Rude and ridiculous passengers on planes
Flying to your destination used to be reserved for the rich and famous, now everyone, including the trouserless can enjoy the convenience of flight.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell has always been a poster girl, not simply for global brands such as Louis Vuitton and L'Oreal, but for doing whatever the hell she wants. This week, the 49-year-old posted a YouTube video of her fastidious in-flight hygiene regime, aboard a Qatar Airlines flight to Doha. The video, which promptly went viral and has been viewed more than a million times, shows her donning a pair of latex gloves, whipping out a pack of Dettol wipes and scrubbing down armrests, the screen, remote control and "anything you can put your hands on".
"This is what I do on every plane I get on," Campbell explains, cheerfully. "I do not care what people think of me. It's my health and it makes me feel better."
As a travel writer, I have to admit she's got a point. I tried to be relaxed about the in-flight habits of my fellow passengers, accepting that we're all free to do whatever gets us through the next 10 hours. But that was before their behaviour became too, well, relaxed. And by "relaxed", I mean "disgusting".
I once had to have a word with a flight attendant when the gentleman next to me spent the duration of The Hangover III inserting the corner of his in-flight blanket into his left nostril, like a traumatised toddler. She took one glance and kindly moved me to a new row. I've asked the passenger behind me to please refrain from tickling my elbows with their toenails, as his feet steadily slithered up my armrests from behind. And I've asked the man sitting next to me in business class to please trim his beard elsewhere as chunks of his DNA landed like confetti on my breakfast tray.
The @passengershaming Instagram account, with nearly one million followers, diligently documents similar travel travesties, such as the hairy businessman sprawling butt-naked as he sleeps, the woman drying bikini bottoms underneath an air vent, a feckless passenger using their feet to operate the touchscreen, and the oddly creepy but commonplace act of flipping one's long hair over the headrest so it entirely veils the movie screen of the passenger behind them.
Last year, insurancequotes.com conducted swab tests on three airlines and at three major airports. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the most revolting source of germs was the flush button in the lavatory, harbouring more than 95,000 germ colony-forming units (CFUs). More alarmingly, the tray in front of us was found to serve up 11,595 CFUs.
Other culprits are seat belt buckles, airport self-check-in screens and gate bench armrests. It's all the more bleak when we compare this to the average CFU count on a household lavatory seat: 172.
Given the grimness, it's hard to fault Campbell when she tucks in a bubblegum-pink seat cover to spare her Burberry loungewear contact with grotty airline upholstery, parades her plastic bag of face masks for "hydration", and finally models a silken surgical face mask.
"No matter what plane you take, private or commercial, as the plane descends, people start coughing and sneezing," she observes. "And I just can't, so this is my protection from people coughing and sneezing."
I come from a family of gung-ho and eminently practical medics and accordingly try to be realistic and non-phobic about germs and health risks, but I do now travel with a small bottle of Dr Bronner's Lavender Organic Hand Sanitizer (shop.drbronner.co.uk) and some reusable hand and face wipes cheekywipes.com), because I try to keep the health of the planet in mind as well as my own health on holiday. And I find yoga slippers, with a rubberised sole, are a comfy option which spares my fellow passengers a show of feet. Inhaling De Mamiel Altitude Oil (demamiel.com) creates the illusion that I'm in a swish health spa, and not a gravity-defying Petri dish.
And don't think that being on the pricier side of the red curtain quarantines you from travelling germs.
Over the years, I've observed the behaviour in business class to be decidedly less classy than in economy. Some business class passengers seem to think they've paid their way to not giving a damn about anyone else. In economy class, generally speaking, a more community-oriented spirit prevails, because there's a sense that we're all in this unpleasant thing together. And, as Naomi Campbell appears to appreciate, rich people's germs really are no better than anyone else's.
The Telegraph, London
See also: World's rudest plane passenger