By Stacey Leasca
September 26, 2019

Boarding a plane is hands down one of the most stressful parts of travel. Between trying to dig up your boarding pass, elbowing your way through the crowds, and finding overhead bin space somewhere onboard it can get a little intense. So, of course you may be tempted to ask a crew member for a little help, especially with lifting your bag into that last bit of bin space. But, one crew member is now imploring passengers to please stop asking for assistance before takeoff. And the reason why may horrify you.

In a recent interview with Inside Edition, flight attendant Jamela Hardwick spilled the tea on a few secrets you may want to know about. But, the biggest one is the fact that flight attendants don’t technically begin a paid shift until the boarding door closes. And that means, if they help you lift your bag and are injured in the process they may be out of luck.

“We do not get paid until the boarding door is closed,” she explained. “If we get hurt while putting that bag in the overhead bin, we do not get to write it off as an on-job injury.”

Think about this again — the people who help you safely board, get you water before the flight takes off, help parents tuck their children in, kindly greet you, and ensure everyone is in their right seat (and doing many many other things) is not being paid to do all that. Oh, and they also aren’t paid during connecting flights and delays either.

While this may seem bonkers it’s actually been this way for a long time. As Travel + Leisure previously explained, it’s all due to the Railway Labor Act, which passed in 1926 and was last amended in 1936 to include airlines. The act outlines the rules for bargaining between unions and management. It essentially prohibits unions or management from making any changes in the status quo without consent from the board.

“Airlines are adamant about not ever changing this method of calculating time for pay purposes,” one pilot and union negotiator explained on Quora.

"We’re only paid for time in the air. That flight attendant greeting you at the boarding door, helping you find a place for your bag, guitar, crutches, wedding gown, emotional support pig? They're not being paid," Heather Poole, a flight attendant, previously told Travel + Leisure.

So, next time you board a plane maybe don’t ask for help unless you really need it. And for goodness sake, say thank you as you disembark.

Advertisement