By Mary Schneider
Isn't it time airlines did something about passengers with little or no consideration for others?
Long-haul flights are not all that comfortable at the best of times but the discomfort is often made worse if the people in the seat beside you snores loudly or, worse still, has questionable ideas about personal hygiene.
On a recent long-haul flight, I found myself sitting next to an attractive young French woman, the type that turns head. Dressed with the kind of the careless insouciance one associates with backpackers, she was being appraised by the males in the seats around and many of them would dearly like to have changed places with me.
About 10 minutes into the flight, this vision of loveliness pulled a blanket over her slender body and closed her eyes, obviously intent on getting some sleep. Thirty seconds later, a strong and very unpleasant odour permeated the cabin.
I sniffed the air around me, trying to locate the source. And just when I was convinced that something had expired in the plane's air-conditioning system, the angel sitting next to me wriggled beneath her blanket and brought her feet up to rest on the back of the seat in front of her.
Unbeknown to me, she had removed her shoes just before she had settled down to sleep, exposing her 100-day-old sweaty socks to my sensitive nostrils.
I stared at the offending socks. How was it possible for her to be unaware of the stench emanating from her own feet? Was it possible that she had absolutely no sense of smell?
Then the man sitting directly in front of her turned around and looked at me through the gap at the side of his seat. He was sniffing the air like a bloodhound and looking directly at me. I smiled and inclined my head in the direction of young woman. I suspect he saw the sleeping beauty and was convinced I was responsible for the malodorous.
I tried to ignore the smell as best as I could by watching an in-flight movie starring my favourite actress, Nicole Kidman, but I found it difficult to concentrate. I turned the volume up, as if assaulting one sense might cancel out the assault on another sense. But that didn't work. All it did was hurt my ears.
I began to wonder if there were any airline protocols for such a situation. I know these apply to noise and have seen fellow passengers in the past eliciting the help of a flight attendant to remove a sleeping stranger from their shoulder.
Snoring though, doesn’t seem to be a problem, with he people seated around the offending passenger usually shrugging their shoulders and smile helplessly at one another, leaving the snorer to reign supreme. I suspect it's the same thing excessively strong body odour. No friendly flight attendant is going to wake up a passenger and say, “Excuse me, madam, but your feet stink”.
Excessive noise and smells shouldn't be allowed to pollute the little space a passenger has purchased on a plane. Why should anyone have to experience discomfort just because some passengers are oblivious to (or don't care about) the effect they are having on those seated nearby?
I propose that planes have a section for snorers. And a section for people who smell. And a section for people who hog the arm rests (let them fight it out amongst themselves). And a section for people who drink too much in-flight wine, causing them to talk and talk and talk and talk about the minute details of their medical history. Like the time they had a root canal job, followed by an in-grown toenail, and an outbreak of hives – all in one week. All that chatter can amount to hours of my life that I will never have back again.
Okay, I know airlines won't segregate passengers like that, because it would be discriminatory. And we can't go about upsetting people, can we now?
But what about me and all the other considerate passengers who have to put up with this nonsense? Doesn't anyone give a toss about us being upset?