Crewed Talk: Airline Crews Don’t Need April for Pranking

Airplane interior

One of the things I most love about my fellow crew members is that they know how to have a good time. The course of an airline career will serve up lots of time to kill. Delays, reschedules, red-eyes, cancellations, long sit times and layovers, so self-entertaining skills come in handy.

Now that we have lots of New Hires entering our ranks, some classic airline pranks are getting dusted off. The most traditional is probably the “air sample” trick, where you send a New Hire running through the cabin wafting a trash bag overhead, which they dutifully deliver to the cockpit. If the pilots are doing the pranking, they can order this air sample and/or ask for it to be delivered to someone on the ground.

Next up is this bit of good clean fun, or the airline-flavored bin stretcher where the pilots say they “forgot the keys.” I particularly appreciate that, in hindsight, all of these seem so obvious and fake, but as a New Hire everything seemed possible. Or, at least, you were that scared to say no and risk getting something wrong. Ahhh, the sweet gullibility bred by a probation period…

Thankfully I didn’t fall for any myself, at least not all the way. One set of pilots had a moment when they called me up to the cockpit as we approached Montreal, saying they needed me to translate the control tower’s landing instructions (as the onboard French-speaker). Luckily I had experience with the Québécois accent so I was able to stumble though for long enough – totally unconcerned that I was repeating fragmented jibberish since I didn’t know what kind of codes and numbers the pilots might be listening for anyway – to catch on to their smirks and pretend I knew what was up all along. You could say I was too naive at the time to be worried!

Pilots get it too, for sure. Heather Poole’s (excellent) book “Cruising Attitude” has one of the best New Hire pilot pranks I’ve ever heard of. I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but let’s just say that the story ends with him naked in front of his whole crew. (And to whomever you are, Anonymous Pilot, props for taking it in stride. That is heroic.)

It’s more delicate to play with passengers, of course, but some can swing it. One flight attendant is legendary for his tongue-in-cheek antics. If he’s bored he might do a Kleenex Service – ceremoniously offering one from the box to everyone in Business Class. My favorite is his Spoon Service where he offers them off of a silver tray (“Would you care for a spoon?…Would you care for a Spoon?…”), then goes right back and collects them again. (“If you’re finished with your spoon, Sir?”) There are lots of responses that can give us a good giggle. Back in the day when we had a full-on cheese board, he also was known to bring a hunk of Velveeta. He’d make a little flag label for it and all. You’d be surprised how many passengers requested it alongside their Brie and Roquefort.

It takes a special personality to pull some things off without coming off tart, so I really admire that stew’s ability to get it just right. Maybe one day I’ll develop that skill and then Watch Out, World! Until that time, I’ll just keep collecting ideas, so let me know: Have any of you ever witnessed any crew pranks? And if not, remember, we’ve got a lot of New Hires to “welcome”, so we’re equally open for ideas!

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Comments (Showing 2 of 2)

  • writerguyfl at 12:24am April 11, 2014

    While you might call it a “prank”, what you are describing is actually a form of workplace bullying. In some places, including Australia, Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, workplace bullying is against the law.

  • jahason at 10:17am April 11, 2014

    BA pilot asking for donations for charity “If you have the odd bent copper or you know one…..”

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