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Travel, World

Lydia Vasko
Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014

Travel, World

Oh behave, passengers

The Straits Times | Lydia Vasko | Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014

Few would call airline travel an enjoyable experience. To be confined in the smallest, least ergonomic of spaces, breathing the same recycled air as hundreds of strangers for hours on end can drive even the most sane, even tempered individual a little batty.

Take a recent United Airlines flight. Enroute from Newark, New Jersey to Denver, Colorado, it was re-routed to Chicago, Illinois, after two passengers got into a heated dispute.

One of them had used a Knee Defender, a US$22 (S$28) device which prevents the passenger in front from reclining his seat. Insults were exchanged, a soda was hurled and both passengers were discharged from the plane and barred from continuing their journey, though no charges were filed.

Mr Trevor Gilmore, 28, an American intercultural consultant who teaches people how to work and communicate in unfamiliar cultures and situations, says passengers must simply face the reality of air travel and focus on the positives, not the negatives.

He says: "I've flown about 56,300km this year and frankly, my pet peeve is when people complain about minor things such as other passengers reclining their seat or leaving their lights on.

"People need to be polite and considerate and remember that they're essentially on a sky bus with TV, food and pretty clean toilets."

Unfortunately, it may be easier said than done. Airplane passengers are quick to anger when their space and senses, particularly those of sound and smell, are encroached upon.

SundayLife! talked to dozens of frequent flyers to find out what their top 10 in-flight pet peeves are.

NOISY CHILDREN

The No. 1 complaint of travellers everywhere is the dreaded crying baby. While most passengers are understanding of the trials parents face when they have a baby on board, there is no sympathy for parents who choose to practise tough love 9,000m in the air.

Consultant Ethan Tan, 36, cites a recent flight from Singapore to London when a child was crying uncontrollably to get his father's attention.

"The father just focused on his in-flight entertainment and refused to pacify the small child. He was trying to wait it out, it seems.

"That led to the child raising his volume for attention and it just went on and on. It became a contest of willpower. Passengers had to call in the cabin crew for intervention," he recalls.

In these cases, the parents' reactions to the crying or tantrum-throwing child are key.

"Yes, you are probably frustrated as a parent in that situation. But the decision to bring a child on a flight was yours, and he or she is not hand luggage to be stowed away and retrieved only when the plane lands.

"With a fussing child, I'd like to think that passengers are empathetic if you are really trying," adds Mr Tan.

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