You almost certainly don’t enjoy flying: The cost, the discomfort, the annoying person in Seat B. Just remember that the flight attendants might be having an even worse experience than you, and they can’t complain about it, because it’s their job.
All of which is to say that, in general, it’s important to be thoughtful about the experience of your flight attendants. And it seems that the call button is a particularly common cause of bad behaviour in transit.
Just yesterday on a short flight from Florida to Texas, an attendant had to make an announcement over the PA system that whoever had hit the call button should turn it off if it wasn’t an emergency; the plane hadn’t yet reached an altitude where it was safe for them to walk over. Flight attendants are affected by turbulence just as much as passengers!
Via this post from The Points Guy about “Jetiquette” as it pertains to the so-called “entitlement button”, here are a few ground rules to keep in mind the next time you’re in the air and in desperate need of another miniature bottle of wine:
Push If It’s An Emergency
Are you in cardiac arrest? Have you just gone into labour? Is there a monster only you can see out on the wing of the plane, messing with the engine? OK, push that button.
Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, explained to TPG that “It’s really for emergency use, first and foremost”. Most people are not having an emergency in their plane seat, unless the aircraft is going down. In which case, please only reach up to put your oxygen mask on. They’re aware of the problem.
Push For Communication
Sometimes, the flight attendant needs to reach you and will make an announcement over the PA system. Maybe they’re looking for guests who need help de-boarding; unaccompanied minors; or you, yes you, specifically.
In that case, Nelson says you’re using the button for what it’s designed for: An easy way to signal where you are in a long flying tube filled with people. That way you don’t have to shout down the aisle like a jackarse. Perfect.
Push If You’re Trapped
Maybe you’re in the window seat and your seat mates are blocking your way to the aisle. They’re also completely zonked out. Or maybe you’re holding a baby who isn’t as easy to manoeuvre around the plane.
In that case, pressing the button to talk to someone makes sense, and the attendants would probably prefer it to making a child (or adult) cry.
But if you do have kids, do not let them play with the call button. It isn’t cute.
Don’t Push It for Service
Author and etiquette advisor Diane Gottsman offered this question to ask yourself before you ring the bell: “Is it something I can do myself, or do I need assistance? That’s the litmus test.”
“While flight attendants are there to make your flight comfortable, [it’s] not a service industry. They’re not waiters,” Gottsman explained. “If you genuinely need assistance, that’s what the call button is for. If you’re just thirsty and the beverage cart hasn’t come yet, sit tight and be patient.”
That’s an interesting point. I’ve definitely been on planes where it seems as though they’re trying to sell you as many drinks as possible, so a few ring-a-ding-dings might be welcome.
But if it’s basic service, and you see the cart a few rows down, don’t press the call button to make it go faster. It won’t. Flight attendants are aware that people need things such as water and to toss rubbish. They’ll be coming through at appropriate intervals.
Remember, the main purpose of aeroplanes is to get you from one place to another. If you want five star quality food and service, spend that money at a fancy restaurant.
Jetiquette: When Is It Appropriate to Use the Call Button? | The Points Guy