The End of the Runway for the Entitled Airline Passenger

Once upon a time, there was a certain doctor who was dragged off a certain plane which resulted in a PR nightmare of epic proportions for a certain airline. What I and many other flight attendants can attest to is that right around the same time, a new kind of airline passenger began to emerge. Truthfully, this passenger always existed in some way, shape or form pre-Dr. D. However, after that incident, it was as if they became gremlins who jumped into water and multiplied.

Gremlins / Warner Bros.
Gremlins / Warner Bros.

It didn’t matter what carrier you worked for, they could be found everywhere. They decided that we as cabin crew members should be thankful that they spent money on airfare and they should have carte blanche to do whatever they feel like doing on the plane. They no longer had any regard for the seat belt sign. If they want to get up, they are going to do it regardless of our PA announcements reminding them the seat belt sign is illuminated. If they want to stretch their legs because they get tired of sitting and decide to come into the back galley area to do some vinyasa yoga, then we are expected to just sit there and accept that they are coming into our work space. Those who no longer want to pay the fee for bringing a pet carrier onboard go to a doctor who signs off on a letter stating their dog is an “emotional support animal.” (This is not a dig at people who have legitimate needs for emotional support. However, those pets are properly trained for that function, so a flight attendant can always spot a fake ESAN.) If there is no available in-seat power to charge their phone that has only 5% of battery life left, there is going to be hell to pay. And if they have status with the airline…well our carts are a non-stop complimentary happy hour for whatever snacks and liquor they want for the duration of the flight.

Airlines have raked in huge profits thanks to growth and demand. Maybe this also had something to do with the dawn of the era of the entitled airline passenger. Many airlines have reduced seat pitch, charge baggage fees and charge for extra leg room, so wasn’t all of this bound to give birth to a push back from fed-up customers? However, regardless of corporate greed, I always felt that the episode of the doctor on the plane was the jumping-off point for the new attitude that I began to more frequently encounter. I even had a woman on a flight that I worked from EWR to LAS tell me that passengers should get everything they ask for nowadays in light of what happened to that doctor. It didn’t matter that her and her friends were carrying on like an unruly bunch of sad rejects from a ‘Jersey Shore’ casting call. I was just supposed to stand there and politely agree with her drunken ramblings.

So I, along with my flying partners, have dealt with this behavior for the past several years and done everything we can do to maintain our professionalism and continue to give the best inflight experience possible. But COVID-19 has changed everything. Airports are emptier, demand for air travel is virtually non-existent; however, despite the terrible circumstances we are in as a result of this pandemic, the entitled passenger is still there. This time though, they don’t want to wear a mask on their face for the entire flight. What’s different now is that the airlines are finally taking a stand against these entitled passengers. Most are enforcing mask usage, and some are going as far as to ban passengers (Thank you, Mr. Bastian!). And as I pointed out on Twitter last week, it’s also going to be harder for those of you who want to claim a medical exemption.

While we are on the subject of face mask usage, let’s also have a look at how to properly wear a mask.

Hilarious usage of Baby Yoda, but since one of Mother Delta’s competitors paid a huge amount of money for a Star Wars partnership last year, I’m sure they weren’t too pleased to see this tweet.

Yes, the mask does have to be worn over your nose and mouth. I still don’t understand why it is so hard to comprehend this.

Lastly, I’d like to address another trend that I am seeing when it comes to face masks. Just because you are wearing a mask that doesn’t mean you suddenly become exempt from covering your mouth when you cough. The purpose of the mask is to minimize the amount of droplets you are putting into the air, with minimize being the key word. Wearing a mask does NOT mean you are no longer putting droplets into the atmosphere, you are simply reducing them. Let’s all try to keep that in mind. You know…science. The thinking that you don’t have to make an attempt to cover your mouth area when you cough, or sneeze for that matter, is just your laziness and privilege coming out.

I have compassion and kindness, I’ve had them for my entire life, and especially during this career as a flight attendant. But the events of the past several months, and my impending furlough, have shaken me to my core. Therefore, I just want to live in my truth and tell it like I see it. When it comes to the entitled airline passenger, I’m going to take a quote from Flavor Flav“Your time is up.” Karen and Ken, your bad behavior will no longer be tolerated on the plane. Clearly, I’m not alone in this sentiment.

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