10 flyers the seasoned business traveler loves to hate

24 February 2014
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MANILA, Philippines – Business travel, particularly for those who practically live in airports, is best described as a pain in the rear. Endless queues, body frisking, red-eye flights, economy seats … in the best of circumstances it is tolerable, but in the worst of times, it is high blood pressure in the making!

Nothing gets the blood boiling more than certain types of travelers who single-handedly make life miserable for the rest of us. These are the people who make matters worse, who impact not only their own travel experience, but that of dozens and sometimes hundreds of others. These are the people the seasoned business travelers love to hate.

Who are these people? Well, there are many different types, but to keep it simple, here are the 10 most prevalent. Beware!

“I’m a big person — too big, in fact. But I don’t care. I will shoehorn my body into an economy seat.”  I was recently on a US domestic flight and a 350-pound man smashed into the middle seat in economy next to me. His body fat oozed over the armrest and took up easily 30 percent of MY SEAT! So let me get this straight: I have to pay for and subsidize 30 percent of my seat for your personal use? I have to tolerate two hours of having your flesh sweating all over me? I have to live with my face smashed against the window just to have any space? Simply because this guy can’t summon the discipline to say “no” to a bucket of fried chicken? It’s simple. If you can’t fit, buy two seats. Or move to business class. Can’t afford it? Well, then, exercise some discipline and lose the excess baggage. But expecting your neighbors to pay for your extra space and to sacrifice any semblance of comfort is unacceptable.

“Can you please take my bag for me?” The French ski schools have a wonderful philosophy: If you want to learn to ski, you carry your own skis and poles. You go to any French ski resort and you see five- and six- and seven-year-olds not only learning to ski but learning self-sufficiency. Traveling is the same: if you pack the bags, you carry them. (Older ladies are excluded from this rule, however.) If it’s too heavy, and you can’t handle it, well, pack less. Or go hit the gym and pump some iron. But don’t expect the rest of us to carry your load.

Brain-dead part one: “Oh, this is the security line? I didn’t realize I should empty my pockets.”  We all know these folks. They stand in line for security for 20, 30 minutes. Then when they finally get to inspection they finally pull their head out of their rear end. They set off the metal detector with phones in their pockets. Then they try again and forget they have a watch. And even sometimes a third time for pens and a belt buckle. Wake up, folks! Use a few brain cells! Prepare and think about it long before it is your turn!

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Brain-dead part two: “Oh, this is passport control? And I need to show my passport?” These folks are also amazing. One wonders how they made it to adulthood. We all stand queuing for passport control. All the time in the world to get our paperwork in order. And when they walk up to the immigration officer, they take time to dig through their bags to find their passport and boarding pass! Incredible.

“Hi, my name is Typhoid Mary or Harry. Can I sneeze all over you?” You’re stuck on a full flight. No fresh air. A perfect place for germs to spread. And behind you is a very sick person, sneezing and coughing continuously. You can “feel the breeze” of the sneezes, and worst case, maybe you even get a free gift of some snot-based hair gel on the back of your head! Thanks, but no thanks. If you are too sick, stay home rather than infect the rest of the plane. Or take enough meds to suppress the sneezing and coughing. At the very least, use the vomit bag to cough or sneeze into, rather than spraying mucus droplets onto the people in front of you.

“I am a rude person and let me block the whole aisle while I screw around with my bag.” We all know this type. You are boarding the plane and the entire line is blocked due to one person, who seems incapable of standing inside his row while reaching up. So rather than bend a little bit, they instead block the entire aisle while messing around in the overhead compartment. Doesn’t matter that 30, 40, 50 people are blocked from passing and boarding the plane. And we wonder why on-time performance of the airlines is so poor?

“Oh, those are my kids running all over the plane creating havoc? I thought this was a playground.” I raised five children overseas with heavy international travel for every child each year. They learned to keep their feet still and not kick the seat in front. They weren’t allowed to bring down the tray table and bang on it. And they certainly did not run freely up the aisles, nor did I expect flight attendants to play yaya for me. No, they learned to sit and entertain themselves with books and iPads or a deck of cards. Stop letting your kids have a free-for-all on the plane! Start being a parent and realize a little discipline never hurt anyone.

 “I love window seats! Oh, by the way, did I tell you my bladder can only hold a thimbleful of urine?” Just as you get settled down in your aisle seat, you have to get up. Again. And again. And again. Look, I know it is nature calling, but for cripes’ sake ask for an aisle seat so when you have to get up, you don’t force others to wake up to let you pass by.

“My coat needs its own overhead compartment. So screw you and your bag.” Now that the airlines charge for excess checked bags, carry-ons are more and more prevalent. So every space in the overheads or under the seats is being taken. If you have a coat or jacket, great, but put it into storage lastas it fits on top of luggage nicely. Or, use the hanger that is on the seat in front of you! But don’t expect to get your own private compartment for your precious jacket!

“Ha-ha, I am not really handicapped or need a wheelchair; I am just using this to beat the lines.”  To be perfectly honest, there is something incredibly wrong — nearly criminal — with impersonating a handicapped person simply to gain access to special privileges reserved solely for those who truly merit it.  Reminds me of an incident in Nigeria. There was a major intersection that was always full of “handicapped” people riding around on little skateboards, going from car to car begging, their legs appearing mangled beneath them. I used to hand them coins out the window. Then one day I hear whistles and shouts and suddenly it is a police raid. Well, every one of those guys who was handicapped suddenly jumps up and takes off running like Olympic sprinters! A few weeks ago I followed a man in a wheelchair out of the airport. Once he was clear and he greeted his family, he ended up putting a child on his shoulders and they all marched up at a quick pace to the car. It gets your blood boiling. It’s simply wrong. Handicapped rights are sacred, for those truly deserving.

These are the Top 10. Unfortunately there are many more — no shortage of pain-in-the-rear people! The hope is perhaps the people who fit into these categories will choose to stay home next Christmas, or take a boat or a train. And maybe help the rest of us make our travel a bit less taxing.

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