Why cabin crew welcome you on a flight with their hands behind their back

Cabin crew flight attendant. (Getty Images)
Cabin crew carry out an important step when they first greet us to help ensure a smooth flight. (Getty Images)

We're usually so focused on not missing our flight, remembering all our important travel documents and settling in to our seats, that we can often overlook why the cabin crew do things a certain way.

But have you ever wondered why your flight attendant welcomes you on board with their hands behind their back?

Or perhaps you haven't ever really thought much of it. It's surely just a polite gesture, right?

Well, there's actually a clever reason behind their upright posture.

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Busy flight. (Getty Images)
Keep an eye out on your flight attendant's hands next time they greet you. (Getty Images)

Why do cabin crew hide their hands when you board a plane?

As passengers board the plane, members of the cabin crew team are required to count each person using a clicker.

In order to be discreet while they smile and welcome you onboard, the nifty little device is held behind their back.

Eagle-eyed passengers on long-haul flights may even have noticed that sometimes the aircraft team walk up and down the aisle using the clicking device before take-off.

When they perform a head count, it’s actually more of a double check to ensure everyone is on board.

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Cabin crew member counting passengers. (Getty Images)
When crew use the clicker in the aisle, this could actually be the second time. (Getty Images)

When counting passengers on a flight goes wrong

Showing just how crucial the discreet job is, one memorable Ryanair flight from London Stansted to Belfast in 2019 was delayed by as much as two hours after staff couldn't work out how many passengers were on board.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, around 100 passengers on the late night flight were left stranded on the tarmac as the crew tried to correctly confirm the number of those on the aircraft.

Despite flight attendants checking boarding passes three times, they were still unable to account for everyone who was due to fly. But at long last, after even having to resort to reading out passenger's names, the 10.10pm flight finally took off at midnight.

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“It looked as though there were two people on the flight who couldn’t be accounted for,” a passenger revealed. “The flight attendants kept telling us that legally they couldn’t take off until they had the correct number of passengers.”

So there you have it, the way cabin crews greet us is far more important than you might think. And you now also have a conversation-starter at the ready for the neighbour sitting next to you.

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