Airline Seatmates From Hell: One Man’s Story

Hot off of blogger/travel writer Kelsey Timmerman’s Twitter comes his shocking account of nearly getting thrown down by an “octegenarian” seatmate.

Timmerman, who states he never reclines his seat during flights out of deference to fellow passengers, apparently shifted his weight a tad too violently, provoking the elderly gentleman behind him to take action. After jabbing Timmerman in the arm and informing him that he was “hitting” the gentleman in question’s laptop, Timmerman politely explained that he was just sitting there. The response? “I’ll kick your ass!”

The scene soon escalated to the octegenarian assaulting Timmerman in the form of violently punching the back of his seat and threatening to “kick [Timmerman’s] f–king ass” when the plane landed. A flight attendant then stepped in to defuse the potentially lethal seatmate situation (things can get ugly when catheters and Pacemakers malfunction at 30,000 feet). For his part, Timmerman was just hoping the cantankerous passenger would settle down, so the plane wouldn’t be forced to make an emergency landing.

Timmerman ended up with a sore neck and some sort of inner ear trauma, along with an epiphany. “Flying can be frustrating. Flying is frustrating. I’d rather be punched in the face than be delayed.”

We’d love to hear your worst seatmate stories (Mine involves an aggressive elbow/armrest war with an elderly Chinese woman on an overseas flight that led to her sleeping on the floor in front of her seat. I swear I didn’t hurt her, and the funniest part neither of us every uttered a single word.).

Discuss amongst yourselves, and share.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Olivier.Asselin]

In the unlikely event of College Humor’s parody on air travel…..

Anyone who has even been on an airplane has seen the flight attendants mimic a range of unlikely events, like what to do if you need to use your seat as a floatation device or if the cabin loses oxygen. Apparently, however, they have been leaving a lot of information out of the safety tutorial. What do the passengers do if the plane crash lands in the mountains and everyone begins eating each other? Or if a bolt of lighting hits and sends the plane through a space time continuum and back to a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth? Luckily, CollegeHumor has put together this very informational (or at least, entertaining), safety video.

There is a bit of questionable religious humor at the very end of the video, however, the beginning and middle of the clip are hysterical and will definitely get you wondering what you would do “in the unlikely event of…”.

Galley Gossip: Is it okay for passengers to dump their drinks on the floor during turbulence?

Dear Heather, Today I heard an announcement in-flight I’d never heard before and was wondering if you make it often, or ever. After serving drinks, it got a little turbulent and the flight attendants had to sit down. A few minutes later the purser came on and said, “if you’re having trouble controlling your drinks, please just dump them on the floor.” WHAT? And waste all this good wine, I thought. I just chugged mine and it was not an issue, but wondered if anyone poured theirs on the floor. What do you think of this? – Frequent Flying Ron

I’ve been a flight attendant for sixteen years and while I have yet to make a PA like the one you heard, I have suggested doing the same thing to passengers sitting near my jump seat after they rang the call light and then held up their drinks in the air during a rough patch of air. This right after the Captain made the announcement, “Flight attendants take your jump seats now!” When you hear those words, you know it’s going to be bad.

There are four types of turbulence: light, moderate, severe, and extreme.Light turbulence causes a slight, rapid and somewhat rhythmic bumpiness without appreciable changes in altitude or attitude. Sometimes pilots refer to it as light chop. It’s the kind that rocks babies, and even a few overly worked flight attendants, to sleep. The seat belt sign may be on, but flight attendants are still able to conduct the food service with little to no difficulty.

Moderate turbulence is a little more intense. It causes rapid bumps or jolts without changes in aircraft altitude. Passengers will feel the strain of their seat belts. Unsecured objects in the galley may dislodge. Conducting a food service or checking for seat belt compliance is difficult.

Severe turbulence causes large or abrupt changes in altitude. The aircraft may be momentarily out of control. Passengers are forced violently against their seats. Walking is impossible. If flight attendants haven’t strapped into their jump seats already, we may not be able to do so and we’ll have to grab the nearest available passenger seat. If there’s not one open, we’ll sit on a passenger – any one will do. Make sure to hold on to us tightly.

Extreme turbulence rarely happens, but when it does it will violently toss an aircraft about, making it practically impossible to control. Structural damage is possible.

According to the FAA’s website, over a million people travel by air every day. From 1980 through 2008 there were 238 accidents involving turbulence, resulting in 298 serious injuries and three fatalities. Of the three fatalities, two passengers were not wearing their safety belt while the seat belt sign was on. Of the 298 seriously injured, 184 involved were flight attendants. So if you see flight attendants sitting in the jump seats when it starts to get bumpy, it’s safe to assume we’re just trying to make sure we don’t end up in a hospital far away from home or be forced into early retirement!

