Worst things about flying: Seven things we don't miss about air travel

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.

Remember flying? My last flight was December 2019. I still treasure the memory. Fun times, but there was plenty about stepping into a long metal tube and whizzing off to somewhere warm and interesting that used to drive us nuts.

Selective amnesia might blur memories of the bad bits, but since long-distance air travel is an ever retreating prospect, here's a few things that you won't have to suffer when you're couchbound. And don't we miss them?

Seat kickers and screen stabbers

Ok, so it's usually small kids and a polite word to the parents will probably settle things down but it can also be an adolescent caught up in a video-game frenzy, and that's another kind of difficult. A subset of the same category, a video screen stabber in the seat behind. Grown-ups who find the concept of a touch-screen hard to fathom, preferring to believe that assaulting the touchscreen like a woodpecker is the thing. Another seat gripe – the person behind who levers themselves upright by hauling on your seatback. If you can't get out of your seat with the aid of armrests alone, do something about your core strength.

Flight shaming

This one took wing in 2019 when Greta Thunberg pricked the collective conscience of world leaders at the podiums of the UN and Davos and in social media, demanding that they take action to reduce global carbon emissions. That included flying less, since on a per capita basis, air travel is a major contributor to carbon emissions, and thus "flygskam"– flight shaming – was born in Thunberg's native Sweden.

Carbon offset schemes exist for those who want to throw a few dollars at the problem and ease their troubled minds but their effectiveness is questionable. Getting anywhere from our castaway island home requires long-distance travel, and Australians contribute more per capita to aircraft carbon emissions than just about any other nationality. You might think therefore that Australians might be more susceptible to flygskam than most, but the coronavirus has solved that problem.

Bare feet

I get it, feet swell and shoes get uncomfortable on a long flight, but what is it that induces people to remove socks and all? Barefoot is not a good look, but then they let their inner child out, propping them on the window, elevating them on the seat back in front or – heaven forbid – poking them between the seats and onto the armrest in front. It's unsightly, unmannerly and an offence to all, never mind what those feet might absorb as they wend their way along the carpets and into the bathroom. Yeech!

Ambush charges

So you found a cheap airfare, and now comes a long list of optional "extras", with a charge for each. Want a superior seat, checked-in baggage, an inflight meal, priority boarding and speedy luggage delivery at the other end? That'll cost extra. Low-cost carriers have perfected the art of gouging a few more dollars to pad out their ultra cheap fares. Ryanair requires its flyers to check in before they arrive at the airport. Fail to do so and Ryanair will pocket an Airport Check-in Fee of €/£55 ($97). By the time you add in those extras, that bargain airfare has lost some of its shine.

Fellow passengers

Geez but they can be annoying. They smell bad, hog the armrests, stuff the overhead bins with way more than the carry-on limit, take pillows on board, snore, drool and head-roll when they sleep and fart. How can humans invent so many ways to be obnoxious? Just sit still and be quiet. Watch a movie. And if you need to, y'know, head for the bathroom.

Paying more for a bulkhead emergency exit row seat

Long legs? You might be inclined to stump up extra cash for one of your airline's hot seats, which come with extra leg room. Beware - some of those hot seats are behind the bulkhead, with an emergency exit in front. That extra space might look great but woah right there. Sit in one of those seats and you have to stow all your carry-ons in the overhead locked for take-off and landing.

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You'll be twiddling thumbs until the fasten seatbelt sign is switched off, and you won't be watching a video either since your screen is on a flexible arm, also stowed for take-off and landing. If it's a wide-body aircraft, the middle section of that row is where bassinets are located and an unhappy infant will make for a flight you'd rather forget.

Finally, you're probably close to either the toilets or the galley, and that vacant space by the emergency door is where passengers are likely to mill about, chat, trip on your long legs and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

The rush to leave

Moscow, Russia - June 15, 2016:  Passengers expect exit the aircraft after landing Flight Simferopol-Moscow iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Plane passengers boarding

Photo: iStock

Happens every flight. As soon as the aircraft docks and the seat belt sign pings off – sometimes well before – passengers jump like a popup toaster. And then they wait…and wait, twisting into yoga contortions in the crowded aisle as they struggle to extract bags from the overhead bins.

Even for those down the back of the aircraft who are going to stand and sigh for several minutes before the aisle clears, it's "let me outta here"! Then they're going to stand some more at the baggage carousel while you who have sat placidly amid the mayhem arrive smiling to collect your luggage. Which might arrive before theirs.

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