Cabin crew secrets: Ex BA flight attendant reveals what crew are REALLY doing at boarding

Cabin crew can often seem to have a relatively easy job on flights as they serve food and chat to plane passengers. However, there’s much more to the job of a flight attendant that many people may realise. Their role before, during and after a flight is key to the smooth running of the aviation industry. Fliers first meet their cabin crew as they board the plane when crew smile and welcome everyone onboard.

At this time, it may just seem as though the crew are simply being polite – but they’re actually thinking much more than that.

A former British Airways cabin crew manager has revealed what really goes through a flight attendant’s mind as they greet travellers.

“We are both welcoming you as well as analysing you, all to the pressurised backdrop of a clock ticking,” Simon Marton told

“The nuts and bolts of welcoming people onboard are the obvious checks of your boarding pass – be it on a phone or on paper,” the ex flight attendant said.

There are plenty of questions about fliers that run through the crew’s mind as they assess passengers.

Marton revealed their internal queries: “Are you on the right flight, on the right date and do you have a name?! Are you responsive, happy, disinterested or even slightly strange in your behaviour? 

“Are you rude, argumentative, stressed or threatening? Are you travelling alone?”

There’s also a positive attribute cabin crew are on the lookout for as people board.

If you are in good physical shape you could prove very helpful to the crew if something went wrong.

According to Marton, cabin crew wonder: “Could we use you in an emergency? Would you make a good ABP (Able-bodied Person) for help operating the doors in an evacuation or crew incapacitation?” 

The ex BA staff member also explained how he thinks flight attendant should present themselves.

“As a former senior crew member, I believe that as soon as you step over the threshold from that rumbly flooring and onto blue heavy duty carpeting, the first person you see should be welcoming, interested in you by giving eye-contact and should ideally address you by name,” said Marton.

“Others might disagree, but your name is so important. It’s your individuality, and why should First Class customers be the only ones who have their names used?

“I would try, as an experiment, to remember people’s names and use them on disembarkation. A lot of people would find it unbelievable. Why not do this?! I would be deeply impressed if someone remembered my name above anyone else’s.”

Flight attendants do still try to have fun when working onboard, however, and, according to one cabin crew member, they have a codeword when they spot a passenger they like the look of.

Flight attendant Emily Witkop told the New York Post: “I recall for a few years there was a ‘hot coffee’ code among flight attendants,” she said. 

“You would say, ‘I’ve got hot coffee in 3B!’ Which meant there was an extremely attractive passenger in that particular seat who the other flight attendants should check out.”