By now you’ve probably heard about the woman who filmed a man repeatedly hitting the back of her reclined seat on an American Airlines flight from New Orleans to Charlotte.
The video has gone viral, as any confrontational behaviour these days tends to do. (I’m always curious about the circumstances that led up to and follow these viral videos, as those are the things that are often unreported, undocumented, and the best reflection of what really happened.)
The woman told news outlets she was “stunned and terrified” when she tried to get the flight attendant to help. The employee “rolled her eyes” and offered the puncher complimentary rum, then added insult to injury by handing the woman a notice headlined with: “YOUR BEHAVIOR MAY BE IN VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW.”
Having seen and read what happened, I will admit to doing a great deal of eye-rolling of my own. I suspect this isn’t the last of what we’ll hear about it, since the woman claims she’s lost time at work and has had to visit the doctor. A lawsuit may be in the offing, which will surprise a total of no one. Anyway.
Punching Man and Reclining Woman are the latest examples of why people find air travel an increasingly brutal experience that must be endured because it’s the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B, especially in a country as large as Canada. And I say this as someone who has I’ve done more traveling in the past five years than in the two decades previous – it’s getting worse and worse.
Whether you fly once a year or once a week, you’ve probably experienced the unavoidable discomforts of the airline industry, likely beginning with the ever-changing considerations related to the price of airfare.
Then come the long lines in security. Although airports in our region are very reasonable, larger airports in Canada and the U.S. can be an absolute nightmare, even if you do all the pre-checks and pre-registrations available. I will say, though, that every customs and security agent I’ve encountered has been efficient, reasonably professional, and mostly patient, even in the face of clueless passengers who have completely disregarded pre-security advisories, and who, upon reaching their turn for screening, do not follow instructions despite repeated reminders. (“Please wait for the green light and then walk through. No, ma’am, you have to wait for the green light. Ma’am? Please step back and walk back through AFTER you see the green light. No, please try again, you have to wait for the light.”)
Boarding is hardly a stroll in the park either, with hundreds of people trying to make their way and get situated at the same time, but the worst of the experience is everything that comes with being on the plane itself; crying babies, people who have taken their own smelly food, restless, meowing therapy cats. And the seats are so narrow, the rows between them so cramped, that (unless you pony up for business class) you must accept a constant assault on your personal space; which leads me back to Punching Man and Reclining Woman.
On their flight, Punching Man asked Reclining Woman to straighten her seat when food was served. When he was finished, she said she reclined again, and that’s what apparently infuriated Punching Man.
The debate over who was in the wrong has divided the Internet since the video was posted earlier this month, with some arguing that reclining in such close quarters is selfish, and others pointing out that if Punching Man wanted more leg room, he should’ve paid for it. Smacking the seatback in front of you is not acceptable behaviour, but some might say so is reclining onto the space of a passenger in the last row who can’t recline himself. Whether on the tarmac or at 30,000 feet in the air, the idea is to respect fellow flyers and make the best of constricted quarters.
But let’s face it, we don’t wear our best manners in public anymore. Under ideal conditions we would share the armrest, keep our shoes on in-flight, and stay in our seats while taxiing to the gate. Apparently, though, that ship has sailed.