There are so many questions I have while boarding a plane; the primary one being “How come we’ve managed to literally conquer gravity, but can’t find a decent seating arrangement?”.
But call it arrogance; until recently, I never queried why flight attendants greeted me when I entered the plane (I guess I just thought I looked friendly).
Then, I learned the truth; while manners do play a role, ultimately the attendants are scanning us when they say “hi”.
A couple of things!
First and foremost, it’s to see whether or not you’re what the industry terms an ABP (or able-bodied person); in other words, people who could assist in case of an evacuation or other emergency.
In a 2021 TikTok, flight attendant katkalamani said that “when you’re walking on the aeroplane and you see our happy smiley face[s]. we’re actually looking you up and down, and we are trying to find our ABPs.”
These can be anything from military personnel to pilots, nurses, doctors, police, and firefighters.
And if you have a disability, flight attendants are not always allowed to place you in particular parts of the plane (such as seats close to an emergency exits). So, some flight attendants will eye this up as you enter, too.
Yep! According to flight attendant Beth Bourneouf (via the Washington Post), “We look to see how many bags people are carrying, and we also have to be conscious of what kind of bags they’re carrying. Anyone with a cooler, we need to ask what’s in there.”
Then, there’s the question of inebriation. The flight attendants will be able to tell if you’re too tipsy to board by checking in on you with a quick “hello”.
Other suspicious behaviour can be eyed up at the door, too ― so it might be time to stop thinking of flight attendants less as friendly, chat-hungry greeters, and more as a sort of Boeing bouncer.
And you know what? I respect it.