How to handle unruly seatmates on the plane

From Travel Pulse

Sometimes, the skies aren’t so friendly and neither are your fellow passengers when you fly.

They can be rude and unruly, but you still need to get to your destination. What do you do when you’re on the flight with some not-so-nice seatmates who cause a major ruckus?

Echo Garrett and her husband Kevin boarded their United flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Minneapolis, Minnesota, on their way to Atlanta, Georgia. Garrett’s husband had hurt his back on their trip, so Echo purchased an upgrade to comfort class so he could have more room. They put his photography equipment in the overhead compartment and prepared to fly.

Unfortunately, the couple’s experience was anything but comfortable.

“A passenger came running on at the last moment,” explained Echo. “The flight attendant opened the closed overhead compartment, yanked Kevin’s bag out and dropped it on the floor. It was quite heavy because it contained several thousand dollars’ worth of camera gear.”

Kevin got out of his seat and questioned the flight attendant in a calm, non-threatening voice. The flight attendant threatened to have him thrown off the plane.

“He returned to his seat and whispered to me, ‘What a witch,'” said Echo.

A second flight attendant appeared immediately and said, “I heard you call her a curse word and one more word from you and you will be off this flight.”

The couple in front of them also cranked their seats so far back that they were practically in their laps.

“They kept ordering drinks and trying to engage us in conversation,” said Echo. “It was one of our worst experiences ever.”

When Jen Singer’s plane was landing in Toronto, a lightning storm kept the passengers stranded on the tarmac.

“The two-year-old next to me had been sleeping, but woke up as we stopped,” said Singer. “His dad had said he was a pretty good toddler and was potty trained. I let the boy sit on my lap while I pointed out all the trucks and planes. Then I felt a warmth on my lap. Yup, he peed on me. Six hours later, I told the story on national TV as I spoke about potty training.”

Patti McCracken’s flight Frankfurt to Bangkok became quite foul-smelling.

“Two empty seats between me and another passenger, a very tall man,” said McCracken. “After dinner, I closed my eyes. I started to smell something and opened my eyes to find tall man’s stinky feet on my tray table with shoes off. I began to curse at him. The flight attendant came to see what all the yelling was about and she ordered him to remove his feet immediately, whereupon he shoved them down into the seat beside me, against the armrest.

“It was a long flight.”

Speaking of foul-smelling, when Jenny Glatzer found her place on the plane, it was next to a woman who was wearing a lot of perfume.

“I got a migraine before we even took off,” she said. “Spent the whole flight with my nose inside my sleeve and my head pressed up against the window. The flight was sold out, and I couldn’t imagine asking anyone else to put up with perfume lady.”

Beverly Hurley sat next to someone on a flight from New Zealand to Los Angeles who was visibly ill and was coughing and sneezing for the entire flight.

“I should have demanded a different seat,” said Hurley. “Two days later, I was sick for three weeks with bronchitis.”

So how do you handle all of these situations and still enjoy your flight?

Chuck Underwood takes approximately 30 to 40 flights per year and has racked up multi-million-miles as a generational consultant and trainer. He knows what a miserable flight experience means and how to handle it.

“Boiled down to basics, it usually means another passenger is offending one of our senses,” said Underwood, founder of The Generational Imperative, Inc., in Miamisburg, Ohio.

“Smell: The passenger brought pungent food onboard or the baby in her lap needs a diaper change. Sight: The passenger next to you is watching porn or is wearing clothing that doesn’t cover enough of their bodies. Touch: The passenger next to you plants his leg in your space.

“The key to dealing with situations like this begins with this question: Which sense is the other passenger offending?”

With that answered, Underwood said it’s time to formulate your strategy to eliminate the problem: “If it’s unruly behavior, it’s best to alert the flight attendants and ask what they can do to help you. They’re trained and probably better than you at finding a diplomatic solution or, if not, issuing a stern warning in the right words to the misbehaving passenger.”

If it’s an offense to your sense of hearing, smell, sight, or touch, then Underwood provides an example of something you can say to your seatmate:

“Sir/Ma’am, can you help me out? I don’t have the option of moving to another seat (assuming the plane is full, which most are these days), and you are (mention the offense). As you and I both know, sitting in an airplane puts a lot of demands on us that are not normal, so I need your help in (eliminating the specific offense). I’ll appreciate it very much if you’ll help me out. Thank you.”

Underwood said to choose words that make him/her sympathetic to what he/she is doing to you, get him/her on your side while asking to help you.

“It probably will help if you can strike up a brief and friendly conversation before you come back to him with your complaint,” Underwood noted. “Maybe it’s just a brief greeting: ‘Hi. Are you heading home, or outbound?’”

According to Kelly Ortiz-Elgin of Guru Travel in Elgin, Illinois, staying calm starts with staying prepared.

“I bring earbuds. Not just any buds: good ones. These little fellas have the power to cancel out a lot of sounds. I also swear by Lavender Roll on Essential Oil so that I can give it a roll in the event of an extra stressful flight, such as a rude seatmate. Finally, download your favorite shows, music, podcasts, books etc. Keep yourself occupied. Between the earbuds and your technology, you should be able to be in your own little world of magic.”

You’ll never be able to eliminate all potentially unruly passengers, but at least now you have a starting point to get you through the rough flights.



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