In our August ‘95 issue of TravelASSIST Magazine we tackled the problem of unruly behavior by airline passengers. Today, a year later, the situation has become so severe that numerous task forces are being set up by the airline industry to find ways to deal with abusive passengers and antisocial behavior aboard aircraft.
One task force, organized by the Association of Flight Attendants that represents the cabin crews of 23 airlines, will develop enforcable standards and request tougher penalties for obstreperous or abusive passengers who, today, are seldom prosecuted for their acts. In particular, the regulations on interfering with flight crews need to be made clearer and airlines should report altercations to the FBI, according to the union. (The FBI is the agency with jurisdiction over interstate matters, including air travel).
Cutbacks in service along with fewer flight attendants and decreased legroom are added stressors for passengers who may have already endured overcrowding and canceled flights. According to flight attendants, hot breakfasts were once served on flights as brief as 45 minutes whereas now passengers are lucky to get coffee on the same flight.
Business passengers are frequently guilty of misbehavior and their companies could easily be held liable for their acts. These same companies are reluctant to educate their employees on the social requirements of business travel, fearing that ill-will would result from the suggestion that employees were capable of such behavior.
There could be no harm however, in holding short seminars on stress management and the loss of control that can result from fatigue, overcrowding, alcohol and frustration. A dialog between travel suppliers and travel departments of companies has been suggested along with stricter policing in the air.
It can be enormously frustrating to travelers who are faced with real problems and little if any time to solve them when they are unable to find someone in authority able to make things right. Cutbacks in airline staff have not helped this situation.
Under the circumstances, it seems appropriate to revive last year’s article on airline etiquette. Following the guidelines outlined below now will do more than simply help distressed passengers save face, it could save them (or their companies) large amounts of money in fines and damages or even jail time for misbehavior in the extreme. We learned of one corporate flier who jumped up and relieved himself on the food cart in full view of the other passengers. That act cost his company $50,000 in damages and restitution.
Extra -- This just in:
As we prepared our Airline Etiquette article, news kept pouring in with specific instances of misbehavior on scheduled airlines. Is this becoming an epidemic?
Los Angeles California: Eric Douglas, youngest son of film star Kirk Douglas has been arrested for causing a ruckus on a flight from New York to Los Angeles. He had refused to keep his dog in its carrier and had it on his lap in the first class section in violation of airline rules. When he was asked to comply he is said to have run up and down the aisles, continuing to press a panel of buttons reserved for the cabin crew and grabbed the buttocks of one of the flight attendants. Passengers were understandably frightened, asking if he had a knife and worrying that he might be able to open one of the planes doors in flight. He was arrested at the terminal and removed kicking and screaming from the aircraft, according to police.
New York City, New York: In an unrelated incident on a different flight a late-night talk show host panicked during a moment of turbulence and began screaming that they were all going to die.
Miami, Florida: A German tourist on route to Miami was arrested and nearly spent seven years in jail when he went berserk on a flight and began screaming (in guidebook English) that he had something in his pants that was about to explode. He had become enraged because the flight attendant would not allow him to use the lav during descent. Others mistook his screams for a bomb threat. The incident was diffused in a Miami courtroom and the gentleman is now safely back in Germany having breathed a gigantic sigh of relief.
It is time to give serious thought to the following:
Passengers struggle to keep the skies friendly.Larry Benedict
There is a groundswell of resistance building among airline passengers who are being subjected to bad manners and inconsiderate behavior by their fellow travelers. As airlines downsize and cut back on amenities in an effort to survive economically, it seems that a growing number of passengers lack the basic forms of social interaction required to make the flight a pleasant one.
Most travelers feel uneasy over who will occupy the seat next to them in the best circumstances. Cabin space in an aircraft is so restricted there's little can be done but bear it, if your neighbor is less than a desirable traveling companion. Someone who spent hours online looking for the cheapest ticket they could find.
The person who squeezes past your knees just as you are "settling-in" will be the person you're stuck with for the entire flight. If they have a cold, you have a cold. If they have a baby you have a baby. If they spend the next six hours on the telephone making deals, you will share their experience.
Much inconsiderate behavior can be regarded as a nuisance, if its limited to a short period of time and at a respectable distance. The same nuisance, however, occurring within inches of your face and lasting several hours will undermine the enjoyment of your trip. We have compiled some common nuisances that should never occur in the first place but are becoming familiar situations on every flight. Do you recognize anyone from the following?
The Incessant talkerNow we've identified the offenses let's see if we can come up with remedies for at least a few.
The wrong-seat grabber
The big shot
The flying desktop
The baby in (or out of) diapers
The exuberant poker game
The common cold carrier
The terrified flier
The passenger in the window seat with the bladder problem.
The carry-on abuser
The snoring sleeper
The kid from the seat in front staring right into your eyeballs
The rambunctious teenagers
The passenger with telephonitis
The stewardess pest
The Incessant Talker
Why do people talk too much and why to strangers?The Baby
People who are excited tend to talk a lot. People who are frightened tend to do the same thing. It's easy to see that if people are both excited and frightened their need to talk can overpower them.
