Galley Gossip: Barfing on a plane – the do’s and don’ts

1. Don’t fly – if you feel sick before boarding a flight, talk to an agent about rebooking on a later flight. Trust me, it’s better to be sick in the terminal than on an airplane. At least in the terminal you can leave. Once on the plane you’re stuck.

2. Don’t ask to sit in first class – On a recent flight during boarding, a passenger told me she felt ill and then immediately asked if there were any first class seats available. Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean you can sit in first class.

3. Do locate the barf bag As soon as you feel nauseous look inside the seat back pocket in front of you for a barf bag. Because you may not have one. It’s amazing just how many have been transformed into hats (pictured), dresses, ipod holders, gum holders, trash bags, or used as paper for writing letters.

4. Do tell a flight attendant – Don’t wait until the last minute to inform a flight attendant you’re not feeling well. Tell us ASAP! This way we’ll be able to take better care of you. We’ll even give you something bigger to throw up in. Those little barf bags are not large enough for projectile vomiting. Trust us, we know.

5. Do sit near the front of the aircraft – Mix an upset stomach with a little turbulence and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. The front of the aircraft is always a lot less bumpy than the back. Just make sure to ring your call light and tell a flight attendant what’s going on before it gets too bumpy to move you to another seat!6. Do get comfortable – Recline your seat and if possible, turn the air vent on high. If you’re feeling clammy, a flight attendant will bring you a cold, wet towel to place on the back of your neck.

7. Do drink soda – Without ice. On my last flight a doctor informed the crew that Coke works better than Ginger Ale. “The syrup has medicinal properties,” she said. Make sure to get rid of the bubbles (carbonation) first by stirring or pouring the liquid from one plastic cup to another before serving it to a sick passenger.

8. Do eat something – Think white; bread, dinner rolls, biscuits, crackers, whatever. Take small bites and eat slowly.

9. Don’t barf on others – Once a passenger barfs on another there’s usually a chain reaction. This is a flight attendant’s worst nightmare. A friend of mine had a little boy on board who vomited on several passengers as he ran to the lavatory. Soon there were 40 other passengers joining in.

10. Don’t barf in first class – On my last flight a woman ran all the way from coach to first class and then locked herself in the lav for thirty minutes. We were on a 757. There’s only one bathroom in first class. The cockpit never got a potty break.

11. Do discard barf properly
– When that same sick passenger finally exited the lav, she attempted to hand me a warm bag of barf. We were in the middle of the meal service. Please, I beg you, discard barf in the proper location, the trash receptacle located in the lavatory.

12. Don’t be embarrassed – flight attendants deal with sick passengers all the time. It’s no big deal. Just about everyone has felt sick on an airplane at some time or other, and if they haven’t their time is coming. Remember to lend them your barf bag.

13. Ask for a wheelchair – Before the airplane lands, tell a flight attendant you’d like to have a wheelchair meet the flight. This way you won’t have to walk through the terminal if you’re still feeling badly.

14. Don’t fly
– Got a connecting flight? Go back to number one and stop there!

Photo courtesy of Gthills and Ben Howes