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Plane Stupid

Do our personalities change when we fly?  If you score an upgrade are you suddenly superior to the poor schmuck with the same mileage status who ended up in a middle seat when his earlier flight was cancelled? Watching people on airplanes is always a favorite pastime.  I am always amazed at the levels of cluelessness, arrogance, humanity, panache, obnoxiousness, and just plane rudeness I see on my frequent travels. The following are a few observations I’ve learned to avoid being plane stupid in the sky.


Seat Recliners.  Sure you have a “right” to put your seat back.  Sometimes it’s part of a chain reaction started by someone several rows in front of you who pushed her seat back which caused the passenger behind to recline his seat and so on until the baboon in front of you puts his greasy, dandruff flecked fur into your space.

There is so little space on airplanes today, even in first class, that anytime a seat reclines someone’s personal space (if there is such a thing on an airplane) in invaded.  Kongo believes that seat recliners are some of the most evil of obnoxious fliers and on several occasions has nearly had his laptop broken when the seat in front comes back like a rocket, catches the top of the screen, and jams it down on the serving tray.  Of course seat recliners can also cause spilled drinks, crushed legs, and squashed food.  But, they have the “right” to recline their seat since they bought their ticket, right?

If you decide to grow up and be one of these evil seat recliners, here are a few suggestions:

  • Turn around and give the person behind you notice that you’re coming and give him time to prepare for your arrival by adjusting his laptop, drinks, food tray, or whatever so that you don’t do damage and start a war at 35,000 feet.
  • If it is beyond you to give advance notice, at least lower your seat SLOWLY so the person behind knows your intentions.
  • If you get up and walk around or use the toilet, raise your seat and give the guy behind a brief break from the overly cramped and uncomfortable position you just put him in.

Of course, there are some defenses against seat recliners and at one time or another Kongo has tried most of these but no longer.  It just isn’t worth it and there are simply too many wing nuts flying today.

  • Curse loudly and make overly exaggerated motions when you move your drink or laptop and hope the person in front relents or at least comes up a notch or two.
  • Adjust your air vent to max and direct it upon the bald pate of the jerk in front of you.  Kongo almost came to blows over this once so he doesn’t do it anymore but after all, it is YOUR vent and you have the “right” to point it anywhere you like.
  • Cross your legs back and forth frequently bumping the seat in front of you.  This is best done just when you think the person in front is about to fall asleep.
  • Push the buttons on the movie screen in the seat back just a bit harder than you need to.
  • Pull down sharply on the seat in front of you when you get up and then try to slingshot the person forward unexpectedly.  This is also best done just as the recliner is starting to snore.
  • Kicking the seat in front of you.  This is poor form for an adult but if you have a child nearby you can make a game of it.
  • Simply ask the person if he could raise his seat a bit because you’re trying to work and his seat is so far back that you can’t open your laptop.  If you’re too chicken to do this, ask a flight attendant for assistance but mostly they are going to shrug and say they can’t do anything about it but maybe the person will hear your conversation and raise their seat at which point you can say “thank you.”

Arm Rest Hogs.  People need to share armrests.  If you’re in the middle seat you’re at a particular disadvantage and must fight a war on two fronts.  If you’ve got the aisle or window seat, give the poor bloke in the middle a break.  If someone forces their elbow and doesn’t relent, you need to take action or suffer.  Just look the person in the eye and say in as even a voice as you can muster:  “You know, we need to share this armrest.”  The worst offenders always seem to be men of a certain age with an unwarranted sense of entitlement and are recognized by their huffing and puffing about being unfairly relegated to such a poor seat.  These bullies will always back down when confronted.

Too Big To Fly.  Those of us in the USA know that as a population we’re simply too big.  As our girth has expanded, airline seats have shrunk.  If you’re too big to fit in a seat with the arm rests down without spilling over into the seat next to you (that someone else purchased) then you need to buy two seats or but a seat in first class, or take the train.  You know who you are and everyone else does too.  There are few things more irksome that having a stranger pressing against you for a long time in a cramped airplane.  It is sooo wrong.

Babies and Children.  Babies and children fly.  Get over it.  Rolling your eyes, making deep sighs, and glaring is unbecoming and most likely contrary to your nature on the ground so don’t do it in the air.  Parents, on the other hand, who fail to discipline children who are old enough to behave and do nothing when their progeny kick seats, scream, argue loudly with their siblings, run up and down the aisle, throw food, and otherwise act disruptive should be publicly flogged and tortured in Kongo’s opinion.

