We're infatuated with life in the skies -- and all the myth-busting that comes along with it. Who would've guessed that dim lights are meant to prep you for evacuation, or that those airline blankets aren't always freshly washed?
Of course, nobody knows these secrets better than flight attendants. So HuffPost Travel talked with Abbie Unger, a longtime flight attendant (formerly employed by United, Continental and US Airways Express) who retired in 2011 to publish a book and launch a new career as a flight attendant consultant, coaching wannabe crew members through the rigorous application process. Her Flight Attendant Career Connection is a Facebook Group where more than 7,000 members swap job advice, trade stories and discuss the ins and outs of a famously glamorous -- and notoriously mysterious -- industry.
Here, a few secrets your flight attendant may be burning to tell you:
It's not a flight attendant's job to look nice.
A 1957 stewardess manual lists requirements that crew members remain unmarried and under 125 pounds. Flight attendants wore girdles as late as the 1970s, and reports regular weigh-ins seem to have left their mark on the profession. But in her experience, Unger says, today's airlines focus less on looks. "They do want someone who is pleasant to look at," she told us. "But you don't have to be a supermodel. You have to be open and engaging -- it really has to do with personality."
Passengers do not need to panic during turbulence.
Flight attendants have flown enough to know that turbulence-related injuries can occur but are uncommon. Unger advises buckling up and riding it out. "Turbulence is like going down a bumpy road," she says. "If you're in your seatbelt, you're not in danger."
But if you see your flight attendant sitting down, you should definitely sit down.
That being said, Unger says looking at the crew is a surefire way to tell if the bumpiness has potential to harm you. Flight attendants will often move around the cabin during mild bumps, but they'll stay seated if they know things are going to get intense.
2013 Delta flight attendant job seekers faced tougher acceptance odds than Harvard applicants.
In 2013, Delta received about 44,000 applications for about 400 flight attendant job openings -- that's a lower acceptance rate than Harvard's. Unger says this year's Delta recruitment is looking just as tough -- she estimates there will be about 200,000 applications for 1,800 open spots. "This is a dream for a lot of people," she explains.
If you really want to tip your flight attendant, try asking three times.
Unger says passengers often assume flight attendants make a lot of money, but "it's not a very good wage at all." Many airlines discourage tipping, she explains, and advise that crew members turn down a passenger's first attempt at offering a tip. Try a second or third time, though, and your flight attendant will feel freer to accept. "Or just put it in an envelope and leave it on your seat," Unger says.
Your flight attendant can make you less nervous.
Flight attendants tend to know what every bump, lurch and strange sound means for the plane, whether it's a harmless bout of turbulence or the squeaky landing gear doing its regular job. And attendants would love to share this information with fliers, if they ask. "If you're nervous, let your flight attendant know," Unger says. "I'd be happy to have a conversation so you know you're not alone."
If your flight attendant turns quiet, it's to run through emergency scenarios.
Just before takeoff, Unger says, flight attendants are often required to take 30 seconds to run through their safety training, reviewing what will happen should anything go wrong during the trip. "Your flight attendant may be chatting with you, but she'll stop and be quiet or just look out the window," Unger explains. "She's thinking about what she would do in an emergency."
Airplane food feeds more than just passengers.
After passengers have been served, Unger says the cabin crew will sometimes eat leftover first-class meals. The best part? "There's ice cream on lots of international flights."
Water is the cure for your jet lag.
Simple hydration is a flight attendant's number-one hack to feeling and looking refreshed after a long haul, Unger says. She recommends filling a mega-size bottle and keeping it at hand during your trip.