, you should definitely still be sitting," wrote one former flight attendant on Reddit. "If you break your neck because of Level 5 turbulence (which comes out of nowhere), it's not worth that bathroom break."

Passengers who hit the call button multiple times for service

call button on airplane things that horrify flight attendants

Hitting the call button numerous times to get a flight attendant's attention isn't productive—it's just rude. When they don't refill your drink immediately, it's likely because they are busy, not because they didn't hear the call. "Hitting the call button 87 times while we're boarding a single-aisle plane isn't going to get me to you any faster," wrote another Redditor. "The light stays on, I'll get to you."

Passengers who put food directly on their seat-back trays

passenger eating food on airplane things that horrify flight attendants

It's only natural to want to rest a sandwich or other food item on your seat-back tray. However, you might want to consider that your fellow passengers have the tendency to change diapers, cut their nails, and perform other unsanitary tasks on those tables, says Wilcox. Make sure there's some sort of barrier between your food and the tray.

Entitled passengers

Flight attendant things that horrify flight attendants

No matter how much you spent on your ticket, you never have the right to boss around your flight attendant. But that doesn't stop some passengers from doing so anyway, according to one Reddit user and flight attendant. The Redditor recalled one passenger who "berated the crew, screaming because she was seated by the toilet. She was three rows away."


woman with motion sickness on airplane things that horrify flight attendants

Since motion sickness is a relatively common occurrence, nearly every flight attendant has had to clean a passenger's vomit. "We had a school group of young children sitting in the front of the plane. On takeoff, one little boy leaned over into the aisle and threw up," wrote one Redditor and flight attendant. "The puke rolled and splashed down the aisle almost all the way to the back galley."

The possibility that a passenger could require serious medical attention

boy in airplane seat with oxygen mask as flight attendant looks on, annoyed flight attendant

Switching gears, there are some serious issues that truly horrify flight attendants, like in-flight emergencies and deaths—which occur more often than you might think. "I've been on three flights where someone died while I was working (less than a year!)," wrote one Reddit user. "Everyone died because of a pre-existing medical condition likely exacerbated by the pressure or stresses of flying. Heart attacks, strokes, and aneurysms. Generally, the passengers had no idea."

Lightning storms

airplane going through lightning storm things that horrify flight attendants

Although flight attendants typically keep their cool, they sometimes find thunderstorms and turbulence just as nerve-wracking as less-frequent flyers. "[One time] on the approach to Denver we were struck by lightning. It was the loudest sound I've ever heard on a flight," wrote a Redditor.

"I was on a Boeing 727 with a flight attendant friend on the back jumpseat and all the passengers turned to look at us," she explained. "We were hugging each other and crying, which, as it turns out, only makes the passenger panic a thousand times worse. The plane was fine and we landed safely." And if you're looking to treat yourself to a few new items to take on your next big trip, check out the 100 Amazing Summer Buys Under $100.

Ashley Moor
Ashley hails from Dayton, Ohio, and has more than six years of experience in print and digital media. Read more
Filed Under