When you walk onto an airplane, you are greeted by a team of flight attendants wearing bright, welcoming smiles. However, they are doing more than being the welcoming committee; they are looking out for specific details about the passengers to ensure the trip goes as smoothly as possible. Here are some of the things they notice about you, as stated by experienced flight attendants.
7 Things Flight Attendants Look For When You Board the Airplane
1. If you’re drunk or high
First and foremost, safety is the most important part of a flight attendants’ job. Therefore, they are trained to look out for any potential danger or risks on the flight. And in the case of passengers who are intoxicated, they can be refused entry onto the airplane. Their inebriated state presents too many potential problems during the flight. For instance, flight attendant Amar Rama said,
“In the event we may need to evacuate the aircraft, the goal is to do so in 90 seconds, and I don’t want to unnecessarily risk my life or the life of others because a drunk or high person is being uncooperative.” 
2. If you are strong and able-bodied
Passengers who look particularly strong or physically fit can be a great ally for flight attendants in the case of an emergency.
“I consider this person a resource for me,” said flight attendant Janice Bridger. “In the event of an attack on the flight or on me, these are my ‘go-to’ people. If a situation looks like it could develop, I’ll privately and discreetly ask one of these people if they would be willing to help us if necessary. Help might involve subduing or restraining an unruly passenger. We hope it never happens, but we will prepare just in case it does.”
Similarly, the airplane employees keep an eye out for those who are disabled or elderly. They want to make sure these people will receive any additional assistance they need, especially in the case of an emergency. Plus, certain disabilities may disqualify a person sitting in an exit row, which would entail opening a heavy door or latch during an emergency.
3. If you’re a previous flight employee
Airline employees, especially crew members, traveling as passengers can be an invaluable resource to the working flight attendants. After all, these people are already trained to respond in an emergency and they can offer mechanical, medical, or other types of assistance if needed. So it’s a good idea for the flight attendants to identify these passengers and where they are sitting in case they need some team members.
Read: Plane passenger opens emergency exit for ‘a breath of fresh air’
4. If you’re sick
As the pandemic has shown, it’s a bad idea to sit in an enclosed space with someone sick. It’s unfair to pass illnesses to others, although only people with obvious and serious sickness are refused entry to the airplane. (Although anyone who has flown with a common cold knows how unpleasant it could be.) Plus, those who are experiencing serious medical issues can cause emergency situations that are better treated on the ground. As Rama said,
“I once saw a woman at the gate have a heart attack — I was so thankful it happened on the ground and not while we were in flight. Flight attendants are all trained in CPR, Automated External Defibrillators, basic first aid emergencies, but we cannot diagnose you nor have the expertise, experience, or treatment as doctors.“
5. If you’re nervous
Flight attendants look out for people who look particularly anxious or nervous. Flying in an airplane is a common fear and some people can use a few words of encouragement. Plus, there may be another reason someone looks particularly nervous.
In 2017, flight attendant Shelia Frederick noticed a disheveled-looking teenage girl traveling with a well-dressed older man. There was a stark difference in their appearances and the girl looked scared and haunted. When trying to speak with the man didn’t work, Frederick left a note for the girl in one of the bathrooms. The girl wrote back that she was a human trafficking victim. Frederick called the pilot, and the man was arrested after the airplane landed. Looking for such victims is a common part of training for flight attendants. 
6. If you’re underage
Parents sign forms and pay flight attendants for children traveling by themselves. And even when children do have companions, flight attendants keep an eye on them. Seats may need to be shifted so that families can sit together; plus, people under age 15 aren’t allowed to be seated in the emergency exit row. Additionally, there are cases of children getting assaulted or hurt by their seatmates, so flight attendants pay extra close attention to them. 
7. If you’re polite
Additionally, those who help their fellow passengers earn respect from the crew members during the flight. “When I say hello and a passenger responds back, I notice and think, ‘Wow, that person is really nice.’ If I ever needed help with something, I’ll probably ask the nice passenger. [And] if a passenger ever needs help from me, I’ll probably go above and beyond the call of duty for a nice passenger,” said Heather Poole of American Airlines. 
- “Flight attendants reveal the first things they notice when travelers board a plane.” Insider. Sophie-Claire Hoeller. November 21, 2018
- “Flight Attendants Train to Spot Human Trafficking.” NBC News. Kalhan Rosenblatt. February 4, 2017
- “‘This was 30 minutes of hell for this young lady’: Unaccompanied minor groped on flight.” The Washington Post. Michael E. Miller. June 20, 2016
- “7 Things Flight Attendants Notice About You When You Board A Plane.” Huffpost. Suzy Strutner. October 10, 2019