Flight Attendants Reveal Secrets Of Flying And What It’s Really Like Working For An Airline

Flight attendants might seem to have a glamorous job but there is more to the job than you might think. Yes, they get to travel for free and see every corner of the world but they also have to undergo difficult training and deal with some seriously horrible passengers. 


There are plenty of secrets that your flight attendants are hiding from you behind that charming smile. Read on to learn what’s going on behind the scenes while you’re busy watching an in-flight movie.

They Keep Their Hands Behind Their Backs For A Reason

Have you ever noticed that flight attendants always seem to greet passengers with their hands clasped behind their backs? Turns out that there’s a good reason airline employees do this.



Hiding their hands makes it easier to conduct a head count as people enter the plane – they’re keeping count on their fingers! If you saw them counting on their fingers in front of you, you probably wouldn’t think too highly of them. The trust between the attendant and passenger must never be broken.

There’s A Secret Compartment For Their Naps

sleeping accommodations
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When it comes to long-haul flights, you might get to take several snoozes but what about the flight crew? They constantly have to be around to tend to passenger needs and are always on their feet, but that seems like a lot for a flight that’s over ten hours.

Don’t worry, flight attendants get to take their breaks too. Big planes like Boeing 777 or 787 jets have secret sleeping cabins built in for staff. These windowless sleeping quarters are built above or below the galley, so that’s probably where your favorite flight attendant is if you’ve noticed you haven’t seen them for a while.


Do NOT Go Barefoot

barefoot on plane

Everyone understands how uncomfortable it is to be stuck on a plane for more than two hours. A lot of times you’ll see that passenger who takes their shoes off, and they’ll even walk around the cabin without putting them back on!

It may seem like they’re just making themselves comfortable, but it’s actually pretty disgusting. Flight attendants know just how filthy the floor of the plane really is. Plenty of accidents occur in-flight. While those accidents do get cleaned up, it’s still not as sanitary as you’d hope, especially in between flights. Plus, cleaning supplies are limited on airplanes.


They Communicate With A Secret Code


The flight crew uses subtle codes to communicate with each other about the goings on in the plane without letting the passengers know. There might be things they need to tell each other to look out for, but they don’t want to freak out the passengers.

Those bells and chimes you often hear during a flight aren’t for no reason. For example, those “dings” you hear at the beginning and end of a flight? That’s to signal to the crew that the most dangerous stages of the flight are over since takeoff and landing are the most precarious parts of flying.


They’re Sizing You Up As You Board


It’s always reassuring to see your flight attendants greeting you as you enter the aircraft. Sure it’s excellent customer service but they actually have an ulterior motive for doing so.

As the passengers enter the plane, the flight attendants quickly make important assessments. They look over each and every passenger and make mental notes of who might be problematic or intoxicated, who is traveling alone, or for those passengers who might be in need of extra assistance such as when they’re handicapped or traveling with children. They are also seeing who’s strong and who might be useful in an emergency.


How You Can Possibly Score An Upgrade


While you should treat any human with the respect that they deserve in any situation, it pays to be exceptionally nice to your flight attendant. Many flight attendants say that they love customers who respond with a smile and a “thank you,” and you’d be surprised to know how often that doesn’t happen.

If you are pretty nice to your flight attendant, you may even be able to score an upgraded seat if there were any available. It will also help if you have a legitimate reason to be upgraded, such as being too tall, pregnant, or are a frequent flyer.


It Doesn’t Actually Pay Very Well

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Flight attendants have to go to work the minute they arrive on the plane. That means doing safety checks before a flight and then greeting and assisting passengers during the boarding process. But for all they do before the plane takes off, they’re not even getting paid.

Flight attendants only get paid for the hours that the engine starts and the plane pulls away from the gate. Anytime before that, they aren’t getting paid — or they’re at least not getting paid their full rate. Hours spent away from home but not in the air are compensated with a rate as low as $1.50 an hour.


