Galley Gossip: Can Passengers View Pornography on the Airplane?

From time to time I get questions from readers who want to know what the rules are regarding viewing pornography in flight now that Wi-Fi is available on board most airplanes. Thankfully, it hasn’t been much of an issue (knock on wood). But planes are crowded, personal space barely exits, and when passengers do things they shouldn’t, well, they usually get caught.

Last week on a flight from New York to Fort Lauderdale, a coworker had to ask a 10-year-old boy to turn off the erotica and to fasten his seatbelt. On either side of him sat his younger brother and sister. Across the aisle were his parents who had no idea what was going on until we informed them why he may have been holding the computer screen so close to his face. On a different flight another passenger was caught reading a Playboy Magazine. Next to him sat his young son. What gave this man away was the opened centerfold he was eyeing up and down. When a flight attendant politely asked him to put it away, he yelled at her for embarrassing him.

How common is it to see someone watching something rather risqué on a laptop, iPad, tablet or even the in-flight entertainment system in the air? I can only think of a few instances I’ve seen something that might raise a few eyebrows. When this happens, I’ll gently inform the passenger that there are children on board and remind them that other passengers seated nearby might find what they’re viewing distasteful. Nine times out of ten they’ll either fast forward through the scene or turn it off – end of story.

Do passengers ever complain about the content of something that a different passenger is watching? I’ve never had anyone rat someone out for watching pornography in flight. But I do get a lot of complaints about kids watching movies or playing video games that are too loud. Most parents forget to bring headphones for their little ones. I always hate having to tell a nice family to turn it down, but rules are rules and they apply to everyone, even those under 2 feet tall.

Is there a firm policy on how to handle passengers who are watching adult content openly? Pornography is not allowed on the airplane. If a flight attendant does come across it, we’ll discreetly ask the passenger to put it away. If that doesn’t work, we might issue a written warning. The warning informs the passenger what will happen if they choose not to comply. Refusing to obey crew instruction is a federal offense.

Flight Attendant Confesses Ups And Downs Of Job

An anonymous woman who said she is a 22-year-old flight attendant for a major airline urged Reddit users to ask her anything in an open forum over the weekend. The candid Q&A session turned into a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a flight attendant, including a tell all on the weird things passengers ask for, a discussion on how many people really try to join the mile high club and a confession about the kind of shenanigans that really happen between lonely crew members at outposts. Keep reading to learn more about the ups and downs of the job, including why you should be nice while on board a plane. Just be warned this post is most definitely NSFW (not safe for work).

Q: What is the most crazy request you have been asked by a passenger?

A: Crazy? Goodness.
  • A bag to spit in. I had to confirm several times the word spit
  • A lady with a neck brace “I need soft food I will have rice” (The menu items did not include rice even after explaining she kept ordering things that just didn’t exist)
  • Hot fried chips
  • Nappies
  • Ice cream
  • My number
  • On a Lagos flight a passenger told me he wanted to masturbate. I directed him to the on board toilet.
If it exists a passenger has asked me for it. They ask for EVERYTHING.

Q: What is the best thing about being a flight attendant?
A: Best thing? I feel obvious but new destinations, I get a small taste of EVERYTHING I love it so much, I get to see smell and taste so much. I meet friends all over the world and party like a rockstar everywhere I go because I know I wont be there for long.

Q: What is the pay like? Besides being able to travel all over the world, are there any other benefits, either monetary or otherwise?

A: About 38k US a year, free rent transport and bills, all I pay is internet and taxi. 90% off tickets.

Q: Are there as many people joining the mile high club in the bathroom as television portrays it?

A: Yes people try to join the mile high club. Let me tell you something, those toilets are FILTHY. Absolute FILTH. People shit in the sinks.
Moving on, I caught a lesbian couple in the toilets we had to get three crew to bang open the door and make them come out. She responded with[,] “We were trying to piss[.]”

A crew was fired for getting drunk while she was a passenger flying somewhere and joining a gentleman in the lavatory.

A women had TWO men going at it on a flight from Manchester. Crew opened the door on them and the female tried to assault the crew. When the men went to their connecting flight they were arrested. Not sure what happened to them!

Q: Do people really get bumped to first class if there is a conflict with another passenger?

A: With the question of bumping people yes we move people but generally not for conflict. A month ago on one of my flights economy was full and this gentleman had changed seats several times to accommodate couples, families etc who needed to change seats. He didnt care where he sat and was so gracious. So we moved him to business class. Lesson, be nice!

If you are ill (severely) you will usually be moved to business or first if there aren’t many people in those cabins to recuperate and lie down at the discretion of the seniors.

