Frequent travelers say their biggest travel peeve is not flight delays, uncomfortable seats or ticket prices. It’s people’s lack of courtesy.
“How difficult is it to say please or thank you?” asks Ron Goltsch, an electrical engineer who works for a New Jersey machinery company and flew on about 65 flights last year.
Goltsch and other frequent fliers are noticing a paradigm shift—for the worse—in the behavior of people they encounter at airports and on airplanes.
Their observations echo cries by legislators and other Americans for civility and respectful discourse—cries that were renewed after a gunman who posted anti-Republican Party blogs wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others during Republican lawmakers’ softball practice in Virginia last month. In February, 47 freshman members of Congress signed a Commitment to Civility—a pledge to respect one another and others and be a model for civility in public and private life.
Frequent business traveler Henry DeLozier, who flew on 277 flights last year, says common courtesy today “is sometimes lost in transit.”
Lack of courtesy “is my only real peeve with travel,” says DeLozier, a Phoenix-based consultant in the golf industry. “Unexpected events should be expected by those who travel often, but I feel badly when I see travelers or staff who are unwilling to be courteous.”
“How difficult is it to wait your turn in line at airports?” Goltsch asks. “I am speaking of travel workers—not just other travelers. How many times have you stood in line patiently when an off-duty airline worker bypasses the line to get on board before the paying passengers to get their bags in the overhead bin?
“How many times,” he says, “have you been greeted by a newsstand clerk with a curt, ‘$1.25,’ for the newspaper—not a ‘hello, how are you today? That will be $1.25 please.’ ”
Business traveler Roger Loeb, an information technology consultant in Parker, Colo., recounts various incidents he would rather forget.
“I’ve been hit in the head with the bags of a passenger pushing to get to his seat, I’ve been kicked in the shins by a woman urgently trying to get to her seat and I’ve had drinks spilled on my clothing by kids carrying sodas onto the plane,” he says. “I’ve had to sit next to a young man in first class who hadn’t bathed recently and was wearing a filthy T-shirt, shorts and sandals. I’ve politely asked the parents of the child kicking the back of my seat to please restrain the kid and been verbally attacked for doing so. And that’s just this year.”
Berdell Knowles Jr., a Seattle-based management consultant in the banking industry, says his biggest peeve is airline and TSA security agents “who do nothing to help passengers who might be a little late or need a little consideration to get where they are going.”
After all the aggravation, Loeb appears ready to chuck it all in. He longs for a better domestic-flight alternative—one without airlines or TSA personnel.
“My biggest travel peeve is that I can’t afford private jet travel,” he says. “The differences between commercial and private air travel are so large and almost indescribable. After 50 years of commercial air travel, I’ve learned to just turn off my brain, put on my headset and hope it will soon be over. The upside: I now do a lot more interaction by phone, web conferencing and email, reducing what was more than 100,000 flight miles per year to under 25,000.”
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