These days it can be more stressful than ever to fly the "friendly skies," but some insider knowledge from frequent-flying flight attendants will guarantee a great trip.
1. Keep your food off your tray
Germaphobes beware! Almost nowhere is safe from bacteria on a plane, from the bathroom door to the seatbelt, everything in the cabin has other passengers' germs on it. But your tray table is actually the dirtiest place of all, so try not to let your food touch it.
2. A few other things to look out for...
Anything that's not bolted into the plane will be re-used from flight to flight. Unless you had the first flight of the day, someone else was reading your in-flight magazine, using your pillow and wearing your headphones (yes, those get repackaged and sold over and over).
3. Listen for secret codes
Along with flight crew jargon like "deadhead" (a crew member flying as a passenger) and "crew juice" (the mix that helps flight attendants get a good night's sleep on those long halls) there are other secret codes. Listen for 3 chimes over the PA system, that could be the pilot signaling turbulence ahead.
4. Turn off your cell phone (really)
One iPhone won't make the plane crash, but the signals from your electronics devices do interfere with the pilot's job. They can cut into his communication devices, making him miss important instructions.
Do you feel like taxiing for another hour just to make a text?
Learn the flight crew's secret hand gestures on the next page!
5. You might want to skip your meal
There's a reason chef Gordon Ramsay says he never eats airline food. The Master Chef worries the limited equipment means there's no way to guarantee a sanitary or tasty meal while you're flying, although not all the meals are so bad.
6. Look out for secret hand gestures
Every airline is different, but some will train their employees to signal important details using sign language. If you need to kill time on your flight, try looking out for these signs used on easyJet flights.
7. Your airplane might not be in perfect condition
Every aircraft needs to pass a checklist named the Minimum Equipment List, but as long as it does the plane can fly no matter what condition it's in. It's not unusual to see malfunctioning lights or other small parts, but this is no reason to be worried.
8. Flight attendants aren't paid as much as you think...
The job has a lot of perks (like seeing the world), but you also have to deal with a lot of jerks, and all for less than $40,000 a year (beginners often earn less than $20,000). Plus, the flight crew is normally only paid while the flight is in the air, which means they often work a few free hours every flight.
9. But don't tip your flight crew
Flight crew members aren't allowed to accept tips from passengers, and could get in trouble for doing so. If you want to reward good service, send the airline an e-mail with the name of your friendly attendant.
Learn the expert tip for staying calm in turbulence on the next page!
10. Leave your pets at home
Sometimes you have to pack Fido into his crate for a cross-country tip, but airline staff recommend avoiding this at all costs. The noise level on the tarmac is actually unsafe for your pets, and temperature can fluctuate dangerously in the plane's storage area.
If you have to ship your pet, write their name on the box. Friendly baggage handlers will try to comfort your pet by name if they know what it is.
11. Sit in the back if you're a nervous flyer
12. Distract yourself during turbulence
Dangerous turbulence is rare, so if you're buckled in there's usually nothing to worry about. Still, a shaking plane can be pretty nerve-wracking. The best trick to help yourself relax is to occupy your mind. Try practicing your signature with the wrong hand until the plane settles down.
13. Don't order a Diet Coke
There's no rule against it, but your flight attendant might hate you for doing it. Diet Coke takes a notoriously long time to settle at a high altitude, and some attendants say they can serve 3 passengers in the time it takes to pour a Diet Coke.
14. If you're told to open the windows, do it
It can be a pain to get sun in your eyes as the plane is landing, but the flight crew has a good reason to make you open them. The idea is that if there's an emergency and you need to deplane quickly, you'll have a better sense of your environment and where to go. Smart!
15. No, they can't help you lift your luggage
It sounds like a bad excuse, but there really are rules saying you must put your luggage in the overhead compartment yourself. It saves time, and keeps you responsible for your own luggage. But your attendant will be happy to assist you if you ask nicely.
By the way, see if you would make the cut to be a 1950s flight attendant. But be warned, the standards are really high!
Do you love flying, or hate it? Share this list and tell us!