Infants can’t properly clear their ears so the cry (and scream) when planes climb to altitude or descend.  It is very painful for them.   Parents can address this condition by giving them a bottle or pacifier to suck on which will help them clear their ears faster.  Patting them on the back and saying “shhhhh” doesn’t do anything to clear their ears.  If you’ve lost your ditty bag or whatever it is where you keep baby paraphernalia then try to get your baby to suck on your thumb.

When children near you on the plane behave wonderfully (despite your low expectations) be sure to complement them and their parents.  It reinforces positive behavior and really makes the parents, who undoubtedly are dreading flying with their young offspring, feel good about themselves.  You can make their day because every parent loves to hear about how well-behaved their kids are.

Follow the rules.  There are plenty of weird, dumb, and unexplainable rules that we have to put up with to fly to a destination.  These are things like turning everything off with a battery before takeoff (but it’s OK above 10,000 feet), not being able to use your phone when you are taxiing out but it’s OK when you land, and so forth.  Whether you think that your cell phone interferes with electronic equipment or not doesn’t really matter.  The rules we have to follow on an airplane were not made by the air crew or the airline.  These rules are federal regulations so if you don’t like them write your representatives in Congress (good luck with that), but turn your frickin’ phone off when they close the door.  Don’t be one of those “I’m so important” people that keep talking loudly when the plane pushes back or are so engrossed in their game they can’t stop (Hello Alex Baldwin!).

And all the other stuff.  Please bathe sometime within 24 hours of boarding a flight.  If you’re going to bring food aboard please avoid the grilled onions, garlic, and other savory things that smell good in the food court but are nauseating in the close confines of an airplane sitting on the tarmac with the engines shut down on a hot summer day.  Don’t put your bare feet up on the bulkhead in front of you (or trim your toenails in flight).  Don’t board drunk and then get airsick.  (Kongo is reminded of that great scene from the movie Animal House when Flounder throws up on Dean Wermer just after he was told, “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”)

If you’ve got any other tips on how to avoid being plane stupid I’d love to hear them.

Fly safe.  Have fun.

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About Kongo (668 Articles)
Kongo is a traveling monkey owned by a nice man who has a soft spot for simians. Follow Kongo at www.travel-monkey.me and on Twitter @kongomonkey

8 Comments on Plane Stupid

  1. I love this post. I was going to write mostly the same thing on my blog in the future.

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  2. Women and Men might tone it down a bit on the application of their perfumes and colognes when flying – although it is better than the smell a non-bather emits – the various strengths and scents among several passengers seated in close proximity can be toxic.

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  3. Pay the kindness forward. I thank all the kind, nameless, height-advantaged men and women who’ve helped me put up or take down my bag. Likewise I’ve held the hand of a young woman sitting next to me who was about to have a panic attack as we ascended.

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  4. I laughed out loud a lot reading this blog, poor Kongo, you certainly seem to have had some terrible flying experiences over the years…sounds like lots of good advice you have mentioned – perhaps you should print it out and hand out copies to each passenger whilst waiting to board each flight you take? ;-p

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  5. I especially agree with what you wrote about seat recliners. I’m 6’1″. That’s not abnormally tall. But with the seat in front of me fully upright, my knees just touch the seatback. When they recline, I can’t even sit upright anymore. It’s the airline’s fault — they choose how close together to put the seats. But the passenger should have the human decency not to recline their seat. Flying on American (probably other airlines too, but I only fly on American and Southwest) is a miserable experience from start to finish. Reclining your seat only makes someone else’s experience even worse. Have some decency and leave your seat upright. When the person in front of me does recline, I spend the flight “accidentally” bumping their seat with my knees. I’ll absolutely be trying the air vent tactic next time, too!

    The airline chooses how close to put the seats. We should be angry at them, but instead we fight each other about it. We can’t do anything to the people who are really responsible, so we lash out at whoever we can reach. It’s the same sad situation with flight attendants. They (usually) aren’t really at fault — their employer made the decisions that make our flight so unpleasant, but we can’t do anything to their employer. The airlines let us fight amongst ourselves, argue with the flight attendants — anything to misdirect our anger and frustration away from them.

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  6. Hahaha, “must fight a war on two fronts”, this is SO true! Your post is SO funny, your whole blog ist “très original” and instructive. The idea with Kongo is soooo cute 😉 Really so cute with his banana!

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  7. Oh this is priceless! If I knew how to use this keyboard, I would send it to my husband!!!

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