Q: What’s something a passenger has done that you’ve really appreciated, or was just really nice?

A: I’ve had passengers write comment cards about me, they get given to me via emails from my manager, which is so nice … i love them[.]

Q: When do you plan on settling down? This job doesn’t seem like the type where you can keep a stable relationship.

A: I know :( I hope it’s around 25 … I am 22 now and I love the job so I think two or so more years before I move back home and find love … I will never find a stable relationship in the industry, it is unstable. I want a stable relationship but I wont find it here[.]

Q: Since you fly so much, do you happen to have any sexual urges while in a different country? Do you get off to hooking up with passengers or do you go somewhere to get some?

A: Yep! I um see friends in outstations. I have had some encounters in Hong Kong and I have a few ‘friends’ in Dubai. It’s really hard and you get really lonely so you look for any guy to meet you after flights. All the crew sleep with each other in outstation. It’s a big problem, the cabin crew are desperate to sleep with pilots and senior crew. You have crew call you in the middle of the night in your room, especially pilots!

Q: How long do you stay in each city?

A: Usually 24-72 hours[.]

Q: What’s your favourite city in the world?

A: I cannot name one but I will try to do it region wise
1) Hong Kong (The most fun)
2) Vienna (Amazing food, people, scenery)
3) Moscow (Fascinating, so closed for so long)
4) Melbourne, Australia (Diverse, charming filled with character)
I find some redeeming quality in every city I visit.

Q: What are your thoughts on flight etiquette (e.g. when it’s okay to put your seat all the way back). Is there a classic faux pas we should know about?

A: Seat back if your legs are too long and when not eating. During the meal seats up and if you’re short, it’s not really necessarily. But otherwise seats up for everyone when eating, you can do whatever you want after service.

Q: I’d like to be a flight attendant to see what it’s like to travel and interact. Would I have to go through an exorbitant amount of training before I can work?

A: I did 7 weeks! So worth it… I felt so ready. The training is hard but it paid [off] for me[.]

Q: How do you adjust being in the air so often, and with different time zones and all that? When I fly from the US to Singapore, by the time of the end of the trip I want to actually throw up. Air gets so thin, and the airline food is pretty bad even on Singapore Airlines. I literally need to have a can of sprite when flying on long flights next to me once every hour, slowly sipping until the soda is done to keep sane.

A: You never really adjust. I just did three middle of the night flights and I can’t stay awake in the day, so I have been nocturnal for a week. Some things that I do to keep myself sane is as soon as I get on board I get a bottle of 1.5L water and make myself drink it all. Then I brew a big pot of mint tea after the service and make myself drink that throughout the flight too. Keeping hydrated is valuable to my sanity and mood. We have one trip that is four days long and you have 24 hours in each port but the whole flights are nighttime only. It is TORTURE. Key points 1) Stay hydrated 2) Stay rested (sleep whenever you are tired) 3) Eat smart (this means no business class cheese boards or first class caviar, stick to fresh food only) For me eating right is the hardest, you’re so tired you just want to SHOVE chocolate in your mouth. If I follow the above I am totally fine on board. On flights over 10 hours or so we get rest (sleep) in the crew bunks[.]

Q: What airline/flight benefits or perks do you get as a result of your job?

A: 90% [Off] Flights
Hotel discounts
Event discounts
Free tickets to events

For more adventures in the sky, be sure to follow our resident flight attendant, Heather Poole, in her “Galley Gossip” column.

Please note: These questions and answers have been edited slightly to fit an interview format.

[Photo credit: Flickr user laszlo-photo]

The 10 Best Travel Apps For Flight Attendants

1. FAAWait – During a creeping weather delay a flight attendant who also works part time as an air traffic controller told me about FAAWait. It’s his favorite app. One click and we knew which airports across the country were also experiencing delays, how long the delays were averaging, and what had caused the delays.

2. MyRadar: Recently a fearful flier on board one of my flights spent three hours watching the weather light up his iPad screen: blue, green, red – wow, so much red! He knew exactly when to expect turbulence, how bad it might get, and how long it would last. Knowing this kept him calm. At one point he even turned around in his seat to let the crew know it would be smooth flying from here on out. Two seconds later the captain called to tell us the exact same thing, it was safe to get up and finish the service. Since then I’ve been recommending the app to anyone who mentions they’re afraid to fly.

3. WhatsApp: An Emirate’s flight attendant from Bosnia based in Saudi Arabia told me about this app on a flight from Miami to New York. WhatsApp makes it possible to send text messages to friends and family out of the country free of charge. There is virtually no cost to stay in touch with loved ones. You can even share audio and video messages.