They’ll Cut You Off If They Need To

drinking on a plane

You might want to watch it next time you opt for booze on a fight. Not only is it illegal for flight attendants to enable passengers to get drunk on a flight, it’s actually illegal to be intoxicated on a plane.

Should you end up breaking that law, you can get up to a two-year sentence for this odd criminal offense. But think of it this way: you don’t need to overdo it on a flight because the changing cabin pressure causes alcohol to have a stronger effect on your body than it does on land.


Order Diet Coke If You Want To Be Annoying

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If you don’t want to annoy your flight attendant during beverage service, then don’t order a Diet Coke. Flight attendants hate when a passenger requests Diet Coke and for very good reason.

Diet Coke is noticeably fizzier than other carbonated drinks. And at over 30,000 feet in the air, those bubbles take forever to settle. Flight attendants have to pay extra attention not to let it overflow, but that just means that it takes about three times longer to pour than the other available beverages. Flights are so dehydrating anyway so it’s probably best if you just ask for water.


There’s A Reason They Turn Off The Lights

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As the plane prepares for takeoff or for its descent, the lights in the cabin will get shut off. This is never really explained and there’s not much to think of it since the lights get turned back on just a few minutes later.

But there’s actually a good reason for this. Takeoff and landing are the most problematic stages of a flight. The lights get turned off so that everyone’s eyes can adjust to the light in the event of an emergency. This can help people orient themselves with the space easily if they needed to take action.

Definitely Do Not Accept A Coffee

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Many flight attendants wouldn’t suggest drinking the coffee or tea served on flights. While the potable water is filtered and not necessarily the same water that flows through the lavatories, you still might want to pass on these hot beverages that are made in flight.

The tanks that the potable water is kept in apparently don’t get cleaned as often as you’d think. And sometimes, the valve for the lavatory water is located precariously close to the valve for the clean water. So next time, you might just want to stick to the bottled and canned drinks.

They’re Using Their Cell Phones The Entire Time

Inside The China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition
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Flight attendants get a perk all flyers wish they had. Besides getting paid to travel places, they get the Holy Grail of flying: free Wi-Fi and usage of their cellphones. They are often using their phones during the entire flight unbeknownst to the casual flyer.

They may not make the most money in the world, but the do get to travel the globe and get paid for it. Depending on how you look at it, that might not be the worst payoff in the world.


The Food Is Questionable Too

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Speaking of things you should steer away from, you might also want to think twice about airline food. Meals served on longer flights usually look pretty balanced, but the nutritional content of those meals is shocking.

In-flight meals are loaded up with salt, sugar, fat, and simple carbs that make you feel full but actually have no nutritional value. If you’re stuck on a long-haul flight with nothing else to eat, those meals are your saving grace. But you might want to remember to bring your own food on board next time.


They Have The Power To Restrain You

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You better behave yourself the next time you fly. If you get too unruly, then your flight attendant has the authority to arrest you (or at the very least, restrain you). You may have seen people removed from a flight before take off, but what happens when things come to light mid-flight?

If a flight attendant really needs to, they have the power to restrain overly aggressive or trouble causing passengers. They usually have zip ties available or they could use the seatbelt extensions as restraints. The passenger would then be placed in an area where they can’t be disruptive and would be escorted off at the first stop.

This Job Is Not For Everyone

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Flight attendants may have a jet-setting life with the ability to visit new places, but it’s not all fun and games. On the ground, many people see flight attendants as having a glamorous job, but in the air that changes as their jobs are minimized to that of a waitress.

A flight attendant job is a demanding one. You’re constantly jet-lagged, sometimes having to work on flights back to back. You’ll often get 4 A.M. wakeup calls and be scheduled to work on holidays, not to mention being kept apart from your family for long periods of time.

You Might Want To Think Twice About First Class


It’s probably not all that worth it to sit in first class. Studies have shown that in the event of a plane crash, those who are sitting towards the front of the plane are more likely to die.

