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» Are You a Flying ARSE? from Bob Sutton
Last week I described the ARSE Test, a 24-item “self-rating” survey taken from The No Asshole Rule, which has been completed by more than 85,000 people since we launched it on Guy Kawasaki’s blog in February. I just finished a sequel to the ARSE Test, ... [Read More]

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barry

you questionnaire doesn't mention the arsehole who instantly rams back his seat to its fully reclined position as soon as the plane takes off meaning you have to eat and read with his seat in your face

jibjab

there are very few pax who are not disgusting

Aaron M

I've had several annoying interactions with people on flights, but 3 are memorable:

1. I was once on a flight from Denver to Chicago. The guy in front of me reclined his seat all the way back into my face. I asked him very politely if he could move his seat back up slightly. He asked "Why?!" I kindly explained that I had no room to move. He essentially told me "too bad". People around me who witnessed this started proclaiming how much of an asshole this guy was. By the end of the flight the guy couldn't look at anyone. I would like to think he was ashamed and learned a lesson, but that may be too optimistic.

2. I was on a flight from Tokyo to San Francisco. The man sitting next to me had a 4 year old child. The child kept kicking me, resting their head on me, fidgeting, etc. Did the guy do anything about it? No. He then either kept farting the entire flight, or he crapped in his pants. I don't know what he ate, but it was sure foul! The flight was full, so I couldn't move.

3. While waiting in the boarding area at Dulles International, a mother decided to trot out her little two year old and show how he could spell the name of the airline. The mother was very pretentious in the way she praised the little boy, then she commented on his poopy diaper. Rather than move to the restroom or another section of the airport, she changed her kid's diaper right in the middle of the waiting area. The smell was so offensive that I had to leave. After witnessing this behavior, I prayed that they didn't sit near me on the plane. They were seated behind me. As soon as the plane took off, they reclined their seats all the way back into the row behind them and passed out into total obliviousness while their little brat kicked the back of my seat.

Stealth

You haven't heard this one, have you? I was on a plane in 1999, flying with family and a couple other guys. The pilot and copilot were joking around while piloting the small passenger plane. My sister was 1 at the time. I was 13. Some guy in the back was drinking, and apparently decided to drive the plane while it was on autopilot. Pilot and copilot taking a break with the sewards on flight.

The drunk guy somehow turns off the autopilot and smashes the plane's front end into a banyan tree in Florida. When the paramedics and every other guy show up to pry us out of the plane now missing a front end, the drunk stumbles out of the plane, wandering to me, asking me to marry him even though I was 13 (I was tall for my age). And what did I do to the Airline Asshole? I kicked his balls. Revenge is sweet. Now my sister has braindamage and I'm a 20-21-22 year old woman.

steve

I recall once on an airplane some guy brought on his boom box and blasted Led Zeppelin at concert hall volume. We all looked at each other and could not decide on how to deal with this. I think the music blasted (it almost split my eardrums) for about 20 minutes before the guy could hear the flight attendant ask him to shut it off. Incredible.

Kent Blumberg

My example is the guy who does not show up at the gate to board until his name is called over the intercom: "Mr Asshole, your flight will depart in five minutes. Please report to the gate or you will lose your seat." Of course, if he shows up late, the plane won't depart because his checked bag is in the hold. Don't know his motivation - maybe he is simply clueless, maybe he wants the pleasure of being personally paged for his flight.

Ray Ward

Biggest a**hole? That's easy. The guy with maximum carry-ons and a seat in the back of the plane. Because his seat is in the back, he's one of the first to board. He shoves his carry-ons in the overhead compartment in front of the plane, so he doesn't have to schlep them the length of the plane. A few minutes later, when the folks with seats up front finally board, they have no place to put their stuff -- unless they want to use the relatively empty bins in back of the plane.

John Whiteside

The mad recliners. Oy.

Biggers airline asshole I've encountered: on a flight from Madrid back to the US, across the aisle from me are a mother and child. Child is wound up and is throwing cereal (she's eating it from a box) in the air all around the seat (and nearby seats). Mommy coos, "Honey, no!" Kid ignores her. Mommy, please be a parent?

About an hour or so from NY I notice that there's a distinct smell of feces in the cabin. Why? Mommy is changing toddlers diaper right there in the seat. Everyone is looking around confused and disgusted.

When Mommy finishes, as a flight attendment comes by, she holds up the dirty diaper and says, "Can you take this, please?"

The flight attendant looks at her coldly and says, "No."

"No?!?"

"We handle food. I can't touch that. You can get rid of it in the restroom."

Mommy glares death at the flight attendant, then looks around, expecting supportive looks - but of course is getting similar death glares from everyone around who's been treated the smell of her loinfruit's poop.

Sometimes assholery comes from a failure to understand that other people inhabit the world, too.

Simon Cast

I can think of two:

1. You get to the checkin desk and then spend the next 40 minutes unpacking and repacking your over weight bags (despite the weight restrictions being posted everywhere) without giving you position up holding everyone else up

2. You decide that despite you child having a serious cold and continuously crying, that you will be going on your holiday that is a six hour flight away.

Bob Sutton

Marissa,

I was just writing to CKG, and then your post appears,ugh, how disgusting. I am glad you wrote the airline. I can't believe they haven't answered.

Bob Sutton

Dear CKG,

The second agent reminds me of the keys to helping people deal with distressing situations, following a huge body of psychological research. An objective stressor does much less harm to the extent you can give people PREDICTION, UNDERSTANDING, and CONTROL over as many aspects of the situation as possible -- this second agent sounds like a master.

