Flight Attendant Appreciation Day

Flight Attendant Appreciation Day is long overdue, in my book. In fact, I’ve decided to basically declare it every day I fly. Allow me to attempt to persuade you to do the same.

First, a step back. I grew up in an era where being a stewardess was about the coolest thing you could be, next to “movie star” and “ballerina.” Alas, even before I reached my full 5’10”, I suspected I would be too tall. Stewardesses needed to be “between 5’2″ but no more than 5’9″, weight 105 to 135 in proportion to height.” But golly, it seemed glamorous.

For this and many more fabulous photos and lore, visit this link.

The draconian weight standards have been abandoned, although there appears to be a height cap at 6’1″ just so attendants of any gender can make it down the aisle. (I’ve scraped my own noggin on the ceiling of a smaller commuter jet more than once, given that with shoes I’m over 6 feet.) But getting rid of the weigh-ins didn’t exactly make being a flight attendant any easier.

Consider the schedule: rough and erratic, with lots of holidays spent en route to….somewhere. The pay: not great by any standards. 

Now add on the fact that flight attendants, unlike pilots, have to deal with more than their share of registered assholes. Pilots get more respect from their employers, and basically live in the cockpit, which is of course where we want them. FAs, on the other hand, have to field  questions from people who never listen. They deflect anger over things they cannot possibly control, like weather, equipment issues, other people’s crying babies, and the ground crew not providing enough sandwiches. And they clean up the nasty in-flight bio-mess as it occurs. I fly a lot. And most people act pretty chill. But man, one hissy fit clouds up the sunniest skies. It’s no wonder this happened.

Flight Attendant Appreciation Day: How to Be a Model Passenger

Despite the rather glorious entertainment value, I beg you not to inspire someone to exit via the emergency slide, lofting a bottle of champagne in each hand. Smile at your flight attendant. Lift your face from your phone for the 2 freaking minutes it takes to go through the safety demonstration. Because no matter how many times you’ve heard it, you haven’t heard it as many times as the flight attendants, and they’re still engaged.

If nothing else, apply a little bit of common sense and thoughtfulness. Give good feedback online. Be prepared, particularly when you’re bringing kids with you. This post from a flight attendant offers an inside view from that side of the aisle. (The comments provide overwhelming ugliness, btw; one even says the writer should stop lamenting his “cast” in life. First, it’s caste, idiot. Second, the caste system is considered to be a hideous remnant of a time in which certain people were, simply because of the accident of birth, destined to lives of unmitigated drudgery and pain while others scooted around in their high caste privilege. Third, isn’t the guiding principle of every belief system on earth “don’t be a dick”?)

Flight Attendant Appreciation Day: The Extra Sky Mile

I recently asked a flight attendant how she felt about people who drop off chocolates, something my mom routinely did when she flew. I’ve thought of it but always felt it was a bit weird. How do you time the drop off? Is it weird to give food in this day and age? And kind of bribe-y? “I don’t eat the chocolates,” said the FA, “but some people do.” She told me the nicest things she’d received were small containers of hand sanitizer or wipes, Starbucks gift cards (for one coffee), or just single dollar bills so they can tip drivers.

Caveat: this concept of tangibly thanking people for doing a hard job gets some ugly heat (just google it). “Why give someone a present for DOING THEIR JOB???” shout the commenters. Yo, shouters. Ever spoken to a flight attendant? or worked in the service industry? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

I tip baristas, who are just doing their job, for the same reason. They work hard while I’m out spending too much money on coffee.

This post from CN Traveler argues my way. Huzzah!

In other words, if you want to go the extra mile, do it.

Flight Attendant Appreciation Day: The Swag

I stopped off at Big Lots and picked up the following: mentos, small lotions, lip balm, single facial masks, little packets of matcha tea. Everything was in an individually sealed packet so the FAs wouldn’t have to worry about the motives of this random smiling tall woman bearing gifts.


I divvied the swag up between a couple of ziplocs. It seemed a little excessive to be awarding swag on my first short flight, and this was also my first flight attendant appreciation day rodeo. So I figured I’d save the extras for upcoming trips, and try the concept for my SLC to DTW journey.

Total cost to me: about 6 bucks a bag—one hell of a lot less than I spend on crap at the airport, which I didn’t spend because I was prepared. (I took my own advice and brought my own damn food this time.)

Above all, just be kind. You’re flying! It’s a miracle. You’re going someplace fun, or your company is paying for you to not sit in your office. Or a plane and its crew are getting you somewhere you really need to be, safely and in relative comfort.

I’ll report back on how my initial foray goes over. And I warn you: if you leave me nasty trolling comments, no one will see them but me, and I’ll just think you’re a dick. Thoughtful comments are, of course, always welcome.

Airplane Food: How to Prepare with Flair

I just hate it when I’ve had a trip planned for a month but I forget one of the fundamentals of modern travel: Airport food is outrageously priced. Airplane food deserves its reputation. (By the way, I have been lucky enough to fly first class, and while the wine is good and poured way too often, the food can be tasty but can also be not so awesome. I say this in the hopes that it will make you less sad.) So here are a few handy airplane food tips. Because these days, alas, are gone. (Then again….not so alas…)

Found at Travel and Leisure

Airplane Food Tip 1: You’re Kinda Stuck Buying Water

Honestly, you just can’t get around it. It’s criminal. Good water should be available for free. Here in Michigan, please tell that to the fine government who brought you Flint. 

