The debate over when passengers aboard airplanes should use the flight attendant call button has been ongoing for at least a decade and continues to this day — but are flight attendant call buttons purposely shrinking and thereby sending a message as to not use it unless absolutely necessary?
Are Flight Attendant Call Buttons Purposely Shrinking?
Flight attendant call buttons were larger and more obvious with a different color at least eight years ago, as shown in the photograph above…
…but they progressively were getting smaller, as shown in the photograph above — although they still were colored differently to conspicuously differentiate them from other buttons…
…and on a recent flight, I noticed that the flight attendant call button seems even smaller and not as obvious to spot instantly as with previous iterations. Then again, the other buttons are also smaller; and two flight attendant call buttons are provided — but that likely has not mitigated the debate of when to use the flight attendant call button.
What Exactly Is the Debate With Flight Attendant Call Buttons?
Is the flight attendant call button only to be used in the event of an emergency — or should it be used when a passenger wants something but for whatever reason is unable to obtain it?
At the conclusion of the announcement usually cited after take-off, the flight attendant usually says “If there is anything we can do to make your flight more comfortable, please let us know.” If a video is used for the safety announcement, a similar phrase is usually used towards the conclusion of the video.
Pilots have also been known to say something similar when they announce updates to the flight from the flight deck. Well, how is a passenger supposed to let them know that he or she wants or needs something other than by ringing the flight attendant call button? Perhaps getting up out of the seat and asking would usually work — but what if the fasten seat belt indicator is activated? What if the passenger is sitting in a window seat and fellow passengers in both the aisle seat and the middle seat are sleeping? Should that passenger wake up the other passengers in the row?
Final Boarding Call
As I have written multiple times over the years: in my opinion, the flight attendant call button should only be used when you need something but are unable to leave your seat — for example, a drink when you are thirsty but seated at a window seat on a crowded airplane. It should not be used gratuitously or excessively by any means; but I do not believe that it should only be used in emergencies — otherwise, the safety video or safety announcement by a member of the flight crew would direct otherwise.
I almost always listen to the safety announcements when I am a passenger aboard an airplane. I even go so far as to check under my seat to ensure that it is indeed equipped with a life vest.
I can understand a flight attendant being annoyed when the flight attendant call button is accidentally pressed, used excessively, or used for a reason for which it is not warranted. Perhaps I am mistaken, but when I hear the announcement “If there is anything we can do to make your flight more comfortable, please let us know” and there are no flight attendants to be seen — and I want something — is that not one of the purposes of the flight attendant call button?
Whenever I have used the flight attendant call button — and it was not that often, I can assure you, as I have not used one in years — either the flight attendant responded but certainly without the impression of being annoyed; or there was no response…
…and when there was no response, it was because the flight attendant was busy doing other things at the time. Sure, I may have felt a bit of disappointment as a momentary result; but I do not believe that I was ignored — but then again, I do not recall having a request which was so important and urgent that it needed to be fulfilled there and then at that moment.
I must say that I have noticed that I do not seem to hear the sound of a flight attendant call button being used as much in recent years as in past years. Could that be a direct result of fewer services being offered — such as no meal service on most flights in the economy class cabin.
Still, I wonder: are flight attendant call buttons purposely designed to be smaller so as to discourage passengers from reaching up and using them?
All photographs ©2015, ©2016, ©2018, ©2021, and ©2023 by Brian Cohen.