Even frequent fliers can be oblivious to the number of factors that must be considered for a safe and pleasant flight. Though the primary responsibility of flight attendants is to ensure passenger safety while transporting them as quickly as possible between destinations, there's plenty they don't share with you. Here are six secrets your flight attendants won't tell you.

Why Cabin Lights Are Dimmed

Credit: Chatree.I/Shutterstock

In preparation for take off and landing, flight attendants always request that our tray tables be stowed away and seats put upright. In the nighttime, cabin lights are dimmed, and window shades are raised for daytime lift offs and touchdowns. As these are the most critical portions of a flight, these requests are precautions in the event of the unspeakable.

Dim cabin lights help passengers better see the floor lights along the aisles that lead to the exit should an evacuation occur during a nighttime flight. Because it takes between 10 and 30 minutes to fully adjust to the dark, dimming the lights will shave off valuable time in the event of an emergency. Similarly, when window shades are raised when an aircraft takes off or lands in the daytime, the light allows for passengers’ eyes to be acclimated, and flight attendants can monitor the conditions outside should there be an evacuation.

Stowing tray tables and putting seats upright allows passengers to move out of their seats quickly, safely exiting the aircraft.

Secrets of the Lavatory

Though the U.S. began to ban smoking on flights in the 1980s, modern aircrafts are still equipped with ashtrays, directly beneath the no smoking sign in the lavatory. Despite the multiple warnings against smoking on board, passengers still break the law and can occasionally be found lighting up in the lavatory. The aircraft must have a safe place for cigarettes to be disposed of other than its waste basket that brims with flammable napkins. For this reason, the presence of ashtrays in lavatories are legally required on a commercial jet.

Another lavatory secret? In case of emergency when a flight attendant needs to access a locked lavatory, one can be unlocked from the outside by lifting the lavatory sign on the door and sliding the knob.

How Clean Airplanes Are

Credit: gyn9037/Shutterstock

Depending on the airline, aircrafts are deep cleaned about once every month, where seat cushions, carpets and tray tables are thoroughly washed. But only quick turns are performed between flights on a daily basis, when blankets are simply refolded, pillows re-fluffed and magazines filed in the seat pocket. Even if the passenger before you used the tray table as a changing table for her baby or stowed a sick bag in your seat pocket, quick turnarounds don’t allow enough time for them to be sanitized. Bring antibacterial wipes on board to put your mind at ease.

Hidden Nap Rooms

Pilots and flight attendants take turns snoozing in hidden nap rooms to keep well rested on long flights. Situated above first class behind the flight deck on the Boeing 777, the sleeping area is accessed via a set of stairs or ladder behind an unassuming door away from the public eye. Windowless, the sleeping quarter is equipped with six to ten lie-flat beds, separated by curtains designed to muffle the noise of the engine. Depending on airline and aircraft, sleeping quarters are equipped with lavatories, TVs and even satin pillows for a restful nap.

Self-Defense

Self-defense training is offered to all active flight attendants in the U.S. by federal air marshals, a program that’s hosted at more than 20 community colleges and Federal Air Marshal Service sites nationwide. Its hands-on training in a range of techniques equip in-flight crew with a bit of confidence to handle unruly passengers and unexpected situation that comes their way.

They Also Hate Delays

Credit: Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock

Instead of being paid gate to gate, flight attendants are paid according to the number of hours spent in the air, meaning they are essentially kind volunteers when seating passengers, assisting to stow overhead bags and broadcasting safety announcements, right up until the aircraft door closes and pushes back for take off.

A delay can also negatively affect a flight attendant’s schedule, as they’re subject to crew scheduling and reassignment of flights to mitigate lost time, shortening their layovers, adding more flights to their day or stranding them in unexpected destinations for the night because they’ve already worked the legal amount of hours in a day. The next time you reach your departure gate to discover a new estimated departure time, remember that cabin crew are on your side in a dreaded delay.