Air travel can bring out the worst in us - no one looks forward to the long queues, the smell of everyone's socks and bare feet padding through security, the fact that it always seems to be you that is patted down by the guard and the screaming children kicking the back of your seat.
Really, it takes a certain amount of tolerance to be so close to so many people that aren't related to you for such an extended amount of time - and behaviour on planes is only getting worse.
Last year, there were reports of a famous French actor relieving himself in the gangway of a cabin, countless drunk or disorderly passengers who had to be restrained on a flight, passengers watching explicit material, throwing drinks around and being abusive to cabin staff or even other passengers. The trouble is, airline staff are often worries they could be sued for assault if they take action in response, leaving passengers to deal with it.
We've assembled a quick guide to how to deal with the worst passenger types to be on a flight with.
The Uncontrollable Kids
The 'Oh god, why me' situation that comes when we find a child, or even multiple children, kicking the back of your seat on a flight can be difficult to deal with. People don't enjoy you tell them how to control their kids, or more often than not, that their kids are anything less than perfect, but the experience itself can be infuriating and losing your cool can lead to you losing your temper and being The Bad Guy of the situation.
Stranger or parent, kids like to know how much they can get away with, so address the situation as soon as it starts to get under your skin. Turn around armed with a smile and ask both parent and child to avoid kicking the seat, politely. Doing this in a gentle or firm manner right away establishes that you have an issue but are calm about it. Keep it direct and simple and you should have both the parent and child's attention. If it continues, say something firmly and slightly louder - "œMa'am/ Sir, your child is still kicking my seat. I need him/her to stop" - is a good way to address this.
The same sort of approach applies if the kids are being excessively loud, unruly or downright uncontrollable. If you want to avoid confrontation - always ask the flight attendant for help. You never know, there might be a spare seat you could be moved to.
The Seat Recliner
The recliner, also known as 'the guy who thinks it is perfectly acceptable to recline in economy despite knowing there's no leg room as it is' is the worst type of passenger, and ties in first place with uncontrollable kids and the type of passenger who other passengers dread. The only real solution for this type of passenger would be for airlines to install non-reclining seats within their planes but as reclining counts as choice and variety for comfort for the passenger, it sells tickets. Solutions? You could always ask the flight attendant to request that the passenger in front of you not recline his seat so far, or pay for first class but these are awkward and expensive. Instead, invest in the 'Knee Defender'. Airlines don't like these as they don't strictly comply with their safety regulations but there's nothing saying you are banned from bringing one on board. They're a set of two plastic blocks that travellers can wedge between the table tray and the seat back of the row ahead, physically preventing the seat from reclining.
Unfortunately, there is barely anything you can do about the passenger sat near you (or God forbid, next to you) that absolutely stinks. You might have hours left of your journey before this person will even come near to a shower, so you do just have to stick with it. Think about it this way - they might have an illness which gives them crazy BO no matter how clean they are, or they just might not have been able to shower (think of how you'll smell on your way back from the outback). However, if there is no prevention or cure, then there are things you can do to be prepared. A small vial of peppermint oil is a travel necessity - you can even use it yourself if you feel a bit like you might be the stinker after a long flight, and definitely use it if someone else's smell is invading your nasal passages. Use a really small amount and rub it on the skin around your nose, and it'll override the pungent odour of the Stinker.
The Arm Rest Hog
The classic scenario - we loathe this happening, yet are too polite to get in there first and do something about it, instead resenting the situation when it seems to arise. The fact of the matter is this- planes are configured in a way which means that one person is going to end up with one arm rest, whilst another person will end up two. It's a simple law. If you are the victim of the arm rest hog, it's proven fact that a couple of 'inadvertent' bumps with your own elbow or a book usually does the trick. If this still doesn't work - consider if the person really does need that space. 7-ft giants have nowhere else to rest their limbs. If they don't seem like they need it - just ask if you can share/have the arm rest. Most people are too polite to object.
Usually you won't have to intervene much in the case of having someone who is too intoxicated to process the stuff that they're saying before it slurs out of their mouth - the airline crew do it for you. In most cases, passengers which are clearly too intoxicated to board are refused entry onto the plane and told to sober up before catching another one later on. Enough complaints on board involving the passenger who has cracked into the alcohol mid-flight and they'll be told to quieten down, keep themselves to themselves or face the wrath of air security upon landing - they could even end up being arrested.
In most cases, the best idea is to deal with the issue immediately, to avoid it becoming more infuriating over time. If you don't like confrontation, notify the flight attendant (whose job it is to make you happy, remember) who will make sure that the situation is resolved. Remember the purpose of your flight is comfort and ease instead of frustration, discomfort and anger.
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