steffanie rivers

Stteffanie Rivers

It used to be that people considered flying to be a privilege, an event worth dressing up for. Passengers wore their Sunday best, they were courteous to the flight crew, to each other and they were just glad to get from point A to point B safely and quickly. Clearly things have changed.

These days most people don’t even bother to dress up for church – if they go at all. Instead they show up for Sunday morning service wearing what looks like what they wore to the club the night before. But I digress.

So when I learned about the incidents on board flights involving the Knee Defender, I wasn’t surprised. The Knee Defender is a device that attaches to the arms on a seat back tray table and it prevents the person in front of you from reclining their seat. Most people who are working on lap top computers don’t like when passengers in front of them recline their seats, because it keeps them from fully using the tray table as a work space. The reclined seat also leaves little to no space for a person’s knees, depending on how long the person’s legs are. Thus the name of the product.

The Knee Defender is illegal on most airlines, because its use could block passenger exit in case of an emergency evacuation making it a safety hazard. Still passengers get away with using it if nobody complains or flight crews don’t know they’re being used. Refusing a flight attendant’s request to remove them is against FAA regulations and could be a felony offense.

I’ve been a flight attendant for 14 months. And while I’ve never had an incident occur because of the Knee Defender, that’s just one of the issues flight crews have to deal with when it comes to passenger (mis)behavior. Here are a few others:

  1. Always wipe down the seat back tray table before using it. Passengers frequently change baby diapers, prop their feet on it to cut their toe nails or do other grooming on the tray table.
  2. Some passengers play videos and listen to music on electronic devices loud enough for other passengers to hear. They don’t use ear buds and seem oblivious to the fact that others might be bothered by the noise.
  3. Pets seem to have more rights than people on board airplanes. Some passengers who say they need the emotional support of their pet, are allowed to travel with the pet in their lap. Other pets are required to ride in a portable kennel underneath the seat. But that doesn’t stop pet owners from allowing the pet to ride in the seat next to them, to walk the aisle during the flight or to walk amongst the feet of other passengers. Never mind that some people might have pet allergies, might be afraid of strange pets or just don’t want to be forced to travel alongside somebody’s yapping animal for the duration of a flight.

On one occasion a passenger traveled with a pet monkey. Picture Caesar, the monkey from the Planet of the Apes movie, when he was a baby. There was no cage and no leash. Just a monkey walking down the jetway with other passengers. It must have been his first flight, and after what happened it probably was his last flight. The turbulence upset the monkey and his owner was unable to keep him from running up and down the aisle.

Then there was the pet kitten who was startled and lost control of his bladder on a three-hour flight. Passengers had to suffer through the smell of cat urine for more than an hour before the flight arrived at its destination.

  1. Flights headed to certain destinations such as Orlando are bound to be full of children, but that doesn’t mean parents are excused from showing up to the flight with a game plan to keep their children occupied, and keep other passengers from giving them the evil eye. Still most parents seem clueless. When babies cry uncontrollably in flight it’s probably because the air pressure is causing them pain. Parents should be prepared with a bottle or a pacifier or something to make tykes swallow and relieve ear pressure. Bouncing the baby up and down the aisle only makes matters worse.Also, some parents wait until you’re on the plane to change baby diapers. And they hand off dirty diapers to flight attendants as if giving them to us will make them disappear. We don’t throw them out the window. Diapers and the smell remain on board. If you must, diapers should be changed in the lavatories – not on the tray table. And no, flight attendants don’t have toys or clean diapers or baby formula. We are not Babies R Us.
  2. The number one pet peeve of flight attendants probably is passengers who bring carry-on luggage too heavy for them to lift, but expect us to lift it into the overhead bin. Our motto is: If you pack it, you stack it! Or we can check it for you. And when we’re 30,000 feet in the air and passengers ask questions such as “Where are we right now?” or “What’s that body of water down there,” as they point out the window, the answer is something akin to “I have no idea! I’m on an airplane just like you are.”

In case you might think otherwise, I am a “people person” who likes her job. If I have to work a job there’s nothing else I’d rather do.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] for comments, questions or speaking inquiries.