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Trash Talk: Dealing with downright disgusting travelers

An article in the Wall Street Journal leads with this statement: You’ll never look at, or reach into, an airline seat-back pocket the same after reading this.

The columnist goes on to describe a number of disgustingly horrific things passengers do on planes; things they would never do in most public settings. Let’s just say that after reading this, I’m operating under a strict BYOB policy. That is: Bring Your Own Blanket.

The truth is, there may not be much you can do to stop the bad behavior of other passengers, but there are some coping tactics that you can use to make the flight as enjoyable as possible. I talked to The Window Seat editors to get their tips on manufacturing some ambiance on your next flight, even if the guy next to you happens to be picking his nose.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: HOW TO CHOOSE AN AIRLINE

I like knowing what I’m getting into. Before I eat at a restaurant, I check out Yelp for reviews. Before I head to a new destination, I devour anything I can find about it on IgoUgo. And before I fly—or often before I even choose a carrier to fly with—I browse Skytrax.

The concept of Skytrax is pretty simple: it’s like any other review site, but the subject matter is all air travel, all the time. Along with constantly updated reviews of pretty much airline you’ve ever heard of—and many, many you haven’t—there are hundreds of reviews of airports (will you make that connection in Miami? is there anything decent to eat at JFK?) and even airport lounges, for those of us lucky (or swanky) enough to be invited into them.

Speak Up: Your Tips to Survive Red-Eye Flights

Yesterday while loading my upcoming trips into my calendar I realized a scary, scary trend: all of them involve red-eye flights. Living in California is brilliant most of the time, but it stinks for globetrotting. Sure, I probably could have avoided the red-eye to Atlanta, but the red-eyes to Paris and Thailand could not be helped. In fact, when I go to Paris, I will lose almost an entire day. Oh la la!

In short, I’m panicking. Growing up on the East Coast, I got spoiled by being so close to the rest of the world. The longest flight I’ve ever taken was a measly six hours, and even that was no walk in the park (skies?) thanks to my hyperactive tendencies and tiny bladder.

I’ve started researching red-eye flight survival guides, but so far none of them contains an “aha!” tip that seems like it will make all the difference. And some of the advice is just plain impractical. It might be nice to sleep leaning against the window, but there’s no way I’m asking the person next to me to move every time I need to use the restroom or stretch my legs for fifteen hours straight.

Do Airline Employees Need Customer-Service Training?

Northwest Airlines seems to think so. The Detroit Free Press reports the airline’s workers, including flight attendants and reservation agents, will undergo intensive training to improve customer service. The airline was the subject of countless news reports this summer, when it cancelled more than 4,000 flights in a two-month period.

Here’s the question — will better customer service make a difference the next time you need to book a flight? Or does price trump all?

Nerves on a Plane: How to Remain Un-rattled

What do Cher, Whoopie Goldberg, and Kate Bosworth have in common? Apparently, they’re all afraid of flying. According to FearlessFlight.com, your chances of being in an air accident are just one in 11 million. To me, this statistic doesn’t make soaring along the jet stream any less freaky, though. My airplane nerves used to keep me on hyper-alert for potential problems—as if there was anything I’d be able to do about a catastrophe.

Whenever I traveled with my sister, I was even worse. Each of our fears would foment the other’s, egging each other on to new heights of hysteria. Even in a pre-9/11 world we had our eye on all the passengers, ready to hit the call button for suspicious behavior or grab our armrests to steel ourselves through turbulence at a second’s notice.

Photo courtesy of IgoUgo member rokiss.ch.