Flight Attendants: Safety, Not Serving

Do you know why we have flight attendants on every single flight in the United States, no matter how short the trip? I recently asked a series of friends and coworkers and got varying answers.

  • “They don’t want everyone up at one time because that will mess up the weight distribution.”
  • “To serve us drinks and snacks.”
  • “To keep people from stuffing oversized luggage in the bins.”

Yes, the flight attendants serve drinks and snacks to make the flight more enjoyable for the passengers. They also help people manage their luggage in the overhead bins for safety reasons. You don’t want a bin opening mid flight because it never properly latched due to an oversized bag getting wedged in. Flight attendants help minimize injuries and risk.

If you’ve ever flown on a plane, even once, you probably know the flight attendants go through a routine at the beginning of each flight called the Safety Demonstration. Even if don’t fly, you know about these hilarious versions from Southwest employees and other airlines after videos go viral. The key phrase here is “Safety Demonstration.” Sometimes it’s called a safety briefing. On newer planes, particularly the larger ones with individual video screens play a safety video before take off. 

You know: 

You may gloss over this part of your flight because you want to get to your destination, or because you just want to fall asleep and be left alone. But this annoying video keeping you from watching your movie is exactly why we have flight attendants. Flight attendants are here to keep us safe in case of an emergency.  

Let’s talk about emergencies

Many different events may constitute an emergency, especially if it’s in 30,000 feet in the air. Think about all these situations that occur regularly on the ground:

  • Someone has a panic attack
  • Someone is under the influence and belligerent
  • Someone experiences unusual heart palpitations 
  • A woman goes into labor

Each of these situations can be managed by most people in a reasonable manner on the ground. It takes special training to be able to manage and often, diffuse, a situation when you’re flying five miles above the planet. Flight attendants are here for your safety. Pilots fly the plane, so they don’t interact with the passengers and wouldn’t know what’s going on without flight attendants communication. The drinks, snacks, meals, and movies placate the passenger so we don’t go collectively insane on a five, ten, or fifteen hour flight. 

Your flight attendants are here to help you and keep you safe. Please don’t belittle them, take advantage of them, or treat them like your servants. Be kind to your fellow passengers, ground staff, gate agents, and the flight attendants. You never know what good may come from common kindness.