The safest seats are those within a few rows of the emergency exit and the aisle seats. Studies have shown that passengers in the rear of the plane have the highest survival rates compared to those in first class. In any case, no matter where you sit, it’s always smart to fasten your seat belt.


Flight Attendants Have To Look The Part

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You might think that flight attendants have to uphold certain visual standards to hold on to their jobs. Although the requirements of looking a certain way and being a certain age are antiquated and long gone, there are still some things flight attendants have to keep in mind.

Flight attendants do have to have a natural hair color and it has to be pulled back if it is long. The biggest thing the airlines look for these days is height. You can’t be too tall that your head will constantly be bumping into the overhead bins, but you can’t be so short that you can’t perform your duties comfortably.


It’s Not Easy To Land This Job

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Harvard had a higher acceptance rate than Delta airlines did for their job openings in 2010. If you’re trying to become a flight attendant, the competition can get pretty intense.

In 2010, Delta announced 1,000 openings and received over 100,000 applications. Only four percent of those applications got a callback interview. Flight attendants have quite a demanding job, for very little starting pay (at least $18,000 per year). But if you have excellent customer service skills and think you can handle it, by all means, go for it! It definitely helps if you are bilingual.


Yes, Flight Crews Do Get Involved With Each Other

male and female flight attendants

You wouldn’t be wrong to assume that flight crews get involved with each other in more ways than one. Relationships between crew members are apparently quite common, which makes sense since they spend so much time with each other in such an enclosed space.

While flight attendants can fraternize with one another, their main priority is, of course, to remain professional at all times. Just like any job, you wouldn’t want to air your dirty laundry in front of customers.

There’s No Rules Against Flight Attendants Fraternizing With Passengers

there is no rule about fraternizing with flight attendants

As for flight attendants getting extra chummy with passengers, many airlines don’t really have policies on it. So if you find your flight attendant quite attractive, you can go ahead and shoot your shot. But chances are, that won’t fare well because flight attendants experience too much of that.

More often, flight attendants are the ones fighting off unwanted attention while they’re just trying to do their job. Still, they are allowed to meet a potential partner if they wish to do so!


The Oxygen Masks Have A Time Limit

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The oxygen masks on a plane will deploy when the cabin pressure falls below a certain point, but more often than not, that point never comes. In the event that it does, however, how long would it allow you to breathe?

There are around 12 to 15 minutes of oxygen in those masks. It doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but it is. If you ever find yourself in a situation that warrants the use of these masks, just try to relax and breathe. The pilot is working to get the plane to a safe altitude where you will be able to breathe without them.

Your Extra Bags Won’t Cause The Plane To Crash

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Every passenger is entitled to at least one stowed bag during their flight. But this means they’ll have to pay some hefty fees for any additional baggage. While planes are designed to only accommodate one bag per passenger, the truth is your extra bags will hardly affect anything.

Planes do have to have the right center of gravity for takeoff. Depending on how many checked bags do get stowed on the plane, most airlines have practiced using sandbags to even out the weight. Still, that doesn’t necessarily explain why airlines charge you for extra bags, but we don’t make the rules.


Turning Off The Phones Isn’t Actually That Necessary

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When the flight attendant requests that you should turn off your mobile devices before takeoff, it’d be in your best interest to just do as they say. While failing to turn it off won’t cause the plane to crash, there’s still a very good reason they ask you to do it.

Cellular signals are strong enough to interfere with air traffic control frequencies, which isn’t ideal when the plane is trying to take off or land. Sometimes takeoff can take longer than it needs to, so to help ease the process just turn off your devices when the time comes.


Be Nice To Check-In Staff

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It is not a smart thing to do to be rude or disgusting to a check-in staff person. They have the ability to determine where you sit. If you’re a jerk and there’s a slew of babies on board, they just might sit you right in the thick of the crying and fussing.

