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The Top Ten Gross Things Flight Attendants Have Seen Passengers Do on Airplanes

August 9, 2011 at 1:00 PM | by | ()

A flight attendant career is glamorous! Or so I thought! I admit, I signed up for the glamour eighteen years ago, but I quickly learned that most of the glamor was gone from this industry. I was on my second trip as a new hire flight attendant, my uniform was crisp, my hair was pulled back in a perfect french twist to match my beautiful french manicure, and I had all the right accessories.

This particular day I was the aisle flight attendant when a passenger asked me if I would heat up a baby bottle. I knew just what to do! Now all I needed was a sick bag so I could fill it with hot water. I reached into a seat back pocket, grabbed a sick bag and pushed my hand inside to open it up. Feeling the still warm, oatmeal consistency on my hand is where the glamor ended for me. Yes folks, I had just stuck my manicured hands into fresh vomit!

You've heard about the gross things people do on airplanes. There's classics like cutting toenails, walking barefoot around the plane, changing a baby diaper on the tray table...I could go on. I hate to admit it, but these are all behaviors I see or experience as a flight attendant every time I go to work.

I recently asked some co-workers to share the grossest things they have seen throughout the years as well. Warning, the answers even shocked me! Fasten your seat belts for...

The Top Ten Gross Things Flight Attendants Have Seen Passengers Do on Airplanes:

10. Breast Pumping: A lady decided that it was appropriate to use a breast pump during boarding. She fully exposed both breasts and with just a bottle (not with a baby) did the vacuum effect on her fully exposed boob. Let me remind you this was both breasts out in the air, on a full flight, during boarding, taxi, take-off and part of cruise.

9. Breast Milk Drippage: A few passengers notified me of something leaking from the overhead bins down onto their heads. The look on the men's faces was priceless when a woman stood up and said, OMG....My breast milk! It's not frozen anymore and it's leaking what should I do?!"

8. Blankets and Boogers: A passenger in first class rang her call light. She handed me her blanket and asked if I could give her a new one. I was puzzled since everyone had started the flight with a fresh blanket. I looked down at the blanket and it was all wet and slimy with boogers. I felt so grossed out—like I was going to hurl—as I tossed it into a plastic bag.

7. Impromptu Snacking: A first class passenger picked something off his bare feet...and ate it. I saw it myself!

6. Jump Seat No-no: A passenger sat down on the back galley flight attendant jump seat "waiting on the lavatory." A flight attendant told him he couldn't sit there. After I came out of the lav and sat down, we realized that he had urinated on the jump seat!

5. Pedicures: Lady using the "ped egg" on her feet. And then tried to dump her foot shavings in my trash.

4. A Little Laundry: A first class passenger took off his soggy socks and dried them by putting them over the air vent above his seat. Passengers all the way back in coach complained about the smell.

3. Lost Panties: I was helping clean the plane at one of our out-stations so we could turn the plane on time and found a pair of bloody panties in the seat pocket. This is why we wear gloves.

2. Adult Diapers: Someone shed their humongous Depends adult diapers on the toilet seat—yep, shed like a creature shedding its sea-shell, and they were left perfectly wide open and obviously used on top of the toilet lid, for the next passenger.

1. Going No. 2: A passenger used the tissue (out of the tissue box dispenser in the restroom) to clean up after their bowel movement. They then placed the used tissues back into the tissue box. A fellow flight attendant reached into the tissue dispenser for a tissue and...discovered the issue firsthand.

Got any more stories of grossness in the skies? Share in the comments!

About the Author:
Sara Keagle is a Flight Attendant for a major U.S. Airline with over twenty years of experience. On her blog TheFlyingPinto.com she shares advice on making air travel less stressful for all and offers peaks behind the galley curtain. She also co-hosts The Crew Lounge, a weekly podcast that gives insight into the career of a flight attendant.

Questions? Join the conversation with Sara on Twitter @theflyingpinto and on Facebook.

[Photos: Jaunted]

Archived Comments:


i am always astounded by how people happily take off their shoes and are totally unaware that they are stinking out everyone around them. so gross.


For some reason, the boogery blanket is the one that most sticks in my mind. Ask the FA for a tissue if you can't get up and head to the restroom! One day, we won't get real blankets anyway. It'll all be thick, disposable paper for blankets (like in the 1960s with paper towel dresses). Just watch!

Breastfeeding in the same category as defecating?

How are #9 and #10 even in the same ball park as the other things mentioned on this list. Where exactly should the woman have pumped then? You wouldn't have liked her taking up the bathroom half the flight either. Sounds like working woman trying to do her best for a baby back home. As for the other, so what? It's breast milk... no grosser than cow's milk being dripped on someone's head.


Somehow I knew the breastmilk lobby would say something. Calm down--yes breastfeeding is natural and is perfectly fine to do in public, but that doesn't mean that every woman out there does it with respect to those around her.

