Dale Archer, M.D. Wednesday, December 4, 2013 0

Excuse me while I go on a rant here.

I fly a lot these days, but I remember back years ago what a treat it was to fly. Passengers would dress up — skirts and heels for women, coat and often a tie for gentlemen. Food service was included, and the meal was good, hot, and served with a cloth napkin and real silverware — spoon, fork and, yes, a sharpened knife. “Stewardesses,” young women with big smiles and little skirts, greeted every passenger like a best friend. Everyone was gracious and courteous. You see, in the 1960s and ‘70s, flight travel was rare, exciting and very special.

Today, air travel is the most popular method for distance traveling. The National Air Traffic Controllers Assoc. estimates that 1.5 million people fly in the USA — per day.

As more and more people take to the not-so-friendly skies, stories of rude, disgusting and selfish behavior abound. Take the mom who changed a baby’s dirty diaper on her tray table; another who flossed, sending bits of food everywhere; or, as happened to me recently, a guy who kept passing gas and bragging about how rank it was. This was followed on my next flight by a woman who kept sneezing and blowing her nose in her hand all the while telling me about her rude children with no manners.

As for a dress code, it’s non-existent, with many passengers dressing as if they’re heading to the beach, or about to mow the lawn. One man I saw was allowed to board wearing only lingerie, stockings and heels; one woman decided that her seat was a good place to change her clothes.

My son was on a long flight recently and sat next to two obnoxious guys playing a drinking game (no drink limit for them, apparently), which he found mildly amusing — until one of them threw up in my son’s lap and laughed about it.

The airplane is not an extension of your home. You’re with 200 strangers. When the captain says “relax and enjoy the flight,” this doesn’t give you permission to start snipping away at an ingrown toenail, apply your make up, or use a mirror to pick the dandruff out of your hair.

Some passengers are rude, refusing to turn off a smartphone, kicking the seat in front of them, or insisting that their oversized bag can be crammed in front of your seat.

Engaging in gross behavior that should be limited to the privacy of a bathroom is, unfortunately, becoming the norm for airline passengers.  Would you pop a zit while sandwiched between two strangers? Would you use a towelette at your seat to clean your underarms? Or would you brush your teeth and spit the remnants into the glass you just drank a soda from?

Why are passengers behaving badly? Simple: We are becoming a nation of rude narcissists. Decent behavior has been lost in our smartphone, computer screen world where reality stars serve as role models. The sense of entitlement and privilege is exemplified by the thought: “I want to do what I want, when I want — and I will!”

The pampered generation is now all grown up, and their bad behavior is contagious. The “If he can do it, why can’t I?” mindset continues to flourish, and our “It’s all about me” society continues to rumble out of control.

Airlines are currently discussing a dress code so that passengers know ahead of time what will fly and what won’t. While that’s a good start, there also needs to be a behavior code included in the passenger’s bill of rights.

Outrageous behavior must not be considered cute or silly. It’s rude and offensive, and should not be tolerated. And, while this may help the airlines, flight attendants and fellow passengers, it does nothing to address the same or worse on the ground. But it’s a good start.


Dr. Dale Archer is a board certified psychiatrist who founded the Institute for Neuropsychiatry in Southwest Louisiana. He’s a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN Headline News and other national TV programs and the author of the New York Times’ bestselling book Better than Normal. Visit him at