Tap water is ok in some places, terrible in others, and for some crazy reason, amazing in San Francisco. Represent, home state! (I grew up in the Bay Area, for those of you who are confused by that last statement.)

But since plane cabins are so notoriously dry, you need to hydrate. And I personally have to do it before the flight attendant gets to me. Because that doesn’t happen until I’ve done a 30-minute drive to the airport, a 15-30 minute check-in, 45 minutes sitting at the gate, 20-30 minutes waiting for everyone else to get on board, and 20 minutes airborne. I mean, like, add all that up.

So there’s 2 ways around this. The first is to fill your trusty water bottle, drink it on the way to the airport, and then fill it at a drinking fountain. And the other is to resign yourself to spending 4 bucks on a bottle of water once you’re through the TSA checkpoint.

If you have a straight-through flight, you can possibly get by with whatever the flight attendant gives you. (Don’t get airplane ice. Ever. It’s scary.) If you stop at multiple airports, you gotta have a bottle, which you’ll probably have to fill at drinking fountains. I can testify that the ones at the Salt Lake City airport actually deliver really good water. If you have the skinny on any other airports, do share in the comments.

Airplane Food Tip #2: Something Savory That Doesn’t Smell Weird

It’s kind of hard to time airplane eating. Sometimes, particularly with a short flight, you don’t need anything. But if you don’t have any food and you DO get hungry, you’re at their mercy, and at some point those 15 dollar boxes with a container of hummus and 4 olives are going to look really good. Even snacks at one of those magazine stores cost a fortune.

For something simple, super tasty, and filling, I love this chickpea trail mix, courtesy of Bon Appetit. (I’ve posted about them before in this travel/xmas round-up from last year.) You could add a handful of arugula to the container and have a sort of salad. Truthfully, you don’t need dressing, but you do need greens. A day at the airport can be pretty grim healthwise.

airplane food
Photo by Alex Lau for Bon Appetit

In fact, a non-dressed salad, where you sort of use the greens to wrap up the more interesting stuff, works nicely on a plane. Not messy—dressing dripping on your swell airplane duds is a drag—and more importantly not stinky.

I beg you: Keep your fellow travelers in mind. I ardently believe that we all become like pregnant women in the close quarters of an airplane, with super-duper hyper-attenuated olfactory powers. Salad dressing that would tempt diners to your table at home can completely stink up your plane row as well as the ones fore and aft. Case in point: A nice man who sat on my row opened up a bag of something redolent of garlic and tomatoes. I seriously feared I would puke. And I LIKE garlic and tomatoes. Just, please. Also, I immediately changed my mind about him being nice. Don’t subject a stranger to strong smells. Your charming Salad Niçoise or California Roll reeks beyond funky aboard Delta 153 (or whoever and wherever you choose to fly).

With all that in mind, grown up lunchables are super easy to pack—think low-key bento box. Make your guacamole or hummus easy on the garlic, throw in a few crackers and raw veggies, add a little fruit.

If you need ideas (and I always do), this post from The Everygirl features links to all sorts of cute little packable lunches. Even better, some of the linked links link to even more links. Take, for example, the source of the pic below, Yumbox, who even sells adorable bento boxes and has tons of ideas for how to fill them.

airplane food
From (as you can see) Yumbox

I need to do this instead of spending 20 for a tasty but…seriously, 20 bucks for a California roll? Am I INSANE? Although, to be honest, I partly ate this because I wanted to sit down at a restaurant, in which case, mission accomplished. And it was tasty. But 20 bucks. Yeesh.

Airplane Food Tip 3: Something Sweet

Those adorable little packages of cookies that are so hellish on the environment (the packaging, not so much the cookies, which just make you feel gross) cost approximately one million dollars at your basic airport kiosk. Ok, I’m embroidering a bit. Or lying. But they are some stupidly expensive amount. Make your own cookie. I’m a biscotti fan myself. I dry them out so they’re crispy but not jawbreakers, something I only know how to do because last time, I did make jawbreakers. (They do become perfect when dipped in coffee.) These are a weird green color because our matcha tea has turmeric in it, but they are still super tasty and I completely followed this recipe from Cooking Light.

airplane food

I also really like these Stevia chocolate bars from Lily’s Sweets. Unlike most things connected to the word Stevia, these don’t taste like b.s. They’re also minimally sweet, which is nice and keeps you from bingeing them. I wait for them to go on sale at Whole Foods, which seems to happen pretty frequently. But even without the sale, they’re not close to the rip-off that is a Kit Kat bar at the airport.

airplane food

Other good choices are those super healthy fig bars, or an apple or grapes wrapped in bubble wrap or, for the exceedingly virtuous, a couple of carrots, which are sweet and crunchy and might be just the nice little delight you crave to put a button on your meal.

Airplane Food Tip 4: Bring a Scarf

For some bizarre reason, your plane neighbor may not have read this post. S/he or they may have brought stinky food. I cannot tell you the number of times discreetly pulling my scarf up over my nose has saved me—not just from my row-mates’ bad food choices, but from the occasional and dreaded airplane or airport fart. Also, on the ghastly, fortunately rare but real occasions when that airplane fart issued forth from moi—well, what better cover than to pull, with slightly less discretion, that scarf up under one’s nose, not trying too hard to disguise the look of horror in one’s still visible eyes? It’s as handy as blaming the dog.

Travel prepared, my friends. And if you can spread the gospel of non-stinky, affordable, infinitely healthier and tastier travel food, consider me thanked.