Explainer: how to get the best seat on a plane
Ever spent 15 hours stuck in the middle seat in economy class? Then this guide's for you.
It's no secret that flying these days can be a headache, with long security lines, delays and a growing list of pared-down amenities. While passengers don't have a say over most factors that can make flying unpleasant, there are ways for them to have a better experience, according to a flight attendant who has worked for a major US airline for more than three decades who requested anonymity to protect her job. Here, she shares her insights:
Be polite, please.
Some passengers are exasperated when they board because they have had a stressful time getting to or at the airport and take their frustrations out on flight attendants. "We want to give you good service, but it's hard when you're getting upset with us for things we don't control," she said. Passengers also become testy with flight attendants because their preferred meal choice ran out, the onboard Wi-Fi isn't working or the flight is delayed, all of which attendants don't control, either. Politeness, including saying please and thank you when making requests or being served, creates a more positive mood for everyone. And, the flight attendant said, readers should know her job is no picnic; in recent years, flight attendants have had to deal with pay cuts, increased health insurance costs and longer work hours.
Safety comes first.
Some fliers, no matter how seasoned, ignore one (and sometimes all) of three passenger no-no's that affect their safety: They get out of their seats to get their bags from an overhead compartment while the plane is taxiing; they don't buckle up when the seat belt sign is on, and they hang out in the galleys, where food and trash carts, which can weigh as much as 200 pounds (90.7kg), could potentially move and hit them or roll over their feet. "You can get injured by not following the safety rules," the flight attendant said.
Have an amenity kit.
Consider carrying an amenity kit with a few essentials to make your flight more comfortable. Include a neck pillow and a sweater or a blanket. "If you get cold or end up spilling on the blanket we give you, you're out of luck," the flight attendant said, explaining that most airlines allot one per passenger. Other items to have in your kit: lip balm and a travel-size lotion to ward off cracked and dry skin and a noise-reducing headset to drown out snoring passengers, crying children and other sounds.
Did you know that most flight attendants fly with their own food? "The meal portions airlines give to passengers have gotten smaller over the years and leave them still hungry," the flight attendant said. "And they also tend to be high in sodium and fat." Keep your palate satisfied by bringing snacks like fruit, protein bars and sandwiches. If you follow a special diet, such as gluten-free, bringing food is a must. Although airlines often accommodate special meal requests with advance notice, these requests sometimes aren't communicated to the airline's kitchen.
The New York Times