Galley Gossip: Can Passengers View Pornography on the Airplane?

Photo courtesy: Bekathwia

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.

Galley Gossip: How To Answer Difficult Flight Attendant Interview Questions

I’m scheduled for a flight attendant interview on Tuesday! I’ve been through the process once before so I am familiar with the questions they may ask, but I’m just not confident in my answers sometimes. The hardest part is answering behavioral or situational questions. When they ask, “Name a time when…” I find it really hard to recall examples from my past work experience. I have trouble with these questions and I’m not sure what a good answer may be. I hope you can help. Here are a few examples.

1. How do you handle stress?

2. Name a time when you were under a lot of stress and how did you deal with it?

3. Describe a situation when you had to make a quick decision?

You’ve been through the interview process once before, so you already know what to expect. That’s half the battle. Try to relax and don’t forget to smile. Being able to keep your cool during a stressful situation is a big part of the job. The fact that the airline called you for a one-on-one interview says a lot about you. Thousands of people apply for the job, but very few applicants hear back from the airline. Remember that next time you’re not feeling overly confident. And try to have some fun.

When it comes to answering interview questions, the most important thing to do is let the airline know you’re a customer service oriented person – as often as possible. Talk about how you go above and beyond the call of duty to help people. Airlines are looking for flight attendants who are friendly, work well with others and take pride in their job. Try not to read too much into the questions. There’s no such thing as a right answer. You don’t have to share life-altering events for an airline to realize you’d make a great fit. Think in terms of the job. Keep it simple.

I can’t answer the questions for you, but I can give you a few things to think about when it comes to stress and making quick decisions.


1. How do you handle stress? Look how you’re handling it right now – perfectly. You’re doing everything possible to prepare for the interview. When you come prepared for something, you’re less stressed, and when you’re less stressed, you’re able to focus on the task at hand and do a better job. This is why the airlines spend weeks, even months, training flight attendants. When something goes wrong, we don’t think about it, we go right into action. How else do you think we’re able to evacuate hundreds of passengers during an emergency in just a few seconds?

2. Name a time when you were under a lot of stress and how did you deal with it? Running late, for me, is the worst stressor of all. When one thing goes wrong, it seems like everything goes wrong. This is why I give myself plenty of time to get to the airport. And why I set not one, but three alarms to wake me up when I have an early sign-in. Of course, it wasn’t until I found myself sprinting through the Tampa airport practically buttoning my blouse as I ran because my alarm didn’t go off to learn this lesson. Learn from your – er, my – mistakes. And pack the night before.

3. Describe a situation when you had to make a quick decision. Recently a passenger walked on board with his fly down. I could have ignored it, but I decided to tell him. I know I’d want to know! But I whispered it in his ear instead of saying it out loud for all the other passengers to hear. He blushed, turned around, and zipped up real quick. He also thanked me several times. Your quick decision doesn’t have to be a life changing event. Really you just want to show you’re a helpful person. When someone falls down, do you help them up or do you keep on going? It’s what the airline wants to know about you.

Hope that helps.

You might also want to check out this “Galley Gossip” post: “How To Prepare For A Flight Attendant Interview.”
[Photo courtesy of Kudumomo]

Galley Gossip: Airline seniority, bidding & working undesirable trips

Dear Heather,

Since when do you have Oklahoma City layovers? Heather, Heather, Heather……I’ve always envisioned you as A View From The Top, Transcon, 767, New York to LA Princess. It’s really hard for me to picture you on a Super80 Oklahoma City two-day. What gives?

Yours truly,

Ron “The frequent-flyin, two-timin cheat

PS Did Miss Oklahoma really sit in economy?

PSS Did your dress really rip because of that leap out of the crew van, I mean…. well, we ALL now know what you had for breakfast that day! LOL!

Dear Ron,

Ya just had to go and bring up the Cracker Barrel, didn’t you! Thanks a lot. It’s official, I’m now on a diet. As for Miss Oklahoma, not only did the lovely Miss Taylor Treat sit in economy, she sat in a middle seat! Not once did she complain about it, either. I know who I’m going to vote for in the upcoming Miss America pageant!

I completely understand why you might be disappointed to learn I’m not the transcon princess you’ve dreamt about. From time to time I really do bid for Oklahoma City / El Paso / Nashville / Kansas City layovers. I know it’s hard to believe, but It’s kind of nice to shake things up. No matter how great a trip may be, after awhile it gets boring knowing what passengers are going to say before they even say it and only stocking the beverage cart with diet soda, club soda, bottled water, and extra limes when flying back and forth from New York to LA. Anyway, ya gotta do what ya gotta do to hold the holidays off. My Oklahoma City layover was just the price I had to pay to spend Thanksgiving at home with family.