Even if they smile to your face once you have been rude to them, you don’t know what is awaiting you on that plane. Plus, as we’ve already said, the nice you are, the better your chances of being upgraded turn if a seat becomes available.


Tips Are Accepted

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Some do not know that flight attendants can accept tips. And not only do they accept them, they greatly appreciate them, too. Those tips can also go a long way in getting you first-class treatment for the rest of the flight.

A dollar might not get you far, but do not be afraid to test your luck by tipping. At the very least, you’ll make someone’s day. It’s never bad move to pay it forward, and just like your favorite bartender or service person, flight attendants just want a little extra love, too.


Keeping Your Gifts under Wraps

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Going home for the holidays is a tradition many look forward to. One such tradition is going home for Christmas. If you’re going home for the holidays, you might want to reconsider wrapping your gifts ahead of time.

Airport security may have to unwrap and take a gander at your items. Maybe having a gift bag makes more sense. We know this isn’t “on-flight” related, but sometimes a good tip needs to be given anyway.


Be Wary of the Blankets and Pillows

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The only time those pillows and blankets you request are clean is during the first flight of the day. That’s bad news for the germophobes out there. It is likely they already know about this startling fact, but this is to those who are unaware.

You might want to bring an extra jacket or headrest next time. You can also buy those horseshoe shaped pillows at airports just to be safe. Better safe than sorry, we’d hate to see you catch germs from someone you’ve never met before!


Is The Mile-High Club A Real Thing?

exiting the bathroom

For as long as humans have been traveling by plane, the idea of the “mile-high club” has been glamorized. But considering what we know about airplane bathrooms (let’s be real — they’re tiny, the lighting is awful, and they don’t always smell so good), a mid-flight romp isn’t all its chalked up to be.

What’s more, flight attendants carefully watch the bathrooms, so even going inside of the bathroom with another person and getting away with it is nearly impossible. If you do get caught, you could face serious repercussions, including indecent exposure.


Time To Exit

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If your plane is either about to leave or it has just landed, you cannot be on that plane for longer than three hours. If you wish to get off, you are more than welcome after that time frame.

Flight attendants are also required to keep the food and water cart going up and down the aisle after two hours of delay. You’ll be fed for at least an hour, don’t worry. Just remember, don’t drink the coffee or tea!


Pack An Empty Water Bottle

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Want to save money at the airport? Pack an empty water bottle. In most cases, you would have to throw away a bottle with contents in it, so to avoid that and spending a ridiculous amount on a bottle from the airport, just bring an empty bottle.

Airports have water fountains where you can fill your empty one right up. Think of the money it will save you not buying water on the plane as well. It will save your flight attendants time, too. Why bother them with getting you a water bottle when you could have pre-filled one yourself.


Being Rude Gets You Nowhere

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Being a pain in the you-know-what does not get you anywhere in life. And it surely doesn’t help while flying. Even if there is a flight upgrade available, flight attendants will not give it to you. You already knew that, though. You probably didn’t know the next part.

If you are a frequent flyer, it will be noted on your account you are troublesome. Just like getting a bad mark in school, you’ll be considered a bad flyer regardless of how many flights you book! Do you want an A in flying or an F?


Germ Alert

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Along the lines of the pillows and blankets, if you have ever put your food on your tray and eaten, or even touched your tray at all, you have more than likely just eaten baby poo.

More dirty items are laid out on those trays than food. And the trays are likely only cleaned once a day. That’s just disgusting. You already knew to be wary of the coffee, blankets, and pillows, but now you know the absolutely dirty truth about the food trays too! Yuck!


Pilots Need Sleep, Too

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Wouldn’t it be great to a nap while on the job? If you have (or want to get) the proper education and capability to be away from your family for extended periods of time, you should try being a pilot.

