A four-year-old boy recently made headlines for calling out a woman’s bad airplane behaviour after she put her bare feet on his chair’s armrest.
The child, Rodney Small, was captured on video by his father saying, “Some stinky feet behind me… It’s a lady!”
The young passenger is not alone in feeling bothered by less-than-desirable airplane etiquette. A new survey by Expedia found that over half — 52 per cent — of Canadian flyers would “politely” ask their flight attendant to be reseated if they were sitting next to someone who “smelt extremely bad.”
“That’s very reflective of how we are as Canadians,” said etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau, highlighting the fact that many people don’t like to be confrontational.
“We have the reputation of being kind.”
Why smell on a plane is so bothersome
Bad smells — like stinky feet — are incredibly bothersome on planes because there’s little people can do to escape scent, Comeau said. Unlike being on a bus next to a smelly passenger, you can’t just jump seats or get off a few stops early.
“When you’re on a plane, the space is very small and all the senses come into action,” Comeau said.
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If there’s a sight that bothers you, you can choose to watch a movie or close your eyes. But when body odour or the scent of stinky bare feet fill the air, passengers often feel they have no choice but to ask to move.
“It’s something that is very difficult to approach even from the flight attendants’ perspective,” Comeau said. “A lot of the times smells are subjective; maybe it smells nice to that person but could be very offensive to you.”
Aside from moving seats, Comeau suggests bringing a scarf with you when you fly.
“Scarves help because sometimes it gets chilly, but also because they let you breathe in your own smell,” she said.
Armrests are a spot of contention
What else bothers Canadian flyers? Those coveted armrests.
Expedia found that 43 per cent of travellers said that if someone next to them was “spreading across” into their space and hogging the armrest, they would place the armrest down when the chance arose.
The unspoken battle of who gets the armrest is something most travellers have experienced, Comeau said, especially if you’re stuck in the middle seat. Comeau says there is proper armrest etiquette passengers should abide by.
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“If you’ve got the window seat, you can snuggle into the window. If you’ve got the aisle, when the flight attendants are not there, and when there are no passengers going up and down the aisle, you can stretch your legs or your arm out,” she said.
“So have pity on the poor person in the middle and give them the armrest.”
Drunk passengers be warned
According to the survey, Expedia found that “the drunk passenger” is Canadian travellers’ biggest pet peeve.
Almost 40 per cent said intoxicated folks are the most annoying people on planes. And while Canadians dislike drunk travellers, Expedia says only six per cent of respondents said they’ve gotten drunk on a flight.
In a close second for most annoying is the “seat kicker,” with 38 per cent of flyers saying they can’t stand people who kick or bump their chair.
Rudeness is another thing Canadians don’t like. Forty-seven per cent of respondents said they would ask a flight attendant to deal with a situation if one passenger was being rude to another.
How to address bad behaviour
While asking a flight attendant to intervene is great, Comeau said that if you’re experiencing rude behaviour and want to deal with it yourself, there are a few things to keep in mind.
“The first step is to observe the person: could he or she be friend or foe? If a child is kicking your seat, do not address the child, address the parent,” Comeau said.
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If you feel comfortable addressing the person, Comeau said you should make eye contact with them, smile, and say hi. Sometimes, that will be enough for them to register their behaviour, like kicking your seat, and stop.
If you nicely need to tell them to turn their music down or move their arm, Comeau says to politely say “excuse me,” then state your request.
“Most passengers are quite agreeable,” she said.
“We’re all in this together — especially when it comes to that infamous armrest.”