Inflight Beverage Service

Basic of Air Travel: Inflight Beverage Service

On some domestic flights, beverages are still free.  Most airlines charge for alcoholic beverages, and a few offer specialty beverages, but juice, soft drinks, and coffee are still free.

The beverage cart that holds all these items is a large, heavy, hard to maneuver a piece of equipment.  Most carts require some additional set up before being drug through the cabin for the service to begin.  Service procedures vary from carrier to carrier, with the most common procedure starting at the front of the cabin and working to the back.

For some reason, the beverage service causes confusion for a lot of people.  On shorter flights, Flight Attendants are often tasked with serving an entire plane full of people, including set up and takedown, in under an hour, so we need to work fast and efficiently.  We need to quickly move through the cabin serving everyone.  Longer flights and half-filled cabin (rare, these days) give us a little more breathing room, and maybe even time for a second service.

Here are 10 facts about how the beverage service works that can help people on both sides of the customer service equation:

  1. The carts weigh several hundred pounds and are hard to maneuver.  In order to avoid injury to ourselves, Flight Attendants need to move it deliberately and carefully.  When the cart is in the aisle, it will take some maneuvering if you need to get by.  We can do it, but on a full plane, it’s going to take the concerted effort of a lot of people.  Give us a little room and time to make it happen.
  2. Keep arms, legs, feet, and other body parts out of the aisle when the beverage cart is coming by.  There’s not much clearance on either side of the cart, and we can’t work around you.  Make sure that your carry on items isn’t sticking out into the aisle.  Many times we walk backward and pull the cart to the front of the plane, and cannot see items that are on the floor.  Serious injuries have occurred when someone has tripped over a strap or gotten snagged up in a coat.  We want to avoid injury as well as damage to your items, so please do your part to keep the aisle clear.
  3. Do I even have to mention why it’s not a good idea to let your laptop or DVD player hang over your tray table and into the aisle?
  4. Do not reach up and take things off of the cart.  Things are precariously balanced, and while you may think you are helping, this is how spills happen.  (You may not realize it, but that cup you are grabbing from the angle where you are sitting, is going to cause the coffee to tip over.)  We are happy to get you what you need, just ask.
  5. The corollary of the above does not reach up and put things on the cart.  Most carts do not have a space for garbage, and further, it is unsanitary to pick up garbage while serving.  We know that you want to be rid of your trash, but the people behind you are just eager to have a beverage served to them.  We are working as fast as we can, and will be back to pick up trash soon.
  6. Do not take liquor off the cart; it’s stealing.  This really shouldn’t require further explanation.
  7. Take off your headset if you want a beverage.  This is a real pet peeve with Flight Attendants.  We’ve been dragging the cart up the aisle, bumping into you, we’ve stood at your row and passed drinks over you to the passenger at the window, you’ve not responded to our three attempts to take your order, so we’ve moved on to the next row.  NOW, all of a sudden you are ticked off because we “skipped over” you.  PLEASE!
  8. Don’t grab the Flight Attendants.  This one always amazes me!  I don’t understand why people who would never dream of grabbing someone on the ground think it’s okay in the air.  (I know, they really aren’t thinking about it!)  Grabbing anyone, anywhere, is just a bad idea.
  9. Knowing what you want to order by the time we get to your row is very helpful, especially on short flights  It also helps to let us know if you want cream, sugar, or sweetener with your coffee at the time that you order it.  It may not seem like a big deal, but multiplied over many passengers, this one little change saves countless minutes.
  10. “Please” and “thank you” are still magic words.

There aren’t “rules” for the beverage service.  Most passengers are polite, try to be helpful, and are a pleasure to serve.

While Flight Attendants have certainly been on the receiving end of a beverage cart service, most passengers don’t understand what it’s like to work it.  Like most things in life, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes is a learning experience.

This is just one installment in the Basics of Air Travel series, read more about different aspects of travel below.

  1. Checking in From Home
  2. Get to the Airport on Time
  3. Checking & Carrying on Luggage
  4. Getting Through Security – Planning
  5. Airport Security – Rules & Etiquette
  6. Getting to Your Departure Gate
  7. Boarding the Plane & Stowing Your Bags
  8. Turning Off Your Electronic Devices
  9. Safety Demonstration
  10. Beverage Service
  11. Airplane Etiquette
  12. Descent
  13. Landing & Deplaning
  14. Leaving the Airport
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