There are so many more people than you realize that work for airlines. There are the people that you personally encounter such as flight attendants and customer service agents. There are, of course, the pilots who you don't encounter but know are there (well, hopefully). And there are those who work behind the scenes such as baggage handlers, mechanics, control center operators etc. What they all have in common is that they all have their secrets to share and gossip to dish.
If you've ever wondered what the people who work for an airline are keeping from their customers, the answer is quite a lot! Some of it is to do with passenger safety. Sometimes they keep secrets so that passengers don't panic. Sometimes they can't share how they really feel about passengers or what really goes on behind the scenes.
But these people who have all worked for airlines confessed all of the juicy details that passengers aren't supposed to know about on Reddit. It's not all bad. But if flying already makes you nervous then you might not want to read on...
15 Overlooking serious safety issues because they don't give AF
"Some airlines don't pay pilots or flight attendants for flights that cancel. Which doesn't sound so bad until you start thinking about the safety implications of it.
A little short on the rent this month? Then I don't see that hydraulic leak, I can't afford to have the flight cancel.
Child needs to see the doctor? Maybe I don't report the torn up carpet that you might trip on in an evacuation, because carpet takes too long to replace--so the flight would cancel.
...not saying this happens all the time, because most crews are true professionals and can put their job ahead of their paycheck, but it happens enough to give you the goosebumps. Throw in some seriously low pay (sub $20K a year for many first year pilots) and you've got a subtle incentive to overlook safety issues."
14 The source of the vibrating had to be found
"Worked as a ramp agent for Ryan Air in London Stansted. Every day without fail a bag would come down from the check in desk through the conveyor system, hit the bottom and start vibrating. Everyone knew why and the source of the vibrating had to be found (100% of the time a dildo). This means reading the passengers name and flight information and boarding the plane to request the passenger to step of the plane and open their bag with around 6-7 other ramp agents watching (it was the only fun we had) as they opened the bag and pull out all sorts of different vibrators! Thinking back to it, it was kind of evil haha but definitely funny as hell.
My advice ladies and gents, don't leave the batteries in your vibrator when going on holiday, or you could be next!"
13 Gross and icky stuff here and there
"I worked for Southwest as a flight attendant. Those blankets and pillows? Yeah, those just get refolded and stuffed back in the bins between flights. Only fresh ones I ever saw were on an originating first flight in the morning in a provisioning city. Also, if you have ever spread your peanuts on your tray and eaten, or really just touched your tray at all, you have more than likely ingested baby poo. I saw more dirty diapers laid out on those trays than food. And those trays, yeah, never saw them cleaned or sanitized once.
Still, loved working for Southwest. Great company, awesome job. Just kind of icky stuff here and there in the cabin, at least during the four years I was there. They may have changed the process by now."
12 They're big, complex machines, and they break ALL the time
"The plane you're about to fly on is broken. Without a doubt. SOMETHING on that plane is broken. They're big, complex machines, and they break all the time.
The good news is that anything major will have a backup or two (or three!), and will generate a message in the cockpit to alert the crew so they can take the appropriate action (such as diverting, turning on manual backups, or calling maintenance if they're still on the ground).
Most of the time it's trivial things like reading lights, coffee makers, and cabin trim.
Don't let this prevent you from flying though, they are incredibly safe machines. Even when they have fairly serious malfunctions, they are usually able to get back down safely."
11 Pilots are Legit crazy
"Former flight attendant for a regional airline. Some generalizations:
Pilots are crazy. Many of them have wives at their home base and girlfriends in other cities. They spend a lot of their time in the cockpit doing the crossword puzzle in the USA Today. On deadheads (flights with no passengers), I got to ride up in the cockpit with them. One asked if I wanted to fly the plane.
I agree with the person who said to give your magazines to the flight attendants. I would probably not have accepted chocolates, though. As the only flight attendant on the plane and therefore the only crew member in the cabin, I had to be very cautious about my safety. [...]
Female pilots tended to have smoother flights than male pilots. Not sure why this is, just an observation.
As you may have read, there is an astonishing amount of information kept from passengers (we had to drop in altitude to avoid another plane, called it "bumpy air"). This is why I now hate to fly."
