12 Surprising Things a Flight Attendant Can't Do for You (So Stop Asking)


Stop annoying your flight attendant. (Izabela Habur/Getty Images)

Yes, flight attendants bring you headphones, yummy snacks, and coffee. But the notion that they are “waitresses in the sky” went out with the term “stewardess.” Flight attendants are professionals who are there to keep you safe. (Fun fact: Harvard has a higher student acceptance rate than Delta does for flight attendant applicants.) Still, somehow passengers expect FAs to cater to their every whim. While some requests are just obnoxious (Can you hold my crying, drooling, poop-machine of a baby?), others are literally off limits. Yahoo Travel spoke to Shawn Kathleen, a former flight attendant and founder of PassengerShaming.com, to find what your flight attendant is just not allowed to do for you.

Related: 21 Questions You Should Never Ask Your Flight Attendant

1. Give you any kind of medication

Nope, your flight attendant can’t even give you an aspirin. They’re not allowed according to regulations, explains Kathleen. There may be some meds on board that they can release to a medical doctor in case of an emergency, she explains, but for a regular Joe on an average flight, if you need an Advil, you have to bring your own.

2. Stow your bag for you


Photo: CandyBoxImages/Thinkstock

And here you thought it was their job to do stuff like this. Nope. Flight attendants are actually not permitted to lift your bags because it causes too many injuries — a huge worker’s comp issue. “The rule is, if you can’t lift it into the overhead bin yourself, check it,” says Kathleen. A flight attendant can help you push your bag further into the bin once it’s up there or help you close the door, but that’s about it.

Related: Are the Flight Attendants Talking About Me? Know Your Airplane Slang!

3. Call ahead to hold a connecting flight


The captain isn’t going to hold the plane for little old you. (Thinkstock)

People ask all the time, says Kathleen, but “it’s not going to happen.” And they can’t ask the captain to make a call either.

4. Ask the captain to fly faster

“But at least that request makes us laugh,” says Kathleen. Just another reason to make sure you leave enough time between flights when booking a connection.

5. Accept a cash tip the first time you offer

Or often the second. But the third time might be the charm. Though rules vary with airlines, it’s often the case that you have to offer multiple times before a flight attendant is permitted to accept cash. However, they are usually allowed to receive gifts. “Everyone appreciates a box of chocolates or a Starbucks card,” says Kathleen.

Related: What’s That Stench? 10 Ways to Get Yourself Kicked Off a Plane

6. Have a cocktail with you on the plane


No, she can’t have a drink with you. (Thinkstock)

It’s not you, it’s them. “We’re not allowed to drink even a drop of alcohol when we’re working,” says Kathleen. “Just like the pilot can’t drink, neither can the flight attendants. We’re randomly tested, because our job is to keep you safe.”

7. Kick off a service animal – even if you’re allergic

“By law, we can’t remove a service animal who’s there to aid someone with a disability,” explains Kathleen. If you’re allergic, you’re the one who will have to leave and take another flight.

8. Make people move seats

You can ask someone nicely, but no matter how badly you want to sit with your pal, a flight attendant cannot force anyone to change seats.

9. Let you sit in business or first class, even if there obviously are empty seats.


Photo: Virgin America/Facebook

“You have to pay for those seats,” says Kathleen, whether in miles or money. “I know it sucks, but if you want to sit there, you have to upgrade properly.”

10. Allow you to bring your own alcohol on board and make a cocktail

“Most airlines will make the flight attendant confiscate it if she sees it, and you’ll have to fill out a report, and it opens a whole can of worms,” says Kathleen. Even if an airline did let you bring the alcohol on board, we’d have to hold it and pour it for you, adds Kathleen. “We can’t have people getting intoxicated, so we need to have a way to decide whether or not to serve you,” she explains.

11. Escort you off the plane, even if you need help

“We can call someone to meet you,” says Kathleen, “but as long as there is still even a single passenger on the plane, we are not allowed to step off ourselves according to regulations.” If a minor needs assistance or someone really wants the flight attendant’s help, he or she will have to wait to be the last person off the plane.

12. Pass out pens on an international flight


Come prepared to fill out your customs card. (spacebahr/Flickr)

Gone are the days when the airline and flight attendants would provide pencils to fill out your customs cards. “We don’t have a supply of pens to give out, so you’ll have to use your own,” says Kathleen.

Video: Flight Attendant Refuses to Hang Army Ranger’s Uniform

Let Yahoo Travel inspire you every day. Hang out with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.