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No more friendly skies

Airline travelers are getting ruder. Some blame fees and the stress of travel, but others say those are just excuses for bad behavior.

By Teresa Mears Jul 22, 2010 11:07AM

I still remember my first airline flight. I was 17, and I bought my first "suit" to be properly attired for the experience.


That was more than 35 years ago, and how flying has changed. The hushed tones of airports have given way to hustle and bustle, and what was once a relaxing experience has become much more stressful.


And our fellow passengers have gotten much more rude. Sigh.


Writes USA Today:

Long gone are the days when air travel was an elegant experience. Many road warriors say that courtesy, at the airport or on the plane, is becoming about as rare as a free, hot in-flight meal. They grouse that inconsiderate, or downright rude, behavior is more common and that it's spurred by an increasing discomfort with all aspects of flying, from security rules to bare-bones service, that put travelers on edge.

Can you remember the last time you took a flight and didn't get annoyed by a passenger in front who reclined on top of you, children screeching and/or kicking your seat, noise from other passengers' cell phones or electronic gadgets -- and that's a good flight experience, when the plane arrives more or less on time, and you don't spend hours in airports or on the tarmac.

Thankfully, we don't believe we've ever experienced one of the problems mentioned in the USA Today story -- adjacent passengers giving free rein to excessive flatulence.


Etiquette expert Lizzie Post says the uncertainty of flying these days keeps travelers on edge and that's one factor that leads to increased rudeness.


Passengers "don't know how long that security line is going to be," she told USA Today. "They don't know if they have anything in their bag that will meet regulations in this airport but not that airport. The nerves get up, and that's when we lose our awareness of the other people around us."

One of people's major complaints today is airline fees. In fact, a recent Consumer Reports survey found that baggage fees and rude employees were travelers' top complaints.


But, it turns out that you can avoid some of the annoyances of travel if you're willing to pay even more fees, The Wall Street Journal's Middle Seat blog reports.

Perks that used to be reserved only for elite-level frequent fliers and first-class passengers are now up for grabs to those who'll pay to jump the line. Lots of travelers are buying.

With all the complaints about people reclining their seats and children not using their indoor voices, you'd think someone might take notice and address those annoying behaviors as well. But apparently everyone thinks those problems apply to other people, not to them.


When is rude behavior OK?

Is it right to meet rudeness with rudeness? One passenger quoted in the USA Today story says he puts his knee up to keep the passenger in front of him from reclining the seat. We're with those who believe that reclining one's seat is rude, and we never do it, even when we are heavily reclined upon by the seat in front of us.


But many commenters at USA Today argued that, as long as the seat reclines, they have the right to recline, whether the person reclined upon is inconvenienced or not.


A commenter named "dadeNaustin" wrote, in response to the passenger who used his knee to prevent the person in front of him from reclining: "I'd jam the lever and make the stupid old fart fly the entire trip with his knee holding me up."


A more tempered response came from "madeenoughyet," who wrote:

You paid for a seat that reclines. If the person behind you needs more space, they can recline as well. Besides, when was the last time you sat in an airline seat that was comfortable for 2+ hours in the upright position? You have to recline just to get the stress off your back.

A number of commenters said the problem isn't that people are rude on airplanes, it's that courtesy is in short supply in the U.S. 


As "Travelchick" put it:

Unfortunately, rude behavior is not confined to airplanes. As a society we have totally forgotten how to act toward each other in a polite and respectful manner. I cringe to think what it will be like in 50 years.

What's your review of today's flying experience, particularly the attitudes of your fellow passengers? Do you find other fliers and airline employees rude? What annoys you most when you travel by air? What do you think everyone could do to make air travel more pleasant?


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