Enforcing rules in flight!


Hi Heather,

I listened to your Frommers podcast recently and found it very funny. I especially liked your comments about people’s attitudes to flying and the bit about control freaks. It made me realize what I’ve suspected for some time which is that I am a control freak, especially when flying!

My last trip a couple of weeks ago I ended up shouting halfway up the plane at another passenger who got up to stroll to the toilets when the seat belt signs were on. They were the latest in a line of many and had also stopped to have a little chat with their mates on the way back. Being British I get a bit huffy about people not following instructions, I think it’s a national quirk, and, normally being British I might just have carried on muttering to the lady next to me along the lines of “Well really, can people not read, what’s the point of putting the signs on, what are the crew doing about it, nothing etc etc”. But it was a miserable flight in economy on Continental across the Atlantic and the fact that I’d unexpectedly just had to pay 5$ for a bottle of white wine vinegar was doing nothing to improve my temper.

I’d like to report that the effect of my outburst was instantaneous, that the guilty party sat down and no one else got up. Sadly she just shouted back “I’ll go to the toilet when I want to, thank you VERY much.” Everyone between her and me on the flight went quiet and I just felt like a right idiot. I bought another bottle of white wine vinegar and fumed quietly for a bit, half wishing we’d hit a bit of turbulence next time someone got up when the signs were on, “to teach them a lesson.” How sad is that! Next time I’ll do as you suggest and try and relax more!


Marie B.

Dear Marie,

Your letter cracked me up and now you’ve got me thinking that I may have been British in a past life or something because I, too, am a bit of a rule follower. Nothing drives me crazier than a passenger who thinks they’re exempt from following the rules. Really, how many times do I have to ask someone to turn off the electronic device before takeoff? Hello, Mr. Exit Row, I know what you’re doing all bent over like that with your head crammed between your knees. Do ya really think that I think you’re whispering to the floor? Please, do me a favor and don’t make tap, tap, tap you in front of your seatmates who are now giving you the evil eye. I mean really!


Photo courtesy of Carrib (flickr.com)

8 Replies to “Enforcing rules in flight!”

  1. I can’t stand it when passengers don’t listen to what the FA says. It’s like working with schoolchildren as many times as we tell them not to do whatever it is they’re doing. Without a doubt, it’s my greatest pet peeve. And deadheading/off duty crew members aren’t exempt from this behavior, either. Geesh!

    Love the blog by the way. I get psyched whenever you update.

  2. Love your blog.!
    Besides not following rules, what about manners, or rather the lack of them? I had a passenger who hadn’t put away her footrest for descent. (The whole flight she had barked orders at me – “I want a water – and a pen” etc. etc). She said “I can’t do it”. Silly me, thinking maybe the button was stuck, went to help her. “Oh look,” I said, “it’s working” as I watched her footrest go in. She said, “Well I can’t do it – CAN I???” Ah, excuse me? Didn’t I just see the footrest go down? “Well mam, other people have managed it,” I said. I had had enough of this woman! She demanded my name and in a flash of inspiration I said “Barbie Benton”….

    1. Darryl, I think I had that same passenger on my flight earlier this year. I am not kidding. Helpless passengers are not my favorite, but helpless rude passengers – don’t even get me started.

  3. I had a discussion with an FAA safety inspector about this a few days ago. I told him about my pet peeve (people getting up when the seatbelt sign is on and I’ve already made several stern announcements that you can’t do that). He said, as a cabin crewmember, my personal liability is covered as long as I repeat personally to the offender that, “The seatbelt sign is on”. However, he went on to say that if I were to tell someone to return to their seat and buckle up and they did not (as has happened so many times I’ve lost count), they would be in violation with at least 3 Federal Laws – interfering w/a crewmember, not following the instructions of a crewmember, breaking FAA law that you must have your belt fastened when the sign is on. He went on to say that it would be well within my job description to fill out a passenger disturbance form, have authorities meet him at our destination, and press charges. He said the FAA would fully support my actions. The problem is, my airline doesn’t want us to do that. The airline cares far more about rule breaking passengers buying more tickets on us in the future than have them follow safety protocol. I think the problem would be significantly reduced if we could read the statistics of injuries and deaths that have occured on commercial planes in the U.S. over the past few years. Get really specific – “Gretchen Adler was on a Continental flight in 2007 and had her seatbelt off when the plane hit severe turbulence, she flew headfirst into the ceiling breaking her neck. Ms. Adler is now paraplegic and can no longer care for her children herself………etc.” What do you think?
    Tucson, AZ

    1. Chris, thanks for the informative comment. A flight attendant once had FAA on board who actually watched a flight attendant tell a passenger that the seat belt sign was on, but the passenger went into the lav anyway. When he exited, the FAA gave fined him $2,000! So yes, FAA is there to support us. NASA too.

  4. I had a guy next to me on a plane in Cairo who continued talking on the phone through

    …sitting on the tarmac
    …rolling to take-off position
    …accelerate down the runway and take off!

    He did not get off the phone until the signal cut out, guess at 500 feet off the ground.

    I reminded him of the signs numerous times and the flight attendants just passed him by. Guess they are used to it there.

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