An Open Letter To People Who Make Flying Miserable

To The Plane Passengers Who Make Flying Miserable,

Firstly, let me earn your favor by declaring that airlines sold their souls to the devil the minute they decided to charge passengers for checked bags. I can practically envision the out-of-touch executives toasting each other with champagne when they found a system to leech more money out of their customers for a service that is actually less convenient than just carrying on. I do not like this system any more than you do, but it is still no excuse for you to behave like frantic chipmunks in the airport terminal. I understand that because so many more people carry on now, it makes getting boarded with your suitcase a more fraught experience than it used to be, but you have to understand: when you start crowding around the jetway 30 minutes before boarding even starts—and when there is already a system in place to help passengers board in a timely and orderly fashion—you have become The Problem. The second the flight attendants tap the microphone, foreshadowing that they will start boarding soon, people like you stand up and just stare at the jetway like a pack of zombies. I get it, you want to get on the plane and make sure there is room for your bag. But I don’t get the need to just stand and stare at the door, like that’s going to get you on the plane any faster. Remember, folks, you have already been assigned a zone for boarding, and while the order in which you board can be helped by your proximity to the ticket-taker, there is no reason for you to catatonically block everybody else from getting on before your group has been called. Before my last flight, while I leisurely enjoyed a muffin and tea in a chair near the gate, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to board for at least another 5 minutes as I am not disabled nor in the military, hordes of other people congregated around the jetway door, as if it were going to close on them. When my zone was called—before all of theirs, mind you—it was like walking through a mine field just to get to the jetway. People, chill out. Sit down and enjoy the last few minutes before you board. Listen to music. Play the iPad game that in 5 minutes will be so important that you are unwilling to turn it off while the flight attendant gives the safety demonstration.

Alas, I know your fear. That by the time you board, there will be no overhead bin space left and you won’t have anywhere to put your bag. First, be realistic. Has that actually ever happened to you? Is it even a reasonable concern? And aren’t there flight attendants and other passengers who are willing and able to help if you really do have to store your rollerboard a few feet farther down the aisle than you’d like? I fly multiple times per year, and only once was I ever in a position where there was no room for my bag. Shockingly, the flight crew did not banish me from the airplane nor throw my bag off the side of the runway to never see it again (judging by your behavior, I think this is what some of you envision happening). Nope, instead the flight attendant placed it with the strollers to be gate checked, and when I arrived at my destination it was waiting for me in the jetway. It was actually more convenient than having to put it in overhead because then I didn’t have to do the embarrassing task of lifting my bag halfway above my head, only to collapse (not because my bag is heavy, but because I am so pathetically weak) and have an 85-year-old man store it for me. Yes, that happened.

Then folks, once you’re on the place, put your phone away. Nobody is that eager to hear from you, I promise. So help me God, I don’t know why it is still an issue when the flight crew asks people to put their electronics away. You can handle 5-10 minutes without fidgeting your hands. There are even magazines available for you to read. Maybe to remedy this problem in the near future, attendants should stop handing out peanuts and give samples of Adderall and Ritalin instead.

And finally, stop giving the flight attendants such a hard time. If they had their way, I’m sure they’d prefer serving a planeful of champagne-drinking, cat-napping passengers too. It is not their fault that the seats are uncomfortable or that the airline does not carry the brand of tomato juice that you prefer. (Why do so many people on planes drink tomato juice, anyway? Is it a special plane treat? Or am I just oblivious to all of the people who drink tomato juice from their homes, too?) The flight attendants have hundreds of people to serve, none of whom wants to hear your baseless complaining.

Yes, airlines are difficult. Flying is not the glamorous mode of transportation that it was in the 60s. But it is a heck of a lot more affordable and accessible than it used to be. Do us all a favor and at least make flying a tolerable experience.

Filed under: Etiquette

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