Over the last month, we've had myriad examples of the right way and, arguably, the entirely wrong way for flight attendants to handle the passengers on board their aircraft.
On the one hand, we've all seen the footage of United Airlines removing a doctor from an overbooked flight and also United Airlines removing a bride and groom after they stretched out for a nap on a couple of empty seats. On the other hand, we've also watched as Etihad reportedly turned a flight around so that a pair could visit their sick grandson.
So, in light of these recent events, we thought it might be a pertinent moment to investigate just exactly what flight attendants look out for as they take a gander at all the passengers boarding their planes....
Several flight attendants have taken to a Quora thread titled 'What do flight attendants notice about passengers as they board the plane?' to reveal exactly why you might be oggled at while you board a flight.
Janice Bridger, a flight attendant of 27 years, wrote: 'Air travel is fraught with inherent danger [...] — one must be constantly alert and aware of one's situation. So when I greet people, you better believe that I'm always very aware of each passenger who steps through the door of the aircraft,' she admits.
Next time you board an airplane, here's what the flight attendants will be checking you for:
1. If you're strong
While it may be a great excuse to study someone's ample muscles and toned physique, Bridger explains a quick study as to whether a passenger is physically strong may actually be of use if there's a problem during the flight.
'If I see someone who is muscular, powerful, strong, physically fit, I memorize his/her face and make a mental note of where they are sitting,' says Bridger.
'I consider this person a resource for me. In the event of an attack on the flight or on me, these are my 'go-to' people. If a situation looks like it could develop, I'll privately and discreetly ask one of these people if they would be willing to help us if necessary. Help might involve subduing or restraining an unruly passenger. We hope it never happens, but we will prepare just in case it does,' she adds.
2. If you're an airline employee
Bizarrely, Bridger reveals a key sign a passenger might be a fellow flight attendant is whether they bring chocolates aboard the flight.
However, rather than keep a mental note of who they are so she can ask for a praline mid flight, she reveals it's good to keep tabs on crew members trained in the in-flight procedures.
'They've been trained in what to do in an emergency, whether medical, mechanical, etc. They know how to handle the situations as well as I, and are trained to become an instant 'team member,' fitting right in immediately if needed. They are an invaluable resource for me, and I like to know who they are and where they're sitting,' she admits.
3. If you're drunk or unwell
I don't know about you but I always get flustered when a flight attendant asks to see my boarding pass when walking through the aircraft doors. Not only do you have to find the blummin' thing, but simultaneously keep hold of your hand luggage which you've just been forced to stuff your relatively miniature handbag into.
That sort of multitasking takes practice, okay?
If I see someone who is muscular, powerful, strong, physically fit, I memorize his/her face and make a mental note of where they are sitting.
However, there's a valid reason – other than to help you find you seat and ensure you're boarding the flight – as to why flight attendants ask for your boarding pass.
Basically, it's to see if you're drunk.
Myriam Mimi, a flight attendant for Condor since 1994, wrote on the thread: 'I check if they are drunk, drugged, sick, angry or afraid. That is extremely important as if I have the possibility to avoid any kind of troubles over the Atlantic, then I address it on ground. I say 'hello', welcome on board… and listen to how they respond.'
Bridger also uses the meet and greet moment at the aircraft door to check whether a passenger is ill and may need further treatment on the ground.
'I've had passengers board who look pasty and pale, deathly ill. We removed them; nobody wants their flu germs!' she says.
4. If you're scared of flying
I mean it's pretty obvious when someone is scared of flying – you know what with the tears, the sleeping pill popping, arms flinging about doing the sign of the cross and the shaking.
But, apparently flight attendants are keen to find anxious passengers as soon as they step aboard a flight, just incase they 'need a word of comfort and encouragement', according to Bridger.
5. If you have a visible disability
'I watch for disabilities that may disqualify someone from sitting in the exit row. They need to be able to physically lift a heavy hatch (up to 60 lbs) or open a heavy door (several hundred pounds),' Bridger says.
They also check to see if you might require extra assistance during an emergency.
I've had passengers board who look pasty and pale, deathly ill. We removed them; nobody wants their flu germs!
6. If you're trying to do anything illegal
And when we say 'illegal' we mean smuggling pets in your handbag bags and alcohol.
'So yes, I need to be vigilant and aware, all behind my 'greeting face' of smile and pleasant, comforting welcome!' admits Bridger.
She adds: 'When you consider that I have approximately 3-4 seconds to make that passenger feel welcomed and comfortable, and then also assess them for all of the potential that they bring with them onto the plane... well, it can require a lot of focus.'
And we thought walking up the stairs to the aircraft was an effort.
It's all quite revealing isn't it - but let's spare a thought for all of the airline staff who really are just trying to ensure that everyone has a much safer, much more comfortable flight.