SENIORITY – Refers to a flight attendants years of experience. Years of experience with an airline is based on date of hire. Seniority is everything at an airline. It determines what trips a flight attendant can “hold” and whether or not a flight attendant will serve reserve.

I have fifteen years seniority at my airline, which isn’t much considering many flight attendants have forty – plus years with the company. That’s why I commute from my home in Los Angeles (one of our most senior bases in the system) to New York (our most junior base). In New York I can hold great trips. More importantly, I’m off reserve.

BID, BIDS, BIDDING – a request of choice routes made by each flight attendant to fly specific monthly schedules. At the airline I work for, our bid sheet offers over hundreds of lines to choose from. Bids are awarded by company seniority. Ever wonder why the flights to Asia and Europe are staffed by our most senior crew members? Because it takes a lot of seniority to hold the best trips!

Each month I bid for the exact same trips: San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Dallas turns. Normally I’m awarded one of my top ten choices. But during a holiday month every flight attendant is trying to get the exact same days off, so I’ll bid a few “undesirable” trips just in case I can’t hold what I want. And that, Ron, is how I wound up with Oklahoma City layovers in November.

This month I got lucky. I’m off on Christmas eve, Christmas day, and New Year’s Eve! Of course it came at a price, a very steep one – a line of turns on the 757, and not just any line of turns, but a line of New York-Vail turns. I shudder just thinking about it. I mean what could possibly be worse than working a full 757 crammed with 160 passengers who all think they belong in first class. Not bad enough? Now imagine all those full length fur coats that MUST be hung at once in a closet barely big enough to house the coats and jackets belonging to those who are actually seated in first. And that’s just the beginning. We haven’t even taken off yet! But I’ll be home for Christmas and that’s all that matters.

Not to worry, Ron, things will be back to normal in January.

Happy Travels,


Photos courtesy of Heather Poole & Jennifer Pickens

Galley Gossip: 9/11 – We will never forget

Silence has strength. Often times silence is more powerful than words. Today I have decided not to remain silent.

That’s Terry Thames, an American Airlines pilot, hanging out of the cockpit window. This is the first American Airlines flight returning to Washington Dulles after the skies were reopened four days after 9/11. The photo was featured in the book, Reclaiming the Sky, by Tom Murphy.

I can’t stop staring at the photo and thinking about how great it must have felt to have hung that American flag across that airplane when it finally came home. I love that photo. Maybe because it’s one of the few taken at that time depicting strength, not sorrow. Which is exactly what many of my colleagues, as well as our passengers, radiated when they walked on board the airplanes and soldiered on days after our world completely changed.

Last year on this very day I wrote a post, 9/11 – That day, about what had happened to me eight years ago and how it still affects my colleagues and I today. The best part about the post were the readers comments, all so full of hope and strength. I didn’t want to write another 9/11 post. Really, I didn’t. What more could I say? But then how could I not? I’m a flight attendant. If I don’t write about it, who will?

A few days ago I logged into Twitter and typed, “We will never forget,” and then I pressed send. The message went to @planesofthought, an organization that collects thoughts and turns them into paper airplanes that will cover New York City’s skyline to remember the lives lost on 9/11.

After that I wrote, “I’m looking for interesting 9/11 stories. How it may have changed your life in a positive way.”

No one answered back. Not one person. The silence was deafening.

I tried again on Facebook and this time I got a response – one response. “Positive? That’s a hard one. I guess how New Yorkers found some closeness. American pride came back. Sadly, it’s slipping away again,” wrote Lynne, a fellow flight attendant and friend.

While I couldn’t agree more, I worried that I may not have gotten my message across the way I had intended, so I added, “I’m looking for stories about people who started doing things they always wanted to do, but never did, before 9/11.”

Again, no response. Complete silence

I prayed my question did not offend and decided, once again, not to write this post.

While we’re constantly reminded of 9/11 every single time we go to the airport, take off our shoes,and throw out our bottled water before passing through security, grumbling about it as we do so, it does seem, at times, as if it never happened, that day, eight years ago. But I don’t think we’ve forgotten. In fact, I know we haven’t because I truly believe silence has meaning.

