Flights experience multiple bumps and noises that can alarm travellers who don’t know what is happening. It can be tempting during these episodes of uncertainty to look at cabin crew to gauge their reaction. However, a pilot has explained that passengers should not try to interpret flight attendants’ facial expression at such times. Doing so is ultimately pointless as it easy to misread the crews’ faces and flyers will be told if there is an actual emergency.
Pilot Patrick Smith said in his book Cockpit Confidential: “That glazed look in the flight attendant’s eyes is probably one of exhaustion, not fear.
“Nervous flyers are prone to envision some silently impending disaster, with distressed crew members pacing the aisles and whispering to each other in secret.
“In reality, passengers will be told about any emergency or serious malfunction.”
There are certain things that passengers will be told about that are not worth getting overly worried about as well.
“If you’re informed about a landing gear snafu, pressurisation problem, engine trouble, or the need for an unscheduled landing, do not construe the thing to be a life-or-death situation,” advised Smith.
“It’s virtually always something precautionary – though you’ll be kept in the loop anyway.
“With even an outside chance of an evacuation, you have to be kept in the loop.”
Smith points out that crew will not inform passengers about minor malfunctions if they have “no significant bearing on safety” as this could provoke panic.
“Being blunt about every little problem invites unnecessary worry, not to mention embellishment,” said Smith.
The same goes for announcements and updates from the pilot. In fact, aviators will often say as little as possible.
According to Smith, the reason behind this is because pilots are given very little customer service training and they’re often encouraged to say nothing rather than unnecessarily worry passengers.
However, the result of this lack of communication can, in fact, lead to travellers feeling even more unnerved.
“Of all front-line employees, pilots are potentially the most valuable for soothing anxieties and explaining the nuances of abnormal situations,” Smith wrote in his 2013 book.
“Unfortunately, customer service training for pilots is bare minimum and one result is a tendency to say as little as possible – a default policy of evasive simplification.
“This is obviously counterproductive, and never more so than those times when minor abnormalities are made to sound harrowing.”
Smith also explained what an emergency evacuation from a plane is really like. He said it’s easy to look at pictures of the inflatable evacuation slides and think they could be “fun” – but the reality is far from that.
Smith emphasises that these slides are incredibly steep – and could be risky. “Although you can’t always see it in videos or photos, those inflatable slides are extremely steep,” Smith wrote. “They are not designed for convenience or for fun. They are designed for no other purpose than to empty a plane of its occupants as quickly as possible.”
This means that sliding down could be very fast – and rather unpleasant.