10 The captain has almost limitless authority
- "When you experience a hard landing in bad weather it wasn't because of a lack of pilot skills but it is in fact intentional. If the runway is covered in water the airplane has to touch down hard in order to puncture the water layer and prevent aqua planing.
- Mobile electronic devices won't really bring an airplane down but they can be really annoying to pilots. Just imagine sitting in the flightdeck descending to your destination and hearing the interference of a 100+ cellphones picking up a signal. I have missed a clearance or 2 that way.
- [...] The captain has almost limitless authority when the doors are closed. He is allowed to arrest people, write fines and even take the will of a dying passenger
- At most airlines the only difference between the captain and the co-pilot is their rank. They divide the workload fairly and switch the roles of pilot flying and pilot non-flying each flight."
9 An anonymous caller phoned in a bomb threat
"I have a friend who's a commercial pilot. Around five years ago he was doing a flight from LA to Tokyo when an anonymous caller phoned in a bomb threat while they were over the middle of the Pacific. Apparently they have procedures for this kind of thing, but there was nothing anyone could do in this situation except stay calm and not alert the passengers (obviously). He said for the rest of the flight every bump of turbulence made his adrenaline spike. They took this case especially seriously because there was a group of foreign dignitaries sitting in the first class cabin."
8 Please people, think twice before flying your pets
"i am an aircraft fueler.
One thing i can not stress enough is how your pets are treated.
While your airline will take the best possible actions, some things cannot be avoided, like the noise on the ramp.
I can not stand out there without ear protection, and imagine your pet sitting out there on the ramp waiting to be loaded onto the plane being exposed to the same amount of noise i am.
Please people, think twice before flying your pets.
- Flying with pets is sometimes unavoidable, I am in no way saying that flying your pet makes you a shitty owner, Just bare in mind the conditions that they will be experiencing. (They might need some extra cuddles when they get back)
- A lot of baggage handlers I have seen are really good about pets, but not everything. The people that are moving your pets onto the plane are not very well paid, at least what they deserve. [...]
- The people who I have seen that look after your pet before they are loaded onto plane are really great guys, and love what they do. Again, results may very from airport to airport."
7 Golden rule: Be nice. Simple.
"Starting from the minute you get into the airport: Customer Service Agents are the first people that can make or break your trip. Yelling, screaming, getting crabby, lewd, patronizing, only makes your trip worse and worse. You see, when you think you're making a point or a difference in these peoples' lives, you're totally wrong. They retreat to the break room and laugh about it with their coworkers. And they probably didn't go out of their way to get you a better seat. Golden rule: Be nice. Simple. Smile, joke around, keep a positive disposition - this seems impossible when shit's hitting the fan in the case of cancellations/delays, but believe me, those agents didn't want those things to happen either. They can and will work their magic IF you give them the opportunity to. There are ways to get you a window or aisle seat even if there are only middle seats showing... believe me. A coffee goes a VERY long way at the gate as well if you're traveling with an airline that's known to upgrade...."
6 Don't treat me like a waitress
Pilots don't fix the plane. They fly it. If it's major, they call maintenance. Stop asking the pilots to just fix the plane. Sometimes it takes awhile. I'm sorry. It sucks. Deal with it.
My day is long. So god damn long. Please be nice. I see hundreds of people in a day. If I'm abrupt with you in any way, I apologize. I'm trying to 1) expedite the boarding process so we can leave on time 2) I'm running on very little sleep and I'm cranky 3) I've dealt with too many assholes and/or delays that day and my spirit is utterly crushed. You'll rarely see me upset, but many other FA's are bitches. I am sorry. They don't love their job like I do.
We only get paid when the main cabin door is closed. I make less than 20K a year. This is common.
I know that you know how to put on a seatbelt. I still have to do a safety demo. It's a liability issue.
Don't treat me like a waitress. I'm not. I get paid less and my hours are longer, and the job involves MUCH more than serving you a drink and some peanuts."
5 Safety is always first
"I used to be an Operations Control Center manager for a regional airline. (about 900 flights a day) Ultimately, I was the guy that decided if your flight was going to cancel. Most people don't know I exist. When passengers hear "cancelled due to ATC or WX or MX", its really just a small team of people deciding if your flight is going to make it and often its not even your plane or flight that has the problem.
