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Airplane Passenger Etiquette: Where Did It Go?

Put headphones on if necessary, alternate when exiting an aircraft, be kind to the flight crew, leave your ego at the gate, keep your voice down and limit the size of your carry on bag ... and most importantly, leave the tuna at home.

Airplane Passenger Etiquette: Where Did It Go?

Last week, while returning to Connecticut from a Florida wedding, I waited in the terminal before my flight. People watching in any airport is entertaining. Business travelers routinely hopscotch pass families with strollers and children dragging cartoon-character baggage while electronic carts loudly beep transporting passengers requiring extra assistance.  

While I sat, I couldn’t help but notice a grown man playing solitaire on an electronic device with maximum volume. This type of behavior is expected from a child with preoccupied and hearing-impaired parents, but watching an adult who was completely ignorant of those sitting in direct view was alarming.  What’s the matter with people?

If you’ve never heard the sound effects of solitaire, it resembles a loud shuffling whisper, borderline creepy, most definitely annoying to the most tolerable of ears. You can’t couldn’t ignore it if you tried.  

The reaction of other waiting travelers was identical; all nonverbal with body language that spoke volumes. There were repetitive glares while burying faces in newspapers, balancing laptops while searching for headphones in computer bags or the retreat method of walking away entirely. After ten to 15 amplified (and consecutive) games of solitaire, the latter was the best option and least painful. 

Most people I know play games on their smart phones, check Facebook status, Tweet, etc.  It’s an easy distraction while passing time waiting for a plane or standing in line. This is perfectly acceptable ... with no volume. Asking an adult to turn the volume down on their portable video game is like asking a 4-year old about their first tattoo. It’s a conversation that shouldn’t happen. 

As I boarded the plane, the sounds of solitaire continued. I heard it in the aisle.  I heard it from my seat. Eventually, a good Samaritan reminded him of his age and surroundings, maybe offering him a lollipop.  

It makes you wonder where common courtesy has gone when it comes to flight travel. I began to think of all the things I’ve seen (and smelled) while traveling.  What’s funny is watching the reaction to standard procedure or basic rules of protocol we learned in kindergarten.  

There always seems to be the traveler trying to exit the plane before everyone else. Instead of exiting by alternating rows (similar to a four way stop sign) they cut two to three passengers ahead. Is there a secret exit strategy? Don’t they see passengers are clogged like cattle in the aisle?

How about the loud passenger in 5A while you’re seated in 32B? His voice dominates over the humming jet engine. With in minutes, you know where he works, his fabricated golf score, his preference for blonds and his fascination with mixed Redbull & vodka cocktails. Although torturous for me, sympathies should really be directed to the tired traveler forced to sit next to him.   

A few more particulars, such as the bewilderment and anger when the metal detector actually detects a passenger's metal. I’ve seen people cut their fingernails, treat the flight crew like dirt, and bring “carry-on bags” the size of smart cars.  

Yet the kicker, and one my mother is famous for, are passengers who bring potent homemade food onto a plane. Pungent odors of tuna fish and wilted salad with some unidentifiable dressing is enough to make the stomach turn.  The internal air vents only circulate the aroma, not extinguish it. If there’s a need to bring food from home, please refrain from tuna.  

I don’t know what has happened to the common courtesy of flight travel. If you can please find it in your heart, put headphones on if volume is necessary, alternate when exiting an aircraft, be kind to the flight crew, leave your ego at the gate, keep your voice down and limit the size of your carry on bag ... and most importantly, leave the tuna at home.  

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