17 SUBSTANTIAL AIRPLANE HACKS AND TIPS | advice from a flight attendant
Hi there, and welcome (back) to Jetlag Jules. Today I’ll let you in on my airplane hacks and tips that I’ve collected over the past years. If you’re new here: I’m a flight attendant and fly anything from short- to long-haul for a bigger European airline. I’ve been doing this for seven years and hope to help you out so you’ll have a comfortable stay on board. Enjoy!
PSA: These airplane hacks and tips are a little detailed, so I skipped on some obvious parts the other posts on the web already include. But of course, it is essential to stay hydrated and wear comfortable clothes. A big scarf doubles as a blanket, earplugs are great for canceling engine noises, and a good neck pillow will be your best friend. With that being said, let’s jump into the flight hacks!
17 airplane hacks and tips
1 | never underestimate the cabin pressure
First and foremost, I want to raise awareness of how human bodies react to flying in a metal tube high above the ground. Many aren’t aware that this pressurized cabin can get you in big trouble, especially when flying with a cold. Have you ever noticed how your ears close and “pop” at takeoff and landing? That’s your body equalizing the pressure.
However, some passengers struggle with that, especially during the approach. You can help yourself by chewing gum, drinking, or simply covering your nose and breathing out through it. If you fly with a cold or feel congested, a nasal spray will be your best friend. (The decongestant ones, not just the sea-salt versions). It’s best used 20-30 minutes before takeoff and/or landing.
flying with a baby?
Infants have a much harder time balancing out the cabin pressure. (You might have already noticed the babies on your plane rides primarily screaming during the landing phase) It can be extremely painful for the little ones – so here’s how you can help: Similar to us adults, any swallowing motion can help. Most mothers try to breastfeed, and it usually works well for them. I’ve recently seen a mother traveling with special earplugs for babies. However, I have no experience with these, and if they’re helpful.
2 | bring a pen
Some destinations require you to fill out forms on board the aircraft, so please be prepared and have at least one pen somewhere in your hand luggage. Even if there are no forms to be filled out, a pen always comes in handy during your trips. You never know when someone needs you to sign or fill in any papers. We as crew usually have pens to distribute – but imagine a whole plane of 200 passengers not having a pen with them. I won’t come far with the 30 pens I’ve got catered. Be wise – bring your own.
(btw – a pen also works great for fishing out AirPods/earrings/… between seat cushions!)
3 | bring your own bottle and cup
Talking about things to bring – having your cup or bottle with you is key. Since you’re not allowed to take larger liquids through TSA, just bring your empty bottle and refill it once you’ve passed security. Most airports (especially in the US) have refill stations in the terminals. Once you’re on board, you can use your empty cup and bottle as well.
Have you ever noticed how small the airline cups are? Simply hand them your cup and get a bigger portion of coffee and let the crew refill your bottle with water. Like this, you’re staying hydrated, and you don’t need to ask for a refill every 5 minutes.
(This does not apply to airlines that have you pay for snacks and drinks. Plus, if you’re asking me to refill your 2.5l water bottle, I’d politely offer you to only fill it halfway first. Since catering on board is limited, we always need to ensure there’s still enough for everyone.)
4 | never ever drink water from lavatories or galley outlets
What about refilling your bottle at the sink in the lavatory? No. Just No.
Airplanes have water tanks that are being refilled before every flight. This water is used for the lavatories (the toilet flush and the water in the sink) and the galley outlets. Even though the tanks are being cleaned regularly (ok, well, I can’t ensure that for every airline) and fresh (” clean”) water is being refilled, it’s simply not drinkable. Even if it would be good quality water – I wouldn’t trust the faucet in the toilet.
But what about coffee and tea?
The coffee and tea we’re serving are brewed with the water from our galley outlets, so yes – water tank water. Since the water is getting heated up, I personally don’t mind it. Some people avoid coffee and tea, and I’ve even read about crews from other airlines that don’t drink it. I can only speak for myself when I say I’ve been living on airplane coffee over the last seven years, and it hasn’t harmed me once. If the crew drinks it, you’re good to go.
