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Rookie Wednesday: “How to deal with fellow passengers who are being inconsiderate”

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

This past week’s SWAG Saturday winner asked the above question and more. Atif asked me:

“Do you have advice on how to deal with fellow passengers who are being inconsiderate? What is the best way to get them to modify their behavior?”

Since Atif won I think it would only be considerate to address his questions and concerns this week with Rookie Wednesday.

duct tapped passanger
Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

Most of us remember the total nut job who ended up needing “CPRS” that is “Crazy Passenger Restraint System” to be applied a.k.a. green duct tape to calm him down. Truly an effective means of quelling an unruly passenger in coach, but I see a few problems with CPRS implementation.

Notice in the photo that the passenger has his own row of seats. Normally this would be an upgrade to get 3 seats to yourself. Next, they left his glasses on and he can now for free enjoy the IFE from across the row (did he pay for that privilege I ask you)? Then there are a few other bits like the fact that the passenger behind the CPRS guy cannot now fold down their tray table for the remainder of the flight – most frustrating. Lastly he seems to be fully reclined; enjoying a reclined seat should not be a perk of CPRS passengers or is it just me?

OK there is a reason I don’t do stand up comedy for a living so on to actually answering the questions from Atif as they have merit. Personally I think flying is safer than ever. I think most American flyers are willing to do what it takes to keep a cabin safe and assist flight crews. I am an attentive flyer as I have shown in the past much to the dismay of some European readers who took umbrage to my calling out my fellow flyers for not reacting at all. I pity anyone who is dumb enough to try anything on a US flight nowadays.

First, take a minute to objectively evaluate the problem. Remember you are using a form of public transportation not a private jet. If your complaint is in regard to the many things we all must simply accept as part and parcel of 21st century travel, then let it go and be the bigger person. Also included in your re-evaluation of the problem should be flight time (like when some jerk takes up your foot space on a CJR), not only from the perspective of putting up with whatever it is, but of the real possibility of having to continue putting up with it on top of having now irritated the offender for the entire length of the flight.

Next, I would never and do not encourage the use of force. FAM or federal air marshals are on many flights (more than you know) and many are armed and will take charge when needed. If speaking calmly to your seat mate about your request has no impact or is not really possible and minor things are going on, the simplest and safest thing to do is simply when you can, get up and go privately talk to the FA about what is happening. Worst case they can allow you to move to another seat discreetly. Other times they may, with you say in the lavatory or in the galley waiting, speak to the passenger. This can have a profound effect on most (or at least it should).

What if things don’t get better? A passenger does NOT want to see the captain come out to talk to them. Unless he is smiling and thanking you for being a loyal Delta customer you may find the rest of your day/week/month/life ruined as you may be greeted, not by a Porsche on landing, but a police car and get “3 hots and a cot” at the arrival city’s jail. Or even worse, divert to another city and end up on CNN as the lead story.

These are clearly extremes and most can have their behavior “modified” by the FA simply chatting to them.

What other situations could arise. Pre-boarding if you see something that is not good – GO TELL SOMEONE. The plane will leave on time and the passenger in question will be accommodated on a later flight or maybe not at all. On the ground is much better than in the air!

So to wrap this up, there should be very, very, very few times YOU are personally involved. Delta staff is trained and as they say “safety is their primary concern”. Let them do what they need to do so you can enjoy your Delta travel experience. – René
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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.

9 Comments

  1. LarsErikNYC Reply

    I used to think there were two types of inconsiderate people: those who knew they were, but just didn’t care; and those who were simply having a bad day and not dealing well with the stress. But living here in urban NYC I’ve come to believe some of the people I encounter (e.g., on the subway) have been so badly brought up that they don’t even realize how obnoxious/inconsiderate/rude they are. I have to resist the temptation to “educate” these offenders, as usually it’s just a waste of time.

    While one can easily move to another seat on the subway, it’s not so easy on an airplane. What I’ve personally found to be the best approach is to try to smile, say something nice, and then in the kindest possible way, get them to modify their behavior without necessarily pointing out to them what it is (i.e., I try to avoid making him/her feel as if I am “attacking” them, as nobody likes to receive criticism).

  2. I’ve learned to speak up, politely. The one time I didn’t was when I was on a flight and I saw a passenger get on, put a bag in the overhead bin and then leave the plane. I quickly found a flight attendant and told her what i observed and told her tht i was not taking no for an answer. She went out to the boarding area and found the passenger. He had left his cell phone and had gone back to get it. The FA still made him take his bag down for inspection. Of course, this was a couple of years after 9/11 and I can assure you, I would not have taken that flight if nothing had been done. I personally trust my fellow traveler to be more proactive than any TSA agent. But, that’s a story for another day.

  3. Thanks for your post Rene! What prompted my question was witnessing a situation recently. I was flying first class transcontinental on Delta 767 (so 2-2-2 or lets number them 12-34-56)… I was in “2” and a work acquaintance (not direct co-worker) was in “3”. The person in seat 4 was sick and coughing/wheezing/sneezing constantly. What bothered my acquaintance was the the sick person was doing NOTHING to cover his mouth or mitigate spreading his germs around. At first my co-worker said nothing. Then he politely asked him to cover his mouth… Nothing changed. He then asked a little more directly (but not aggressively), at this point person in seat “5” chimed in too a little more aggressively. Finally acquaintance talked to an FA in the galley who admitted to noticing the behavior but declined to say anything or intervene. Eventually acquaintance just moved to an economy comfort seat (no other First class seats open) until right before landing.

    So was there any other way of handling this? Should the FA have done/said anything?

  4. “Do you have advice on how to deal with fellow passengers who are being inconsiderate? What is the best way to get them to modify their behavior?”

    It’s called a Taser. 🙂

  5. In Atif’s situation, could you fashion some physical barrier to isolate the sickie? Stretch a coat or blanket across the seat between seats, perhaps? At very least the FA should have brought some tissues to the person and suggested they use them as a courtesy to fellow passengers. Even better, relocate the person to a more isolated area. If safety is their concern, and safety includes passenger/crew well being, that’s the least they should have done.

  6. Last week I was on an 11 hour flight in business class. Everyone in the cabin was trying to sleep except one guy, who was standing up and facing and talking loudly to another passenger for a very long time. I got up, walked to the bathroom, then, on my return, gently said to him “Have you noticed that everyone in the cabin is trying to sleep?” His first reaction was defensive and a bit rude, but 5 minutes later he apologized to me. I said thank you, and he was much quieter for the rest of the trip.

  7. Just saw last year’s photo of Andy Reid being escorted to KC for his job interview with the Chiefs.

  8. Just read your old post: unreasonable KLM passenger linked above. Kudos to you for stepping up when no one else dared to even try to defuse the situation.. Europeans are generally a subject people. Those that decided they weren’t content with just taking things as they come, like our ancestors and my father, immigrated to the US. The comment by the person who took exception to your actions summed up the difference in attitudes.

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