Both airlines and passengers bear responsibility for the recent spate of misbehaving travelers.
Airline passengers are normally nice folk with good manners. However, the airlines have taken advantage of passengers’ good manners and reduced safety in a drive to fit more passengers into planes. There are remarkably few misbehaving passengers given airplanes’ small (and getting smaller) space.
Space is reduced when designing a nuclear weapon until it creates a reaction. This is called critical mass. When there is less space on planes, the passengers must interact with each other more and more. Like atomic reactions between molecules, there is often an explosion between passengers. Today, airlines have succeeded in reaching critical passenger mass.
The problem of bad airline behavior is not the fault of only passengers. The airlines, by squeezing people into smaller and smaller spaces, have exacerbated the problem. Passengers are encouraged to stay in their seats. They are admonished when walking in the aisles. Plane layouts of the most modern long-haul aircraft do not allow passengers to circulate from the plane’s right side to the left side. And, today, the most common medical emergency on aircraft is a passengers passing out at altitude when they move to use the lavatory.
Here are a few of the pet peeves of both readers and myself. These are examples of misbehaving passengers.
Putting your feet on the bulkhead. It is not designed for feet — bare or not.
When I am boarding planes, I often see the passengers sitting in bulkhead seats with their feet propped up on the carpeted or uncarpeted wall. When boarding planes, I rarely comment. But when the person sitting in the bulkhead is next to me, I always ask the person to put their feet back on the floor where they belong. If I am sitting in the window seat, I mention that I have to brush past this wall whenever I get up to take a walk or to go to the bathroom. While sitting in the bulkhead I have never had a fellow passenger refuse my request. However, many travelers think they can put their feet anywhere they like.
I once had a passenger take off their sandals, stretch out, and put their feet on the armrest next to me! That is a truly misbehaving passenger.
If a comment about passengers placing their feet on the walls of the passenger cabin sets me off, placing naked feet (or wearing socks) beside me REALLY gets me going. This kind of behavior is getting more frequent. I have never flown with a passenger whose feet stay on the armrest during the flight. That includes anytime I am seated on a plane.
Pulling on the seat in front of you on your way to the bathroom, and in and out of your row.
In today’s coach class, it’s almost impossible NOT to pull on the seat in front of you. I dare any airline CEO to get up without grabbing something, especially if the person in front of you has reclined their seat. The seats snap back to position and wake up any sleeping passengers. Plus, every so often I have grabbed a handful of hair that was tossed over the back of the seat in front of me.
In business class, when you are surrounded by a cocoon of plastic tucked into a lay-flat seat, the only way to get up can be by pulling yourself up. Of course, your rigid surroundings provide lots of leverage.
Misbehaving passengers crowd the baggage carousel.
At the very end of the flight, this is a royal pain. For some reason, everyone wants to be right next to the carousel. I guess they think that their bag will come earlier. Normally, I just stand back and get a spot where I can see my luggage exit onto the belt and fight my way toward the carousel. Passengers who take their luggage carts and plant them right next to the belt add to the crowded mayhem to get luggage after a flight.
Passengers who dress as though the flight will be hotter than Hades.
I initially found the situation amusing when passengers sat in the waiting area wearing short shorts and T-shirts. Yes, they are perhaps the right temperature when waiting to board. However, veteran fliers know that the temperatures on planes are usually cool to chilly. I have rarely been on a flight where the temperature is constant and comfortable. During two transatlantic trips, I saw many young ladies wearing hot pants and halter-tops that ended up wrapped in blankets. They were lucky to have been on international flights with blankets. Domestic flights rarely have that amenity.
Bring a sweater if you tend to be cold. These half-naked girls ask the flight attendants to turn the heat up. Wear clothes!! Side note from flight attendants: If passengers dress skimpily and ask for heat, there’s a chance the flight attendant will turn the AC up. However, normally flight attendants do not have control of cabin temperatures.
This should go without mentioning. Water you find on the floor of airplane lavs is not normally sink overflow! ‘Nuff said.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past 14 years with Congress, the Department of Transportation, and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the first consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.