5 | prepare an in-flight sanitary kit
I’ll say it out loud: airplanes are full of germs. Even though the aircraft is cleaned in every turnaround, it is simply impossible to have it 100% clean and sanitary. Next time you’re flying (especially long-range), take a look at the aircraft during deboarding. It is pure chaos and dirt. People leave food on the carpets and let their kids draw on the windows and tray tables. While the number of people washing their hands after using the lavatory is at – I’d say – 40%, we’ve also seen people peeing on the floor next to the toilet.
Now that I’ve grossed you out, let me tell you what to bring:
6 | eliminate the smell
Planes can get a very smelly environment, especially on long flights. Imagine having a seat next to the lavatories on a 13-hour flight. Do I need to say more? Even if you’re not seated next to the lavatories, I recommend bringing something to eliminate the bad odors.
I guess you’re already mentally throwing your Victoria’s Secret body spray into your hand luggage but let me tell you one thing real quick: Don’t overuse perfume or body spray. Some people are very sensitive to smells and might get headaches from the vanilla perfume the person in the front row bathed in. That’s just as uncomfortable.
What I’d recommend instead are small inhalers. I always have one of my AspuraClips in my hand luggage, and they’ve saved my life multiple times. These are great! Alternatively, you could also use some light essential oils or nasal ointment.
7 | don’t rely on in-flight entertainment only
In-Flight entertainment can glitch or simply not function more often than you’d think. Even though we can reset the system on your seat, it can stay unavailable. If the flight isn’t fully booked, we can find you another seat – but if the plane is full, you’ll have to survive your flight without the entertainment onboard. Therefore, I’d highly recommend bringing your own entertainment like a book, a tablet, or games to play with your travel partner. Make sure to download enough movies and podcasts, so you’re not running out of stuff!
8 | don’t walk in socks or barefoot
I know we all want to be as comfortable as possible. But please, if you decide to take a little walk up and down the aisle or go to the lavatory, make sure to put back on your shoes. Besides the floors being quite dirty (especially in the lavs), you can also harm yourself. I’ve already broken several glasses and/or bottles in airplanes. Even though we clean them up immediately, stepping into tiny shards is a risk, especially in the galleys. In addition, you never know what your fellow passengers have lying around them. I once had a passenger step into a fork because his neighbor placed his meal tray under his seat and fell asleep. Luckily, he wasn’t harmed.
9 | bring your own (non-Bluetooth) headphones
It’s always great to be prepared with your own stuff. Even though most airlines distribute headphones when they offer in-seat entertainment, they can be very uncomfortable. Since you can’t pair your Bluetooth headphones with the entertainment system, bring a pair of good old cable ones. (Like this, you’ll also have a backup once your Bluetooth ones run out of battery.)
Noise-canceling headphones are a huge plus since the roar of the engines can get quite loud and annoying on long flights.
10 | essential airplane food hacks
Let’s talk about food! It’s the most exciting thing on a long flight, right? You’re desperately waiting for the meal cart to pass down the aisle, and then the cabin attendant tells you: “I’m so sorry, we’re out of chicken.” Ugh.
Let me give you three quick food hacks to make life easier:
11 | check SeatGuru to get the best seat for your needs
Before I get into this, let me tell you there is no such thing as “THE best seat. ” It depends on the aircraft you’re flying with and how you like to spend your time. If you want to walk around, get an aisle seat. If you want to sleep in peace, get a window seat far from the baby bassinets and the galleys… You know what I mean.
Luckily, there’s a page called SeatGuru that lets you check the seat map of your upcoming flight. It also includes comments from fellow passengers that have been on that plane before. Overall, that page is a great possibility to get a little overview of where you should choose your seat to have the most comfort on your journey.
