Flight attendants may seem chipper and carefree, but don't be fooled: While pouring bubbly and chatting with travelers, these trained first responders are also keeping a close watch over the plane for threats, starting the very moment you board.
"Passengers think we are just greeting them at the door," Jay Robert, a flight attendant and founder of Fly Guy, told HuffPost. "But they'd be surprised at the number of threats we eliminate at that stage of the flight which would have caused a delay or even harmed their health and safety."
We asked flight attendants to name the first thing they notice about passengers when they board a plane. Most of their answers have less to do with judging your in-flight look and more about keeping you safe. The right boarding behavior could score you better service, too. Here's what the cabin crew notices:
If you look them in the eye.
″[I notice] who makes eye contact with me and who doesn't. More often than not, the ones who don't make eye contact make me investigate... Are they scared of flying? Are they feeling okay? Are they dealing with a personal issue? These are things people don't tell you outright, and a facet of my job is making sure everyone is having a comfortable flying experience." ― Stephanie Mikel, Southwest Airlines
If you're drunk.
"Intoxication and aggressive passengers are prime suspects we try to identify at the doors. We are trained in basic taekwondo techniques to handle acts of aggression in the sky, but stopping them before they get up there is our main goal." ― Jay Robert of Fly Guy
If you're in shape.
"I'm looking for able bodied persons who can assist with security problems inflight, as well as someone who appears willing and able to assist in an emergency evacuation. Typically, this is someone who is traveling alone and in street clothes, looks like they are in above average physical shape or is known emergency service personnel." ― Zac Ford, flight attendant with a major carrier
If you talk to them.
"When I say hello and a passenger responds back, I notice and think, 'wow, that person is really nice.' If I ever needed help with something, I'll probably ask the nice passenger. [And] if a passenger ever needs help from me, I'll probably go above and beyond the call of duty for a nice passenger." ― Heather Poole, American Airlines
If you're under the weather.
"It's important to check if my passengers are fit to fly. Once all doors are closed and we're airborne, it can get very challenging to handle medical emergencies. During boarding is the perfect time to take a look at who will be on my flight." ― Claudia Sieweck, TUI fly
If you're pregnant.
"I'm searching women to see if they are hiding baby bumps with loose clothing. After a certain point in a pregnancy, women need a doctor's certificate to travel, and after a set period they are no longer allowed to fly." ― Jay Robert of Fly Guy
If you're nervous.
"I ask passengers if everything is alright if I have the feeling something isn't perfect. Passengers with fear of flying get my special attention: I love to care for them and to make them feel comfortable." ― Claudia Sieweck, TUI fly
Some responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.