What it means if cabin crew are ‘dead-heading’ – and why it’s bad news for you

There’s a specific time when a flight attendant can refuse to serve a passenger, did you know that?

No matter how much you beg or plead with them, they don’t have to get you a drink or something to eat.

They can sit and read a magazine or take a nap without having to get up halfway through and fulfil your needs.

It’s all because of something known as ‘dead-heading’, according to a flight attendant, and apparently it’s something most cabin crew members do at some point during their career.

There’s one time when crew members don’t have to serve you (stock photo)

 

So what is dead-heading?

Betty, an air hostess, wrote all about her experiences working on planes in her memoir Betty in the sky with a suitcase.

In her memoir, she explains that if someone on the flight is dead-heading, that means they are officially off-duty.

Betty explains that sometimes when dead-heading crew members may still be in their uniform – which makes people think they are still working.

Just because a flight attendant is in uniform doesn’t mean they are on-duty (stock photo)

 

Typically they are often on the plane to fly home or to another airport to catch another flight.

She wrote: “Often, we’re still in our uniforms, but we’re not on duty. This drives some people nuts.

“If you see a flight attendant reading a magazine and sipping a drink or taking a snooze, they’re not being lazy – they are just dead-heading.”

Patrick Smith, author of Cockpit Confidential and website Ask The Pilot adds that while they are not obligated to serve and assist, they would be required to help if there were an on-board emergency.

The industry secret was revealed by Betty In The Sky (stock photo)

He added that if a flight attendant is dead-heading to work on another flight, this could result in a passenger being bumped from the plane to make room for them.

A famous dead-heading situation inspired the Hollywood film Catch Me If You Can (2002) starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.

The movie was based on con-man Frank Abagnale, who impersonated an airline pilot and claims to have dead-headed to at least 26 different countries.

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