4. Twitter: Still the best way to get breaking news! You don’t need to “get it.” Just learn how to use the hashtags to find information as it’s happening. For instance, not too long ago I was at an airport that was being evacuated and no one knew why. That was my cue to search the airport code – #DFW. That’s how I found out there was a bomb threat on an incoming flight. I learned this from passengers who were actually on board the flight and tweeting about it as they taxied to the gate.

5. HappyHourFinder: Flight attendants don’t make a lot of money. In fact new hires start out making less than $18,000 a year. And yet we’re subjected to overpriced hotel and airport food on a regular basis. This is why we take advantage of happy hour specials, particularly ones that include half priced appetizers, which might explain how I ended up at Vince Neil’s Bar, Tres Rios, in Las Vegas two hours after learning about the app in the crew van on our way from the airport to the layover hotel.6. Instagram: Because when you travel there are just so many beautiful things to photograph. The app not only makes your pictures look ten times better, it’s easy to text and email your photos or post photos straight to Facebook or Twitter. What I enjoy most about the app is following people whose photos inspire me to travel, like @Lax2Nrt or even @Umetaturou who shares hilarious pictures of a Border Collie named Sora who can balance anything on his head. One of these days I’m going to fly to Japan and walk that dog!

7. Postagram: Remember when you used to send postcards to family and friends from around the world just to let them know you were thinking about them? Now you’re too busy to think, let alone search for just the right card to send. Not to mention all that time it takes to address and stamp it. With Postagram you can turn your cool photos into postcards by using pictures from your phone, Facebook or Twitter. Write a short message and Postagram will take care of the rest.

8. Yelp: Whenever I find myself at a layover hotel in a new city, the first thing I do is pull up Yelp just to see what’s nearby. I might use it to find a great place to eat, check out a tourist attraction, or locate a pharmacy within walking distance. Users post reviews and photos to help narrow down the search so you can determine whether or not it’s worth it to leave your hotel room.

9. HotelTonight: If you’re a commuter like me, this app will save your life one day. At noon each day HotelTonight offers great last minute deals on a couple of hotels near your current location. Get a $25 credit with your first booking, $25 for each friend who signs up, and $25 when a friend makes their first bookings. So … who wants to be friends?

10. GateGuru: Enter an airport code and up pops everything you could ever want to know about food, shopping, and any services offered, along with reviews, ratings and maps. Enter your flight number and access flight status, delays and weather conditions all in the same place.

10 Tips For International Business Travel

International business travel is a different animal when compared to a quick domestic trip. Flying for extended periods of time alone presents its own unique challenges for those who have not done it before. Still, international business travel does not have to be the grueling sort of ordeal that first-timers anticipate by following a few simple guidelines.

For our purposes here, we assume a) you do not have a huge corporate travel department taking care of the details for you, b) you care how much elements of the trip cost and c) can accept a seat in coach.

  • Booking airfare– Book air far in advance for the best seat selection. Keep on top of fares by registering flights with AirFareWatchdog (before buying) and Yapta (after). If the price goes down later, a refund or credit for future travel may be possible. Also, reduce travel stress by insisting on a minimum of 2 hours between connections, especially on the return flight to the U.S. If the arrival airport is not your final destination, you’ll need time to recheck luggage and go through security screening again.
  • Periodically check reservations– Once flights are booked and seats assigned, return to the airline website to get a feel for how flights are filling up. You may wish to pay more closer to travel day for an aisle seat. SeatGuru can help with this. Also, be sure reservations have frequent flyer numbers on them to get credit for long flights. Be extra safe by saving boarding passes as proof later that you were on the flight.
  • Know what documentation is required– In addition to a valid U.S passport that expires a minimum of 6 months after your international travel, you may need to satisfy other entry requirements. The U.S Department of State‘s Smart Traveler Program offers all the information needed to enter and experience any given country in the world. Registering travel plans with Smart Traveler brings travel alerts and background information in advance of travel too.
  • Explore communication options in advance– Molding options on a cellphone plan to fit where your destination can make using your cellphone abroad a viable option. On extended trips a new sim card to match your destination might work best, but simply customizing options can work well too. Adding an international data plan, for example, will let you use smartphone apps that can be invaluable navigating foreign soil. Another option is to “Cheat On Your Cellphone Service With Tep Wireless.”
  • Fly in a day in advance of important meetings- Have some plans in place but have International business travelthe flexibility to spend the first day overseas adjusting to the time difference and getting used to new surroundings. If everything goes well, you may be able to hit the ground running. If a few parts of your travel plan don’t come off as anticipated, all is not lost, just a bit behind schedule.
  • Start focusing on getting plenty of rest and eating right several days before the flight- Unless you’re headed to Canada from New York, most international travel translates to some long flights. Sure, maybe we can’t “bank” sleep but starting a long flight with a full tank of rest is always a good idea. Also see: “How To Deal With Jetlag.”
  • Consider the allowed personal carry-on item your “flight bag”- and have everything that might be needed during the flight in it. Having at hand, under the seat in front of you, is huge and a must-do for all international flights. Also, finish packing (at least preliminarily) a week in advance. That offers the opportunity to be sure critical items are packed and allows time to source those items not packed first time around.
  • Enjoy the experience that international flights can offer in and of itself- Flight attendants or other passengers have wonderful stories to tell that can add a richness to our travels. Engage the world with smartphone apps like HipGeo and FourSquare to share your experience and record your journey step by step. Bringing along the new app TagWhat is almost like having a personal travel guide along for the ride.
  • Know a little of the language- While you’re apt to kick yourself for not knowing more once on the ground, basic words and phrasing is a must. Questions like “How much?” and “Can you help me?” go a long way, along with: “Please,” “Excuse me” and “Thank You.” A smartphone app for translating languages is a good idea.
  • Money matters- Like language, have a good idea of how the local currency converts to dollars, not that you can do anything about that but just so you will have an idea of value and maybe not pay the equivalent of $10 for a Coke. Onanda’s Currency app for iPhone is a good one to have handy. Use a credit card that will work internationally (not all will) and does not charge an extra fee for doing so. Be sure to notify card companies when you will out of the country too, otherwise they may shut you down, thinking your card has been stolen.

