10 things flight attendants aren’t allowed to do

They can’t sleep when working on a flight

It’s tempting for passengers to get some sleep when on a flight, but flight attendants don’t always have that option. “Flight attendants cannot ever sleep while working a flight unless it is a flight of a certain time duration,” says Kiki Ward, an airline flight attendant and author of The Essential Guide to Becoming a Flight Attendant. However, there are some exceptions, like on international or long-haul flights where flight attendants can go to a designated area to take a rest break.

They can’t have tongue piercings

Many women get their ears pierced at a young age. However, piercings can’t extend to other parts of the body, especially the tongue. According to the British Airways, its uniform standards require a simple, elegant look. A single ear piercing is allowed and only one set of round-shaped earrings must be worn. No other visible body piercings including tongue, tongue retainer, and nose studs are allowed.

They can’t have tattoos on most airlines

Most airlines require that tattoos aren’t visible on a flight attendant’s face, neck, hands or arms, and if a tattoo can be seen under the uniform, an undergarment should be worn to cover it up. Air New Zealand’s tattoo policy however allows employees to have Tā Moko (traditional Māori tattooing, often on the face) and non-offensive tattoos visible when wearing the uniform or normal business attire.

They can’t talk loudly in the cabin

In a confined space like a cabin, one conversation can be heard by people rows away. “There are personal behavioural guidelines that flight attendants are asked to follow,” says Ward, such as not talking to one another loudly in the cabin, the galleys or on jump seats about personal lives, work, etc because voices carry on aeroplanes. There isn’t a lot of privacy on an plane, so everyone should be courteous to those around them.

They can’t accept tips from passengers

Even though passengers might want to give flight attendants a tip for their services, like restaurant servers or bartenders, flight attendants are not allowed to take them, says international etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore. “Flight attendants are encouraged not to carry or exchange cash on an aeroplane for security reasons.”

Some airlines require flight attendants to be a certain weight

In September 2019, Air India sent out a memo to cabin crew containing details on a new ‘low-fat diet’ menu it was launching for its in-flight crew. Three years earlier, Air India instructed 125 members of their cabin crew to lose weight or face the risk of losing their job in the sky. The airline also grounded about 130 flight attendants for being overweight. The airline cited safety concerns and various other issues as an explanation for shedding the weight.

They can’t eat in front of passengers

Flight attendants serve snacks and drinks on flights, but when was the last time you actually saw a flight attendant eat something? Former flight attendant Jeremy Thompson says, “When I worked, we were always told to be discreet when eating and drinking. We couldn’t be seen by passengers walking down the aisle eating food or drinking. However, we could hide in the galley out of passenger view to eat and drink.”

They can’t wear earplugs for safety reasons

When the people around you are having a loud conversation or a baby starts crying, you can pop in your earplugs or watch a movie. Not so for flight attendants. Former cabin crew safety trainer Sebastien Bouevier said that while crying babies are annoying and draining, you need to be able to hear all the various aural signals as they will notify you of passenger call bells, lavatory call bells, fires, depressurisation, etc, so wearing earplugs is a no no.

They can’t drink when wearing their uniform

While some passengers crave a soft drink during a flight, others prefer something a bit stronger. However, not drinking alcohol doesn’t only apply to flight attendants on duty. “Flight attendants can’t publicly consume alcohol in uniform,” says Ward.

Flight attendants can’t gamble when in uniform

There are many things flight attendants can do while on a stopover, but gambling while in uniform is not one of them. Ward says that flight attendants can’t “gamble while in uniform, so taking a quick spin on a slot machine is prohibited when working!”