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11 Strange Rules Flight Attendants Must Follow

Who knew their uniforms were THIS strict?

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Close up of a syringe about to be injected into a patients arm.Cameron Whitman/Shutterstock

They can’t use all the medical equipment onboard

By law, all major flights need to carry a medical kit with equipment such as resuscitation devices, syringes, and IV tubes—but the flight attendants can’t necessarily use them because they aren’t medically trained. Instead, they need to wait for directions from a doctor onboard. While many people think that it’s a Hollywood myth for most planes to have medical professionals onboard, these are the actual chances of a doctor being on your flight. 

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Close up still life detail view of a soft tailor measuring tape laying in a curly shape on a plain blue background, interior. Trade tools and objects for exact measure taking.MJTH/Shutterstock

They can’t be too short or too tall

Because crew members need to help passengers with their bags and reach medical kits, most airlines have height requirements for their flight attendants. At British Airways, for instance, everyone needs to be between 5’2” and 6’1” and be able to reach items 6’7” off the ground. Just call them Goldilocks.

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Weight scale and a measuring tape. Concept- lifestyle, sports and diet for weight loss. Copy space. Korelidou Mila/Shutterstock

They need to keep their weight in check

Height isn’t the only physical feature an airline will judge its employees on. Some, such as Southwest and American Airlines, require weight to be “in proportion with height.” The idea is that the crew needs to be able to maneuver quickly and without getting in the way of passengers during an emergency.

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cropped shot of stylish young tattooed man in white t-shirt standing with hand on chin isolated on greyLightField Studios/Shutterstock

They can’t have visible tattoos

While policies vary from company to company, most airlines don’t allow visible tattoos—and that includes ones that are covered with makeup or bandages in policies like British Airways’. If the uniform shoes reveal foot tattoos and the tights are too sheer to hide them, a flight attendant won’t be hired.

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one dollarvandame/Shutterstock

They won’t always take your tips

Sure, flight attendants are the ones pouring your drinks and bringing your food, but they’re nothing like a restaurant server. Flight attendants are also in charge of your safety, and they can’t always accept tips. Company policies vary, but some are only allowed to take cash if the passenger insists, while others might only be able to accept gift cards.

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Bottles with delicious wine on grey background, top viewNew Africa/Shutterstock

They won’t let you BYOB

Just because you legally bought duty-free wine or squeezed mini liquor bottles in your liquids bag doesn’t give you the right to break into them onboard. FAA regulations only allow passengers to drink alcohol that’s been served to them, and flight attendants would risk losing their jobs if they let you bend the rules.

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Professional makeup tools, flatlay on white backgroundDaria Minaeva/Shutterstock

They can’t get creative with their makeup

Makeup is part of a flight attendant’s uniform, and that means they need to keep from going too extreme—or not extreme enough. Emirates is all about high-maintenance beauty and requires female flight attendants to wear red lipstick and lip liner during every shift. United crew, on the other hand, need to “apply makeup conservatively” and stay away from “extreme colors.” Usually, nail polish needs to be unchipped and a classic color like nude, pink, or certain shades of red.

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Pouring delicious red wine into decanter on grey table, above viewNew Africa/Shutterstock

They can’t dip into the hard drinks

Not only do flight attendants have to stay sober on the job (thank goodness!), but some aren’t allowed to imbibe until they’ve changed clothes. JetBlue, for instance, doesn’t let employees drink alcohol while wearing their company ID or any other part of their uniform. While flight attendants aren’t allowed to drink onboard, this rule doesn’t apply to passengers.

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Shaving accessories for man on grey backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Men can’t grow “trendy” facial hair

United Airlines leaves no questions as to what type of facial hair is acceptable. Men’s beards can’t grow more than one inch below their chins, and their mustaches can’t grow past ¼ inch below the mouth. They’re allowed to have a “Van Dyke,” with the beard and mustache connected, but no goatees or other “trendy” styles. If you think it’s strange how closely airlines manage employees’ personal lives, you won’t believe these 13 weird things your airline knows about you.

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An orange safety ring float hangedBerna Namoglu/Shutterstock

They need to be strong swimmers

On the off-chance of an emergency water landing, passengers will be happy to know that flight attendants need to be able to pass a swimming test. Some job descriptions just ask that flight attendants be confident swimmers, but companies like British Airways only hire crew members who can swim 55 yards, then tread water for three minutes, in addition to proving they can help other people in the water.

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Piercing earringAlexander_G/Shutterstock

They can wear only one pair of earrings

Flight attendants usually can’t show off a cartilage piercing. Hawaiian Airlines tells crew members not to wear multiple, upper ear, or gauge piercings (not to mention facial piercings), and United flight attendants are allowed to wear “one earring per earlobe, no larger than a U.S. quarter,” and no bigger than a dime if they’re dangly. While flight attendants may tell curious passengers about the strange rules they have to follow, there are 22 things they definitely won’t tell you.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.