Travel Etiquette : The Customer Is Not Always Right

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07/03/2009 – Travel Etiquette : The Customer Is Not Always Right

As I sit here and type out this entry, I am sitting in seat 5A on a US Airways Boeing 737-400 and for the first time in a long time I am tempted to kick the seat in front of me (as well as seat 4B).   I am not kicking the seats in front of me, and I have enough restraint to prevent myself from actually kicking the seat in front of me, but the thought is crossing my mind.

During the boarding process for my flight from Washington DC’s Reagan National Airport (DCA) to Tampa International Airport (TPA) I watched a couple at the podium trying to play ‘lets make a deal’ with a very patient US Airways gate agent.   I could not hear the conversation, but I could see the body language and I knew the passengers were very unhappy.

Once I boarded I noted that the couple in front of me, seated in the often highly sought after bulkhead seats, were the couple who had been arguing with the gate agent prior to boarding.   As the flight attendant passed the couple she reminded them that all carry-on bags needed to be placed in the overhead space for bulkhead passengers.   This is the law and something that is told to every passenger seated in a bulkhead on every flight throughout the world

The woman seated in 4A, in front of me, protested.   She informed the flight attendant she would not place her bag in the overhead and she felt she was being singled out because she had words with the airport gate agent prior to boarding.  The flight attendant informed her it was the law and the bag had to go up.

The flight attendant asked the woman in 4A if she’d like to be reseated, the woman answered with a ‘yes.’ As the flight was full, and actually over-sold, the flight attendant finally came back and said she found a seat in 19F, also a window, the woman stated she would not move ‘so far back,’ and continued to object to putting her bag up.  The flight attendant again returned and said she could have the gate agent reaccommodate her and place her on the next flight, departing a few hours later.  The woman refused and finally agreed to put her bag up.

Story over right?…Wrong!

Once the door closed the woman’s husband, seated in 4B, rings the flight attendant call button.  The flight attendant asked him what was wrong and he told her “ I can’t sit next to my wife while she is angry for the next 2 hours. Can you reseat me.”  The flight attendant, looking quite irritated, set off to find the woman’s husband, seated in a middle-seat, a new seat on the plane.  The flight attendant came back and told the man he could be seated in seat 12C. 12C is a great seat on the US Airways 737-400; it is an Emergency Row aisle seat.   The man, who no longer wanted to sit with his wife, looked at the flight attendant stated “I do not want the responsibility of sitting in the emergency row. I’ll stay here.”

You think this couple stopped?  Of course not.

As the flight crew came around with drink service the woman in 4A asked for a Pepsi.   She was informed that they only served Coke products on US Airways flights.  The woman protested that she does not like Coke; she would like a Pepsi please.   This round of arguing went nowhere, she eventually settled on a Sprite.

The woman’s husband, in 4B, asked for a snack box and was informed the box was $5. He protested, loudly stating he has never heard of such a thing, that he flies US Airways ‘all the time’ and has never been charged a penny for a meal (keep in mind that up until a few days ago US Airways was not only charging for snack boxes, but for all in-flight beverages as well!).   He demanded a supervisor, turns out the flight attendant they had been rude to was the lead flight attendant for the flight.  He wanted to file a complaint that the flight attendant was trying to steal $5 from him in exchange for a meal he believed he was entitled to.

…this all leads up to now, with me sitting in seat 5A wanting to kick seat 4A into the upright position.  The woman in front of me is constantly banging her seat back into me. The first two times she came back so hard I thought she was going to break the screen on my 15” Apple PowerBook.  Each time the woman turned around and looked at me like I was inconveniencing her by having my tray down.

The woman next to me, in 5B, had her head down on her tray sleeping when the man in 4B slammed his seat back very hard and hit her in the head.

At this very moment the couple taking up seats 4A and 4B are complaining to the flight attendant that their economy class seats, on a short-haul 737-400, on a flight of approximately 2 hours, do not recline back further enabling them to comfortably sleep on the flight.

I read e-mails from people, and posts on forums, where flyers complain that a flight attendant was not happy and smiling when serving them.   Next time your flight attendant appears to have an attitude keep in mind they may have just encountered passengers such as those occupying seats 4A and 4B in front of me.

…and for the passengers seated in front of me in Seats 4A and 4B on US Airways Flight 1517, keep this in mind The Customer Isn’t Always Right!

Happy Flying!


  1. you should have kicked their seat, grabbed the back when you were coming back from the bathroom when you sat back down, and then put one of those small spacers in between the seat and the tray, preventing them from reclining to begin with. People like this piss me off.

  2. Andy,

    I could have dropped a fully loaded Gura Gear Kiboko Bag on them. 2 bodies, 6 lenses, light stand, carbon fiber tripod, 2 flashes, related essentials, etc. That might have shut them up for at least 25 seconds…

    I hope your travels are going smoothly!


  3. I suggest a little, um, “turbulence” when the flight attendant hands you that drink you ordered. Oopsie.

  4. When I’ve been stuck behind like people like that, I sometimes jam my legs up against the seat back (I’m 6’3″ so this isn’t a struggle in cattle…) and when I see them push back against the seat go “OWWWW!”

    That tends to stop them doing it again.

  5. You showed far, far more restraint than I would have. Obnoxious flyers (of that degree, anyway) always get an earful from me.

  6. Obnoxious fliers are the least of our inflight problems. When will the traveling public wake up and stop devouring the propaganda about lower fares under deregulation spat forth by the airlines? It’s not too hard to figure out. Airlines get to ration seats available for a flight, and cancel and add (but they never add) flights at whim. This is ridiculous. Who has two, three weeks and the time and the energy to seek out the “cheap fares” that fluctuate constantly? If you do, maybe you can afford to pay the fools fares out there. I would rather put up with rude passengers any day instead of the rude, arrogant, hostile and downright uncivil treatment any airline employee will deliver with the merest inquiry or request. The CEOs know and encourage this stuff; do all of you out there really make concerted efforts to disobey your boss? I didn’t think so. Why is an airline employee any different? They aren’t. I’d rather have a fare system based on mileage flown, where fares change only after weeks or month of notice to a federal regulatory agency fully accountable to Congress, instead of on the hour. I’d rather know that in the event of flights being oversold the airline will treat the involuntarily bumped like the victims they are, and put up with obnoxious passengers any day over the nonsense flying in our skies at present. Think about it. Enough is enough. Airline deregulation is a full-scale fraud, and needs to be brought under the will of the flying public, just as cable companies, as should other industries who take the “we’re deregulated, f*** the consumers” approach and incorporate it into their business models. Write your senators and representatives. Demand reform.

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