As we all know, air travel is a far cry from what it used to be in the golden age when flight attendants wheeled a carving station down the aisle at mealtime and passengers ate on real china. These days, the whole experience can feel downright uncivilized, and flight attendants have been pushed to the limits of their patience by unruly or unreasonable—even downright violent—passengers. Such challenging working conditions can create a tinderbox of tension and anxiety on airplanes, and in that environment, just a few poorly chosen words can be misconstrued, even when passengers know they're joking or are merely trying to make conversation with silly banter. That's why, on your next flight, you should plan to talk to flight attendants not only with kindness and compassion, but also with mindfulness that words matter.
For advice on what not to say to your flight attendant, we asked for input from Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at the insider-intel platform Scott's Cheap Flights. Read on to see his advice on the two words to avoid.
Never say "I'm drunk" to a flight attendant.
The two words you should never to say to a flight attendant, according to Orlando? "I'm drunk." Yes, even if you think it's obvious that you're only joking.
"Certainly a lot of us get very convivial with flight attendants and want to we want to pal around with them and make these kinds of jokes and we feel light-hearted—and maybe we make a joke about being intoxicated," he says. But that's a very bad idea.
Joking about being drunk can have serious consequences.
Under federal law, Orlando explains, "they have the right to kick you off if you're drunk." In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits you from drinking any booze you brought on the plane yourself, as a way to keep passengers from over-imbibing in the air.
And maybe you know you're joking about your consumption, but you'll put the flight crew in a tough spot if you say it out loud. Don't put them in the position to "have to make a decision whether you're safe to stay on board," Orlando says. "Even if you are drunk, keep your mouth shut."
Of course, the flight attendants will stop serving you if they think you're drunk, but you could also be kicked off your connecting flight. "There are also things that they can do to penalize you," Orlando says. "They could put you on a list of problem passengers—and this could all be a misunderstanding if you make a simple joke."
Never joke about violence either.
This should probably go without saying, but violence and terrorism are also absolute no-no's to joke about on planes. "Sometimes the booze is flowing and you're a little bit looser with your lips than you want to be, but jokes about violence, bombs, hijacking, things you have that could be used as a weapon—they're never funny," Orlando says.
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And make sure you respect the mask mandate.
Similarly, jokes pertaining to the pandemic just aren't funny—and aren't welcome—on planes amid dangerous and stressful working and flying conditions, experts say.
"COVID jokes, jokes about masks, asking for exceptions to mask rules—these folks are working their tails off, and the last thing they want is to have to wonder whether you're joking or serious about whether you're going to comply with the law and the rules or not," Orlando says. "You may think it's light-hearted and benign, but they're working really hard. So give them a break."