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It was only last month but it feels like forever. I was on a flight back to JAX and my seatmate started with some disturbing behavior. It was a short hop from Atlanta, and I was working on my laptop but was interrupted by the sound of metal clicks. I looked over and noticed that he had put the tray table down and was trimming his fingernails into a little pile on the table.

I watched in disgust as he then proceeded to brush the little pile onto the ground and seat. He started on to the next hand before I politely asked if he would mind trimming his nails later. He huffed and looked at me like I was the rude one before turning away! However, he did oblige before ignoring me the rest of the flight. This interaction got me thinking about airline travel and how people carry themselves in planes and airports. Was the type of behavior that my seatmate engaged in “normal” on flights?

Has Travel Decorum Gone Out the Window?

It’s difficult to know for certain but it seems unlikely. On many trips I notice travelers helping one another whether it is lifting a suitcase into an overhead bin or helping a parent put a bag on their gate-checked stroller (Someone did this for me on our last trip.). However, the rude or gross passengers get the spotlight.

I have to believe that one reason for this is that since almost everyone is in possession of a smartphone the odds of recording strange behavior are much higher than they have ever been. Stories and social media capture bizarre conduct from travelers and this is what captures the public’s attention.  The Instagram account “Passenger Shaming” memorializes these culprits to it’s more than 1.3 million followers. Some of the more bothersome videos from the site that led to stories from mainstream media include the following.

Is Plane Travel a Case of “the Good ‘Ol Days”?

Remember the golden days of plane travel (although as of right now that just feels like anytime prior to COVID-19)? I think I may be too young to reminisce on the supposed “Golden Age of Flying”, but I have seen the pictures, videos and movies of travelers who were dressed to the nines for their trips.  Suits and classy dress appeared to be the norm and going on a flight was a big deal.

Perhaps this mindset changed as prices came down and flying became commoditized or viewed as just a way to get from point A to point B rather than a premium experience. On the flip side was plane travel really that much better in the good ‘ol days? Smoking was permitted, and I do remember that being awful. Travel was prohibitively expensive for most people and there were less entertainment options. Also, turbulence and crashes were bigger concerns. Maybe my idealized view of plane travel of past days is a case of remembering things more fondly than I should.

What Does the Future Hold?

We are only a few weeks into the explosion of COVID-19 and everything seems to have experienced a paradigm shift. Business models have changed on the fly and interactions between people have totally adjusted. People are also much more concerned about hygiene and cleanliness than I have ever seen before. I expect to see this to carryover to future passenger behavior in a dramatic fashion. I assume masks will become more common, people will wipe down or sanitize their seats, hand sanitizer will be widely used…and fewer people will clip their nails or use feet on the touchscreens.

What do you think?  Did plane travel used to be better?  Were passengers more polite?  Will this cause people to behave better in the future? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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