When People Think of Badly Behaved Passengers on Flights they often think of screaming babies. And to be sure, we've probably all been on a flight with a crying baby (my husband's Finnair Business Class Flight to HEL comes to mind). It's hard to blame babies for voicing their discomfort in the only way they know how, though. Is there anyone who claims to never have cried as a baby?
But recently, we were waiting to board a JetBlue flight when we witnessed bad behavior, not from kids, but from adult passengers. There were so many people crowded up to the boarding area that it was hard for the wheelchair and other preboarding passengers to even get through. A woman with a kid asked a man who was blocking her way if he was boarding, and he said to her dismissively “Only Mosaic members are boarding now,” and made no effort to move. “We're preboarding to wipe down seats for our son's allergy,” she informed him, and when he still didn't move, pushed past him towards the jetway. “Bitch!” the man said, which was out of her earshot, but not out of the earshot of her husband. “A******!” her husband shot back at the guy.
Really, gate lice? While it would be helpful if no one used foul language, I have to say my sympathy is for the family simply trying to preboard. We have an anaphylactic allergy in our family–my husband becomes unable to breathe if stung by a bee or wasp (see Medical Emergency: 5 Reasons Copenhagen Rules)–and some of my clients have anaphylactic allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, and coconut, so these allergies are no laughing matter. If someone needs to preboard to wipe down a seat, come on, let them pass without hurling insults at them. Plus, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) allows preboarding for disabilities, including allergy sufferers, as indicated in its May 2019 MacKenzie finding against American Airlines:
“Section 382.93 states that carriers ‘must offer preboarding to passengers that self-identify at the gate as needing additional time or assistance to board, stow accessibility equipment, or be seated.’ Passengers with severe nut allergies are passengers with disabilities for purposes of Part 382. When a passenger with a severe allergy asks for preboarding to wipe down seating surfaces, he or she is requesting additional time ‘to be seated,’ because from the passenger’s perspective, the seating area cannot be safely accessed until it is wiped down…”
Exhibit 2 is this account on Reddit of a road warrior who paid out of pocket to upgrade to a window seat in an exit row that was likely to be unoccupied, in order to maximize her chance of getting some rest on a transcon redeye as she had a morning meeting. She got to her seat and found a mother there with her two daughters, occupying the entire row, including her seat:
“Of course, when it came time to board, I get to my row and find that a woman is sitting in the middle with her two young daughters, maybe 2 and 4, on either side of her. I politely told her that she'd made a mistake and was sitting in my seat. Her response was that she was seated a row up and across the aisle, on the aisle seat, but her two kids were across from her on the aisle and middle, and she saw the empty row before I got there, and would I do her the favor of just switching?”
Understandably, the woman who had paid for the exit row window seat reservation wanted the seat she'd reserved, and explained as much to the mother. The mother's reaction?
“She huffed and shook her head and buckled her kids' seatbelts RIGHT THEN AND THERE.”
Smartly, the road warrior then got a flight attendant involved, who noted that regardless, kids can't be seated in an exit row:
“This is an exit row. Your kids can't sit there because they're not capable of performing the exit row responsibilities in case of an emergency landing. There's not going to be another empty row. Please sit in the seat indicated on your ticket.”
The mother did at least obey the flight attendant instructions to sit in her and her kids' assigned seats, and the seat reserver was able to get some rest in her exit row. But that wasn't the end of it:
“When we land, I'm getting my bag out of the overhead, and the woman stands up and mutters to me, “You look like you slept well, bitch.”
Wow. Just so uncalled for. We travel a fair amount with our son, and I would never dream of not reserving a seat for him, even though at age 11, he's pretty self-sufficient on flights and I wouldn't be all that worried if he had to be seated somewhere else on the plane. But it's one of many reasons why we'll never fly Southwest, since there are no advance seat assignments.
It's unfortunate that not only did this mother not take the seat reserver's “no,” graciously, she seemingly didn't process the fact that even if there hadn't been anyone seated in that exit row, her kids wouldn't have been allowed to sit there, for safety reasons, as they wouldn't have been able to perform the expected functions in the event of an emergency.
In both these cases, though, there just was no reason to call anyone names. Some people need to preboard. People aren't obligated to switch with you just for your own convenience, if they prefer the seat they pre-reserved. And women who are simply asserting the rights they're entitled to shouldn't be called the b word.
How would you like to improve civility when flying?
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