Passenger Shaming gets pics of crazy airborne behavior from passengers and flight attendants looking to shame their boorish fellow travelers (Photo: Passenger Shaming)
Yahoo Travel’s recent report on ”Passenger Shaming,“ a social media campaign that features real photos of the nasty stuff people do on airplanes, inspired tons of reaction from our readers. The outcry inspired us to opine on the five most offensive, unsanitary, and yucky things people do on airplanes.
We turned to the creator of Passenger Shaming, ex-flight attendant Shawn Kathleen (who also founded the website Rants of a Sassy Stew ) and other experts in the field to get their takes. Some were as horrified as we are by some of this in-flight misbehavior, and some didn’t find these aerial antics all that offensive.
“When I started [Passenger Shaming], it was just me ranting anonymously about passengers,” Shawn Kathleen tells Yahoo Travel (Shawn Kathleen is her first name; she doesn’t use her last name publicly to maintain her anonymity).
This person takes the concept of “putting your feet up” to ridiculous new levels. (Photo: Passenger Shaming)
Now it’s no longer just Shawn Kathleen ranting anonymously. Passengers and flight attendants frequently send her photos of passengers behaving badly to use on her site. Passenger Shaming has rocketed to more than 71,000 Instagram followers and has 55,000 Facebook likes.
So pay attention, fliers: This in-flight behavior might get you passenger shamed.
1. Going barefoot
The creator of Passenger Shaming is on a personal crusade against flyers who go barefoot on planes. (Photo: Passenger Shaming)
This is by far the most common offense you’ll see on Passenger Shaming: people taking off their shoes and putting their bare, unsightly, and smelly feet in places where they don’t belong. “It’s an epidemic,” says Shawn Kathleen, who counts this among her most hated passenger behaviors. “It’s disrespectful and it’s disgusting.”
Our readers agree. “MK-84” commented: “I was on a flight to Las Vegas from Atlanta. This guy behind me somehow managed to put his feet between me and the person next to me.” Reader David S. had a similar complaint: “I had a drunk behind me on the way to Cabo San Lucas put his nasty, smelly feet between the seat between my wife and myself.”
Like the contributors to Passenger Shaming, Yahoo Travel readers also have an issue with flyers being a bit too footloose (Photo: Passenger Shaming)
But are we being too harsh on the barefooters? “The Barefoot Professor,” aka Harvard’s Dan Lieberman, researched the health benefits of barefoot running, which helped lead to a resurgence of the practice. Even though he’s clearly a fan of ditching the shoes in some circumstances, he wants you to cover up the tootsies when you board a plane. “Although I suspect bare feet are no less dirty than shoes,” Lieberman says in an email, “the first rule of etiquette is to make other people feel comfortable. So, personally, I wear shoes when custom dictates.”
But famous barefoot-running instructor Ken Bob Saxton disagrees. “I’m not a big fan of any kind of etiquette,” he says, noting that he doesn’t complain when fellow passengers enjoy coffee or wear perfume — even though he finds those smells offensive. “I would hope that other individuals would realize that I, and everyone else in the world, are not going to conform to their particular idea of what is proper etiquette. I believe a better option is tolerance of diversity.”
So it looks like getting the hard-core barefooters to change their ways is going to be an uphill fight, much to Shawn Kathleen’s chagrin. “It’s like my worst fear realized,” she says. On the bright side, she’ll never run out of material for Passenger Shaming.
2. Airborne pedicures
Turning your seat into your own personal pedicure station is as tacky as it is icky. (Photo: Passenger Shaming)
Passenger Shaming even has instances of people not only baring their feet but maintaining them — clipping and/or filing toenails. “I once had a passenger treating his warts with Compound W on a flight!” Shawn Kathleen recalls. “You’re not in your living room, this is a public airplane!”
3. Changing babies’ diapers
Parents: No one’s interested in seeing, smelling, or… (eww!!)… touching your baby’s dirty diapers! (Photo: Passenger Shaming)
This might even be higher on the “Yuck!” scale than bare feet: people changing their babies’ soiled diapers right there in sight of other passengers, who, thanks to the plane’s recirculated air, get the full aromatic sensation. The diaper changing usually takes place on seats, but it can be on less desirable spots. “I had a woman change her kid’s diaper on the tray table next to me,” says Yahoo Travel reader Voice of Reason.
And think about this the next time you accidentally drop a peanut on the tray tables: “They don’t get wiped down after every flight,” says Shawn Kathleen. She also has a problem with the way some parents dispose of those diapers. “Sometimes when I would walk through the cabin collecting rubbish, I’ve had passengers try to hand me a dirty diaper. I look at them like, ‘Are you serious?’”
WATCH: How do Airplanes Get Cleaned
Ex-flight attendant and Passenger Shaming founder Shawn Kathleen says most domestic airlines now have changing tables in their bathrooms. (Mike/Flickr)
“It’s inconsiderate and unsanitary,” agrees former flight attendant and etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore. “Parents should use the lavatory to change their baby’s diaper. Be prepared and bring a blanket to lay on the toilet seat if a changing table is not provided. It’s far from ideal, but more considerate than subjecting other passengers to any odors.”
We think our days of eating food off the tray tables are over.
4. Smelly food
Is it okay to bring a tuna fish sandwich on a plane? Depends on whom you ask — and how strong their sense of smell is. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Passengers complain about this frequently: fliers smelling up the entire airplane with their french fries or tuna sandwiches.
But is this completely unacceptable? Eating on the run is a necessity, and with domestic airline food service getting scarce, fliers are split on this “offense” — including Yahoo’s own food experts. “It’s great if you’re the person eating it and not so great if you’re the person sitting next to the person eating it. I admit I’ve been both people,” says Yahoo Associate Food Editor Rachel Tepper. But Yahoo Food Editor Julia Bainbridge takes a much harder line. “In confined places, each of us has an obligation to limit offensive odors that might be offensive to others,” she says. “You are not at home. Save the anchovies for a time when you are.”
5. Sexy time
Frisky flyers are a fact of life. (Photo: Passenger Shaming)
Something about being 30,000 feet up makes some fliers amorous. Included in Passenger Shaming’s “Wall of Shame” is a picture someone snapped of an unwrapped condom found under a plane’s seat. ”Sometimes things happen in a dark cabin that’s attempted under a blanket,” Shawn Kathleen says tactfully. That kind of behavior, she says, was the kind she’d quickly put a stop to back when she was a flight attendant.
But here’s a surprising fact: People attempting to sneak into a lavatory to enter the Mile High Club usually got a pass from Shawn Kathleen, as long as they were subtle and quick about it. “I don’t care,” she says. “As long as they’re not bothering anybody, I’m like ‘I don’t see anything…’”
So when it comes to sexy time — or any other questionable airborne activity — consideration of your fellow passengers is key. “Just have a little decorum and common sense,” Shawn Kathleen says. “Be aware of your surroundings, and remember you’re not the only person on the aircraft.” It’s a good way to earn the respect and gratitude of your passengers — and to avoid seeing yourself on Passenger Shaming.