René deLambert — author of the Delta Points weblog at BoardingArea.com — recently wrote an article about when the flight attendant call button should be used.
I was the first to respond to the article with my thoughts…
“In my opinion, the flight attendant call button should only be used when you need something but are unable to leave your seat — for example, a drink when you are thirsty but seated at a window seat on a crowded airplane. It should not be used gratuitously or excessively by any means; but I do not believe that it should only be used in emergencies — otherwise, the safety video would direct otherwise.
“‘If there is anything we can do to make your flight more comfortable, please let us know.’”
…but naturally, I then wondered what FlyerTalk members thought over the years is the proper etiquette for that flight attendant call button as it temptingly sits above your head in the console as you are a passenger during a flight; or on the wall while you are in the lavatory. When exactly is it appropriate to use the flight attendant call button; and under what impression do passengers believe is its purpose?
FlyerTalk members generally admit to rarely or never using the flight attendant call button. “I used it for the very first time ever on my last flight on US metal,” recalled FlyerTalk member 12172003. “Another passenger kicked over a full can of soda and didn’t realize it. The flight attendant came over a couple of minutes later, I told her and she walked away and did nothing about it. Oh well. I guess they don’t care much about their $50 million airplane.”
For FlyerTalk member Moz, it is simply an aversion: “Not sure why but I simply hate the idea of using the flight attendant call button. I am uncomfortable with the concept of buzzing someone (ringing a bell) to come and ‘attend’ to me. I will quietly wait for them to walk past or go to the galley myself but never use the button. Just wondering if I need professional help or if others feel the same.”
During an announcement aboard the aircraft before departure, a flight attendant apparently gave the impression that the flight attendant call button was to be used for emergency purposes only, according to FlyerTalk member ChrisR back in 2007; while FlyerTalk member Howgart heard a similar announcement on an airplane operated by a different airline back in 2006. FlyerTalk member flyerman770 also heard a similar announcement as a passenger on yet another airline back in 2009; while FlyerTalk member sobore read an article about how a flight attendant said that the flight attendant call button is for emergencies only.
In all of the years I have traveled, I personally have never heard that the flight attendant call button is to be used only in the event of an emergency — and I do listen to the safety announcements. I even go so far as to check under my seat to ensure that it is indeed equipped with a life vest…
FlyerTalk member zurbec had heard several stories from friends about experiencing or witnessing being berated as a result of using the flight attendant call button. To be fair, perhaps that may be because of excessive use of the flight attendant call button — prompting FlyerTalk member wspfan to wonder what is up with all the call button beeps on trips to Europe; or maybe it was for a superfluous reason — such as reporting that a “person of size” has spilled over into your seat.
By the way, I posted an article on March 22, 2013 here at The Gate regarding the ensuing debate pertaining to obese passengers if you want to post a comment there.
Some FlyerTalk members believe that it is in bad taste to press the flight attendant call button, as using it allegedly irritates the flight attendants; while other FlyerTalk members complain that the DING! sound is too loud and that its volume should be lowered.
Parched with thirst during a flight in 2006, FlyerTalk member BamaVol pressed the flight attendant call button. A flight attendant responded, delivered two full bottles of water, and retrieved an empty bottle to dispose — all without saying a word. Coincidentally, BamaVol read an article the very next morning with Basically, don’t ever push the call button as the headline. In that article, a flight attendant expressed her annoyance when someone pushes the flight attendant call button — “usually to pick up trash right after she’s passed through the aisle 6 times.”
Always wondering if a flight attendant would look at him in a “funny manner”, FlyerTalk member Benny8444 asked if it would it be appropriate or awkward to press the flight attendant call button to ask for a drink when seated in the economy class cabin on an airplane.
When FlyerTalk member mike_asia asked if it was rude to ring the flight attendant call button to ask for something to drink after food and beverages have already been served and the flight attendants are behind the curtain in the galley, FlyerTalk member denverhockeyguy responded: “No, thats what its there for.”
FlyerTalk member meFIRST wondered if flight attendant call buttons were operable at all — and FlyerTalk member afhstingray wondered a similar thought where flight attendants never respond. I suppose the service by flight attendants must have really been deplorable for meFIRST and afhstingray — unless by some strange coincidence, there were technical difficulties with the flight attendant call button on every airplane on which meFIRST and afhstingray attempted to use it…
…but a corollary to that seems to be that the flight attendant call button always works when you press it by accident. You really meant to turn on your reading lamp or increase the flow of air, right?!?
Apparently this confusion happened more often than you might think, as The Boeing Company was prompted to finally re-design the flight attendant call button back in 2011. “Why did it take so long to come up with this design?” wondered FlyerTalk member DeafFlyer.
FlyerTalk member Explore even solicited advice from fellow FlyerTalk members as to the best way to register a complaint after deeming a lack of response to pressing the flight attendant call button “completely unacceptable.” The light of the flight attendant call button was supposedly on for at least 20 minutes after being pressed a second time — which prompts the question: how long is too long in waiting for service once the flight attendant call button is pressed? Are the expectations of some FlyerTalk members pertaining to the flight attendant call button considered too high?
Not one to leave this question unanswered, FlyerTalk member mgs 1k actually decided back in 2012 to conduct unscientific tests of response times after pressing the flight attendant call button while flying as a passenger in the business class cabin aboard aircraft on flights between Brazil and the United States operated by United Airlines and Continental Airlines. You can view the results for yourself here.
I can understand a flight attendant being annoyed when the flight attendant call button is accidentally pressed, used excessively, or used for a reason for which it is not warranted. Perhaps I am mistaken, but when I hear the announcement “If there is anything we can do to make your flight more comfortable, please let us know” and there are no flight attendants to be seen — and I want something — is that not one of the purposes of the flight attendant call button?
Whenever I have used the flight attendant call button — and it was not that often, I can assure you — either the flight attendant responded but certainly without the impression of being annoyed; or there was no response…
…and when there was no response, it was because the flight attendant was busy doing other things at the time. Sure, I felt disappointed; but I do not believe that I was ignored — but then again, I do not recall having a request which was so important and urgent that it needed to be fulfilled there and then at that moment.
I have asked Sarah Steegar — the resident flight attendant expert here at FlyerTalk and author of the Crewed Talk weblog — to weigh in with her thoughts and impart her experiences…
…but in the meantime, now it is your turn to opine and relate your experiences: what exactly is the etiquette pertaining to using the flight attendant call button? Do you ever use the flight attendant call button at all? If so, when and under what circumstances? If not, why?