A former flight attendant has spilled on the worst things passengers can do on a plane and the 10 things you should never ever do.
When it comes to policing the many dreadful crimes people commit on planes, former cop and flight attendant Shawn Kathleen is uniquely qualified. Not only due to her career experience but also because she’s the creator of @passengershaming, a wildly successful Instagram account devoted to highlighting how not to behave in the air.
For anyone who’s ever been repulsed or outraged by their fellow flyers’ antics, it’s a valuable reminder of how disgusting some people can be at 11,000m.
Shawn conceived the idea while working as a flight attendant in the US.
It hit such a nerve that she now has more than 800,000 Instagram followers and reportedly receives more than 50 submissions a day from traumatised flyers.
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Whether it’s the altitude or the free booze that makes (some) humans turn feral in-flight, a quick browse of her page reveals some common misdemeanours. People in various states of undress and disarray? Check. Bare feet propped up on the bulkhead or poking into someone’s personal space? Check. People who disrespect the sanctity of the seat in front of them? So much check.
But the site also documents atrocities I never even imagined. A passenger sleeping under a blanket with his plums exposed. A leg wound oozing freely onto a cabin floor. Even a man shaving his head in business class. Seriously, WTAF dude?
We all have horror stories of horrible passengers. One of Shawn’s worst from her flying days was the guy whose hair caught on fire – and set off the smoke alarm – while he was smoking crack in the toilet.
I can’t top that but over the years I’ve kept my own catalogue of in-flight outrages. The touchscreen tyrants who jab the back of your head constantly, oblivious to what “touchscreen” actually means. People who touch you – I’m assuming accidentally – while you’re sleeping. Arm-rest Rambos. Playing video games at full volume with no headphones. Changing a baby’s nappy on the tray table. You Do Realise There Are Change Tables in The Toilets, Don’t You?
Two recent incidents stand out. The woman sitting behind me last year who decided to remove her nail polish as we taxied onto the runway, suffocating all around her with gagging acetone.
And the American yoga “influencer” (with a million-plus followers) who decided to trim her toenails on the private jet that takes guests from billionaire property developer Lang Walker’s Fijian resort Kokomo to Nadi airport. She built a small pile of clippings on her leather seat and apparently didn’t notice the rest of us dry-retching.
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One day, someone qualified – like Shawn – should draft a code of aeroplane conduct because we humans obviously have no idea what’s acceptable up there.
But in the meantime here, in no particular order, are my 10 commandments of air travel.
1. Thou shalt remain fully clothed throughout the flight. I know this seems obvious but take a look at some of the topless (and bottomless) oiks featured on Passenger Shaming. No one wants to see your man-boobs.
2. Thou shalt always use earpieces for videos, games, FaceTime and anything that makes noise on your phone or tablet. Silence is golden.
3. On moving walkways in airports, passengers shall never, ever block the path by standing side-by-side. This is an unforgivable offence in the eyes of fast walkers (me) and anyone racing to make a connection (also often me).
4. The bulkhead is not a foot rest. Nor is the tray table, the cabin wall or the back of the seat in front of you. Only the foot rest is a foot rest.
5. Your screen is the back of someone else’s seat. Do not jab the screen. Do not kick the seat. Do not grab the seat in front to haul your frame upright. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
6. The unfortunate soul in the middle seat is entitled to at least one arm rest.
7. Never visit an aeroplane toilet in bare feet. This should be obvious to anyone who’s flown long-haul economy and seen the state of the loos after 14 hours of abuse but clearly it’s not: US airlines have been forced to enact a new law next year banning bare feet on commercial flights.
8. Getting drunk and disorderly on a flight is not cool nor funny. You just look like a sad idiot.
9. Just because there are people to clean up after you doesn’t mean you can be a total pig. Have self-respect.
10. If in doubt about any aspect of your in-flight behaviour, ask yourself whether you’d be happy having someone photograph what you’re doing and sharing it with 800,000 others. No? Then it’s probably wrong. Behave yourself.
This story originally appeared in Escape and has been reproduced with permission.