Dumbest Things People Do on Airplanes
And you thought “Stop the plane, I want to get off” was just a joke
Last month, a Scottish man caused a sensation after he tried to open the emergency exit door on a KLM airliner at 30,000 feet. Upon landing, he was arrested, fined and barred from flying KLM for the next five years because, as he explained, he mistook the plane’s rear exit for the lavatory.
It turns out this emergency exit snafu was far from unique, especially in countries like Vietnam and China, where many passengers are riding a plane for the first time. In 2014 a man from mainland China opened the emergency chute upon landing because, as he put it, he was in a hurry to get off. Chinese airline crews were more forgiving of the man in his 50s who pulled open the emergency exit on an Xiamen Air plane as it was about to take off because he “just wanted some fresh air.” It turned out that he had never flown before and didn’t realize there was any danger.
The good news is that you can’t actually open the emergency exit in mid-flight. "You can’t open them for the simple reason that cabin pressure won’t allow it,” writes former commercial pilot Patrick Smith, author of "Cockpit Confidential," on his blog.
That’s reassuring. But passengers can — and do — cause trouble for the airline and fellow passengers in plenty of other ways.
When Yahoo.com ran a story last month about the growing number of people getting kicked off airplanes for unruly behavior, 700 readers rushed to comment. They disagreed whether airlines, attendants or passengers were more at fault, but most conceded that passengers today are ruder and attendants have shorter fuses.
Here are some of the dumbest things passengers have done on planes, and bad behaviors flight attendants will really thank you not to emulate.
Mobile phone abuse. Alex Baldwin made headlines last year when was kicked off a flight because he refused to stop playing Words with Friends on his cell phone. The Association of Flight Attendants is lobbying against cell phone calls on planes above 10,000 feet, according to CNN.com. Among other things, loud talkers will likely infuriate other passengers and flight attendants will have to be the referees.
Kicking, poking and slapping flight attendants. U.S. flight attendants report being regularly poked and prodded by clueless passengers trying to get their attention. Writing in the Huffington Post, former flight attendant Bobby Laurie said that he found himself increasingly frustrated at being treated "like the Pillsbury Dough Boy" by rude passengers. "Can you imagine walking through a cabin and having someone at every row poke you on either side, on your back, tap your shoulder or even slap your behind?" he asks. "On a recent flight that's exactly what happened while I was walking through the cabin picking up trash."
In Vietnam, some have been slapped or kicked while trying to enforce baggage restrictions and other airline rules, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. (Passengers should watch out: Vietnamese flight attendants are trained in martial arts to ward off unwanted touching.)
Passing out from alcohol, Ambien or Xanax. “The biggest problem I face on planes today is the new wave of Ambien zombies,” writes “Betty,” an anonymous flight steward and author of the Confessions of a Fed-Up Flight Attendant blog on Yahoo.com.
“In their real lives, these are probably nice, normal people who just want to get a little sleep on an airplane [but] they choose to take Ambien for the first time on a big metal tube hurtling through the sky after they throw back a couple of cocktails," Betty writes. "The result is a horde of lumbering, slumbering zombie passengers wreaking havoc on the airplane.” Betty goes on to recount how several of these passengers have been found streaking, lying on the floor or unconscious in lavatories.
The Rear Seat Kicker (and other highly irritating behaviors). In a recent Expedia survey of the top annoying behaviors on airplanes, number one was people kicking the back of the seat, followed by “inattentive parents” of unruly children. The Aromatic Passenger was voted third most annoying by 64 percent of passengers surveyed, followed by the Audio-Insensitive Passenger (51 percent) and The Boozer (50 percent). The 6th most annoying passenger was the Chatty Cathy, the passenger who won’t stop talking. Honorable mentions went to The Armrest Hog, The Seat-Back Guy, The Amorous and The Undresser (someone who removes shoes, socks or more). Other informal polls have put people changing their kids’ diapers on tray tables among passenger pet peeves.
A problem of forced intimacy
Travel psychologist Michael Brein, PhD, chalks up some of this to the forced intimacy created by cramped, overcrowded conditions. “We’ve also been losing our inhibitions with the anonymity of the Internet, and that may make us act a little less civil in daily life,” he told SafeBee.
“There is nothing more primal than our personal space, and that includes touch, noise and smell and other personal boundaries,” notes Brein. “When our boundaries are being impinged upon for 5 hours straight, it’s pretty human — primal, in fact — to either start trying to protect yourself or to end up lashing out.”
Whatever the causes, the dumb things passengers do have become so ubiquitous that the popular Instagram account by ex-flight attendant Shawn Kathleen, called PassengerShaming, has made Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 best accounts to follow. Kathleen also listed things passengers could do in order to be an “awesome passenger.” From what she and other experts have reported, would-be flyers would do well to read it.
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