This post originally appeared on Boston.com
What does a flight attendant really do? (Answer: more than you think.) What’s it really like to deal with drunk passengers, suave pilots and potential terrorists? (Answer: it’s tougher than you think.) What really happens when a flight is delayed, cancelled or worse, redirected to another location? (Answer: everyone’s mad, not just the passengers.) Is it really a glamourous life at 35,000-feet? Flight attendant Heather Poole is dishing about it all – and sometimes more – in her new book “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet“.
I’ve known Poole for some time and have worked with her on a few different travel projects over the years, so I was eager to get my hands on this book, which broke into Amazon’s top 100 best selling books on its very first day on the market. The book is a hilarious look at what really happens in flight, how flight attendants identify “problem” passengers (they’re looking at you, guy with his fly open who smells like whiskey trying to board with first class while holding a coach ticket), and the real reactions and emotions that happen when there’s an emergency. The book also details the life of a flight attendant on the ground, from sharing flats to scary cab rides and blind dates.
Poole is already working on her next book, but before she got too involved in that I sat down to chat with her about this book, and gain some insight on the most common questions asked from fliers today:
Melanie Nayer: What is the one thing passengers don’t know about FAs?
Heather Poole: We don’t get paid until aircraft door is shut and pushed away from the gate. Boarding is the most stressful time, and when there’s a delay or mechanical issue, people yell at us, but we don’t control the weather or the mechanics on the plane. Believe me – I’m mad too! I’m out of money if that trip doesn’t take off.
MN: How do you handle it when passengers argue about the flight with you?
HP: I love it when a passenger will call home and get the weather scoop from their wife or boyfriend. The weather isn’t where your wife is. Airlines do not have airplanes just lying around to grab when we need one. Everything is very efficiently run. When a plane is broken, they just don’t have an extra plane in the airplane garage. They pull planes from other people’s runs. Here’s a tip: it’s always better to fly in the morning because you have a better chance of getting to where you need to be. When a plane goes out of service, they’ll start pulling planes from other route. The last flight out loses.
MN: What are you biggest passenger pet peeves?
HP: Oh there are a few… When I ask a question, no one answers anymore. Passengers are so consumed with their electronic devices that i’m just talking to myself. When passengers are right up against my [backside] when I’m in the aisle for beverage service because they want to get by to go to the bathroom or return to their seat. Also, nowadays the kids will sit in coach and parents will sit in business class, an there is all this back-and-forth on the plane. You’re trying to do a service and mommy or nanny are walking up and down the aisle. it’s not that we have a problem with passengers moving around, but does it have to be during meal service? Then there’s the passenger who lies to get upgrades or get seats together. One guy pretended he was on his honeymoon so he could get upgraded and free drinks. After a few too many, he came to the back of the plane and spilled to us his wife was at home.