11 Airline Secrets From an Airline Insider

04/06/2016 04:24 pm ET Updated Apr 06, 2017

Ever wonder why your seats have to be in the "upright and locked position"? Why your windows have to be open during take-off and landing? What the flight attendants real job is?

Well, I'm about to tell you. I worked in the airline industry for a number of years, both as an International Flight Attendant and later on as a Reservations Agent for some of the major airlines. At the end of this article, if you can think of any more questions you would like answered, go ahead and ask them in the comments and I might make a Part II.

1. The most dangerous times while riding in an airplane, no matter the length of the trip is always going to be take-off and landing. That is when most things can go wrong. The plane is basically all under the hands of the pilots during those times. While the plane is actually in flight, a lot of the actual flying is handled by computers.

2. Ever wonder why the flight attendants always harp on you to have your seat be in an upright and locked position and the tray tables stowed during take-off and landing? They really don't just love going around to repeatedly ask you to do that, but it's for everyone's safety. If something were to happen and we needed to evacuate the plane, your seat being all the way back blocks the aisle for people to walk if they needed to get out of the plane. No, not the aisle down the middle, but the ones that would lead you to escape through the windows of the plane. In the mad rush that would happen of everyone pushing and shoving to get off the plane, the last thing we need is your seat back or tray table blocking the way, making it more difficult for people to get out.

3. Don't ever drink the coffee on the plane. Just don't. There is a reason airplane coffee gets a bad rap. It isn't made with bottled water, and let's just say that the airplane's potable water isn't very desirable. The valves for cleaning out the lavatory waste and filling the clean water are very close to each other and sometimes serviced by the same guy...at the same time.

4. Love that free alcohol in first class? Well, if you love it a little too much and start getting to the point that we think you need to be cut off, but you keep asking for drinks...there is a good chance that your rum and coke is just coke, with a little bit of rum along the rim of the glass to make it taste like the liquor is in there.

5. While we're on the topic of drinks- The flight attendants are not actually there to be your waiters or waitresses in the sky. Sure, we do it, but we are actually thoroughly trained in safety for various situations. We are trained to do CPR, use epi pens, AED and defibrillators, we take self defense courses and practice what to do in case someone gets unruly or tries to take over the plane, we are there to guard the cockpit so people don't get in during the flight, along with what to do in an evacuation. The correct way to position all of the passengers for a emergency landing, taking the emergency exit doors off of the planes, ushering everyone out while being the last ones out ourselves. So the next time we smile, ask you what you'd like to drink and say "buh bye" on the way out- know that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that you will hopefully never need us to kick into action to do.

6. Secret- Your flight is probably overbooked. It has to be. There are so many people that just don't make it to the airport on time because they are lost, overslept, or changed their minds. Then factor in all of the people who miss the flight because of a delayed connecting flight. Airlines have to over book flights because if they didn't they wouldn't make any money and would be flying half empty planes.

7. While we're on that topic. Do you know why airlines have all of those ridiculous fees for everything now? Because they probably aren't making any money off of your actual ticket. The plane has to fly at 85% full for them to even make $1 off of your actual airplane ticket. The money comes in because of the baggage fees, or seat fees, or anything else they can think up. Otherwise, they wouldn't make the money to fuel the planes let alone be a profitable business to continue taking you where you need to go. Plus, the ruling was that it was better to charge things separately rather than just adding it all in to your ticket. That way, if you aren't checking any bags, you won't have to pay for it.

8. Ever wonder why the windows have to be open during take-off and landing? Because the flight attendants are looking out the windows during that time to make sure the plane is okay. To make sure that there is no smoke or fire visible anywhere. And if the windows are open, a passenger is more likely to see it if a flight attendant misses it and will let someone know-or scream.
Same goes for "dimming the lights". They don't turn down the lights when the plane takes off so that everyone can relax and go to sleep. It's so that in the case of an emergency, your eyes will already be adjusted to the dark and you can follow the lighted pathways on the floor to exit.

9. A lot of times you might be able to get a first class seat at a huge discount within 24 hours of your flight leaving. If first class isn't sold out, and there aren't many premium frequent fliers to upgrade on that flight, most airlines discount the upgrade to first class. Call your airline's customer service number within 24 hrs of the flight departing to check.

10. If your plane is cancelled or delayed, don't wait in the long line with everyone at the gate or ticket counter. Call the customer service number to the airline. We get you rebooked too. We also don't need the whole story on what happened. Just your record locator. Seriously, seconds matter here. All those people in line at the gate along with probably a bunch of other people that you don't see (if it's weather related) are all trying to get out of that city that you are in. The gate agents, ticket agents, and reservations agents- hundreds and hundreds of airline workers throughout the country are all working with people wanting to get out of your city. While you are talking to us, we can literally see that the next plane only has 10 seats left and see the number dropping as other agents snatch those seats up for whoever is on the phone with them. Seconds matter. If you want out quickly, skip the explanations or the yelling about being cancelled.

11. Secret- Award tickets frustrate us too. It's not a conspiracy against you. We're sorry it's extremely hard to get those seats for a free ticket. We don't make the rules. It helps to be extremely flexible on dates, neighboring cities, etc. This was my (and many others) least favorite part of the reservations agent job. Even more than getting constantly yelled at for weather messing up people's vacations plans. I'm sorry about that too. I really am, even if you don't think so in the moment, I actually am a human on the other end of the phone and am very sorry that your vacation plans are being disrupted. It sucks, I get it. But I don't control the weather. I have had multiple people threaten to sue me ( not the airline mind you, but me personally) if I did not make a plane magically appear and good weather happen within an hour of their regularly scheduled flight. Multiple people. If you happen to be one of those people, no hard feelings. Sounds like you really needed that vacation. We all do.

That does it for this installment. If you can think of anything else you've always wondered about the airline industry- comment below and I might make a Part II to this article!

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