To press or not to press, that is the question.
The etiquette surrounding the flight attendant call bell on an aeroplane can be something of a grey area for passengers, with many wondering when the appropriate time to push the button is.
Clearing up the confusion, here, several flight attendants share insight into when you should, and definitely shouldn’t, press the call bell.
When you shouldn’t press the button
Apparently, dinging the bell simply because you fancy an alcoholic drink isn’t a good idea. Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, previously told travel site The Points Guy: ‘Don’t use the call button to ask for a drink… as a general rule, don’t think of the call button as your vodka-tonic button.
The etiquette surrounding the flight attendant call bell on an aeroplane can be something of a grey area for passengers, with many wondering the appropriate time to push the button is
Sharing her thoughts on the matter, former Delta flight attendant Kat Kamalani said that pressing the call button at the wrong moment can pose a ‘huge safety issue’.
Speaking in a TikTok video before she had a career change, she said that when passengers press the button on the tarmac or when the aircraft is taking off or coming in to land, it ‘drives flight attendants bonkers’.
She noted that flight attendants or passengers could get injured if a member of the cabin crew is unnecessarily summoned to a seat in these instances.
‘If it’s not an emergency we’re going straight back to our seat,’ she said.
On a Delta Air Lines Reddit forum user ‘Ianisboss123’ asked for examples of when using the call button would be considered rude.
One user, ‘Juneballon’, who claimed to be a flight attendant, replied and listed out the occasions in which they ‘hate’ to see the call bell used.
Firstly, they said it’s a problem when ‘someone presses it to ask for a Sprite or a cookie’ while the cabin crew is handling a medical situation. ‘Juneballon’ remarked: ‘Really? You’re redirecting one of the crew’s attention to yourself because you wanted a soda?’
Another faux pas is when a passenger presses the call button just to hand the cabin crew their rubbish. The user explained: ‘It makes me feel like a human trash can. Just hold onto it or put it in the seat pocket until we come around with a bag.’
It’s also frowned upon, the user reveals, if the cabin crew go through the aisle ‘loudly passing out headphones, deliberately trying to make eye contact with everyone’, only for a passenger to press the bell to ask for headphones a few moments later.
According to the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, you shouldn’t use the call button to ask for a drink
When passengers press the bell repeatedly to try and get on the cabin crew’s nerves is another pet peeve. ‘Juneballon’ said they once witnessed ‘a lady press it at least 100 times on the flight because she was mad [about] something from her previous flight’.
When you should press the button…
When is pushing the button acceptable? Speaking to Insider, United Airlines flight attendant Annette Long weighed in: ‘If you’re diabetic and you have an emergency situation, you need to ring it — two or three times even. Let us know. We’ll be right there.
‘And sometimes when people are stuck in the window seat, and the two people next to them are sleeping, and all they want is a glass of water, it’s not [a] problem.’
In conversation with The Points Guy, Sara Nelson backed up Long’s point, noting: ‘It’s really for emergency use, first and foremost.’
Parents with young children are also entitled to use it, she says, explaining: ‘It may be that you’re a mother, and you have an infant in your arms, and you need some help — it’s difficult for you to get up, and you need assistance.’
Not only that, but it can be used as a ‘signal system’ too, according to Nelson. She told the publication that she has used it to help identify the passengers that have to make a speedy flight connection after a delayed flight – they can press the bell to make themselves known.