Essentially, the plane flies itself, especially during long flights. The takeoff and landing are what pilots are mostly needed for. Now if you ask your flight attendant, she’ll probably tell you the pilot is awake and doing his job. No matter what, you have to maintain appearances!


Threats Over the Ocean

YouTube/Karin Hiebert

Here is something that is sure to shock. If the plane you are on is flying over the ocean and there is a bomb threat reported, passengers will not be notified. You could be reading the latest issue of Time magazine, minding your own business while a bomb threat just took place.

You would never know. One of the most important jobs a flight attendant has is to help maintain peace on the plane. Imagine how much harder that would be if all the passengers were scared out of their minds.


Do Not Walk Barefoot

bare feet on plane

Do not ever walk barefoot once on board the plane. Everything including baby urine, blood, vomit, and milk have all been spilled on the floor of a plane. You just read how often they clean the trays and blankets, so how familiar do you think the vacuums are with those floors?

The gamble is yours to take. Basically, airplanes are giant cabins you’re stuck in where germs can manifest at any time. But it’s totally still the safest way to travel. Just bring plenty of penicillin with you!


Don’t Forget Your Headphones

a row of empty seats
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Next time you travel, be sure to bring your own headphones. Airline-issued headphones are sometimes free, and sometimes not. And let’s be honest, you’re never going to reuse those flimsy things. They’re more likely to break in your bag on the way back home.

Depending on the length of your flight, there’s more than likely in-flight entertainment that you’ll want to view. You wouldn’t want to have to pay for headphones to enjoy the movie.


Don’t Go To the Airport Starbucks

Flight attendants checking cabins

Starbucks may be delicious and addicting, but it could be better for you if you skip that long line. For one, you can get free coffee on your flight so you would be saving money.

Secondly, if you are flying Alaska Airlines or Delta, you get a complimentary Starbucks as part of their services. This is something flight attendants definitely want you to know. It saves them time not making you coffee and you don’t get gross coffee with water possibly from the toilet. We call that a win-win!


What’s the Deal With Air Marshals?

Olympic training exercise
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Think there’s an air marshal on every flight? Not quite. While the exact number of air marshals isn’t public information, CNN reported that the number of air marshals was being cut by around 3,500 back in 2014.

Still, you never know when you might be sitting next to one on your flight. Air marshals wear “normal” clothing, but are armed on flights, as their presence is to protect against a terrorist attack.


The Brace Position Isn’t a Myth

Flight attendant inside an air Koryo tupolev plane, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea
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When flight attendants go over the safety procedures before a flight, they detail the “brace position,” in which passengers put their head towards their knees and cup the back of their head lightly. But for years, some conspiracy theorists have claimed that the brace position is actually deadly.

On the contrary, this position helps compact the body, protecting the vital organs from injury. The topic has been so hotly debated that Myth Busters even did an episode on it.


Medical Emergencies Happen

British Airways liveried Airbus A380
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Medical emergencies can happen any time — even mid-flight! Luckily, flight attendants and the rest of the crew are trained accordingly to handle a series of situations that may be thrown their way.Flight attendants are trained to act as first responders in the event that there is a medical emergency during a flight. This includes things like CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. All planes are also equipped with defibrillators and first aid kits if a passenger may need care during a flight.

If there is a more grave situation, the flight attendants might ask if there is a doctor on board. A pilot may also choose to divert and ground the plane, which usually takes just 15 or so minutes, unless it is an overseas flight.


Buckle Up, Seriously

Coronavirus - Hannover Airport
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You might be wondering just how safe planes are. Before taking off, flight attendants go through a number of safety checks to help put your mind at ease. Still, some passengers fear what happens once the plane in the air and the pre-flight checklist is done.

Planes have been designed to be incredibly sturdy. Most are even able to withstand being struck by lightning without taking damage. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the “buckle up” signal when it gets turned on, though.


The Captain Makes The Rules

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According to flight attendants, the captain is the ultimate authority once the plane takes off. They make all decisions leading the crew and decide what to do with troublesome passengers. The captain also makes the call of what happens during an emergency.

