Flight Attendants: How to Keep Your Cool When Everyone is So F*cking Annoying
It will surprise exactly no one to find out that the flying public can be really f*cking annoying. As a flight attendant, I experience this firsthand, and it is one of the things my coworkers and I talk about most. I always say the flying public is made up of more good people than bad, and it’s true. But that doesn’t mean people can’t push every last one of your buttons and be hella annoying on a flight. Dealing with annoying people is a huge part of the job.
Today we are going to talk about it: How flight attendants deal with annoying passengers. (And how they can do it even better!)
I am giving my best tips for keeping your cool when everyone on the plane is so annoying. These simple mental tricks have kept me from snapping at passengers and having meltdowns in the galley more times than I can count. I rely on them daily in my work as a flight attendant, and I’m telling you—they work.
This post is geared towards flight attendants, but the tips given could easily be used for regular people, too, in your day-to-day life.
Without further ado, here we go.
How to Keep Your Cool When Everyone is So F*cking Annoying
Top Tips for Flight Attendants
``You won't ruin my day, b*tches.``
1. Remember: When it’s Over it’s Over
One of the best things about working as a flight attendant is you don’t have to take your work home with you. When you step off the plane, that flight is over for good, and the people ruining your peace with their annoying requests are out of your life forever. When you’re a flight attendant, a bad day at work never turns into a bad week at work because every day, and every flight, is a fresh start.
When people on my flights are particularly annoying, I remind myself of this fact and it helps. “Two more hours. Then I never have to see them again.”
It might be tough at first to talk yourself out of annoyance, but it gets easier the more you do it. I hardly ever get mad at work now. Instead, I let the little (or big) annoyances roll off my shoulders. This is a couple hours—or a few moments—out of my life. In the scheme of things, this is nothing at all.
Am I going to waste my precious energy being pissed about someone hitting their call button to hand me a pile of trash? Or a person believing I’m the Cable Guy and demanding I fix their broken TV? No. Not a chance. I refuse to let anyone on an airplane ruin my day. And if you don’t let it happen, it doesn’t happen.
When customers get mad, stay mad, or try to escalate an issue, I give the options available and then I bow out. They can be mad all they want, but my day is going to be nice. No one is stealing my peace. We have more control over how we feel and how we react than we sometimes realize. You don’t have to show up to every party, or every argument, that you’re invited to. Keep your cool, drink water, and mind your business. Thank me later.
2. Ask your coworker to deal with them.
Anyone who has ever dated anyone knows that sometimes two people just don’t jive. This isn’t only true of interpersonal relationships. We see this on the plane a lot as well. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a customer might refuse to comply, or act like a huge jerk to me, but then reacts in a totally different and less annoying way to one of my coworkers. Maybe they hate my face. Maybe I remind them of someone—the girl who got away, or perhaps their worst teacher. Maybe they have an issue with taking instructions from women. Maybe they are just grumpy, and the sound of my voice grated on their nerves.
Whatever the reason, it’s none of my business. Not everyone on the plane has to like me. They should follow the rules, yes. But sometimes gaining compliance is as simple as having a different person go and speak to them. A flight attendant’s best resource is always their crew. Use your resources!
3. Picture grandma.
This is a trick I came up with and began implementing early on in my flight attendant career, when I was working a lot of trips to West Palm Beach, Florida.
For those of you not in aviation, let me quickly explain something. The West Palm crowd—any south Florida, really—is tough. It is needy. Entitled. Extra. There are wheelchairs. There are little dogs popping out of their pet carriers left and right. There are kids going to grandma’s house. And there are lots of people used to having other people do what they want.
LGA-PBI, JFK-PBI, JFK-FLL, LGA-FLL, JFK-MIA, LAX-MIA.
Ask any flight attendant—these are some of the worst routes in America.
It was working these flights, with all these old, annoying bitties, that I came up with our next trick for dealing with people. Pretend they’re your grandparent.
I remember a particularly annoying PBI flight, dealing with a particularly annoying elderly customer. And a thought popped into my mind:
“This is someone’s grandma.”
I thought of my own grandmother, not the easiest woman to handle. A real spitfire you could call her, if you’re being nice. A pain in the ass, if you’re not. But though I can lovingly refer to my grandmother as a pain in the ass, I will be damned if I let anyone else talk about her in that way.
I started thinking about my grandmother on those PBI flights. If she were here, would she need help connecting to the Wi-Fi? Would she complain about a delay? Would she annoyingly state her TV was broken when in fact her elbow had dimmed the screen to black? Yes, yes, and double yes. My own grandmother would do many of the pain in the ass things that other difficult passengers do. And I hope that some flight attendant would find it in their heart to still be kind to her in those moments.
Once I started thinking that, everything changed.