Marissa

I am writing to report an incident that took place on a 15 hour flight from Sydney to LAX 3 weeks ago. I was groped by an elderly man, on two occasions, who was seated in my row. The first incidence was when he asked if he could stretch out to sleep. He put his head on a pillow close to my lap (there was an empty seat between us, he was a tiny man). His hands were placed under the pillow and made their way on my thigh. At first I was in disbelief then I swiftly stood up and went to the back of the plane. After spending some time back there I began to give him the benefit of the doubt, thinking that perhaps he was really asleep and his hands were moving involuntarily (?!). I returned to my seat and leaned against the wall to get some sleep myself, when I was awoken by something squeezing my butt. I jumped conscious and saw the man leaning over the middle seat. He claimed that he was trying to move the seatbelt buckle out of my way. At this point in the flight I spent a while standing and sitting in the back of the plane as the flight was quite full. It was pitch black and most people were asleep. I complained only once to a flight attendant, but only told her I was having "issues" with the other passenger in my row. She told me that I was not in her section and that I'd have to talk to the stewards in my section. To be quite honest, I was embarrassed for the old man and too embarrassed myself to cause a scene on such a long flight. I wrote this letter to the airline so that perhaps a note by this passenger's name may be made in case he is a repeat offender, and perhaps he wouldn't be placed on flights next to women. I have yet to hear back from them. There are more details that made this incident even more bizarre and horrible like that he was a 70 year old religious zealot with questionable personal hygiene. At one point in the flight he opened a can of tuna fish and ate it with his fingers, wiping them on his jacket when finished!

CKG

My favorite experience was watching two gate agents at O'Hare during thunderstorms (hours of backup) handle the exact same crowd of people in different ways, consecutively. I had hours to observe this drama play out with the group dynamics, as the airport was shut and we were all stuck.

The first agent needed a security escort to get out of the area, and had inflamed the crowd so much by her departure that the whole place was getting a little scary. In brief, the agent had been stressed, short, lectured people and come close to blaming them for having chosen to fly her airline when they KNEW the weather might be bad. The display wasn't working, there was no information and, just to make it all better, the bathrooms at that end of the concourse were all shut. Many of the passengers had been drinking. (There wasn't much else to do.)

After the first gate agent had been escorted out by three (!!) security agents, a period of time passed when no one was at the gate. There was no information and the anxiety level was increasing, as the storm seemed to be over, flights were moving again and we still had no information.

A new gate agent arrived. Alone. As she got to the gate, she smiled at every one and got on the PA system. She told everyone her name and asked for patience so she could do her very best work to get everyone out of the airport as quickly as possible. Explaining each step of her process, she asked for five minutes to get her computer on, generate lists, call for updated information on each flight, and then she would announce everything she knew so people wouldn't have to stand in line to get information and THEN she would start working the flights in priority order based on ... she had a list. She again said her goal was to be able to help every single person and to do so in the most efficient possible way. She also said that she was asking for assistance and promised that, as soon as she got the lists updated... you get the flavor.

Every person in the gate area sat down and you could watch the tension dissipate.

It was masterful, and the opposite of the first agent, who only poured fuel on the flames of an already uncomfortable situation.

The first agent's conduct maybe doesn't fit your definition of anything except situational bad behavior, but when she was being paid to be the airline's representative in a bad situation, it sure seems like a pretty serious failure--especially in light of the back-to-back demonstration of "it didn't have to be that way."

Bob McIlree

Some of my pet peeves:

- Getting smacked by people's luggage in an aisle seat while they are going past on the way to their seats. One guy did it to me twice while yapping on a cell phone.

- People cramming and squeezing their crap into already overcrowded overhead space...and something falls out and hits, you guessed it...on the head. I've been struck primarily by bottled water containers, CD players, cell phones, and other assorted paraphernalia that was not secured properly.

- People who board last and ask if you could remove your stuff from the overhead compartment so that they can store theirs. My response is usually that it is not my problem that they boarded last (or late) and to go whine to the flight attendant.

- Extremely overweight people spilling over into my seat space. I don't discriminate against fat people, and coach seats are notoriously tight, but invading my seat space is a no-no. Better buy 2 seats for oneself if this is going to be an issue.

Frank Roche

Seat back is mine. I once had a favorite flight, where a guy put his seat back in my lap and I took all my peanuts and stacked them on his seat back. When the flight finally was coming to an end and he had to put the seat up, many of the peanuts fell down the seat and into the collar of his shirt. Precious...which might make me an Arse....but revenge is so sweet.

Other flight Arses...flight attendants who put all their gigantic luggage toward the front of the plane...like in all the front rows; dudes who have to whip out their cell phones/Blackberries the second their plane lands...I always like to think it's to check on their Viagra shipment; the bathroom hogs...I mean, what in the hell do people do in there?

Sara Green

1. those who immediately throw their seat all the way back to sleep, leaving almost no space for those who sit behind them (airlines are probably equally at fault for design flaw); 2. those who don't take the hint that their seat mate doesn't want to engage in a protracted conversation.

Maureen Rogers

Then there are the luggage stuffers who think they're so smart because they were able to sneak a steamer trunk onto the plane... I also like it when the person in front of you shoves their stuff under their own seat so that it's sitting where your feet want to be.

Bob Sutton

Stephanie,

In the spirit of the ARSE Test, you inspired the following item, "You like to take your shoes off after a long day – it is so much more comfortable that way (who cares if your feet stink a little)."

Thanks!

Bob

Stephanie

How about really bad BO? I know there are some people who just can't help it, but I was recently on a 6 hour flight where the person sitting behind me took off his shoes and had the worst foot odor. Even after 6 hours on the plane with him I couldn't acclimate to the odor and still smelled it. Can you tell somebody that they stink when they do stuff like that?

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