Everything flight attendants notice about you when you board a plane — and how their tips could help you get a free upgrade

Welcome aboard! Shutterstock / Dmitry Birin
  • What the cabin crew think of you is important if you’re looking for a free upgrade.
  • A Quora user asked, “What do flight attendants notice about passengers as they board the plane?”
  • According to flight attendants, the long list includes what you’re wearing, if you’re travelling alone, and if you’re a frequent traveller.
  • Being in the running for an upgrade comes down to simply being nice to the crew – or giving them a gift if that doesn’t work.

From taking advantage of overbooked flights to being smart with air miles, we’ve heard it all when it comes to what does and doesn’t work when you’re looking to bag a free flight upgrade.

But it comes down to the what the flight attendant thinks of you. And there are a number of things they look out for.

A Quora user posed the question: “What do flight attendants notice about passengers as they board the plane?”

Current and former flight attendants jumped at the chance to answer.

User “Shreyas P,” who claims to have been a flight attendant for five major airlines, said within minutes of a passenger boarding, she’ll check the following:

  1. What kind of clothes you’re wearing.
  2. What kind of bags you’re carrying.
  3. If you’re travelling 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.
  6. If you’re intoxicated.
  7. If you’re a frequent traveller – “Trust me, frequent travellers don’t display any kinds of baggage tags of their membership,” she wrote. “It’s only the new ones who are at the bottom-most tier [who] will display.”
  8. What kind of book you’re carrying or reading – “If you are reading a medical journal … we know who to approach for First Aid.”
  9. If you give a helping hand to those ones in need, like an “elderly passenger or that pretty lady who needs help with the bags. Trust me, if a gentleman can do [that] without asking [the] cabin crew he would earn a lot of respect from the crew for [remainder] of the flight.”
  10. If you’re carrying food with you or are “just waiting to pounce on that free meal.”

“In short, lots of things are noticed,” she said.

Kimberly Sullivan, a user who claims to have 24 years of experience flying for a major US Airline, expressed the same sentiments, writing that she notices “dress, body language, friendly or grumpy.”

She added: “We can also detect if they are experienced customers by the way they board the plane. If they are holding up the aisle and have tunnel vision, we know they are rookie travellers.”

Myriam Mimi, a flight attendant at Condor Flugdienst, said she also notices “is he good looking and where is he sitting.” Some flight attendants even have secret codes to point out attractive passengers.

While none of this guarantees an upgrade, it will certainly put you in the running should the opportunity arise, and at the very least will hopefully mean good service throughout your flight.

Ultimately, as an unnamed flight attendant at a “major American airline” recently told Vice, getting an upgrade all comes down to just being nice to the crew – and if all else fails, you can even give them a small gift.

“Give me candy, and I’ll give you whatever you want,” she said. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”