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5 Right and Wrong Ways to Get Your Flight Attendant's Attention

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Your flight attendant is a very popular person! With fewer flights comes fuller planes and a smaller flight attendant to passenger ratio. In fact, the FAA regulates that ratio and says one flight attendant is needed for every 50 seats on a plane. With most aircraft carrying around 150 people, that's only three flight attendants to tend to everyone's drink, food and special requests on your flight. So, I talked with a few flight attendants and came up with the top five right and wrong ways to get your flight attendant's attention!

WRONG (and probably the WORST): Keep your hands to yourself
You shouldn't poke, slap or tap them to get their attention. Can you imagine walking through a cabin and having someone at every row poke you on either side, on your back, tap your shoulder or even, slap your behind? You can't? Well I can! On a recent flight that's exactly what happened while I was walking through the cabin picking up trash. Trust me, we're not going anywhere! We're stuck in the same metal tube going 500mph together. I will get around to getting your trash and I know you're there! I became increasingly frustrated as I was being treated like the Pillsbury Dough Boy but only resorted to verbally acknowledging everyone saying "I know, I know, I'm coming! I'll get there.. I see you!" but on a recent Air China flight to Shanghai a passenger was arrested for slapping the behind of a flight attendant with a newspaper. He later told police that he wanted her to move so that he could get to his seat.

Keeping your hands to yourself doesn't mean it's okay to snap your fingers to get their attention, either.

RIGHT: Be Aware
Flight Attendant Sam Ward told me that the best way for someone to get his attention is to be aware of what he's doing.

"If I'm helping another passenger or clearly appear to be busy, please just be patient. We are more than willing to assist you and your needs, but we have many duties and many passengers to deal with at the same time."

Of course, it's okay to interrupt and make yourself known if it's an emergency situation.

WRONG: Misusing the Call Button
Sam says:

The use of the call button is like nails on chalk board to FAs because it's abused. Use it when it's something urgent.

Ringing the call button to have the flight attendants collect your trash will probably have you being told "I'll be right back," which in flight attendant speak means: "I'll be back in about a half hour with a trash bag." The flight attendants I spoke with concurred that it should be used for urgent situations (unless of course your flight attendants aren't doing their job and walking through the cabin checking up on everyone).

RIGHT: Be Polite
This might surprise you, but most passengers don't say please or thank you. Being polite and courteous to a flight attendant will net you everything you want, as quickly as possible. Cabin Crewmember Autumn Jensen stated

"I would like to assume that people would like to be treated with respect, so I would like to be treated with the same respect. Please, thank you, may I, and other such phrases will never go out of style. As with anything in life, it's all about how you ask. Politeness will get you everywhere.

I always acknowledge when people politely make themselves known and let them know I will be there to help as soon as I am able to.

WRONG: Galley Invaders
Your seat is cramped, the aisle is narrow and the galley seems to be the only place where you can stand - that's okay, but don't over-extend your welcome (and please don't perform galley yoga: the art of bending and stretching right in the flight attendant's faces as they're eating or sitting). The galley is the flight attendant's work space, kitchen, sitting area and cafeteria. If it's a busy flight the flight attendants may be prepping drink orders, snacks and food for other passengers and your being there might be in the way and slow down the process. Going to the galley to request a beverage or a snack is okay, but be respectful of the work they're already doing, in other words, be patient, the requests they're fulfilling at the moment come before you.