Last week on an interminable six-hour flight from New York back to San Francisco, I sat next to a very irritating passenger. While it is usually IN-frequent fliers that get under my skin, this guy was a United Global Services member– a status he let me know about as soon as he sat down.
He’d missed his previous flight, and was forced to sit in a middle seat in Economy Plus on my flight. He immediately flapped his arms out to take full control of the armrests and wedged his knees into my knee space. Then he proceeded to harass flight attendants for the duration of the flight by (I kid you not) pushing the call button at least four times to lodge complaints, make demands or ask inane questions: Why is the in-seat power not working? Please reset it. The seatback map is only in Spanish- can you tell me what time we are landing? I’m Global Services, and get a free meal, so don’t charge me. Another cup of water. Do you have any aspirin? It went on and on. And when we landed at SFO, he asked if I’d let him out first so he could exit before everyone else catch his connecting flight (even tho we’d landed ontime). Arrgh!
Over time, most frequent travelers adopt an unruffled, zen-like attitude when it comes to flying. But at times, especially during the peak summer travel season (which starts this week), infrequent flyers tend to exhibit certain behaviors that get under their skin.
Below are my top six irritants. What are yours?
1) Seatback tappers- You know, the ones who repeatedly tap-tap-tap on the seatback entertainment screen to play games, change channels or who knows what. Since they don’t fly much, they don’t realize how irritating it is for the person in front of them to feel that constant knock that hits square on the back of the head. As soon as you think they’ve quit, it starts over again. After about 15 minutes, I’ll turn around and give ’em an arched eyebrow… what about you?
2) Feet people- These travelers must think their pink toes are cute, but their seat mates think they are pretty gross. Pack your flip flops in your carry on and wear shoes and socks on the plane, please. On long, overnight flights, it’s fine to remove shoes, but please put them back on when going to the lavatory (that’s not just water on the floor in there…). And when you get back to your seat, never, ever prop those puppies up on the wall, tray table, armrest or elsewhere.
3) Pushy recliners- These folks can do real damage to an open laptop, or knock a drink right out of your hand and into your lap. They apply full backward pressure on the seatback, and then POW! They discover that that funny little button is what makes the seat go back– and right into your personal space. I can’t say this with complete authority, but from what I observe, most frequent travelers no longer recline their seats unless they are on an overnight flight. Do you still recline?
4) Aisle hogs- During boarding, these are the folks who think they can yank their overstuffed wheelie-bag down the aisle, and act surprised when it doesn’t fit and they keep running into seats and knees. Pick the bag up already, and get down the aisle! There are 150 people behind you! And once you’ve stuffed that monster into the bin, don’t go back and block the aisle while you fetch your magazines or iPod. Sit down in your seat and get outta the way. You can go back to your bag after we take off.
Here’s an good video that cleverly describes much of what I’m talking about– especially funny are parts about the various odors emitted by irritating passengers:
5) Boarding line breakers- These are the novices who act like they are deaf or don’t speak English, or can’t read when gate agents are boarding by zone, and wander into the zone 1 group when they are actually in zone 5. What are even more irritating are gate agents who don’t pay attention and let these slouches board anyway. Back off, Jack!
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6) Typhoid Marys- Most frequent travelers know that when they are in tiny tubes darting through the stratosphere, they should keep their germs to themselves. (See feet above.) Most infrequent travelers haven’t learned that yet, and sneeze or cough without covering. And by covering I mean sneezing or coughing into a sleeved elbow, handkerchief or Kleenex. NOT a bare hand, which just re-directs the spray sideways. These are the same folks who grab their bags in overhead bins by the wheels (which have rolled through all kinds of muck), and then touch seatbacks, tray tables, armrests, light switches or air vents. If you are seated by the window, these are also the hands passing drinks and food to you. Yuck! Bring on the Purell and the face masks!
Okay, now that I’ve let off some steam, it’s time for me to retreat back into my frequent traveler zen skin and to remember that now’s the time to offer tolerance (and maybe even help) to the infrequent flyers, especially during this peak travel season. All of us were novices at this game at one time…
But… what about you? What habits of infrequent flyers irritate you most? Please leave your comments below!
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare deals | One airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers | First class phase out coming soon