Friday, August 5, 2011

Common Decency on Planes

A couple weeks ago, I was out to dinner with a few girlfriends and the subject of airplane travel came up. We were discussing how frustrating it can be dealing with demanding passengers, limited space in the overhead bins, minimal leg room, etc. Basically, all the small things that irk everyone when it comes to traveling. But what we all agreed was the most annoying were the people who made the experience even worse. You know the ones I'm talking about. The passenger who leans his or her seat all the way back in an already cramped coach area; the person who takes up both armrests, invading your space just enough to make the whole flight uncomfortable; and the people who do not heed the carry on baggage rules and shove oversized bags in the bins, leaving no space for anyone else's stuff. These are the people who lack common courtesy when it comes to flying, and they come in many forms, ranging from the naive leisure travelers who do not fly enough to know the rules or what to do in certain circumstances, to the business passengers who have so much experience that they feel entitled.

Then I came across this article on USA Today talking about the same subject, and it mentioned a few other annoying tendencies that passengers have. Some of these disrespectful habits include talking too loudly on cellphones, bringing food on board that smells bad, or disregarding the flight attendants request that all electronic devices be shut off.

What it comes down to is that passengers are self-centered, thinking everything is about them. But they have to remember that they are not the only ones on a plane, and there is limited space that has to be shared. I'm not sure when everyone forgot that famous childhood rule of sharing, but it seems to have completely disappeared. Perhaps people need to be re-educated on the ins and outs of proper plane etiquette.

Enter Lonely Planet. The travel website conducted a survey about the kinds of thinfs that make flying miserable for passengers. Based on what it learned, Lonely Planet created a practical "Passengers' Airline Behavior Bill of Rights." The overarching complaint: Other people messing with their seat and personal space. The "rights" of travelers said that passengers can recline, except during meals and when prohibited by the flight crew. And giving fair warning when one is about to recline is advised. Other problems like annoying children were common annoyances, and it is stated that if a child is kicking your seat, you have every right to ask the parent to stop it.

One of my favorite "rights" is Article V: Freedom of no speech. It states:
There shall be no requirement for other passengers to listen to you drone on about your child, cat or other subject not directly germane to an immediate inflight emergency situation. The right of other passengers to give you the ‘book-off’ shall not be infringed, nor shall you assist with the answer to 14-across if unprompted.
I cannot tell you how many times I have settled into my seat, pulled out a book or my iPod, fully prepared to float off into my own world, only to have it disrupted by some middle-aged man telling me there is no way I look a day over twenty or some older woman telling me an hour long story about her book club.

I can also appreciate Article XII: The right of reasonable alcohol consumption:
No person, apart from those who are drunk and obnoxious or minors, shall be prohibited from imbibing an alcoholic beverage should they feel that it is a good idea, despite all indications to the contrary.
I usually avoid drinking on planes--mostly because I fly coach and it costs more than I'm willing to spend for a glass of wine. However, if I have the privilege of sitting in business class, where an alcoholic beverage is complimentary, I figure, why not? And I should certainly have that right. After all, it has been a hell of a day, and I have a long flight ahead of me, and the guy sitting ten rows behind me decided to store his incredibly large bag in the overhead compartment just above my seat, forcing me to gate check my bag because there is no more space.

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