17 Questions most asked by passengers ...and the surprising answers!

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By cabincrew.com on Monday 4th Mar, 2013 at 14:13

By Patricia Green
As Cabin Crew, no two days are ever the same and it is hardly a job that one could describe as boring! The passengers are all part of the experience and to be honest, to them we are mostly seen as a ‘glorified waitress’ and no matter what you say, they will never believe how much time, energy and sheer hard work we put into our job, every day.

They only see the uniform and you asking ‘tea or coffee’ or ‘chicken or beef’ each flight. The do not realise, the real reason we are there – we are there for when things go wrong, badly wrong – there are no emergency services at 34,000 feet.

Helping passengers understand the role of cabin crew

As cabin crew our role is to look after the passengers safety and welfare and they do not realise we are also the rescuer, the fire fighter, babysitter, doctor, chef, travel advisor, waitress and cleaner. It would be great to see those difficult passengers who often treat us with disrespect, or never say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ to take our initial training course and really understand why we are there. They don’t want to see this of course and the odd ‘thank you’ would be nice! Considering this, here are some questions we get asked by passengers who do not understand our role and the surprising answers:

1. Why should I watch the safety demo, I’ve seen it all before?

Do you know where your lifejacket is and where your nearest exit is? Yes, the lifejacket is usually under your seat but on some aircraft types or different classes it can be in another stowage around the seat area. You will probably not be in the same seat every flight, so your nearest exit will be different. Each aircraft type is slightly different too, so the layout of the aircraft and the type of door will not always be the same. Sometimes passengers will talk all the way through the demonstration this means that other people around you will not hear it clearly and they may not have flown before. We do these demonstrations for a reason, not just for fun.

2. Why do you show us how to use a life jacket when we are not flying over the sea?

There are still some pretty big lakes and reservoirs we fly over, or what if we have to divert to another location over the sea? Personally, I would rather know that my lifejacket is there and how to use it. Also, it has been proven that on a landing on water some passengers inflate their lifejacket before leaving the aircraft. This is very unfortunate as when the water rises the lifejackets rise too (they are stronger than you think) and this leaves you at the roof of the aircraft and unable to get out and people have drowned because of this, when otherwise they would have survived the landing on water. That is why we ask you to wait until you are outside the aircraft before you inflate the lifejacket.

3. I want to read during landing, why do you turn the lights off at night?

This is so that your eyes slowly adjust to the night vision. If we had an emergency landing, there is unlikely to be any light inside the aircraft, so we are giving you the best chance to be able to see to get out...

4. I need my handbag on my lap as there is no seat in front of me to put it under...

We need to put your bag in the overhead locker if there is no seat space in front of you. All luggage has to be secure. If we are hurtling along the runway at over 500 miles per hour and we have to brake sharply or have a ‘go around’ or an emergency landing, that bag in G-force will probably remove most of your face, or someone else’s.

5. The seatbelt signs are off, why should I leave my seatbelt on?

Turbulence – there are 4 different kinds – one of which can just happen out of the blue, when the aircraft suddenly hits an air pocket. The aircraft will suddenly drop out of nowhere and if you happen to be standing up or not strapped in, you could find yourself hitting the ceiling and getting injured. The pilots will not necessarily get warning of this, so it is safer to leave your seatbelt on, it doesn’t have to be tight. Of course, if an emergency happened mid flight, you would want be strapped in and not sucked out of the aircraft or thrown around like a pebble inside it. This may sound dramatic but it is the reality in a decompression.

6. I want to go to the toilet and we haven’t taken off, why are you stopping me?

Taxing, believe it or not is quite fast – the aircraft may not have left the ground yet, but it is moving fast. There are a lot of other aircraft around too, so it is possible the flight crew may have to apply the brakes now and again... if you are standing at this time, you may well fall over and get hurt. If the flight crew have put the seatbelt signs on, it is for very good reason and for your own safety.

7. Why do you look like you are ignoring me, when we are taking off/landing?

Yes, we like a chat as much as the next person, but during taxi/take off and landing we need to practice our ‘silent review’. This is what we need to do in an emergency situation, we have to know how to check for hazards, operate the door and get you out of there as quickly and safely as possible. We are also considering the suitability of passengers around us, who may be able to help in an emergency evacuation.

8. Why do you insist I take my headphones off before take off?

Accidents are most likely to occur during take-off and landing. We do ask you to remove headphones as if things did go wrong this flight, you could hear the evacuation alarm and our commands to get you out of there as quickly as possible.

9. Why won’t you lift my bag into the overhead locker?

From experience, the irony is that the bag is usually much heavier than it looks and of course all cabin crew have super human powers of strength that enable us to lift your bag into the overhead locker. Mostly we do lift your bags as we don’t want to offend and after all, we know how to get maximum space out of every locker. Unfortunately we often get injured because of this. Please think about this – if you can’t lift it, it will probably be difficult for us too and secondly, if we had an emergency landing and the lockers collapsed (again a proven incident) consider how much damage that heavy suitcase could do to the people sitting underneath it.

