Surefire ways to make enemies on a plane and how the recent FlySafair 'racism' debacle checked a few boxes

2019-05-16 11:34 - Selene Brophy
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Airplane anxiety is one thing. Being in a small, enclosed space and not being mindful of the people around you or the fact that you're actually in this confined spaced for a length of time until you reach your destination is another. 

Airplane etiquette and knowing the rules are crucial in this modern era of frequent air travel. 

These days, incidents are more prolific thanks to the ease with which they are shared on social media - and while these can sometimes lead to criminal prosecution, they can end amicably, serving as a lesson to just 'be lekker', as so the saying goes.  

This was recently the case with Mihlali Ndamase, who accused the FlySafair of racism, alleging that one of the airline staff referred to herself and friends as "animals". News24 recently reported on the incident aboard flight FA 229 from George to Johannesburg, on Sunday 12 May.  

FlySafair spokesperson Kirby Gordon at the time said, "Ms Ndamase and her travel companions were deemed to be unruly, possibly due to intoxication. As you know, South African Civil Aviation Law clearly states that not obeying the instructions of or interrupting in the duties of a cabin attendant is a criminal offence.

SEE: PICS: Shameless people on planes

"This is obviously essential because while our teams are there to see to the comfort of our customers, their primary role is to ensure everyone’s safety aboard an aircraft. The cabin crew on duty followed procedure, which ultimately resulted in their alerting SAPS who came aboard to escort Ms Ndamase and her companions off the aircraft."

A joint statement posted by Flysafair saying "Mihlali and FlySafair have since come together to discuss the events on Sunday night’s incident in great detail". The full statement reads as follows...

"It was identified that there were some unfortunate misunderstandings on both sides, but both parties are in agreement that discrimination, is an issue that we as South Africans need to continue to eradicate in order to build our future.
"The parties discussed the complexities of discrimination which can be explicit or implied, conscious or unconscious, deliberate or accidental, and agreed that there is a lot of work to be done in our country to bring attention to these nuances. Both also reached common ground on the fundamental importance of flawless aviation safety management and appropriate behaviour aboard an aircraft.
"FlySafair expressed their regret at the situation. “We want all of our customers to have an excellent experience aboard our aircraft and to feel safe in all regards.” says Kirby Gordon, Head of Sales & Distribution. 
In response to the racism allegations Gordon says, "FlySafair is the proud employer of 1017 people from diverse backgrounds and we obviously whole-heartedly condemn discrimination on any basis. Discrimination of any kind falls foul of our culture and our policies, and an employee found guilty of the same would be managed to the full extent of the law."


READ: This open letter from 'just a flight attendant' will make you think twice about being a #shamelesspassenger


With all mid-flight altercations in mind, here's a passenger etiquette re-cap to ensure you avoid making enemies on planes: 

  • Being loud or not using earphones.

It's a confined space. Consider the personal space of the passenger next to you and we don't just mean physical space, we mean the auditory space too.

  • If you can’t lift your own bag, don’t carry it on. 

How would you feel if someone couldn’t lift their bag into the overhead compartment and then dropped it on you? Also, exceeding the restricted hand luggage rules means you are encroaching on the cabin bag space of your fellow passengers. Not cool. 

  • When the Cabin crew give you an instruction, listen.

Contrary to popular belief, Flight attendants are so much more than trolley dollies. They are fully trained in CPR and emergency safety protocol, including how to disarm a bomb. If they ask you to switch off you phone or to check your behaviour in any way - it's best to comply. Fighting back or being obnoxious means they can call the cops. And very often, they will.

  • Switching seats.

You are morally obligated to offer to switch seats so someone can sit next to their child, elderly, or sick person in their accompaniment. Otherwise, you have the right to refuse the request.

  • Don't recline in economy. 

The amount of extra comfort you gain is nothing compared to the chain reaction of pain you have just set off behind you. And if you must recline, then turn around and ask the person behind you if it’s OK with them.

  • Middle seat gets the arm rests. 

The unlucky soul in the middle seat has one thing going for them: sole ownership of the middle armrests. At best, you can sort-of lean your elbow on the tiny edge of the armrest, and if they aren’t using it, you still can’t use it.

  • Allowing your kids to run a mock

We've in the camp of never judging a parent struggling to calm an unhappy baby during a flight. But parents who allow their kids to kick seatbacks or simply be unruly without any reprimand - not so much. Don't ignore your kids. Prepare for the flight beforehand to ensure they're happy flyers and not unhappy irk-ers of fellow passengers.

READ: What SA travellers should know about airline overbooking and offloading policies 

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