Denise Kulhman has been a flight attendant for the last 38 years.
She’s worked on hundreds of flights and with thousands of passengers during her career.
These are Kulhman’s five passenger pet peeves to avoid to improve your flying etiquette on planes.
Flying can be stressful for a lot of reasons, from sudden delays to sitting next to unruly passengers. But for flight attendants, whose job it is to deal with passengers and handle challenges that arise — from constant requests from customers to in-flight emergencies — it can be a job that requires extreme patience and a positive attitude.
Denise Kulhman has been a flight attendant for the past 38 years. Kuhlman, who currently works for Delta Air Lines, flies out of Los Angeles International Airport and often travels to the Hawaii Islands, Miami, Seattle, and Chicago.
Over the years, Kulhman has worked on hundreds of flights with thousands of passengers — and she has five clear pet peeves that she wishes passengers would pay attention to. Here’s a look at what this seasoned flight attendant hopes more customers will stop doing in order to have better etiquette while flying.
Ignoring flight attendants
For the most part, flight attendants and crew members leave passengers alone for the duration of the flight. However, there are a few key moments when they do communicate with passengers about important updates, like turbulence, seat-belt announcements, and during food and beverage service.
Kulhman says that quite often, passengers don’t take out their earbuds or headphones to hear flight attendants speak.
“Ignoring someone who’s trying to speak to you and serve you drinks or food can be rude,” Kulhman told Insider.
Instead, Kulhman says a good rule of etiquette is to simply remove one’s earbuds as a sign of respect. If passengers don’t want any food or drinks, it’s polite to verbally say no, Kulhman said.
Misusing overhead bin space
One of the biggest obstacles flight attendants face at the start of the flight is dealing with passengers storing their bags incorrectly. Kulhman said nothing is ruder than someone who puts their backpack in an overhead bin after an announcement has been made that the space should be prioritized for roller bags or bigger luggage.
“Flight attendants often have to ask passengers to move their backpack under their seat in order to fit another passenger’s roller bag in the overhead space,” Kulhman said.
To make the boarding process more efficient, Kulhman reminds passengers to lay their backpacks or purses under the seat and reserve overhead bins for larger bags as a common courtesy.
Leaving the bathroom a mess
Airplane bathrooms are notoriously small, which is why Kulhman asks passengers to keep the space as clean and tidy as possible.
“Would you leave pee on the toilet seat at your own home?” Kulhman said. “Do you seriously splatter water all over the floor when you wash your hands at home?”
When using the bathroom on an airplane, Kulhman said it’s important to remember that basic courtesy goes a long way. There are a few small things passengers can do that only take five seconds, like using the paper towels in the bathroom to clean up any messes or spills.
Expecting free blankets
One thing you can usually expect to feel on an airplane, Kulhman said, is cooler air. That’s why it can be frustrating for flight attendants when they see people board the plane in shorts or a tank top, then expect the flight crew to offer them complimentary blankets.
“Ever since COVID-19, blankets haven’t been offered on domestic flights in the US,” Kulhman said. “These days, blankets are generally only offered on international flights. Be prepared, wear shorts to the airport, and then switch to jeans or pants for the flight if needed.”
Kulhman also recommends bringing a light blanket and sweater or jacket. If you’re on a flight longer than three hours and plan to sleep, Kulhman said socks are a great idea too.
Asking the flight crew to hold the flight for them
If a passenger is running late to their flight, or their next connection, they might turn to a flight attendant for help and ask them to find a way to hold the flight. However, Kulhman said the flight crew doesn’t have the power to alter the flight schedule or departure time.
“It’s not the flight attendant’s decision to change the departure time by a few minutes, or even 30 minutes — that’s an airline-operation decision,” Kulhman said. “They factor in how many passengers are connecting, how much time there’s left to connect, how much space is left at different gates (many planes have to depart on time to provide gate room for the next flight landing), what kind of traffic the tower is reporting, and additional factors.”
Instead of asking flight attendants to hold the flight, Kulhman said passengers are better off asking a ticket or gate agent for alternative flight routes.