Galley Gossip: The Worst, Funniest and Most Common Bad Airline Passengers

Photo credit: Telstar Logistics

From time to time I get asked questions about bad passengers. I thought I’d share a few of them here.

What’s the worst passenger behavior you’ve witnessed?

I’ve caught passengers taking other people’s luggage out of the bin to make room for their own bags. I’m not joking. They’ll pull out a bag, drop it on the floor and walk away leaving it in the middle of the aisle for the passengers behind them to crawl over. Have you ever tried stepping over a 21-inch Rollaboard? Not easy. Happened three times last month!

The funniest?

Recently a woman tried to stow her suitcase in that, oh, what do you call that spot? Crevice? Crack? Between the overhead bin and the ceiling? There’s like a millimeter of space there! I don’t care which airline you’re traveling on, that’s not going to fit. Then there are the recliners and the anti-recliners. One anti-recliner got upset at a recliner because she couldn’t get her tray table down. I suggested if maybe she removed the gigantic fanny pack from around her waist it might go down. She looked at me like I was the crazy one! One man actually called me over because the passenger in front of him had reclined his seat. I had to point out that, uh … his seat was reclined too!

What’s the most common bad passenger behavior you’ve seen?

These days, people are so self-absorbed multitasking as they board a flight they don’t even say hello to the flight attendant greeting them at the boarding door. They’re too busy talking on the phone, typing on their laptops, listening to music and texting as they walk down the aisle to notice their backpacks and duffle bags are whacking people in the head. Recently a passenger got mad at me – ME! – because I wouldn’t help him lift a heavy bag. That’s because he couldn’t get off the phone to improve his one arm bag swing. Two arms always work better than one when it comes to getting those bags into the overhead bins.

What are the rules for dealing with bad passengers?

We can’t call the police or the fire department at 30,000 feet. That’s why it’s a good idea to take care of problem passengers on the ground before we depart. Before we kick someone off the plane, we’ll do everything we can to make a bad situation good again. Usually, it involves doing the following:

  1. Getting Down: Literally, we get down on one knee in the aisle at the passenger’s level. This position is less threatening to passengers.
  2. Listening: Most passengers just want to be heard. That’s it.
  3. Keeping Calm: We try not to raise our voices. Staying calm and in control will diffuse most situations.
  4. The Facts: We might ask what the problem is and then have the passenger suggest a solution. This way we’re all on the same page.
  5. Walking Away: A new face is new energy. If I’m not getting anywhere with a difficult passenger, I’ll remove myself from the situation and ask a coworker to step in. Even though a coworker may tell the passenger the exact same thing I did, they could get a completely different response.

If that doesn’t work, and we’re in flight, we might issue a written warning signed by the Captain. All this means is if a passenger doesn’t stop doing whatever it is they were doing, authorities will be called to meet the flight. That’s why I say if you’re going to freak out, might be a good idea to wait until we’re safe and sound on the ground and parked at the gate. No one wants to divert a flight. Plus you don’t want to end up in jail far away from home where no one can rescue you.

Galley Gossip: Can Passengers View Pornography on the Airplane?

From time to time I get questions from readers who want to know what the rules are regarding viewing pornography in flight now that Wi-Fi is available on board most airplanes. Thankfully, it hasn’t been much of an issue (knock on wood). But planes are crowded, personal space barely exits, and when passengers do things they shouldn’t, well, they usually get caught.

Last week on a flight from New York to Fort Lauderdale, a coworker had to ask a 10-year-old boy to turn off the erotica and to fasten his seatbelt. On either side of him sat his younger brother and sister. Across the aisle were his parents who had no idea what was going on until we informed them why he may have been holding the computer screen so close to his face. On a different flight another passenger was caught reading a Playboy Magazine. Next to him sat his young son. What gave this man away was the opened centerfold he was eyeing up and down. When a flight attendant politely asked him to put it away, he yelled at her for embarrassing him.

How common is it to see someone watching something rather risqué on a laptop, iPad, tablet or even the in-flight entertainment system in the air? I can only think of a few instances I’ve seen something that might raise a few eyebrows. When this happens, I’ll gently inform the passenger that there are children on board and remind them that other passengers seated nearby might find what they’re viewing distasteful. Nine times out of ten they’ll either fast forward through the scene or turn it off – end of story.

Do passengers ever complain about the content of something that a different passenger is watching? I’ve never had anyone rat someone out for watching pornography in flight. But I do get a lot of complaints about kids watching movies or playing video games that are too loud. Most parents forget to bring headphones for their little ones. I always hate having to tell a nice family to turn it down, but rules are rules and they apply to everyone, even those under 2 feet tall.

Is there a firm policy on how to handle passengers who are watching adult content openly? Pornography is not allowed on the airplane. If a flight attendant does come across it, we’ll discreetly ask the passenger to put it away. If that doesn’t work, we might issue a written warning. The warning informs the passenger what will happen if they choose not to comply. Refusing to obey crew instruction is a federal offense.

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Thailand Part 4: Muay Thai Boxing

Gadling TV’s Travel Talk, episode 34 – Click above to watch video after the jump

Travel Talk is back! After our fall hiatus we are excited to bring you our greatest adventure yet: Thailand.

From the vibrant heart of Bangkok to the remote countryside, we traveled by foot, car, boat, motorbike, ox cart and elephant to savor the the splendor of ancient temples, the energy of the muay thai ring, the serenity of rural life, and every single spicy bite of Thai cuisine. We’ll be bringing it all to you in the coming weeks as part of our special 12-part feature: Travel Talk Thailand.

Before leaving Bangkok, we decided to head to one of the city’s biggest boxing rings to catch some real Muay Thai in action. Thailand is famous for this aggressive, no holds barred sport, so we wanted to see just how intense it really is. Join as we get an introduction to more Thai snacks and speak with veteran fighter and gym owner Rob Cox about the basics of fighting and betting.

