Flight attendants reveal the 9 most annoying things passengers do

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“One of the most annoying things is definitely when they have their headphones in when you’re coming to offer them their snacks and their drinks,” a Delta Air Lines flight attendant said.
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EyesWideOpen/Getty Images

  • Business Insider asked eight flight attendants about the most annoying things passengers do.
  • The flight attendants work for six commercial airlines and a company that charters private jets.
  • They gave answers ranging from ignoring seat assignments to leaving a huge mess.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Flight attendants have a lot of responsibilities in the air, a fact some passengers don’t seem to realize.

To make matters worse, some passengers act as if their preferences are more important than everyone else’s by ignoring their seat assignments, keeping their headphones in when flight attendants ask for their drink order, or clipping their nails at their seat.

These are the nine most annoying things airline passengers do, according to interviews Business Insider conducted with eight flight attendants. The flight attendants were granted anonymity due to a fear of reprisal from their employers.


Keeping their headphones in during beverage service

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EyesWideOpen/Getty Images

“One of the most annoying things is definitely when they have their headphones in when you’re coming to offer them their snacks and their drinks,” a Delta Air Lines flight attendant said. “You’re repeating stuff or saying things to the row over and over.”


Being impatient about getting rid of trash

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“I’ve never seen people just be so adamant, like, I need to get this out of my hands to the point where they’re almost tossing it at you, or they’re walking all the way to the back of the plane to hand you their trash,” the Delta flight attendant said.


Not obeying the seat belt light

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“I think the biggest one for me is when people don’t take the seat belt sign seriously,” a United Airlines flight attendant said.

“It’s one thing for a grown woman or a grown man to stand up and – you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, if you’ve got to go to the bathroom or something. But a lot of times, it will be pretty bumpy and they’ll let their two-year-old or their four-year-old just stand up and wander around the aircraft. That, to me, is not OK. Not only are you not listening, but you’re putting your kid at risk.”


Playing ‘musical chairs’ with seat assignments

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“The most annoying thing passengers do is when they want to play musical chairs and just kind of decide where they’re going to sit instead of following a seat number on a boarding pass. Sometimes, they think it’s free-for-all seating, and we definitely have assigned seats,” a PSA Airlines flight attendant said. “People will just hop into a seat thinking that they don’t have to pay an upgrade charge.”


Leaving a huge mess

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A flight attendant for Worldwide Jet, which charters private aircraft, said the most annoying thing passengers do is leave a big mess for her to clean up, which happens during a little fewer than half of the flights she works.

“It’s like they live here, and then they just leave. And I clean it up,” she said.


Not acknowledging flight attendants during a conversation

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“I think the thing that I think is the most disrespectful is not acknowledging you when you speak to them. Even if you haven’t flown a lot, you know at some point you’re getting some kind of service,” a United flight attendant said. “People put on their noise-cancelling headphones, and they’re in another world.”


Hitting the call button for no reason

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A Piedmont Airlines flight attendant said it’s annoying when passengers hit the flight-attendant call button without having a good reason.

“Especially when you’re busy,” she said. “You’re busy doing something and you’ve already talked to them six times about their connection.”


Underestimating the importance of a flight attendant’s job

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“We are primarily trained in safety and hospitality comes after that,” an Alaska Airlines flight attendant said. “I think the most annoying thing is passengers thinking that we’re literally just waitresses.”

Flight attendants are trained to handle situations like fires, intoxicated passengers, bomb threats, and medical emergencies, she said.


Touching flight attendants to get their attention

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Rachel Gillett/Business Insider

“The most annoying thing passengers do is poke me instead of maybe using their call light,” an American Airlines flight attendant said.