12 | behave and be a nice person
Being crammed into a small plane next to strangers isn’t everyone’s favorite thing and can cause stress and trouble. There are a few “unwritten rules” to make life easier, like having your seatback upright during the meal service, not taking up your neighbor’s space, and not doing yoga in the middle of the night next to the sleeping passengers.
Just be polite and considerate. I know that should be clear to everyone but trust me – I have to mention it. You probably all know at least one viral video of some passengers freaking out in an airplane. I’ve seen people fighting over random things like an opened window shade – don’t be like this, ok? And if some other passenger is being rude towards you, tell your crew!
13 | always keep your seatbelt fastened
Even though most plane rides are smooth and comfortable, turbulences can happen anytime. Therefore, keep your seatbelt fastened during the whole flight. The seatbelt signs being switched off after takeoff simply indicate that we’re on a cruise flight level, and you can use the lavatories and walk through the plane. It does NOT mean there won’t be any turbulence, and you do not require a seatbelt. Just make it a habit to fasten it as soon as you sit back down.
This is just as important after touchdown – keep it closed until you reach the gate and the aircraft comes to a complete stop. You can compare this to driving in a car. Would you drive without your seatbelt? Probably not. An aircraft taxiing feels very slow from the inside, yet they are fast enough to cause some injuries once they suddenly need to hit the breaks.
14 | take your time and stay in your seat when the plane arrives
Once the plane comes to a complete stop at the gate, most people jump out of their seats and stand face-to-face with tilted heads underneath the bins. What they don’t consider: It takes a few minutes until the doors are opened. The jetty needs to be driven to the doors, it has to be adjusted, and then the whole aisle in front of you is still waiting to get off with all of their luggage. Just stay in your seat until the aircraft opens its doors. You will be just as fast as the others without squeezing yourself into the aisle.
15 | don’t stress over delays
There’s no reason to panic if your boarding starts a few minutes later. Usually, the flight time is a little less than planned, so even if your plane departs 10 minutes late, you’ll still land early in some cases. If the flight time happens to be longer or the delay is quite heavy, sit back and relax.
After takeoff, we can calculate the arrival time due to the flight time and check back with you. A few minutes before we arrive, we usually get information from the ground about gate changes, possible direct transfers, and if you’ve maybe already been rebooked on a later connection. Until then, there’s nothing you or we could really do.
If you already know you’ll have a tight connection, get yourself a seat in the front so you’re out quick even when everything is on time. We can’t reseat the whole airplane according to everyone’s connections in the approach.
16 | be nice to your crew
This should not be necessary to mention, but your crew is your best friend. Greet us when you board, say thank you, and treat us with respect. That’s all we ask for – PLUS, this can get you far. If you’re being nice and asking for a second bag of peanuts, we’re happy to give you one. We try our best to make you feel comfortable and safe, so don’t take your personal problems and anger out on us.
In addition, I’d also urge you to talk to the crew about your concerns.
Are you afraid of flying, not feeling well, worried about your connection,..? Just talk to us. We’d love to know if something is bothering you so we can help with, e.g., explaining the aircraft when you’re a little anxious or providing you with stuff you need to feel better.
17 | So… how can you take a look into the cockpit?
Since 9/11, the cockpit door has remained closed for passengers ever since. Since safety is our main concern, it’s vital that no one can access the flight deck unauthorized. However, many people dream of seeing the cockpit in real life. Now I have to disappoint you; there is (usually) no way to get to join the pilots in-flight unless you’re working with the airline yourself. Instead, you can ask the crew if you can take a look after we land. Wait for other passengers to deboard and ask the cabin attendants if it’s possible. Once we check back with the flight deck, you might be allowed in and ask some questions that most pilots are happy to answer. We find airplanes just as fascinating, so we can understand you wanna take a look.
These are my 17 airplane hacks and tips that hopefully make your life up in the air more accessible and comfortable. I’m sure there are many more hacks out there, so let me know if I missed something. Also, if you have another tip, leave it in the comment for others to read!
I hope you can surf the clouds again soon!
As always, stay happy and healthy!
See you soon,