There are plenty of other tips for international business travel, including Gadling’s International Travel Tips In 100 Words Or Less, but these have helped me quite a bit and some were hard lessons to learn.

One more: do not forget a power converter. I spent the good part of a day in Venice on my first international business trip, looking for a device that would allow me to stick my U.S. plug into the odd-sized electrical outlets in our hotel. Since the only Italian words I knew were from working at the Olive Garden decades ago, I walked around the city with a hand written note from the hotel desk clerk to help. I assume that note said, “This man wants a power converter,” but it might have said, “Laugh at this silly American,” because most people I presented it to did.

[Flickr image via || UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL ||]

Galley Gossip: How Being Married To A Flight Attendant Is Great Training For The Job

Photo: Christopher Bailey

Hi Heather, My wife is a flight attendant and for some time now I’ve been looking to make a career change and was thinking of becoming a flight attendant myself. I can see how she enjoys it and has fun with it and I’d like to try it, too. Do you think it would be a good or bad thing to bring up in an interview situation that I am married to a flight attendant or does it matter at all? Obviously being married to one gives me a greater insight and depth of understanding of the job and what it involves compared to many other candidates. I have a degree in Microbiology so I have somewhat of a brain, although my wife might debate that with you. I also co-managed a bar in Ireland before I came to the United States so I know what it’s like to have to deal with difficult and intoxicated customers. I also was an airport screener for a while and I’m a state certified emergency responder. I’d like to think these things would make me a strong candidate. Just curious what you think. Thanks for your time, Brian.

Based on your work experience alone, you sound like the perfect candidate to me! You’re comfortable cutting people off handling intoxicated passengers, you’re familiar with the responsibilities that go along with working at an airport, and you have a pretty good idea of what life is like in the sky. Being a certified emergency trainer will only make you more attractive to the airlines. Your wife, I’m sure, has mentioned that no one ever dies in flight, right? At least not until a doctor can make an official pronouncement. This might be why so many flight attendants have nursing backgrounds. Some are even senior enough to hold a flying schedule that allows them to balance a nursing career at the same time. These are always my favorite flight attendants to work with because when there’s an emergency in flight, they tend to take over. That being said, I truly believe it’s your wife that makes you a standout.

You've Got Heather Poole

You of all people should know that it takes a special person to be involved with a flight attendant. As you’ve mentioned, you already understand our crazy schedules and what the job entails. Most people don’t realize that being a flight attendant isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle, and it affects everything we do – or don’t do, because we can’t get the days off to do it. This explains why so many new flight attendants either quit a few weeks after successfully completing the training program or last a lifetime. It’s that extreme. Many people can’t deal with our long absences, missing holidays, not being able to make long-term plans, and our ever-changing schedules. Just last week I was reassigned not once, but twice before 10 a.m. on day two of a three-day trip, and then on day three, my three-day trip turned into a four-day trip. If there’s one thing that flight attendants have in common it’s that we always have back up plans A, B and C, because when it comes to working in the aviation industry something is bound to go wrong. It’s why being flexible in terms of scheduling is so important. This is exactly what makes you special. You understand all of this already. I say if you’ve got it, flaunt it! Good luck.