Air travel is often fraught with excitement, frustration and dramas. The people -flight attendants and passengers alike- whom you meet onboard often determine whether the flight is to be enjoyed or endured. Here is a list of the 11 types of passengers whom you will meet in the friendly skies. Which type of passenger are you?
#1 THE GROUCHY BUSINESS MAN
Donning a sharp suit, he wears a look of seriousness and displays a no-nonsense attitude from the moment he boards the aircraft. It is written all over his face that he is not one to be trifled with.
Just a trivial issue like having a filled overhead compartment above his seat – that forbids him to stow his carry-on bag near him – is enough to reveal the slightest hint of annoyance on his face. The only times he peels away from his laptop are during a meal service or when he has to answer nature’s call.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a much-preferred group of business travellers who reject their meals and drinks in the pursuit of repaying their sleep debts. Just do not sit them next to a crying child.
#2 THE NEEDY PARENT
I have full of admiration and empathy for parents who travel with their young children in tow, especially those who travel without their spouse.
During the entire course of the flight, the call attendant button exists as their lifeline. Many flight attendants go beyond and above their call of duty to render miscellaneous assistance to fatigue-stricken parents – be it minding their child for a moment, retrieving an item from a bag -since their hands are always full- or filling their milk bottles. Most of them do not mean to be bothersome, but they often come across as such with their endless requests.
However, what irks me most are lackadaisical parents who leave their young children starved of attention, while they keep their eyes fixated on the entertainment screen. They do little or nothing to pacify their crying child and appear more interested to finish a movie. Besides ruining the peaceful cabin ambience, they ruin the moods of neighbouring passengers too. I am not sure about you, but I would be more understanding if visible efforts have been made to turn off the waterworks of their child.
#3 THE HYPERACTIVE CHILD
A fact that often goes unhighlighted by parents to their children: The aircraft cabin is not your playground. Unbeknownst to many parents, the aircraft is a dangerous place for kids who are left unsupervised. Moving meal carts, spilling overhead compartments and unforeseen turbulences are potential accidents waiting to happen when parents allow their children to run freely along the aisles.
It is understandable that the novelty of flying is real for young children, who are often unable to sit still or keep their volumes down because they simply cannot contain their excitement. They wear their parents’ patience thin, and at times, mine too. Can you imagine having to tolerate their screams and fidgeting on a long haul flight? Please pass me some ear plugs or try to keep your child occupied with movies, games or books.
#4 THE NERVOUS WRECK
Their faces turn as white as sheet during three important phases of the flight: Takeoff, turbulence and landing. I previously encountered a middle-aged lady, who clung on to her spouse for her dear life during an extremely turbulent phase of the flight that shook the aircraft violently for several minutes. To be honest, I was more worried that she would pass out due to anxiety, rather than the aircraft breaking apart.
For the claustrophobics, flying in an enclosed space without any exit points is a nightmare come true. Every passing minute spent in the skies is excruciating for them. They are vulnerable to panic attacks and feel uncomfortable about leaving their seats during the flight. If you ever find yourself seated beside a passenger who displays symptoms of claustrophobia, provide some relief with verbal assurances because they need it the most. I guess the fear of flying is a personal issue that is difficult to allay with age, experiences or wisdom.
#5 THE SELFISH FREQUENT FLIER
They may have chalked up a huge mileage from their travels, but they are none the wiser. More often than not, they are unwilling to comply with safety regulations that inconvenience them. When instructed to raise the window shade or stow their foot rest for takeoff or landing, expect to hear a grunt from them. Likewise, expect a louder grunt when they are told to return their seats upright during a meal service. Their disgruntlement appears to be the only thing that matters to them during the flight, not their manners nor safety.
Their life is over when they do not receive their choice of meal onboard. I am gravely exaggerating, but how many times have we witnessed a passenger kicking up a big fuss over the lack of their meal choice? Fact: There is no Michelin-starred chef onboard. You are just missing out on a heavily processed meal that your body will thank you for – should you choose to skip it completely.
#6 THE CURIOUS CREEPER
Have you ever sat beside a passenger who kept throwing intrusive glances your way on a public mode of transport? Or unwittingly ended up as Aunt agony while listening to the life story of a neighbouring stranger?
Don’t get me wrong though, it is wonderful to trade travel insights and interesting anecdotes. However, everyone is entitled to their own privacy in a public setting. Don’t we all dread being labelled as a broken record? Imagine having to put up with one on a long haul flight.
My tip for dealing with potential creeps or space invaders? Offer monosyllabic replies to indicate your lack of interest.
#7 THE GLUTTONY BINGE-EATER
Bearing in mind that aircraft food is notoriously unhealthy, I cannot fathom the logic behind passengers who match their appetites with the growing mileage clocked. After a full meal service and a few cocktail orders, do you really need another serving of cup noodles? Studies have shown that the effectiveness of our taste buds is altered while flying, but I highly doubt it causes our appetites to double.
A point this category of passengers is missing here: The aircraft galley is not your international buffet restaurant or charitable supermarket in the skies. Onboard service is free-flowing, but the in-flight catered food is not. Also, do they really expect others to be able to fall asleep with the tangy scent of Tom yum (read: cup noodles) wafting in the confined cabin? As if putting up with the stale, recycled cabin air isn’t bad enough…
#8 THE FREE-SPIRITED NOMAD
You can spot them from a distance sporting a rugged look or some hipster dreadlocks. They usually travel alone or in a pair, but hardly ever in a group. These nomads travel light and are often in good spirits. Clad in a simple getup, most of them are easygoing and are eager to share their travel stories. Their intriguing stories will keep you entertained on a budget flight without an in-flight entertainment system at your seat. Generally a category of no-frills passengers, they are unlikely to step on anyone’s toes during the flight.
#9 THE CUTEST OLD COUPLE
From time to time, I will encounter elderly couples who paint a heartwarming picture of love through their little gestures. They appear grateful to be able to travel with their soulmate in their golden years, in spite of their fragilities and limitations.
For them, love manifests itself in the skies through the smallest of actions like a soothing massage or making an accompanied trip to the washroom together. Rarely one without the other, they can be seen going on slow walks along the aisles during the lull period. They make me go green with envy, in a good way of course.
#10 THE HIPPY TEENAGERS
Nobody needs to know the lyrics of your favourite heavy metal tune… So spare a thought for others and turn down the volume a notch. Also, it will be wise to remove your headset while you chat with your buddy, instead of unceremoniously letting us in on your opinions of that hot flight attendant who just served you a drink.
For those who recently become of a legal drinking age, it is natural to experiment with alcohol – especially when it comes without a price tag. Expect them to host their own booze party onboard, courtesy of the bar carts that house a decent selection of liquors and wines. If it is any consolation, they should be sound asleep after the meal service, no thanks to their enthusiastic servings of in-flight tipples.
#11 THE ABSOLUTE GENTLEMAN
He is mindful of his behaviour and is respectful towards the needs of his fellow passengers. He is seen lending a helping hand to female or elderly passengers who struggle to stow their heavy baggage during boarding. His intentions are thoughtful, and he is a pleasant passenger to have onboard.
He will not steal your legroom or nudge your elbow off the armrest. Neither will he cut your queue during boarding nor block the aisle while rummaging through his carry-on bag to retrieve his earphones. He will not be caught dead discreetly removing his stinky socks. If you have been guilty of any of these aforementioned ungentlemanly acts, a change is always welcomed.