Flight Attendant Call Button Revisited: When Should You Use It?

I t appears that the debate over when you should use the flight attendant call button continues since I first posted this article about it — filled with links to discussions on the experiences of members of FlyerTalk — on Friday, June 13, 2014, as demonstrated by this experience which was posted two days ago by FlyerTalk member AAerSTL as follows:

Just got off a four hour mid-com USAIR flight and scolded for ringing the flight attendant call button. The #1 F/A was terrible, did not offer pre-departures, didn’t offer to hang jackets, and barely went through the motions for the meal service. About 60 minutes into the flight the service concluded and all three crew members rushed to the aft galley for gossip and magazine time.

No one was attending the forward cabin all this time. I was seated in a widow seat so to me this seems reasonable. Yes this a US carrier, (USAIR no less) so I’m not expecting polished service but they should at least be present and periodically check with passengers.

Ring call button no response. Wait nearly five minutes and no one appears. Ring the button again and F/A finally appears. She confronts me saying this is for “emergency use only” and if I need another drink I should either wait for the second service or come find a F/A. I ask the F/A where the policy is written that it is indeed for emergency use only, and if she can direct me to US Airways magazine or other company furnished directive indicating such. I told her I am well traveled, flown 50+ carriers around the world and never heard such a thing. Yes I get that disgruntled crew members don’t like providing onboard service but this is unacceptable. I’m planning to right into Hector Adler along with my feedback on the pitiful “meals” they are now serving.

In all of the years I have traveled, I personally have never heard that the flight attendant call button is to be used only in the event of an emergency — and I do listen to the safety announcements. I even go so far as to check under my seat to ensure that it is indeed equipped with a life vest…

…but then again, I did participate in what is known as Road Warrior Training at the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines — about which I briefly wrote here.

As I have said multiple times: in my opinion, the flight attendant call button should only be used when you need something but are unable to leave your seat — for example, a drink when you are thirsty but seated at a window seat on a crowded airplane. It should not be used gratuitously or excessively by any means; but I do not believe that it should only be used in emergencies — otherwise, the safety video would direct otherwise.

At the conclusion of the announcement usually cited after take-off, the flight attendant usually says “If there is anything we can do to make your flight more comfortable, please let us know.” Pilots have also been known to say that when they announce updates to the flight. Well, how are you supposed to let them know other than ringing the flight attendant call button? Get up and ask? Perhaps — but what if the fasten seat belt indicator is activated? What if you are sitting in a window seat and the passengers in both the aisle seat and the middle seat are sleeping? Should you wake them up?

I can understand a flight attendant being annoyed when the flight attendant call button is accidentally pressed, used excessively, or used for a reason for which it is not warranted. Perhaps I am mistaken, but when I hear the announcement “If there is anything we can do to make your flight more comfortable, please let us know” and there are no flight attendants to be seen — and I want something — is that not one of the purposes of the flight attendant call button?

Whenever I have used the flight attendant call button — and it was not that often, I can assure you — either the flight attendant responded but certainly without the impression of being annoyed; or there was no response…

…and when there was no response, it was because the flight attendant was busy doing other things at the time. Sure, I felt disappointed; but I do not believe that I was ignored — but then again, I do not recall having a request which was so important and urgent that it needed to be fulfilled there and then at that moment.

What exactly is the etiquette pertaining to using the flight attendant call button, as you understand it? Do you ever use the flight attendant call button at all? If so, when and under what circumstances? If not, why?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

5 thoughts on “Flight Attendant Call Button Revisited: When Should You Use It?”

  1. Santastico says:

    I kind of disagree here. You are paying for the flight and if you need the FA to bring you something to your seat you should do that. In my opinion a decent service is “included” in the price you’ve paid for your ticket. If you ever leave your seat and go find a flight attendant from SQ or CX and ask them for a drink you will probably be reprimanded that you do not need to leave your seat to ask for that but just ring the “call flight attendant” button and they will be happy to come to you. That is what differentiates a fresh and young service on Asian airlines versus a old and grumpy service on US airlines. BTW, I just flew GRU-DTW on Delta and I was amazed that no less than 3 FA’s were snoozing on business class seats during the flight. No, I am not talking about the pilot/captain but flight attendants with seat fully reclined and with blankets on. Sorry, if I sleep during my work time my boss will kick me out.

    1. Holly says:

      That IS unprofessional. What if a terrorist boarded the plane with the intention to kill everyone?!

  2. mike says:

    This kind of stupid question is only talked about in the US where people want to do the bear minimum and get paid. Look at any other airlines in other parts of the World. They do their job with honor and respect. They understand customer service.

  3. Flew in coach used the call button 3 times to get drinks fa’s did not get upset why do you ask? because it was a foreign airline

  4. - says:

    If it was an emergency call button, the FA should have come quickly the first time it was pressed.

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