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.


Subscribe via iTunes:
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Show directly in iTunes (M4V).
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Hosts: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special guest: Joom!
Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special thanks: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Trikaya Tours

Travel Talk took Thailand by storm on invitation from the Tourism Authority of Thailand. No editorial content was guaranteed and Aaron & Stephen were free to openly share all adventures that they embarked upon.

Galley Gossip: The REAL reason for no cell phones in flight

Recently someone asked me what the real reason was for no cell phones in flight. My reply, “Does it matter? You still have to turn it off and put it away.”

There are three things flight attendants should not discuss with passengers. They are religion, politics, and the reason why cell phone use is not permitted in flight. This is because everyone has their own opinion and people feel strongly about what they believe to be true. It’s not easy for some to agree to disagree and be done with it. The last thing we need in flight is a passenger who wants to argue. Trust me, we get enough of those without engaging in controversial conversations.

When it comes to why cell phones aren’t allowed on airplanes, a lot of passengers have come up with conspiracy theories. These grand theories all revolve around money. Call me crazy, but if the airlines could make a buck off of cell phone use in flight like they do with wi-fi, don’t you think they would have figured out how by now? And regardless of what I say, these same suspicious passengers are still going to do what they want to do – until I ask them to turn it off!

In 2006 Scientific American published a report that stated an average of four calls were made per flight. With so many people unable to “turn it off” literally, can you imagine what that number would be today! On a flight from Dallas to Oklahoma City I had remind sixteen passengers – sixteen! – not once, not twice, but three times to turn off and stow their electronic devices after we had backed away from the gate. And those were only the passengers I had caught red handed. These days passengers are pretty sneaky with their electronic devices. It’s impossible to check under every thigh and inside passengers pockets to make sure passengers are complying with only a few minutes left before take-off.

“When I forget to turn off my phone by accident, I notice the plane still finds the airport,” said one reader.

Thank God for that!

Do I think one phone will affect the outcome of a flight? No. Do I think several phones “accidentally” left on will bring an aircraft down? I don’t know. Maybe it depends on the number of cell phones that are left on and the aircraft equipment type. All I know for sure is I’d rather not find out the hard way. While there hasn’t been a case of a crash caused by cell phone interference, there are numerous reports that cell phones do in fact interfere, especially on smaller planes “where instruments are more sensitive because they rely on small changes to indicate direction,” explained a pilot.

Whenever I start to discuss cell phones in flight someone always brings up Myth Busters Episode 49: Cell phones on planes. Personally, I wouldn’t put a plane full of passengers lives in jeopardy because of what a television show had to say. And while they considered the theory “busted” the caveat was: why take the chance.

“Some European carriers allow mobile phones in flight – certified by the aircraft maker. They’d never approve it if it were unsafe,” said our very own Gadget Guy, Scott Carmichael, during a recent conversation.

May I point out we’re not in Europe! And batteries get run down searching for a signal. Signals are intermittent at best because the plane is moving at four to five hundred miles per hour. On top of that, “European carriers have pico cells on board to make sure in-flight calls are safe. US aircraft aren’t equipped,” explains Mary Kirby, Flight Global’s Runway Girl.

Why aren’t US carriers equipped like European ones? I think it’s safe to assume it’s because that would cost money. A lot of money! Passengers already complain about ticket prices that are cheaper than they were twenty years ago. No joke! Are you willing to cover the cost that will no doubt be passed on to you, the consumer, in the form of higher ticket prices when you’re already angry about having to pay for checked bags? That’s what I thought.

Now just for a moment let’s pretend cell phones have been proven to be safe to use in flight. Do you really want to sit next to the blathering idiot going on and on about how important he is, or the kid who wants to know what the “mutha F’er” did next, or the elderly woman discussing her rashes and lab results with a loved one? Didn’t think so. As for me, I’d rather not have to start policing passenger’s conversations when they become too loud and bothersome to those seated around them.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images and Jung Hong

44 little travel rules no one tells you

Here at Gadling, we pride ourselves on sharing the best travel tips and advice with you. And from time to time, someone from outside the Gadling family adds something so fantastic to the travel discourse that we need to feature it. And that’s exactly what travel writer Robert Reid has done. [Full disclosure: Robert is a friend of mine. A talented and well-traveled friend, but a friend nonetheless.] In the latest entry on his blog, Reid on Travel, he shares 44 little travel rules that no one tells you.

At the heart of the post is the sentiment that we should each feel comfortable creating our own experiences. In other words, feel free to put ice in your beer (rule #8). Or proudly sport socks with sandals (rule #28). So long as you are broadening your horizons and being respectful of others, you should be comfortable being you.

Two of Robert’s rules hit particularly close to home for me:

21. Try a couple days without the camera or email.

I tend to over-document my trips. Lately, I have been attempting to get lost in moments and experiences rather than viewing them through an LCD screen. As much as I love to share my pictures with friends, I’m trying to teach myself the value of being in the moment rather than framing it perfectly for an album.

37. Take public transit — a tram (I LOVE trams), subway, ox cart — at least once, even if you don’t need to get where it’s going. So few Americans EVER take one, it’s sad.

I happen to love public transit. So much so, that I even used it in Los Angeles, where cars are considered a necessity (more on that in a future post). You can observe so many slice-of-life moments while on a train or bus that you would otherwise miss in a taxi. If you want to immerse yourself in a culture, public transit can provide you with a window into a place’s real character.

Take a gander at Robert’s full list and feel free to suggest some more travel rules in the comments below. And then plan a trip. Just be sure to get a hat (rule #29).

Photo by flickr user swimparallel.