It's no secret that opening an airline credit card or using your points can help you secure a free flight upgrade. But as Business Insider reports, making a good impression on the flight attendants can substantially increase your chances.
Armed with this knowledge, a Quora user asked experienced flight attendants what they notice about passengers as they board a plane. Plenty of current and former flight attendants offered their answers. Quora users Shreyas Parikh—who has been a flight attendant on five different major airlines—and Dani Sherlock—a cabin crew instructor, and recruiter at Ryanair—offered the most comprehensive (and upvoted) answers.
Simply put, they attempt to determine whether or not you're an experienced, well-mannered traveler. User Kimberly Sullivan, a flight attendant of 24 years, echoed this sentiment, adding that she always notices dress, body language, and temperament. "We can also detect if they are experienced customers by the way they board the plane," she adds. "If they are holding up the aisle and have tunnel vision, we know they are rookie travelers."
According to Parikh, this is what a flight attendant takes note of as you board a plane:
1. What you're wearing.
2. What kind of bags you're carrying.
3. If you're traveling alone or with someone.
4. How patient you are while waiting in the long line during boarding.
5. If you're an able-bodied passenger. "In case the crew needs help for any kind of emergency," she adds.
6. If you're intoxicated.
7. If you're a frequent traveler. "Frequent travelers don't [tend to] display any kind of baggage tags [indicating] their membership [status]," she adds, explaining that it's usually the newer, lower-pier members who display their membership tags.
8. What kind of book you're carrying or reading. "If you're reading a medical journal, [we'll] know who to approach for first aid," she explains.
9. If you give a helping hand to those in need. Those who assist others instead of asking the cabin crew for help "earn a lot of respect from the crew for the remainder of the flight."
10. If you're carrying food with you. Airline meals are "very unhealthy," so bringing your own food "shows awareness," she explains. "The food on your tray is prepared not in the galley, but in the aircraft catering which is often done 12 hours before and even days before the aircraft departure." What's more, because the cabin pressure dulls your sense of smell and taste, airline caterers have been adding extra spices, salts, and fats to in-flight meals in the last few years.
11. If you're seated in an emergency exit row.
Similarly, this is what Sherlock notices when passengers board the plane:
12. Who is traveling with whom? "So that families [board] all together and are seating together, otherwise we have to start looking for passengers flying alone to change seats," he explains.
13. Baggage size and quantity. "Trust me, not every airport checks the actual size of passenger bags, so we are constantly looking for space in the overhead lockers even before they are through the door."
14. Intoxicated or unruly passengers. "Keeping an eye from the start on potential troublemakers is the key to a safe flight."
15. Elderly or reduced mobility passengers. "I am always actively keeping an eye out where I can help my passengers during the stressful boarding phase," he adds. "Also, for emergency situations, we have to implement a ‘buddy system’ pairing them with able-bodied passengers."