Brian Major | July 11, 2016 12:15 PM ET
Dissecting Bad Airplane Behavior
When you travel for a living you’re bound to observe some strange airplane behavior. Through the years, most of my hundreds of commercial jet trips have commenced without incident. That’s not counting the innumerable delays and canceled flights that are just part of air travel. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some unusual incidents.
It’s been 103 years since Orville and Wilbur hit on the Wright formula and ushered man into the realm of the bird, and commercial flight remains akin to a miracle. It’s a genuine blessing that’s brought the world closer and immeasurably enriched the human experience.
Still there’s something about streaking across time and space in a loud metal tube that engenders opportunities for occurrences ranging from the strange to the downright bizarre. Issues are generally in the category of decorum, dress and hygiene.
But at times bad airplane behavior is based on unavoidable circumstances. The most frightening incident I’ve witnessed aboard an airplane happened just last year. A young man experienced what appeared to be a psychotic episode as my wife and I traveled aboard a JetBlue flight from New York to Barbados.
We’ve been in the air for about a half hour when the 20-something man burst out of the airplane’s bathroom, screaming and crawling furiously up the aisle toward the cockpit area. I remembered I’d noticed him earlier in the flight because he looked a lot like the “Thriller”-era Michael Jackson.
Anyway, as he scampered up the aisle I remember thinking I’d never seen anyone crawl so fast. Quickly two female flight attendants subdued him somewhat before a larger group of passengers managed to stop him a few seats from the front. Two men literally sat on the passenger and the group finally tied him down with restraints.
I’d have run the aisle up myself to see if I could provide some help but he was somewhat corralled by then. The pilot thanked the passengers for their help and announced the plane would land in Bermuda to remove the traveler. After we landed our flight was met by police who transported him to a hospital by ambulance. Sometime later we took off again for a thankfully uneventful trip to the Bahamas.
Most in-flight transgressions however involve considerably less serious circumstances. More often it’s ill-chosen attire or bad hygiene. For someone who grew up in an era when air travel was associated with elegance and people dressed up to fly, it’s still strange to see sweatpants, tank tops, flip flops and short-shorts considered routine attire. While I may not be in the majority in this opinion, I’m clearly not alone.
Also I’m sure the airline dress code downgrade has led to the other great behavior issue: hygiene. In the past few years especially I’ve witnessed more than a few passengers remove their footwear and prop their bare feet up on the seat in front of them. Even worse (if that’s possible) I’ve watched bare-footed passengers stroll blithely into the airplane bathroom! What has become of mankind?
Some people go to lengths to escape their fellow passengers’ behavior. I’m a member of the dwindling generation of travelers who recall the days when cigarette smoking was permitted aboard airplanes. Non-smokers who found themselves seated in the “smoking area” at the plane’s rear were forced to suck it up (literally).
I’ll never forget one flight back to the U.S. from France that I shared with a colleague in those years, during which I smoked cigarettes. We puffed away as the polite non-smoker next to us actually covered her entire head with a thin airplane blanket and sat that way for much of the flight.
I thought I’d never see that again but surprisingly in recent years I’ve observed at least two passengers adopt the strategy for much of the flight. In each case they seemed determined to evade loud fellow guests and crying children. I couldn’t help but wonder how effective such a step could be. Those airplane blankets are pretty thin.
PHOTO: I'm not sure what this was supposed to accomplish. (Photo by Brian Major)
Other times it’s just a matter of manners, another aspect of our society under threat of fading into memory. This month on a flight to the Dominican Republic I occupied a window seat and found as we took off I had the row to myself.
I slept briefly and awoke to find a young lady had taken the aisle seat. Perfectly OK until she proceeded to spread a collection of her magazines across the middle seat and the fold down the middle tray table, where she placed an open can of soda and a cup of water. She plugged in her earphones and never said a word.
Clearly this young lady failed to realize she wasn’t in her living room at home and that more importantly she would have to de-construct her airplane empire should I need to use the bathroom. In fact she soon fell asleep.
As a native New Yorker I can be as obnoxious as anyone. I decided to put my background into effect and during the remainder of the flight used the bathroom at least three times, forcing her to dismantle her menagerie each time, which she did, showing plenty of attitude but saying nothing.
Despite my actions I’d much rather we had chatted briefly and discussed sharing the middle seat. After all that’s the way grown-ups are supposed to behave. I think we could all make flying much more pleasant for each another if everyone displayed a bit more manners and consideration when airborne. I promise to try to do my part.
More by Brian Major
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Latest Travel News
Airlines & Airports
Hotel & Resort
Destination & Tourism
Airlines & Airports
Airlines & Airports