Just about the only thing the captain of a plane cannot do is arrest passengers. If there is a problem passenger, they can alert authorities, who will be waiting to arrest that person when the plane lands.


They Can’t Share Food

Domodedovo Airport's airline food factory
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Most airlines have a guideline in place that states flight attendants cannot share food on planes. This is designed to help avoid food poisoning. While they are allowed to eat pre-made meals, most prefer to bring their own food on a flight.

On international flights, crew meals are provided, too, but that’s not always the case on domestic flights. That’s why most flight attendants know that bringing their meal is always better.


Unused Food Is Thrown In The Trash

Paris, Charles de Gaulle Airport American Airlines economy seat in-flight meal orange juice
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You already know just how questionable airline food can be, so it should come as a relief to know that whatever is left over when the flight lands is thrown away. This isn’t the absolute rule, but is usually decided at the discretion of the captain.

While it might not be the best practice to waste leftover food, it is the reality of the airline industry. Most food on board can’t be given to shelters, either.


Food Is Not Freshly Prepared

Domodedovo Airport's airline food factory
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When flight attendants tell you that your in-flight meal has been freshly prepared, you might not want to believe what they’re saying. The truth is that most of those meals are made 12 to 72 hours in advance.

Does that sound fresh-made to you? These in-flight meals are packaged in a way that they can be refrigerated for up to five days and still be labeled as safe to eat.


It’s Not Just Your Luggage In The Baggage Compartment

Tupolev-154 passenger plane makes last commercial flight in Russia
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Anyone who has been lucky enough to get a sneak peek inside a plane’s baggage compartment might have noticed something. It’s not just your luggage that is being stowed away on planes.

Flight attendants revealed that along with your baggage, there are sometimes HR (human remains) aboard. While this may sound morbid, the truth is that if someone passes away while traveling, they need to be repatriated, and one of the most efficient ways is through a commercial flight.


This Engine Fact Is Kept Secret For A Reason

Emirates Boeing 777 Flying Over The Netherlands
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Another fact about flying that your flight attendant will never reveal is what happens in a flight if the plane’s engine dies. This situation is obviously a worst-case scenario, and not mentioning it helps keep passengers from panicking.

That truth, however, is that planes can glide perfectly fine if the engine goes out. Pilots are trained for this exact scenario, too. So, while it may be a scary situation to think about, it’s not actually as life-or-death as it may sound.


What It’s Like To Travel With Pets

New terminal of Chelyabinsk International Airport
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Some airlines will allow passengers to travel with pets. This is important for anyone who is moving across the country or needs to have a therapy animal on the flight with them. But is flying actually good for your pets?

One flight attendant warns that while pets are made as comfortable as possible on flights, some inconveniences cannot be avoided. The biggest of those is noise. If your pet is sensitive to loud sounds, flying might not be the best option for them.


Your Safety Is Not Compromised Based On Ticket Cost

Aircraft seating configuration on a passenger jet
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If you fly a lot, you might wonder if flying an economy airline is less safe than other flights. The ticket is cheaper, which leads many to wonder what corners may have been cut by the airline.

The fact is that when it comes to passenger safety, it is impossible for airlines to cut costs. Any flight attendant who has worked for multiple airlines will tell you this. Legroom, seat selection, and baggage fees are different ways that airlines can cut upfront costs for customers.


The Best Time To Fly Is As Early As Possible

Major Cities In Canada Adjust To Restrictive Coronavirus Measures
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The best time to fly might not always be the most convenient for the passenger, according to flight attendants. Mostly because of uncertain weather conditions, the safest time to fly is always the earliest.

The earlier you can wake up and get on a flight, the more likely you are to avoid thunderstorms. The air tends to be less “bumpy” earlier in the morning, so if you hate the idea of turbulence, this tip is especially important for you.

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