It works for other types of customers, too. The ones asking for one of each of the snacks, for example. Would my poor-ish single mom have gotten extra free snacks for us kids after saving to pay for expensive airfare? Yeah, you bet your ass she would have. The other annoying things infrequent flyers do?—not knowing our food and drink selection, not knowing how things work, not knowing what they have to pay for and what’s free, not knowing the order of service (Stop asking for snacks when I’m serving drinks!) all these things can be explained by their lack of experience. Not every family or every person has the means to travel a lot. Especially in this economy. And that doesn’t make them worse people or passengers. It just requires a tiny bit of extra patience and understanding.
(For more on this topic, please, please check out my post Dear Flight Attendants: Stop Dissing Low Fares. It’s a critique of the flight attendant tendency to be super fucking rude about the price of passengers’ airfare. If you are a flight attendant, please check this one out!)
When you realize that everyone is meeting here on the plane from a different background, perspective, understanding, level of wealth, and level of experience, it helps to nurture your own empathy. (And we all are capable of exhibiting empathy.)
Think about someone you know. “What if that was my grandma?” “My technology-impaired dad?” “My single-mother-sister traveling with her twins?”
Wouldn’t you want someone to take a deep breath and be kind to your people?
I sure would. And this mindset shift helps me to fight the feeling of annoyance and be kind to other people’s people.
Picture your grandma. Then be nice.
4. Remember your favorite non-rev experience.
Being a flight attendant is more than working on a plane. We are here for the LIFESTYLE, bay-beeeeee.
I’m here for the free flights, the 15 days off a month, the lack of cubicle space, the flexibility, the fun people you meet, always having someone to travel with, and the 5-star treatment when you fly for pleasure.
Being a flight attendant for one airline, makes you a member of a much larger family. Global aviation. When I travel for fun—to Germany, to Mexico, to Singapore, to France—I don’t fly on my airline, but I still get treated like a VIP most of the time. Aviation is like an exclusive club—with millions of members. Maybe the biggest exclusive club. We do each other favors, we bring one another gifts, we give a nod when we pass by foreign crews in the airport, we upgrade each other to first class, and we get each other drunk on airplane champagne.
When you are working a flight and feel yourself start to get frustrated at the mundane annoyances of the flying public, think about the good stuff. Recall your best non-rev experience. When you got the upgrade. The super nice crew. The party in the back galley. The time the (young and attractive, for once) Captain summoned you out of your first-class seat to give you his number. The transatlantic love affair with a younger man that sprung from your non-rev trip to Amsterdam. The people you met in airports and on airplanes, who you still keep in touch with to this day. The pro golfers, the Air Marshalls, and the other flight attendants.
Like, damn, guys. This is a serious LIFE.
Just typing out these things made me feel all warm and excited. Giddy for my next flight attendant adventure. And it is impossible for me to be mad at the annoying person interrupting my typing, when dealing with these little annoyances literally makes my fun, adventurous lifestyle possible.
Thank you, Hank the interrupter. Thank you Molly the call button-ringer. Thank you Agnes, the TV nag. All of you showing up here to try to ruin my day is actually fueling my life of travel.
Look at that. Feeling good again.
Masks: Keep your germs and keep your job!
5. Say rude things under your mask. (Quietly, of course.)
While everyone was celebrating the end of masks, all I could think was “How am I supposed to talk shit in the aisle now?” (And sing to myself in the aisle, for that matter!)
There are some major benefits to wearing a mask while working as a flight attendant that have nothing to do with protecting yourself from COVID. One of those benefits is being able to mouth “Fuck off” or “Oooooh-kay” Or “Whatever,” under your breath and out of sight. I use this tip often.
If you’ve given up on masking completely, then try creating a symbol. For example, maybe a particularly large smile could be code for “F You.” Perhaps an eyebrow raise could signify “You’re a fucking idiot.” Or “Are you kidding me?” When all else fails, just go swear in the back galley.
But I’m telling you guys, the mask is saving my mood and my complaint-to-compliment ratio.
There you have it, flight attendant friends. My best tips for dealing with super annoying people on the airplane. I hope some of these will come in handy next time you’re dealing with ‘Call Button Karen’ or ‘It Fit Last Time Fred’.
I would love to hear from all the flight attendants out there—What are your best tips for dealing with annoying passengers? How do you keep your cool when everyone is so F*cking annoying? Leave them in the comments below. In this case, sharing truly is caring.
Regular folks—did any of these tips resonate for you? I know it’s not just flight attendants dealing with super annoying people at work. Comment below if you’ve got any great tips you think others could use.
Thanks for stopping by. I’ll see you all back here in two weeks.
In the meantime, have safe travels and a drama-free weekend.
(And try to keep your cool.)
Much love <3
Hey you! Yes, you.
Thanks for stopping by. I’m Toni and I run the show here at A Wheel in the Sky. Here, we talk travel, flight attendant life, and personal anecdotes—the ‘in the feels’ stuff. I hope you liked reading these tips for dealing with annoying customers. If you’re interested in more flight attendant content, try some of the posts below. And don’t forget to click Subscribe to catch all the latest travel tips, insider secrets, and juicy stories.
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