Impolite Travelers

Just a quick blog to complain about impolite travelers.

What is your worst travel experience with an impolite traveler? Would love to hear some others comments and experiences below.

As a frequent traveler, I have logged (literally) millions of frequent flier miles attaining lifetime status on several airlines. As air travel goes, there has been a steady decay in the service level and fun of flying, even internationally. On a recent six hour cross country flight (EWR to LAX) the passengers in coach received only two drink service cycles, with no snacks (of course limited, and pricey on board food was available), and no on board entertainment. This lack of food forces passengers to pack on their own meals/snacks to endure the hours of boring travel, and to bring as many gadgets as they can fit underneath the seat in front of them (luckily for some there is overpriced Wi-Fi these days). The result is perhaps the most smelly, cluttered and trash filled cabin possible, something that not even designers of the plane contemplated. When I have to endure this type of flight, I often have flash backs to the days I used Greyhound buses for travel, minus the flight attendants, who are present “primarily for my safety”. Furthermore, at least in coach, working on the plane has become nearly impossible unless you have a small laptop that can remain open even with the seat back in front fully reclined.

With the degradation of service aside, the horrible behavior, lack of respect, and impoliteness of the travelers that are flying these days is becoming more notable, and more annoying. Perhaps my problems have been compounded by a recent streak of events, but my gut feel is that I must learn to accept, and expect, even more of the same. 

Here are some examples:

On a recent flight between DFW and LAX a couple with three children occupied 4 seats. This meant Mom, seated directly behind me, always had one child in her lap. Regardless of the safety issue, the result was a constant kicking of my seat back for three and half hours and me actually leaning forward to avoid the pounding in my back. It was so bad, my fellow row mate in the center seat, who I did not know, moved prior to take off to an open center seat elsewhere in the plane.

On yet another flight from DFW to ORD, I was assigned an aisle seat. Next to me in the window was an individual who was literally three times my size. They were unable to sit in the seat with the arm rest down, nor were they able to properly affix their seat belt (even with the provided extension, I am not sure it was ever properly buckled). The result was they occupied their seat plus half of my seat, and I sat at a 45 degree angle the entire trip. I could not help thinking to myself, shouldn’t they have a person size checker at the gate, along with the luggage size checker?  To top this off, there were two students behind me with their iPods, and they both lowered their tray tables immediately after take off and proceeded to use them as drum platforms for most of the flight (the pounding ceased whenever they went to the bathroom). Thank goodness this flight was only about two hours in length.

I have noticed there are less and less business travelers lately, probably due to budget cuts and the great internet tools that allow online meetings and such. That said, those of us who continue our travel patterns are faced with a very dangerous event that I will call “sudden seat back recline” or SSBR. I have seen this happen dozens and dozens of times.  Let me explain what SSBR is.  I was seated one row behind and across the aisle from a business woman who opened her IBM laptop as soon as the announcement was made allowing electronic device usage. About 4 minutes later, a huge explosion of plastic and electronics burst in this poor woman’s face as the passenger in the seat in front of her slammed their seat back in to the recline position, trapping the laptop screen in the cutout where the tray table fits, and crushing it. No apology from that passenger, they just closed their eyes and went to sleep. We all helped pick up the pieces for the distraught business woman. I always look behind me and then if no one is using a PC recline slowly. If someone is working I respect their needs and don’t recline until they finish or their battery dies!

My last example is one of a woman who was sitting at the bulkhead in coach. You cannot have any items in your lap nor at your feet in these seats, and several announcements are made regarding this important safety requirement before the flight attendants begin their patrols. In disregard to the PA announcements, the woman held her purse on her lap. The flight attendant asked the woman to stow her purse very politely, offering to find a spot for the purse before takeoff, and return the purse after it was safe to get up. Instead of accepting politely, the woman verbally abused the flight attendant, and when the woman’s row mate stepped in to support the flight attendant, abused him as well. It took nearly 20 minutes to resolve the issue, delaying the flight departure. To top it off, when we landed, the same woman was on her cell phone seconds after touch down relaying her story to the called party (and all of us within earshot), and vowing never to fly the airline again. I believe a poll of all surrounding passengers would have indicated agreement, and relief, we would never see this woman on a flight on that airline.

So what is the fix? Some of my fellow frequent fliers say raise the prices, and air travel will be returned to the people who need it. I don’t think this is viable for the airline nor the traveler. I think a more viable option is for the airlines to take some steps to help all of us. Announcements could be made at the gate regarding passenger etiquette, consideration for fellow passengers/flight crews, and important safety requirements could be reviewed. Sure, for those of us well aware of these things, the announcements will become boring and repetitive. However, if it improves air travel just a little, and educates the newbie travelers, the trade off is worth it. Frankly, I have no idea how to handle the oversize passengers other than the size checker. What do my readers think?

My advice to frequent fliers? Lower your expectations, bring your ear plugs or noise canceling headphones, and cross your fingers.

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