Around the World With Dreadful Travelers
Rough for airline crews
I’ve been privileged to have had endless opportunities to travel around the world, but it has always pained me to see how many travelers behave on flights and trains. Sadly, a whole section of passengers lack basic etiquette. The worst offenders are usually rich people, or those flying business class, because they think they can get away with anything.
Cabin crews often end up dealing with “high-profile” guests who complain to the airline’s management if their hissy fits and tantrums are not dealt with gentleness and immediate attention. They have to be tactfully treated with kid gloves. From unwanted attention to physical touching to mental torture, the crew see and experience it all.
Passengers treat international flights like an open bar and drink non-stop. In the air, the alcohol hits way faster than on the ground. And Indians are often the first to get drunk and misbehave. A fact: Most Indians do not know how to nurse a drink or consume alcohol in the correct manner. It’s usually gulp, gulp and pass out.
Then there is the male ego that comes into play. A “no” from a woman is unacceptable, and aggression rears its ugly head. Isn’t it shameful that many foreign airlines give “hardship allowances” to cabin crew when they fly to India. What is wrong with us? Do we not know how to behave?
I’ve known of cabin crew who were groped multiple times by passengers on flights, and while they ultimately got some form of justice, the process was tedious. If the process to register complaints was a simpler one, then trust me, there would be a lot more complaints registered.
Drunk, entitled, chauvinistic passengers are the worst. It’s not an easy job for the ever-smiling, always-at-your-service flight attendants, who have to put up with tantrums, sexual harassment, physical and verbal confrontation, and even threats from unruly passengers. Is suffering abuse part of a flight attendant’s job description? A passenger hurling abuse at an attendant, or even trying to molest her, is not an uncommon sight, in fact, it might just happen the next time you board a plane.
The always-at-your-service cabin staff might not find their job as rewarding as they might have imagined with abuse hurled at them, because a passenger couldn’t get his favourite meal! Ground staff and cabin crew in India are known to take a lot of abuse. Abusive behaviour that should send people behind bars. What kind of upbringing does that reflect? Airline crew and staff get a great amount of satisfaction when passengers leave the plane smiling at them, or saying that they had a wonderful experience. But in some cases, no matter how much they try to make them comfortable, some passengers seem happier being insolent. Even worse than the yelling is the blatant ogling that some indulge in.
Let's speak of the in-flight behaviour of some desperate men on my flight to Bangkok a while back. and on the return flight as well! It is sad why Indian men are given a bad name because of the deplorable and appalling behaviour by some. Just a handful of women on a flight full of groups of men in ill-fitting t-shirts and slippers, loud, crude and crass trying desperately to feel up any woman walking through the aisle was the order of the day. They had to be firmly told to get back in their seats and the air-hostesses had a tough time handling them.
I think such flights must have male-stewards and sky-marshals to keep such men in check. These men leer and gawk all through the flight. It’s so obvious why these hordes of men are on this trip. They make it abundantly clear throughout the trip!
I had a long chat with the cabin crew who told me about the harassment they face on such journeys and the disgusting behaviour they have to tolerate. I believe the Kolkata – Bangkok sectors are the worst!
Some passenger follies include being adamant about placing their overweight hand baggage in the overhead bin of their preference; stealing cutlery, headphones and blankets. Some do not switch their phones off during take-offs and landings despite warnings. They take photos inside the flight when asked not to do so. They do not make way, or get up from the seat for fellow passengers, and recline even during take-offs and landings. They ogle at air hostesses and other female passengers, and move up and down the aircraft many times. They request unnecessary seat changes, go to the toilet when the seatbelt sign is on, remove seat-belts, get up to remove overhead baggage when the aircraft is still taxiing and abuse the free alcohol served on board.
Indians are tagged as some of the world’s worst tourists, and we are placed in the same category as tourists from America, China and Argentina. Standing tall in the list and this is not something we can really be proud about.
As flights and travel resume, please treat people with respect, and assume your paths will cross again someday. Next time, you board a train or a plane or a tube or bus, remember basic courtesies. After all, these are trained professionals taking care of you and not your slaves! Treat everyone, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, age or any other diversity, as you treat yourself.