In my years as a flight attendant, I have had passengers try to claim premium seats, embellish their airline status, and even claim to have paid more for their ticket than they did. Passengers do not realize that the flight crew is provided a passenger information list (PIL) or passenger manifest list before the plane leaves the gate. That PIL has a wealth of information on passengers. Here are a few things your flight attendants may know about you when you board the airplane.
You must provide identification before boarding an airplane. Before that airplane leaves the gate, a passenger list is provided to the flight crew listing everyone on board by name. This information is often utilized in premium cabins to personalize the flight experience, but it is available for everyone on the airplane. Immigration also uses this information to prescreen arriving and departing passengers.
Recently a flight had to be returned to the gate because passengers refused to leave premium cabin seating. Although there may be empty seats on the airplane, they are not for the taking. Seat assignments are allotted by ticket pricing, airline status, and other factors. Flight attendants do not assign seating, the gate agents do, but flight attendants have some leverage in reassigning seats while on board. Often passengers are asked to accommodate other passengers traveling together. However, once you are assigned a seat, you do not have to give up that seat assignment unless requested by a flight crew for a specified reason.
Depending on your airline status, you may be entitled to certain perks onboard the airline. Many were the days when I had passengers declare themselves to be “million” milers, platinum passengers, or VIPs demanding a particular service. That information is available on the passenger manifest, so claiming a status you are not is often a waste of breath.
One of the initial reasons for the passenger information list was to assist passengers with connecting flights while onboard. Before landing, the flight crews are provided with connecting gate information. When traveling in a premium cabin, passengers are often individually given connecting gate information before the list is relayed to main cabin passengers. This list also helps flight attendants request other passengers’ patience to allow connecting passengers to deplane first. In some cases, if seats are available, the flight crews can move passengers closer to the front of the airplane for faster deplaning.
With the many security matters that have arisen since 9/11, flight crews now can know if you are traveling alone or with a group, if you have or need medical assistance while onboard the aircraft, or even if you have been a problem passenger on a previous flight. If a problem arises and authorities meet the flight, they will already have your information when the flight lands.
I hope you realize that you are far from anonymous when you board an airplane or travel in general. The flight attendant can note your behavior, bad or good, in your flight itinerary. It’s not all to your detriment however, I remember wishing passengers a happy birthday, congratulating couples on their wedding or anniversary, even upgrading passengers for special milestones, or assisting grieving passengers. Were you aware of how much your information is shared? Please comment below and let me know.