Some have a personal problem they need to work out. They decide the captive audience strapped into the seat next to them is bound to be sympathetic, will not be hearing the other side of story, and has nothing to do but read that thick boring-looking book. Oh yes, this consultation will be free.
For others there is the temptation to self-aggrandize. Now is their chance to be a rocket scientist, a brain surgeon or a record promoter and no-one will be any the wiser. (Age, vocabulary and attire usually gives these people away but the nuisance factor is not diminished).
Incessant talkers might take a tip from the British. That society trains its citizens to refrain from speaking until spoken to; they do not speak to strangers until they are formally introduced. This can be misconstrued as snobbery but, in reality, it allows people to coexist in close quarters without driving each other crazy.
If you feel like talking but your seat passenger pointedly does not respond, be kind, lapse into silence. They don't want to talk. It's nothing personal, they don't even know you. You are living your life, they are living theirs. Respect their privacy.
What if you wish to maintain your solitude but the person next to you has not read this article and is determined to engage you in an unwanted conversation?
Try consciously regulating your level of politeness. Start by not responding to remarks. Smile politely and go back to what you were doing. If they don't take this hint choose a response like: "I'm sorry, I have something very important to think about, (read) (work on) and do not wish to talk. Please do not talk to me. I hope you have a pleasant trip. There is never any reason to be unpleasant or get angry, of course. Calm, persistent repetition of your desire to be silent is the best strategy.
When traveling with a your baby, understand that your fellow passenger may look upon your precious bundle-of-joy as a noisy abuse of the carry-on privilege. To minimize the disturbance to others it is important to make every effort to have your baby as comfortable and rested as humanly possible.The Carry-On Abuser.
Make sure its plumbing has been attended to and the ditty bag of baby paraphernalia is as compact as possible. Arrange for an aisle seat and preferably request one at the back of the cabin or close to the galley where as few passengers as possible will be subjected to nursery activities. Make sure the cabin crew is aware of your presence and is available to heat the bottles and provide whatever other amenities are necessary.
Diaper disposal is a serious problem and no-one seems to give the subject any thought until the moment arrives. Try to change the baby in the lav, place the soiled diapers in an airsick bag and use the trash container in the lavatory to dispose of the bagged refuse. The best idea is to bring plastic bags in your diaper bag and use those as containers. Never change a baby in a passenger seat, never put soiled diapers in the pouch behind the seat and neverhand soiled diapers to a flight attendant! If you need assistance with your baby discuss your problem with a member of the cabin crew before the problem arises.
For passengers stuck beside a struggling or noisy baby, there's no harm in requesting a change of seat. If that can't be done, try offering to switch seats if both parents are present. The baby could be moved one seat away from you. If this can't be done, borrow pillows and blankets from the cabin crew, build yourself a little buffer zone, and get under a headset to block out the crying with some gentle, soothing rock and roll.
As stated in our Carry-on Advisory, a dim view is currently being taken of people who take unfair advantage of this privilege. Why do people drag all their stuff on board when it would be easier to check it with the rest of the baggage?The drunk
Some folks have had bad experiences with delays at the carousels. They see "carry-on" as a time-saver worth a few hostile glances from fellow passengers. Times have changed, however. As discussed in our carry-on Advisory, computerized baggage handling and other advances have almost eliminated the hassles of retrieving your checked bags.
Sizer boxes are available at all boarding gates, test your carry on to make sure you will not become a nuisance on board. If the luggage you planned to carry on does not fit the sizer box it must be checked. Sturdy cardboard boxes are available in most instances to accommodate last minute baggage checking.
Once on board, don't jam heavy carry on packages on top of someone's neatly folded overcoat and don't use other people's bins for extra stowage. Most importantly, don't ask the person next to you to stow your souvenirs under their seat. They paid for that space and they need it.
Passengers who are faced with a carry-on abuser are within their rights to politely ask the person to remove their belongings from the bin and suggest they contact to cabin crew for stowage advice. If this meets with resistance contact a member of the cabin crew and point out the problem.
Some people have a tendency to drink on a plane for the same reason others talk too much. They are excited; they've relaxed their standards because they are on holiday and maybe they are frightened of flying.
It is important for anyone having a drink to note that altitude exaggerates the effects of alcohol and their sense of euphoria is regarded by surrounding passengers as an obnoxious invasion of their limited personal space. Often people who don't normally drink sometimes request an alcoholic beverage on planes and these people can lose their sense of decorum quite swiftly.
If you recognize yourself in the above description, remember you are not in a bar but an airline cabin. You are squeezed in with strangers who do not necessarily share your interests. If you are drinking out of fear, studies have shown that sugar and alcohol increase anxiety and panic rather than remove those sensations. If there were to be an emergency, alcohol will reduce your ability to react swiftly. An alcoholic beverage can be a pleasurable experience as long as one's wits remain under one's conscious control.
When stuck beside an obnoxious drunk, a passenger can try any of the techniques suggested above but if those fail, report the situation to the cabin crew. They are trained to handle it.
As for the other nuisances that reduce the pleasure of flying, our suggestions can be applied with a few modifications. The most important tip for all fliers is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Courtesy and a concern for others will go a long way toward making our skies more friendly whatever airline we choose to fly.
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