Europe blog and travel tips

Flight attendant tips for looking good after a long-haul flight

March 28, 2016 (Last Updated: May 15, 2020)
by Carolyn

I don’t know about you but whenever I disembark from a long-haul flight I always feel like I’ve been put through a wringer.  I feel decidedly unglamorous and very jealous of the female flight attendants who all look like they’ve just stepped out of a beauty salon. 

So how do they do it?  I asked a former flight attendant to reveal her secrets.

Picture this: I’m just about to disembark after the 22-odd hour flight from Australia to Europe.  I’ve landed in a city known for its fashion and glamour and I’m looking pale and washed out and feel desperately in need of a shower.

Even though I managed to get some sleep on the plane, my eyes feel bloodshot and puffy and that lipstick I applied just before landing has done little (or nothing!) to improve my overall appearance. 

In a word, I feel YUK!

Dishevelled woman No matter how hard I try, this is how I always seem to look when I disembark from a long-haul flight – dishevelled! Image © fabianaponzi

And to make it worse, as I leave the plane, I’m farewelled by immaculately groomed flight attendants who don’t have a hair out of place. Despite being on their feet and catering to their whims of my fellow passengers for the duration of the flight, their make up is perfect and their smiles outlined by still-in-place lipstick.

What am I doing wrong? I’m being realistic here – I don’t expect a miracle to happen in-flight and I’ll arrive looking like Elle Macpherson or Heidi Klum but a girl does have some pride. Surely it’s not impossible – or too vain – to want to get off the plane feeling good about my appearance, is it?  Who’s with me on this one?

Being concerned about my appearance post-flight means that my travel outfit is going to play a role. I’m not the kind of traveller who rocks up to the flight in their tracksuit pants or skimpy tops (but good luck to those who do!). I always dress in a smart but comfortable travel outfit when flying and I used to think that would be enough to make me feel OK when I arrived at my destination.  

Unfortunately, it now takes more than that so I asked my friend and former flight attendant, Sky Gander, if she has any tips for me.

“Whenever I fly I take a water atomiser with me and mist my face regularly, as well as a good moisturizer. If you have to get off the plane looking glamorous, put your make up on before descent,” Sky said.

“You should also drink lots of water. During an eight-hour flying day I would drink eight litres of water.  The aircraft cabin has very low humidity and makes you feel drowsy if you don’t stay hydrated, and it dries out your skin.”

“You could also buy some hydrolyte powder and add it to your water on board. I also used to add liquid oxygen drops to my water (buy from the health food store),” she added.

Smiling flight attendant Have you ever noticed how good the flight attendant’s look, even after a long-haul flight? Image © Kalim / Dollar Photo Club

Hair care

My hair is another embarrassment when I disembark from a long flight.  I do brush it before landing but the ends are always full of static and it’s as flat as a tack on top.  For this problem, Sky suggests a dry shampoo.

“Dry shampoo is the trick here,” she says.  “Again before descent, go to the loo and sprinkle some dry shampoo in your hair and style as usual. It really works!”

I’ll definitely be trying that out next time I fly.

In-flight health and cleanliness

So now I know what to do to look and feel presentable when I arrive at my destination but what should I know about in-flight health and the general cleanliness of planes?

“Those stockings that flight attendants wear – they may look sexy however they are good old support stockings,” Sky admitted. 

“They’re super tricky to get on – you lie on the floor, suck everything in, and pull! – but they work to keep your circulation moving.”

Sky also has some warnings about the food we are served up on board.

“Don’t eat the plane food!  It has been proven that your sense of taste is greatly reduced when flying and hence the catering staff add salt liberally to everything which gives you puffy eyes and a dry mouth. 

“Eat before you leave or lightly on the plane.  Take some unopened trail mix snacks on board,” she suggests.

“Do not eat grapes or cucumber if you can help it. They will give you gas!! True!”  

Flight attendant Flawless make up, unruffled clothing and not a hair out of place. How do they do it? Image © Pepa Morente / Dollar Photo Club

For general cleanliness, Sky recommends taking a small bottle of hand sanitiser or a small packet of wipes and wiping down everything you might touch. This includes the tray table, arm rests, entertainment screen, etc.  You never know what germs are lingering.

I’ve even heard reports lately that the pillows and blankets handed out on flights aren’t washed after every use – which is disgusting! Apparently they are just re-packaged for use by the next unsuspecting passenger.  

The safest bet, according to Sky, is to take a pashmina.

“I always fly with a pashmina,” she says. “I can use it as a comforter, put it on the seat, use it as a pillow bunched up or, on overnight flights, put it over my head.”

She also stresses the need to wear shoes in the toilets and in the aisles.

“It’s amazing how many people walk bare foot or with their socks on in the toilets.  The cleaners only come on board AFTER the flight!”

She mentioned some pretty nasty on board accidents that I won’t mention here (I don’t want to put you off your lunch) but, needless to say, my shoes are NEVER leaving my feet on a flight again.

(You can read more in-flight health tips here)

A flight attendant’s tips for looking good after a long-haul flight

As someone who has travelled all over the world as a flight attendant, travel agent and holiday-maker, what are the handbag essentials that Sky never travels without?

“A universal charger, head phones (not even the fancy ones just some that are comfortable for you), a lovely smelling hand moisturiser, and a good book or magazine in case the in-flight entertainment system doesn’t work.”

So I’ve got the right outfit, I’ve religiously used an atomizer throughout the flight, I’ve only eaten small portions, I’ve drunk lots of water and I’ve re-applied my make up and used dry shampoo on my hair. 

But if all that has failed and it’s time to disembark, what other advice does Sky have for looking glamorous (or at least half alive) at the end of a long-haul flight?

“If all else fails, put on some dark sunglasses and a splash of parfum and act like you’re a celebrity on disembarkation – it helps!”

Sky Gander is a former flight attendant who now owns and operates Take a Gander Travel Adventures.