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I have only taken two long-haul flights in my life, which were an Air France round-trip between Paris and Osaka, so I have limited experience with those. On the first one of these flights, I saw a passenger head to the galley and pour themselves a drink. And ever since then I've been wondering: is this acceptable and/or normal? I'm asking both in terms of "general passenger and crew expectations", and airline policies and regulations.

There were no flight attendants in the galley at that time, and there were no doors or curtains to block access (or if there were curtains, they weren't drawn), so I didn't think too much about it at that time, but I'd still like to know.

5 Answers 5

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This is very variable. Traditionally, it definitely wasn't, but in the last decade or two some airlines have introduced self-service periods in the galleys on long-haul flights (when the crew is not actually using the galleys preparing for meal services).

Sometimes this is the case only in the business class galley, sometimes in the economy class galleys as well.

They will usually make it quite clear, by laying out the drinks and a few snacks in baskets or the like, with glasses and ice available, etc. It's quite different from rummaging through the containers, which would most probably be a no-no.

IIRC Air France do it at least in Business class, no idea about economy.

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    I miss the old days when passengers could go stand and chat near the galley on a 12 hour flight, even in economy. Post 9/11 that's considered "congregating" and is frowned upon (i.e. explicitly prohibited). Mar 11 at 4:27
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    @SpehroPefhany With due care I can manage to persuade the staff to gather for photos. Usually works. But not always :-). Mar 11 at 12:25
  • @SpehroPefhany Air Brunei staff and other photos here and here- Quality suffers from context and from compression to contact sheet. ||That would be a very extreme example :-). A friendly lot. Mar 11 at 13:20
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    @SpehroPefhany At least for U.S. carriers, it depends on where the galley is located. It's specifically the flight deck door that you're not allowed to congregate around. I have stood around in the galley and chatted with FAs and others passengers on Delta flights from Asia to the U.S., for example, and this was much more recent than 9/11. But this was for galleys in locations other than immediately aft of the flight deck. Granted, not all cabin crew may appreciate that, but some do as long as it's during a time where they're not busy or supposed to be resting.
    – reirab
    Mar 11 at 21:18
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    I can report that El Al also has the practice of laying out snacks (including sandwiches!) and drinks in the aft galley for passengers to self-serve.
    – JoelFan
    Mar 13 at 21:21
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Some airlines, not all and not always, provide snacks and/or drinks for anyone to take in the galley. Usually they're obviously arranged to be taken. If you do find a collection of things out in the open in the galley, then they're meant to be taken. Anything else would be stowed away.

It is not okay to rummage through the stowage or touch any devices like the coffee machine obviously.

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    The drinks available for anyone to take is usually just plain water. In my experience everything else is only either distributed by crew or provided on request (experience from economy class only, business class is presumably different?)
    – quarague
    Mar 11 at 7:22
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    Often, yes. But I believe I've seen beer available at least once.
    – deceze
    Mar 11 at 8:09
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    @quarague I've seen not just water but also soft drinks freely available in the galley, with an announcement that passengers are free to help themselves.
    – Tom
    Mar 11 at 9:41
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    I've seen a tray with poured glasses of water and orange juice several times, which seemed like a clear invitation to help oneself. Other times I have seen bottles and cartons with a stack of plastic glasses next to them, which is slightly less clear, but as stated above, it would probably be stowed if it wasn't for offer. This has all been in economy during night time of long-haul flights.
    – jkej
    Mar 11 at 10:57
  • "Stowed away" yes, for safety. Soda cans make nasty projectiles. Mar 11 at 23:15
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One possibility is that the passenger was an off-duty crew-member deadheading. The regular crew would know who they are and they would know how to handle things properly in the galley.

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Well, I have done myself a couple of times both in presence and absence of crew members. Especially, in the long haul flights, where passengers need a bit more than a large leg space and want some open space to walk. I took a chance to even get some snacks from the pantry. The crew was nice and understanding, and they understand the passengers unusual requirements. So, yeah I agree with other responders that it is a very subjective thing, but trying does not hurt.

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Sadley I need to comment to earn points rather then upvoting replies that have already hit the nail on the head. Depends on the airline, however if you could have hit a call button and gotten the same without having to pay for it first...then anyone should be free to grab drinks and snacks that are in the corresponding area in the plane. On long flights from US to UAE, it was common for stewards to only come out for meal delivery times, trash pickup or make more coffee..the rest of the time they hung out in the back or sides and people were free to stretch and grab snacks and drinks. I have yet to see anyone get chewed out for doing it.

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