As flying conditions worsen, airline passengers turn abusive

The number of full-blown, reportable in-flight altercations may be near an historic low. But there there’s no shortage of abusive passengers.

In fact, there may even be more of them.

Air travel has been no picnic during the summer of ’08, of course. But I wasn’t fully aware of the increasingly bad behavior until I began exchanging instant messages with a pilot this afternoon.

Here’s what she’s had to deal with in the last month:

Chewing tobacco spit left in an open cup in the seat back.

Dirty diapers in the seat back.

Chewed gum that has been smashed into the carpet and on the leather seats.

Crayon marks on the tray tables and on the seat backs.

Play Dough smashed into the carpet.

Vomit on the seats and on the side walls. Also in the lav.

Wet napkins and in the seat back pockets soaked with who knows what.

Gang graffiti etched on the side walls and in the lav.

Smashed crackers on the seat and on the floor.

Urine on seats.

Seriously, urine? Graffiti? Dirty diapers? What’s going on here?

Part of this could be retribution for the airline industry’s recent treatment of customers. If it is, then it’s both misplaced and misguided.

Airline employees — the folks who have to clean up the mess — are victims, too. It’s their bosses who have presided over the collapse of customer service and record losses their companies are now suffering. Having to pay a higher fare or a surcharge doesn’t give anyone a license to pee on a seat.

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True, flying isn’t what it used to be. But destroying an aircraft is no way to make it better.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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