The Bottom Line: Flights of Frustration

April 16, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Connections
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Putting aside for a minute some of the overzealous TSA security rules and the literally strange behavior of flight crewmembers recently, there’s a much more common, insanely exasperating type of activity that occurs on airplanes today: thoughtlessness. No doubt it’s being driven in part by the airlines, which have decided to charge for everything from overweight luggage to extra legroom. But that should not excuse the behavior of some travelers who take their frustrations out on fellow fliers.

Case in point: Unless you are an infrequent flier or have not seen network news in a decade, security procedures should not come as a surprise. Here’s a tip: Remove everything that has metal on it … and shoes, too, even if they don’t have metal tips. Take off your jacket. Take your computer out of the bag, unless you have a TSA-approved computer case. In essence, walk through the scanner as if it will see everything but the thoughts in your head.

Another case in point: Most airlines allow passengers to take one carry-on bag and one personal item such as a purse or laptop carrier on the plane. The carry-on must fit into those never-used size displays in the gate area. Instead, because many airlines charge for at least some baggage, fliers have taken to bringing everything from full-size bags to child car seats to the gate. The result? In many cases, gate personnel check the large items at no charge or the offenders fill an entire overhead bin with their items, leaving no space for even the smallest of backpacks. “Be careful when opening the overhead bins as items may have shifted during the flight.” Are they kidding?

A third case in point: The advantage of having a seat in the back of the plane used to be the pleasure of settling in as other passengers boarded the aircraft. Today, the advantage is to watch as fliers unlucky enough to fill the middle and the front of the plane stand in the aisle for as long as it takes to stuff oversized items into the storage areas. While it’s nice to be greeted upon entering a plane, flight attendants’ time might be better spent helping passengers find space for the items they shouldn’t have been allowed to bring onboard in the first place. That would be service.

Finally, while being overweight isn’t healthy for most, apparently being tall can be hazardous to your health as well. If airlines make seats any narrower or the rows any closer together, their customers might as well stand. Exiting the plane in an emergency? The interior design of today’s planes makes it difficult to exit to use the lavatory.

The bottom line is that the days of “flying the friendly skies” don’t have to be over. While a combination of airline companies’ decisions and fliers’ frustration has led to every-man-for-himself behavior, passengers have the power to make the journey as pleasant as the destination. It’s simply a matter of making courtesy common again.
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