It's called a Hooter Hider...

And it doesn't just hide the baby while he/she is breastfeeding. You can use it while pumping too. http://www.bebeaulait.com/ As for the leaking breastmilk, I have to question this woman's packing protocol. Most expressed or pump breastmilk goes into either a bottle or into super tight, double sealed bags especially made for breast milk. Maybe she ran out and put it in a plastic baggie but that still doesn't explain why it was leaking down from the overhead bin. Did she just throw it up in there willy nilly? Since I consider breast milk to be a form of currency (it's that precious and I worked hard to pump it), I would make sure that my milk was in a super tightly sealed bag and put inside another bag or cooler before storing it up in the overhead bin.

I'll leave...

...the breastfeeding alone.

But number seven could have been me -- five second rule obviously -- especially if it was the last of my Biscoff!


It shocks us here in the TopVillas office at what some people get up to on planes!


Okay, breast feeders get so up in arms when people complain about breast feeding in public. Boobs are boobs and I don't want to see them like that. It's as simple as using a blanket or something...ANYTHING to cover up as you do your deed. Sitting in a plane, fully exposed like that is beyond tacky and rude. Perhaps she should have asked for one of those boogery blankets. Secondly, the foot snack cracked me up. Wow! People are gross.

Mile High Club

Definitely agree with the depends, toe nails etc...ick,ick, icy! Disagree with the poor sap in the bare feet, I'd be more concerned about what germs/ cooties etc are on the carpet than how someone's feet may smell (bare feet are much better than sweat drenched socks anyway). Breast feeding etc...this is the 21st Century...deal with it, I'm sorry but this isn't the HMS Mayflower. However...I can't believe nobody mentioned the mile high club! Body fluids flying around, either under a blanket or in the bathroom. I'm not a prude by any stretch of the imagination but there's a time and a place for everything. Besides, it really can't be comfortable for either party...lol

few of my observations

1. Using the bulkhead as a footrest to clip toenails. Actually, has happened several times.....one 'first class' customer wanted my name and base when I professionally asked him to stop it. 2. Using the headrest cover as a kleenex 3. Finding non-excrement bodily fluid sprayed on the lav fixtures (also happened several times). 4. No fault of their own: a mass case of food poising by a group who had attended a luncheon a couple hours before their flight. To add insult to injury..we were bouncing around in a 350 mile wide swath of spring thunderstorms en route to our destination. 5. Using a galley drain as a spittoon.

risk it all?

@bmoxie, except that with cow milk if one gets it in a mucus membrane you don't have to go through a painful series of blood draws, make the decision if you want to take toxic anti vial medications, either stop having relations with your spouse or at least use condoms and go through 6 months to a year of fear of HIV or Hepatitis infection.

I Hate To Blame My Own Generation

but this is the fault of the 'let it all hang out'-literally-generation, and how they raised their children. Americans are still fairly prudish, in spite of the sixties and seventies. We wanted a new world of honesty and openness, and I guess we got it. I don't see anything wrong with some retro education. You can't expose your breasts or feet or certain other parts in public. You have to abide by a dress code on planes, in restaurants, stores, theaters, etc. If you make a mess, you have to clean it up. If I need a blanket or a pillow, I've brought a jacket, and can roll up a sweater. If I get sick, I've got Emetrol. If I have dietary needs, I've brought the necessary things with me. I don't think babies, or most children should fly, anyway, unless they're checked baggage. People make excuses for crying babies by blaming pressure on the ears- why would you put a baby through that? And imagine how much more offended everyone would be if one of those breastfeeders was hard core, and was nursing a six year-old. Now, that would be funny! gigi wolf, author of the Pan Am Airlines Pages and A Woman's Guide To Everything on ChezGigi.com

Hot towel= bath!

I handed a first class passenger a hot towel. He thoroughly washed his hands, then his forearms, then his face and neck. I could see that the small white cloth was pretty dirty at this point, and headed over to retrieve it. Just then, he popped out his false teeth and proceeded to give those a good wipedown WITH THE FILTHY TOWEL and pop them back in! I couldn't even look at him for the rest of the flight.

People often see the glamorous

People often see the glamorous side of the work that flight attendants do. They thin that it is all about flying around and enjoying free holidays. However, they are also known as high class waiters. They have their fair share of horrible on the job experiences like those in the list. Personally, I have never had a bad flying experience, and I am thankful I do not have to encounter problems like those.


I cried laughing when I read #2 - I LOVED it..."like a creature shedding its sea-shell..." hahaha! I can't get over it. I had a passenger right in front of me pick at a scab on his neck the entire flight from Chicago to Amsterdam. Just disgusting -


I can't even imagine LOLing I just can't - it takes a village that's for sure. I don't understand some people. It's so disgusting and undignified. I thought people carrying their pillows with them was gross...