Oh, the annoying things airline passengers do

Last week on a flight to San Francisco, I watched a man wrap his jacket around his head and fasten it with his headset. It wasn't a fashion statement. It was his way of coping with the snoring of his seat partner.

The noise from this sleeper made the engine's roar sound like waves lapping up on shore. If there was an Olympic event for this activity, he would have taken the gold.

I had to admire the civility (not to mention the creativity) of how the man handled the noise issue. Muffling the sound with a jacket sure beats what a woman did on a Southwest flight waiting to take off from Chicago last month.

Apparently this woman couldn't stand her seatmate's snoring. So she decided to take a stab at stopping it. Literally. She jammed her ballpoint pen into his arm several times until he woke up screaming.

Snoring is only one of many things that irritate passengers at 35,000 feet. For traveler Steve Cross, it's parents who don't control their children. Steve remembers flying from San Diego to New York next to a 3-year-old who thought Steve was his personal climbing toy. When Steve asked the mother to please control her child, the mother got huffy. She handed the child a cup of juice. Junior promptly dumped the juice on Steve. Steve said the mother never apologized. She said he deserved it for being mean to a child.

A pet peeve of Nancy, my old flying partner, is pets.

"People know animals are required to stay in their cages under the seat," Nancy said. "But that doesn't stop some from taking them out. Or stop them from sneaking them through security."

We've seen a parakeet fly reconnaissance missions through the galley, a hamster take up housekeeping in a seat pocket, and a boa constrictor play chicken with a liquor cart. Unfortunately for the snake, the cart won. If he flies anymore he probably looks more like a pair of pumps and a matching bag than a dangerous reptile. But I digress.

Expedia recently released their second annual airline etiquette survey. The study asked 1,000 people to rank the annoying habits of passengers during a flight. Sixty-seven percent ranked rear-seat kickers as the most annoying. Courtney Cameron agrees. A youngster continuously kicked her seat all the way from San Francisco to Dallas. Courtney said she politely asked the mother to stop the child. The mother said she couldn't do anything about it.

Other complaints receiving high rankings included:

• Parents who don't control their children. (64 percent)

• Passengers who wore too much perfume or too little. (56 percent)

• Travelers who liked to talk or listen to their music above the roar of the engines. (51 percent)

• People who turn airplanes into flying bars and can't hold their liquor. (50 percent)

Over the years I've received letters from many travelers voicing these complaints as well as others. It's 100 percent apparent that etiquette doesn't always fly up in the air.

• Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached at

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