10. If we crashed, we would all die anyway so why should I look at the safety card?

Because we are trained specifically on how to deal with emergency situations and many different scenarios, we would hope unless the accident was truly catastrophic then there would still be a good chance we can get you out. We are trained to evacuate an aircraft (even the A380) in just 90 seconds. The safety card shows you how to use the brace position (limiting damage to your body on impact) it also shows you the exits and where there are slides – for example, one point to consider, is that not all overwing exits have slides and you may have to slide off the wing onto the ground. Also, if there is little or no light apart from the emergency lighting, it would be good to know how many seat rows you are from an exit and which direction you would go, as you may be disorientated and in a cabin filled with smoke.

11. Doesn’t everyone already know how to use a seatbelt?

Not always. Not everyone is a frequent flyer and a passenger may be using an extension seatbelt to make the seatbelt bigger or a kangaroo lap belt to secure their baby – so one size does not fit all. Some people may find it physically difficult to open a seatbelt if they have a condition that limits the use of their hands. Also it has been shown that in an emergency situation, sometimes people panic and forget how to open a seatbelt and have been left in the aircraft, when it is assumed everyone has evacuated – nowadays as part of our procedures we check the cabin afterwards for any passengers who may have fallen, who are trapped etc before we leave the aircraft – we are the last to leave.

12. I want to sit at the overwing emergency exit for the extra leg room...

That is fine. We will ask you to put your baggage in the overhead locker as in an emergency, we don’t want people running to the exit and then falling over bags and slowing the evacuation down. Secondly we will ask you if you are prepared to operate the overwing exit in case of emergency and assist people outside – if not we will have to reseat you. We will show you how to operate the exit in an emergency and ask you if you have any questions. We also have restrictions on which people can sit on the exit row as we need to get everyone out and quick.

13. Why should I take off my shoes/glasses in an evacuation?

This is because we don’t want to puncture the emergency slides. In some cases the slide will still be usable in a different format but we would prefer it to remain inflated. Please don’t try and take your luggage off, you will come off the end of those slides pretty fast and you don’t want to get knocked out by your suitcase...

14. It is morning, I am tired and I don’t want to open my window blind...

Sorry, we ask you to open the blind on take off and landing so that we can see such things that could occur like fire from the engine, ice on the wing etc. We just need to be able to check outside and make sure all is well and report to the flight crew if there looks to be anything wrong.

15. What if I get sick?

Luckily we are trained in advanced first aid that is especially for use on an aircraft and we have an understanding of what conditions the aircraft can have on physiology. So, in most scenarios we can diagnose and stabilise someone who gets sick on the aircraft until we can land or divert to a closer airport if necessary. We also are trained in the usage of some controlled medications onboard and have a further medical kit for medical professionals. Finally, we are also trained in CPR and defibrillator use, in worst case scenario.

16. Why can’t I use my mobile phone when the seat belt signs are switched on?

The electromagnetic waves can interfere with the aircraft systems in the cockpit, although it is rare it has happened during taxi-ing where all power was lost in the cockpit. Also, there has been a case of an aircraft refueller being badly injured when a spark caused by a mobile phone being used onboard, ignited fuel on the ground. Also, for your own comfort can you imagine how irritating it would be to sit on a flight with the person next to you being on the phone the whole time?

17. Why can’t I smoke in the toilet?

It is unfortunate that still sometimes people try and smoke in the toilet. Often, they do not put out the cigarette properly and throw it in the bin – the bin holds a lot of waste paper, which can easily be set alight. As we check the bin regularly for this purposely, hopefully we could stop a fire before it gets out of control and we have the equipment to do this and are trained to fight fires. We have only 14 minutes to get to the ground before everything becomes catastrophic.

So, although the things we ask people to do on flights may seem irritating, it’s clear that we are trying to do things in passengers’ best interests. Of course it’s vital that if something bad happens, we can deal with it, that is what we are really trained for – the worst case scenario. Some passengers understand, but for many, all of the above needs to be carefully explained.

Cabin crew go through 6 weeks training for this job and have to be tested by the authorities each year to make sure we are competent enough to continue our job. Amazingly, not even doctors and lawyers have to do this! We prepare for an emergency situation every flight and we hope passengers never have to see one to understand. Passengers may think we are only the waitress, but we are trained to save lives... Hopefully these explanations will help you explain to passengers what we do and why.

About Patricia Green:

I have been Cabin Crew for major airlines in the UK and Middle East for six years and also a SCCM. For the last 6 years I have worked as a VIP Flight Attendant working for very high profile clients and world leaders on their private jets. In 2011 I moved to flying on a freelance basis in order to concentrate on working as a freelance instructor as well as setting up as a Cabin Crew Consultant, so that I could advise potential crew how to get their dream job and help experienced crew move from commercial to corporate flying. In response to many requests from fellow crew and students, I have written a series of E-books to help guide new crew with lots of insider advice and useful hints and tips.

For more information please visit www.cabincrewconsultant.weebly.com

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