In the case of ATC and weather, we will be allowed X number of arrivals and hour. We decide which ones are going and which ones will stay or re-position to another city. Passengers are usually one of the last items of consideration. Safety is always first, we won't send it if there is reason to believe it is unsafe and if we can blame it on weather we will. It's much cheaper for the airline if it is blamed on WX since they don't have as many benefits for the customer, (food vouchers, hotels etc.) Next most important is which crews will time out, and how critical it is that they get to their next stop. The way crews are routed we often have to cancel something today to save 3 flights that would need to cancel tomorrow if the AC and crew don't get to the right place by the right time."
4 All sorts of dangerous goods
"I work for a the cargo side of an airline, you'd be surprised what is in the hold beneath your feet.
All sorts of dangerous goods such as flammable compressed gas, corrosive materials, and toxic substances.
Super cars: I regularly booked these on flights Ferraris, Aston Martin, Lamborghini and even a Bugatti.
Hazardous and non hazardous biological samples: bull semen, horse semen, samples of deadly viruses and blood samples.
Animals: dogs, cats, lizards, horses and we shipped a baby gorilla for a breeding program in Brazil.
Food: I had to book one carton of ice cream from the UK to Dubai, Pastries, chocolate, fruit and vegetables.
Weird stuff: 300 tonnes of sand from Copenhagen to Dubai and weapons."
3 You will get drunker faster than you are used to at sea level
"10 year airline customer service professional checking in...here are a few tips:
- The "FAA regulation" on carry-on bags is actually an airline specific choice. They set their own requirements and commit it to policy, and they are then held accountable through audits (FAA, TSA, internal) for compliance.
- Customer service agents will bend over backwards to help you when you take the time to be respectful and courteous. I cannot tell you how many times I have broken a rule or made an exception for someone just because they were nice about it.
- If you want to bring booze onboard, just ask the flight attendant to pour for you. This is so they have control of your consumption, and can cut you off if you start to get lispy. The altitude affects your blood oxygen levels and you will get drunker faster than you are used to at sea level...the rule is "one on the ground equals two in the air".
- We are required by law to offer up to $1300.00 in a check if we involuntarily deny you boarding due to an overbooked flight. The offer for volunteers will always continue to go up. It is based on the fare you paid, and the amount of time it takes us to get you to your destination as opposed to when you would have arrived had you been able to take the flight you had purchased."
2 Flight attendants aren't always fond of passengers
"Yes. People do try joining the mile high club. I wouldn't advise it. The lavatories are disgusting. That water on the floor? It's not water. Just think about that the next time you go in there barefoot or in socks.
Flight attendants aren't always fond of passengers. I know, big surprise. But passengers have some real bad habits that don't exactly endear them to us. Some of my favorites include having dirty tissues put in my hand. Having dirty diapers put in my hand. Having a cup someone drooled over put in my hand. Having an empty cup shoved in front of my face with no explanation as to what they want me to do with it. Being poked in the butt during the drink service because someone wants a refill. Being asked to get someone an orange juice while I'm trying to hook someone up to the AED. Leaving my meal in the galley to answer a call light only to return to find someone's trash piled on top of my meal tray. Not all passengers are bad though."
1 This usually works out great...
"When there are 180 seats on a plane, airlines usually sell 183-185 tickets anticipating people who miss their flights. And this usually works out great, until you are the unlucky dude whose plane was already full at arrival. You bought a ticket but you cannot board the plane.
When this happens the airline is legally obliged to book the next flight for you for free and offer sleeping arrangements.
Also, luggage gets THROWN. What you see on the tarmac when you are inside the terminal is nothing compared to what happens at the baggage belts in the basement, and you can't blame these baggage workers. They have to bust their spline all day so its best to hold that luggage for the least amount of time. This means that if I had to unload a suitcase that was stored at the top of an ULD I'm not going to gently lay it down on the belt, I pull it out and let it drop on the belt from that height.
So never put expensive things in you luggage that breaks easily, like laptops etc."