So is it okay to dump your drink on the floor during turbulence? I’m not going to say it’s okay. But I’m also not going to say it’s not okay. What I will say is we’d rather you do what Ron did and drink faster! Or wait for us to whisk it away when it’s safe to be up in the cabin.

Photo courtesy of MikeCogh

Airlines that could kill you

Aviation safety is no small concern for the European Commission when it comes to airlines that could kill you. Airlines not up to standard are banned. Over 90 companies and 250 airlines are on the no-flight blacklist with African, Indonesian and Kazakhstan airlines dominating the list.

The 17th update of the so-called “blacklist” of airlines banned in the 27-nation European Union is serious business for the EU’s Safety Committee.

“The European Union now has a coherent approach to banning airlines”, said Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission responsible for transport. “This black list will keep dubious airlines out of Europe. It will also make sure that all airlines operating in Europe’s sky meet the highest safety standards”.

In this latest update, airlines from the EU’s biggest member, Germany, were put on notice with a warning: Address safety issues or be grounded. Spanish carriers also received a warning to address safety concerns or be banned from skies over Europe.

“Germany and Spain are coming under fire because ramp inspections have shown an increase in the number of carriers registered in those countries with problems.” said Aviation Week noting “When the European Union upbraids an African country for lax aviation oversight it is, by now, par for the course. When the EU does so with its biggest member state, Germany, that is an entirely different issue.”

Spanish officials are working on a solution, examining carrier operations and suspending some operating certificates. Germany also increased oversight of some airlines but looks for improvement to happen next year.

Gadling reported on the possibility of a global blacklist in 2009 after a Yemenia Airbus A310 crashes with 154 passengers had once been on the black list for incomplete reporting on its fleet inspections.

Flickr photo by Hunter-Desportes

Concerned about security, travelers consider options, make plans

Be it the effects of an earthquake or tsunami, political unrest or criminal activity at a planned destination, travelers are concerned about security and being safe both when traveling and upon arrival. What was once a part of travel taken for granted with few precautions necessary has become a matter of primary importance and one shaping travel decisions for many. Should current world affairs keep us from traveling? Experts say no but urge caution.
“Most business and pleasure travelers don’t have a security plan” says Travel security expert Chris E McGoey who recommends meeting with business supervisors and family members “to discuss what if situations.”

What if your passport is lost or stolen in a foreign country? What if you are attacked, robbed or otherwise the victim of a crime?

The U.S Department of State’s Smart Traveler program is a step in the right direction. By enrolling in the program, travelers enable the Department of State to get in contact with them in an emergency. Bringing along contact information for the U.S. embassy in countries you will visit is important too.

Knowing the local customs of a country before visiting has always been good advice. Now, knowing more specifics on what to do in case of an emergency is more important than ever. But “what to prepare for?” has become a big question as travel disruptions from weather events to revolutions continue to occur world wide.

Security expert Christopher Falkenberg suggests travelers “take and all hazards approach. Think of the broadest range of problems-flood, fire, earthquake, terrorist attack, etc. Essentially, they will all need the same thing: effective communication, clean water, physical safety, flashlight, medical supplies, N95 mask, etc. Instead of a separate checklist for every possible crisis, think in terms of the common elements of what you’ll need in any emergency and how you can prepare for it. It helps when thinking about the “result” of an emergency versus the actual event itself.”

Security is a matter now given serious attention regardless of the method of travel. By foot, car, plane, ship or rail travelers are concerned that their method of transportation may be a target for terrorists and are apprehensive about what they will find at their destinations.

It has been suggested that travel via cruise ship may offer added protection to travelers. If for no other reason, the closed and secure environment a cruise ship offers if as nothing more than a mode of transportation is worthy of consideration.

As a potential terrorist target, strict maritime security laws are in place to protect passengers. and cruise ships. Back in 2004 the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) introduced a comprehensive ship and port security code. According to the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) “these regulations established international security regulations that require all ships, port facilities and governments to have formal security plans, screening measures, access control, waterside security and communications between ships and ports.”

Cruise lines place a great deal of effort in maintaining a secure environment for travelers both on and off the ships too. Recently ships have been diverted away from trouble spots like Mazatlan, Mexico where criminal activity is a concern and Japan where a damaged infrastructure might harbor unsafe conditions.

Airlines, cruise lines and other modes of transportation are operating at a high level of security that offer travelers some peace of mind in troubled times. Still, a customized security plan , considering the potential dangers in traveling to your destinations, should be at the top of every traveler’s packing list.

Flickr photo by followtheseinstructions

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