Every time you step on a plane, you may have noticed flight attendants acting somewhat strangely to your eyes, namely hiding their hands behind their back and sitting on their hands.

Surely, there must be a good reason for this behavior?

In fact, there is.

Why Do Flight Attendants Sit on Their Hands?

When turbulence hits, you might have noticed that flight attendants sit in a rigid position, including sitting on their hands.

Airlines require their cabin crew to do this.

Brace Position

The brace position for flight attendants differs for that of passengers because the aim is for flight attendants to keep their body in a rigid position to protect their body.

While a flight attendant’s back and neck will be pressed firmly against the jump seat, with their knees and feet together and feet placed firmly on the ground, their hands are placed under their thighs.

However, this only applies to flight attendants who work for U.S. airlines, with flight attendants who work for European carriers placing their hands behind their head with their elbows brought in, in order to protect from flying debris.

The hand positions differs for European and U.S. flight attendants, because the FAA found research to show that a flight attendant placing their hands behind their neck produces unnecessary loading on the neck and spine during impact.

Why Flight Attendants Hide Their Hands Behind Their Back

When you step onboard a plane and are greeted by a flight attendant, you might have found it strange how they keep their hands behind their back.

There is a good reason for this seemingly strange behavior, though.

Flight attendants hide their hands behind their back because they use a clicker to discreetly count how many passengers are boarding the plane.

Flight attendants must do this to ensure the correct passenger count.

Why Flight Attendants Often Touch the Overhead Compartment

You’ve probably noticed that flying isn’t always the smoothest experience, with turbulence on flights being common.

Even when there is minimal or no turbulence, leaving your seat to go to the bathroom isn’t always a smooth process.

So, flight attendants touch the overhead compartment so often because the bottom of it contains a scalloped area that provides them with better grip as they walk down the aisle.

Why Flight Attendants Wear Heels

Airlines have strict uniform policies for their flight attendants, including wearing heels.

However, many flight attendants are allowed to change their shoes once they are on the aircraft, as working in heels is not very practical and can even be dangerous.

Some airlines, such as United, require their flight attendants to wear heels onboard the aircraft, though the minimum heel height must only be 1/4 inch.

Why Flight Attendants Wear Scarves

While not all flight attendants are required to wear scarves, airlines require this for reasons of fashion, tradition, and practicality.

Patricia is a senior flight attendant with over 20 years of experience working for a major U.S. airline, primarily on international long haul flights.
Patricia is passionate about sharing her knowledge and expertise about the unique lives flight attendants lead, offers valuable insights on what it takes to become a flight attendant and what the job entails.
Patricia has been quoted or mentioned in major publications, including Newsweek.