It was a red-eye from Cape Town to Sydney when it happened. The dinner service had just wrapped and everyone — myself included — was getting ready for some shut-eye. Not easy, of course, when you’re sitting upright in a cramped middle seat in economy.
Popping in ear plugs and cocooning myself as much as possible with a paltry South African Airways blanket, I pulled my eye mask down and then pressed the recline button. Seconds later my back was pummelled with violent kicks. Assuming I had the misfortune to be sitting in front of an unruly toddler, I jerked my eye mask off and turned around only to be confronted by a grimacing, spectacle-wearing woman in her mid-60s. WTF.
Politely asking her what the issue was, she screeched that my seat was “going back too far!” I looked around, everyone on my row had their seats reclined without any complaint. And this woman was tiny, five-foot-four at the most.
Long story short, she then proceeded to kick my chair again, the flight crew lazily were called in and also explained to the angry, infantile woman that the seats all recline to the same incline — even demonstrating to her — but she was having none of it. The result? I had to attempt to sleep bolt upright for the rest of the flight in order to pacify the crazy dame behind me.
Air travel can turn people into monsters. Think about it. Crammed into a small space with hundreds of strangers, exhausted, irritable, suffused with anxiety, and crossing multiple time zones; flying is a recipe for tension and potential air rage.
The catalyst for an otherwise reasonable individual to totally lose it can be a simple lapse in etiquette or irritating behaviour.
So, in interests of public safety, I present to you the ultimate in-air sins: three of the worst flight faux pas that you (and others around you) can do when you’re at 35,000 feet.
Expedia’s 2018 Airplane and Hotel Etiquette Study surveyed 18,229 air travellers from 23 countries and when it came to the most irksome in-flight behaviour, seat-kicking topped the polls. In fact, it has retained its No.1 position for four years running. It’s a bad habit I can provide first-hand testimony to (see above).
Kicking, jostling, bumping — there are few things that will send your pule soaring that a kick-happy passenger at your rear. Research from Finder.com.au also reinforced this finding, with more than half of Aussies surveyed (55 per cent) citing seat kicking as their main pet peeve in the air.
The solution? Book the row of seats in front of an exit row. Given the extra leg room, there’s no way for errant feet or knees to jostle the back of your seat.
BAD BODY ODOURS
Coming in second place in both surveys was offensive odour, with smelly passengers annoying half of Aussie respondents. And when it comes to bad BO there’s one area in particular that stood out in the findings: smelly feet. More than 90 per cent of participants in Expedia’s study said it was unacceptable to be barefoot during a flight.
Fair enough, given that it’s gross, first of all. I mean, do you REALLY want to be walking barefoot in the loo? Believe me, that isn’t just some spilt water you’re standing in. Secondly, while you may be immune to your foot odour after years of prolonged exposure, the rest of us probably won’t be. Want to take your shoes off on a plane? Wear socks.
If you’re on the receiving end of malodorous feet, then discreetly seek out one of the crew and see if you can change seats.
Crying babies are a perennial bane on flights, but unfortunately they can’t help it. Loud adults are however, are a very different story.
According to the Expedia survey the third thing that bothers flyers the most is sitting next to a chatterbox, someone who — rather than watch the in-flight movies or read like a normal person — wants to talk.
To avoid the chatterbox, board the plane as quickly as possible so you’re in your seat with your headphones on before your seat mate shows up. No introductions, no chat. Alternatively, don an eye mask and ear plugs to signal to your seat mate that chatter isn’t an option.