You Are the Route You Fly: Dissecting “Route Personalities”


Did you know that in the flight attendant world, routes have personality? Some are thought to have the quietest passengers, the sweetest, or even the most “active.” Not all flight attendants will agree on these impressions, or whether a characteristic makes a flight desirable. Thankfully, we all like different things.

People are most surprised to hear which route I think has the “meanest” passengers.  Are you ready? Did you take a moment to guess?

OK because if you didn’t, you’re no fun, d’you hear? It’s Jamaica. Specifically, the city of Kingston. That’s right. The capitol of “No problem” feels more like the capitol of “HEY, LADY! GIVE ME COKE!!”

Before you shout, “Filthy Stereotyper!” keep in mind that (1) these are casual trends, not certainties; and (2) they don’t necessarily reflect locals of the arrival city. Passenger crowds are tied to other things like the city’s connection to popular tourist or business activities, the season, or even day of the week.

But back to Jamaica. When I was a new flight attendant (read: easily intimidated), Kingston flights left me shattered with exhaustion. Montego Bay leaned towards a more laid-back people, like you see in movies. But Kingston: this route literally taught me there are situations where raising your voice is not only appropriate, but necessary. Passengers would come on, throw their bags on the floor and walk away. I’d ask New Girl-sweetly for the owner to stow it…and get a Big. Fat. Eye roll. The beverage service involved people three rows away shouting drink orders at me like it was an auction. Both of these things happened a lot.

Yet, if I “yelled” they’d comply without offense, as if I was speaking normally. I eventually decided their style wasn’t about being “rude” but, perhaps, a reflection of how people get what they want in a tough city. Heck, it’s what introduced me to the fact that Kingston is a tough city.

But I digress. Not all destinations inspire tidy theories. On what flight do the passengers seem to stand up all the time? Rome is nominated, but Budapest gets the prize. That is a route of night owls! Or chatty tour groups. Or something.

How about the most polite? That would be Tokyo—the only plane that’s cleaner when the passengers get off than when they got on. The runners-up might be the Flemish, who would sit on the runway for hours and not make one peep—in quite a contrast from reported Hong Kong to mainland China passengers.

I wonder, do passengers get the same vibes off flights? To find out, let’s finish with a quiz. I’d love to hear how you do, where you disagree—or don’t. Tell us, do your regular routes have personality?

Match the city with the reputation of its passengers:

1. These 2 destinations are ruled by the number of families bringing home new bundles of joy.
2. This place seems to have cornered the world market on spandex clothing. You’re most likely to see pilots greeting passengers as they board on this route.
3. These passengers tend towards the extremely gentle – though can require intense amounts of attention.
4. This crowd really wants to buy booze. This route alone gets an extra Duty Free cart – full of nothing but liquor.  And it’s sold out upon arrival.

a. Dominican Republic
b. Stockholm
c. Beijing
d. Haiti
e. Moscow

Answers: 1=c & e; 2=a; 3=d; 4=b

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Comments (Showing 4 of 4)

  • erasmus99 at 8:28pm April 09, 2013

    Anyone taking a domestic flight to/from Winnipeg. Everyone is as friendly as can be.

  • Zomba at 3:08am April 10, 2013

    Well, the Stockholm one makes perfect sense. It is the same reason that you see all of the Duty Free bags when flying into China (cosmetics), namely the extremely high price of the goods in the domestic market. I refuse to enter China with less than two bottles of whisky for that reason (unless leaving from DTW–what a pitiful selection!).

  • leighjohnwi at 5:32pm April 10, 2013

    Any major carrier hub and DCA. After having lived in Washington, DC for years, I became spoiled by how (except during summer vacation, then it’s tourist chaos) every flight boarded and de-boarded in nearly half the time it normally takes. Passengers are always quick and orderly, until it comes time to turn off electronic devices (i.e. the smartphones), which takes almost as much time as boarding!

  • Sydneyberlin at 12:13am June 07, 2013

    I knew a lot of Asian flight attendants during the time I lived in Singapore. And apparently any place in India must be a total nightmare for the crew, mainly due to lack of basic hygiene of many of the passengers and the resulting state the lavatories are in during these flights.

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