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In-flight Etiquette Takes A Nosedive

by Bina Datwani

A passenger is restrained!

 

Assault, theft, drunkenness – these are just a few examples of the ‘entertainment’ that’s been floating around the friendly skies with alarming frequency of late. From biting a flight attendant’s leg to drinking liquid soap from the loo to Mr. Eau de Booze, who got so wasted and dangerously belligerent that he had to be duct taped. And all this is just the beginning.  On a flight from Moscow to London, a woman performed a 15-minute erotic dance where she fondled other passengers as part of her act. A man flying from Japan to San Francisco slapped his wife several times after landing and then sued the airline for supplying him with too much wine, which he claimed brought on the violence. Finally, the ickiest of them all, three separate passengers on three separate flights got piss drunk and began relieving themselves anywhere and everywhere except in the loo – Ugh!  Even the crew don’t seem to be immune to this loony cabin fever. Remember the JetBlue flight steward who hurled obscenities at passengers over the PA system, then deployed the inflatable emergency chute, slid down and fled?

Let’s take a look at some other truly bizarre in-flight behaviours that made crew and fellow passengers long for some regular, run-of-the-mill turbulence.

Last month, Jenny Lauren, the 41-year-old niece of fashion icon Ralph Lauren (and herself a luxury jewellery designer) was charged with being so boozed up on a flight from Barcelona to New York that the pilot had to make an emergency landing in Ireland to get her booted off the plane. Evidently, she was so verbally abusive that the crew decided she posed a danger to herself and other passengers.

In 2006, a self-described peace activist disrupted a London-to-Washington flight by going berserk, making reference to al Qaeda and assorted hijackings. She acted bizarrely for hours, and after urinating in the aisle she was restrained by two passengers. The flight made an emergency landing in Boston under escort by two military jets.

About three years back Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin went ballistic as he waited for a delayed American Airlines flight from LAX to New York to depart. He became irate after crew asked him to stop playing Words With Friends on his phone, slamming the bathroom door, pounding the wall and using offensive language.

I have some air-hostess friends who would cringe when they were assigned to fly a certain sector, knowing full well from previous painful experiences, that passengers embarking from a particular city were more likely to be boorish and demanding.  One such flight involved a group of tourists from the Zhejiang province in China who stole 30 sets of stainless steel tableware from the plane,  handing them back only when their tour guide warned them they could face punishment back home.

I recently took a flight to Mumbai to Goa and was seated near two men who, separated by a gap of one row, began shouting out suggestions to each other on what type of sandwich to order. To add insult to the already injured eardrums, a gang of 20-something girls, sitting directly behind me, decided to launch into a loud recount of their previous Goan holiday, peppered with gory details as to what type of guy chatted them up, bought them exotic cocktails and where they threw up afterwards. Groan.

I hate to break the news, but we Indians make some of the worst flying companions on the planet.  Uncontrolled children yelling and running around at all hours, food trays left in the aisles, people shoving to get to the front of the boarding line.

To be fair, though, considering the challenging times we live in, there’s no denying the other contributing factors to bad behaviour on board aircrafts – long lines at the check-in counters, over-booked flights and the tension of excess and lost baggage  – all of which would probably make even the saintliest among us throw a hissy fit and possibly earn a spot on the no-fly list.  Most of us today (crew and passengers) probably need to undergo an anger management workshop before and meditation course after any flying experience.  A far cry from the days when getting to travel by plane was like going to a cool party; I remember the excitement with which one would pick out an outfit and hope to have someone ‘interesting’ sitting on the next seat.  Nowadays, its sweat pants and a warm baggy shirt sans make-up and my only prayer to the Almighty is that I don’t end up with a screaming kid next to me.

The Lonely Planet issued a Passengers’ Bill of Rights in July 2011 based on a survey they conducted of behaviour on airplanes; annoyances listed include prodding the entertainment console on the back seat, unpleasant aromas (stinking feet and body odour), unruly children etc. But the most common word used was … LOUD!  The sad reality is that there’s really no excuse-nor solution- for abhorrent behaviour on flights.  Nowadays, when I see someone off at the airport, my parting words have changed from ‘Hope you have a Safe flight’ to ‘May Peace be with you’.

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