Airport Etiquette : You, Your Mobile Phone & The Gate Area – Revisited

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25/05/2009 – Airport Etiquette : You, Your Mobile Phone & The Gate Area – Revisited

A year ago I wrote about the annoyance of travellers not being courteous to their fellow travellers while using mobile phones in the airport, in this post: 29/05/2008 – Airport Etiquette : Doing Laps With Your Mobile Phone

I hadn’t thought much of this post since I wrote it until this morning when almost like a ‘1 Year Anniversary’ of the post I was faced with a solid reminder that this topic needed to be revisited.

This morning while waiting for my 6:30am flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Philadelphia (PHL), I was sitting quietly at Terminal 1’s Gate 26 shortly after security had opened at 4:30am eating a bowl of Froot Loops when I was abruptly and clearly confronted with the issue of mobile phone etiquette in airports…and in any public space. Sitting in a corner in a nearly empty gate area I was enjoying the solitude before the terminal filled up when a flyer with no sense of airport etiquette sat down at Gate 28 and started making phone calls.

I have no problem with people using their mobile phones in airports, or even on planes before the flight has departed. What I do have a problem with is flyers who think that every single person around them has any interest in their phone conversation. The problem with very loud mobile phone users in airports is that you cannot escape them. If you are sitting at a Gate chances are you’re waiting for a flight that is departing that gate.

This morning’s rude mobile phone talker, who I dubbed “Dear Lady at SFO Gate 28 on her mobile phone” in a series of Twitter posts while enduring her conversation was speaking in a voice that most people would use if they were giving a business presentation to 250 people in an auditorium that had no public address system.

From the outset it was clear that her early morning conversation (shortly before 5:00am PST/8:00am EST) was about nothing. She started out broadcasting that she had found a wonderful new deodorant at a shop in Burlingame, Calif, that had a US Airways gate agent and I chuckling, however no one was chuckling as she prattled on about purchasing new odor eating inserts for her sneakers and placing them in her shoes; revealed the details of her new JetBlue American Express Card (I was waiting for her to read off the card number but she didn’t). As a flight to Phoenix (PHX) began to board, and gate agents made announcements over the public address system she raised her voice to new volumes speaking in such a way that what was almost louder and clearer than the public address system.

Finally around 5:45 she exclaimed in a voice so loud you could hear it across a rushing waterfall “Hello? Hello? Damn! I think my phone battery died!”

Her final comments were a welcome sound to those of us sitting in Gates 26 through 30.

While this woman on her mobile phone was not an irritating person walking around all of her fellow passengers speaking at maximum volume, she possessed the ability to be louder and more irritating that almost every ‘wandering phone user’ I have encountered at airports.

If there are any psychiatric professionals who read Flying With Fish I would love it if you could answer this one question. What posses people to stand in very public places and have very private conversations? Is the sense of anonymity so great in an airport that people feel they can broadcast their most private conversations in such a public venue?

I know that I for one am glad “Dear Lady at SFO Gate 28 on her mobile phone” purchased and inserted new odor eating inserts for her sneakers. That is good etiquette for her seat-mates should she take her shoes off in-flight.

Happy Flying!


  1. Aretha sang it best – R E S P E C T – gone in today’s culture, gone.

  2. Here is what to do: Next time ask the person loudly with a curious look on your face “sorry, are you speaking to me?”they will usually shrug you off, then ask again. your fellow travelers will love you because now the loud talker starts whispering into the phone that this “idiot” (you) is next to them. I’ve done this three times, the airport, the beauty shop, and the grocery store, and it actually throws most people out of “loud” mode. People like this don’t have manners, so asking nicely to lower the volume of their conversation does not work. I’ve tried that too.

  3. Yes, their sense of anonymity is that great.

    But also, they may just be harder of hearing than you. People are wired to assume others are just like them. Even if someone has been told they’re hard of hearing, they’re wired to forget that and assume everyone else needs them to speak at top volume. And when someone’s hearing’s been worsening gradually, there’s a point where they habitually speak at top volume but haven’t yet realized they have a problem. These are the people shouting into their mobiles in public.

  4. Ted,

    While I might agree with you regarding that people who are hard of hearing speak louder, I actually have significant hearing loss in my right ear. While my hearing is pretty good in my left ear, so my preference is to use a phone with my left ear, I still don’t shout.

    Considering the number of times I have seen, heard, witnessed, people having very loud conversations in airports, in their seat before departure, on trains, etc, with travellers of all ages, I’d have to believe that not all of these travellers are hard of hearing.

    Happy Flying!


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