Just as I was about to scratch this post for good, Jeffrey sent a note via Facebook. “I worked for an airline and took a buyout offer on 9/28/01. Hired a career coach. Became one. Used the buyout money to launch a successful executive coaching business. Launched a second entrepreneurial venture in 2008, which is my passion – SAVVY NAVIGATOR.”

Slowly, but surely, the stories began to trickle in. Erin, who described herself as a mother/wife/traveler, wrote, “My whole life is still divided by pre/post 9/11…for better or worse.”

Mark, a frequent flier, wrote, “Heather, you may have seen this story before. It’s about a United Airlines flight attendant who was supposed to be on United Airlines flight 175 that crashed into the Twin Towers. Because of a typo and then later computer problems she couldn’t trade to get her trip back. On the employee bus that day she actually spoke with the flight attendant who “took her trip.”

I clicked the link Mark had attached and wound up on the Boston Globe web site where I read a story, Flight attendant changes course, I’d never heard before about a flight attendant who just barely survived 9/11, a flight attendant who is now a nurse.

Next it was Chris, a pilot, who wrote, “I think I have a real problem with the context. When I was an Air Force pilot, I knew what I was doing could get me killed. That was my job, and I accepted it. And I accepted when every 9 months or so, one of my buds became, as we used to say, a “mort” (mortality), or “a ghost” (as in, “Remember Bugs? Sea of Japan–he’s a ghost”). That was the deal.”
“9/11 was not the deal,” Chris added. “Our colleagues weren’t anything but murdered. They had no chance, and no choice. That’s a breach of faith, and too high a price. I don’t know who to blame, who to accuse, who to hold responsible, who to fight back against. And yet, our management makes us all just cost units, marketable, forgetable commodities. Okay, I’ll shut up now.”

And with that the silence continued…

While this post initially started out as a story about your stories, it quickly turned into a post without a story, which made me a little sad. But that, in itself, is a story – one that should be told. I’m a flight attendant. If I don’t write about it, who will?

Photos courtesy of (American Airlines) Tom Murphy, (flag quilt) Catface3, (9/11 tribute light)

Galley Gossip: Flight attendant Pam Ann now on tour!

Dear Heather,

I discovered, quite by accident, that the comic Caroline Reid is bringing her “Hostess to the Stars” Pam Ann to the US in October. I searched through the site, used the search function, and couldn’t find anything on your site about this. I just got my tickets for her Los Angeles show. I’m sharing this with you – not trying to sell tickets. I just thought many of my fellow flight attendants and your readers would want to know of the tour. (maybe I’ll catch you at the LA show) I’ve included some tour information and a link.


US dates: Oct. 10 – Boston, Oct.11 – Chicago, Oct.13 – Denver, Oct.15 – Los Angeles, Oct.17/18 – San Francisco, Oct.20 – Dallas, Oct.21 – Houston, Oct.23/24 – Miami, Oct.25 – Atlanta, Oct.26 – Washington DC, and Oct.28 – New York (In November, she will touring the UK. Dates, locations, and tickets through the website above.)

Dear Jack,

I have to tell you, I read the first line of your email and immediately stopped reading and started clicking my way over to Pam Ann’s web site. Sorry, it had to be done, and time was crucial. I wanted good seats! Three minutes and $130 later, I was the proud owner of two tickets to the show, a show I’ve been dying to see forever now. I haven’t been this excited about a comedian in years!
Of course then I went back to yahoo and finished reading your email. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you, Jack, for reminding me about Pam Ann’s tour! I can not believe I’d forgotten all about it because I was just looking up her show dates a few months ago!
For those of you who have no idea who we’re talking about (shame on you!), Pam Ann is an air hostess who mixes drag, camp, and glamour on stage while emphasizing quirks of various airlines around the world in hilarious skits. Performances cater to airline employees and frequent travelers whom she often times includes directly in her shows. Though I love her show, I really don’t want to actually be apart of the show, because that kind of stresses me out – unless of course she needs someone to work the other side of the cart during Cabin Service, my all time favorite skit. Check it out…

Oh you better believe I’ll be touching trolley, touching galley, hopping, and looking oh so busy busy busy, without serving anyone at all, as I reenact the scene above on my next flight. I can’t help it. In fact, I’ve been doing the same routine around the house all day long – touching kitchen counter, touching dining room table, and making meaningless hand signals – ever since I got your email, Jack! The husband, of course, just keeps shaking his head as he watches me not getting anything done at all. He just doesn’t get it. So glad there’s people like you!

See ya at the show!

Heather Poole

Pam Ann photo courtesy of Mike Flokis/Getty Images