6 Things Travelers Need to Stop Complaining About

I read my Twitter feed more than any other news source these days and one thing that stands out to me are the complaints. Constant, unrelenting complaints about everything regarding the general travel experience: Airline employees, passengers, travel delays, security lines, how other people act, how other people look, babies, adults, fat people, skinny people, the food in first class, the peanuts in economy class, the cheap booze, the lack of diet Coke/Pepsi, the lack of advancement in the invention of instant transport devices. It goes on and on. Sometimes it’s obnoxious and I end up putting a virtual muzzle on frequent complainers (i.e. set their status to “mute”). But sometimes I feel compelled to speak out. Here are six things that travelers need to stop complaining about:

Airport departure gate

1. Babies on Planes. We’re all going to encounter kids at some point because they exist in the world. We were all kids once and have probably at one point had a kid with us in public who cried, despite our best efforts to make them stop. So when you see a family with kids boarding a plane, keep the sighing to a minimum and if said kid is crying, yelling at their parents isn’t going to make things better. I’m not saying to let parents off the hook entirely. If they’re at least trying to calm their kids down, be patient, put your earplugs on and wait for the noise to die down. And if a family is looking around frustrated because their 3 year-old is sitting five rows away from the parents, offer to switch seats if it doesn’t put a huge wrench in your napping plans.

2. Overweight People. An airplane is not an amusement park ride. We all have a right to fly regardless of our size. This being America and not an impoverished country, most people traveling on airplanes aren’t malnourished supermodels. Unless your seat mate is a supermodel, in which case you might get a phone thrown at you and called a basic b****.

There’s no need to make people feel bad about their weight or put your own needs above theirs. They can’t lose weight in an instance, but we can help the way we react to them. So don’t be a jerk about “fat people” sitting next to you on a plane and how they should be sent to the luggage compartment or forced to buy an entire row of seats. Sometimes you have to endure a bit of discomfort for the sake of being a decent human being and living in a world inhabited by people different from you. 

3. Reclining Seats. Seats are built to recline so that those 1 – 19 hour flights don’t leave passengers with severe back injuries. So yes, feel free to recline your seat for just a tiny bit of comfort on what is normally a miserable experience for most people, and don’t choke anyone else for doing it.

4. No One Speaks English. English isn’t the only language spoken on this planet. Anyone who’s ever traveled outside the country (or to Los Angeles) knows this. Whether you’re traveling within the U.S. or abroad, you may encounter people who don’t speak English fluently. Some of them won’t speak it at all because they’re content speaking their language in their country. Or because they just got here yesterday. Not gaining full command of a language as soon as they step on the tarmac doesn’t make them lazy or stupid.

I moved to this country when I was 10 years old and spoke next to no English. It took me about 9 months of self-study before I became fluent and it was a tough 9 months of struggling in school and dealing with an idiot teacher who, despite claiming to speak German, hardly ever understood me and resorted to giving me a C in every subject as an easy way out. I say this to point out the obvious: It takes time to learn a new language, but people shouldn’t be expected to put their livelihood on hold and live in cardboard boxes until they’ve mastered a language enough to satisfy random people they might encounter on a daily basis. Have a little compassion and know that rudeness doesn’t help.

5. Things No One Can Control. “And then they made us sit there on the runway for FORTY minutes!” This isn’t just a line from Louis C.K.’s stand up act – it’s a common complaint during flight delays. Which aren’t going to end any time soon, so the incessant complaints are really pointless. If you can get over something eventually, there’s no sense in getting upset about it in the first place.

Unless Putin decides to share his weather control machine or airplanes are designed to be completely infallible in terms of mechanical issues, delays will happen. The best way to deal with such situations is to be prepared. Bring a magazine, smartphone, or a book of crossword puzzles. Or do that thing human beings are renowned for – talk to the person sitting next to you who’s probably as bored/miserable as you are.

On a similar note, people channeling their frustration towards those who aren’t responsible is ridiculous. I recently had an incident in Chicago where the same Uber Taxi driver was assigned to me as well as another woman nearby. As soon as the driver took my bag, she came barging over, saying that was her cab. I showed her the Uber app and said it was actually the cab I was assigned to. She proceeded to yell at the cab driver for picking up both fares, which was not the case. I explained it was obviously Uber’s fault but if she was heading downtown, I was happy to share. 

She actually ended up being pleasant and we had a conversation about points and miles during the ride. However, she’s sequel into taking a jab at the driver every chance she got. How it was ridiculous that he “signed up for two passengers” and that she’d been on the phone with him and didn’t he know who he was talking to? I kept interjecting that it wasn’t his fault, there was obviously confusion caused by Uber’s system. She wouldn’t hear of it. At this point, her berating the driver was really absurd because she got her ride, she didn’t have to travel alone at midnight, and yet she insisted on harping on this thing that wasn’t even an issue anymore and making the driver feel bad for it.

Later on, I found out she accidentally cancelled her ride and it got assigned to me. So really, it was her fault. I wonder how she would have reacted if the cab driver had unleashed a tirade on her? Anyway, when things go badly, don’t blame or yell at people who have no control over the situation.

6. General Bigotry. I’m not worried about traveling by myself. However, with the recent bigotry directed towards Muslims, I do worry for the men in my family. They are good, law-abiding citizens and the thought of some idiot getting them thrown off a plane over some nonsense worries me. People are getting pulled off flights for speaking Arabic, watching the news on their phones, or being refused drinks because apparently airlines are serving weapons of mass destruction in the form of diet soda cans (which, to be fair, may be partially accurate). Once a person has passed airline security, they’re not a threat unless they’ve managed to construct a bomb out of the overpriced merchandise sold at Duty Free. 

We all have a right to travel and be comfortable and safe when we do. Travelers need to check their hostility with their bags and just be civil. You’d be surprised at how pleasant the overall travel experience is when you adjust your attitude, choose to be pleasant and treat others with respect.

What are some of the traveler complaints that you find annoying?

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  1. heavenlyjane

    A simple heartfelt thank you.

  2. Love this post Ariana! Love Louis C.K. also, you’re both dead on.

  3. Well said, Ariana!

  4. Well said! Amen to that … I believe the Twitter complaint problem is more of an ego thing … People want to feel important and be heard in front of all their followers …

  5. Fantastic post, couldn’t agree more. Although it does scare me that you consider twitter to be a news source! 😉

  6. I definitely disagree with #1 & 2, I am not going to be a facilitator or enabler for someones problems, poor judgment, lack of initiative, gremlin children or another persons extra 200 pounds. No one holds my hand and life throws enough at me as it is. This is all just some subjective bullshit anyway and I’m disappointed you actually wrote this. You could have cut 1-6 and just reminded people to remain flexible as the holiday season grows closer.

    Answer me this for #2, if you can’t take care of yourself, than who or what can you take of? Their animals that look like their overweight owners do not count.

    • People who can’t take care of themselves can in fact take care of other things (it’s probably how they got obese in the first place). Losing massive amounts of weight is easier said than done. My first semester in college I gained 10+ pounds before I even knew it and it took forever to lose. Let’s be compassionate rather than judgmental. You never know when a situation may arise in the future (i.e. depression, health problems, etc.) that might put you in their shoes even though you never thought you’d find yourself there.

  7. Sitting next to an obese person would bother me, but not an overweight person. Not on your list, but the worst people to sit next to on a plane is a smelly person. Basic hygiene is something anyone can control, but some people either don’t know or don’t care.

  8. Great reality check.

  9. The issue I have with some of these complaints lie with the airline and not the individual. Airlines have made the seats narrower and smaller, which crams everyone together. If someone is obese it makes it that much more uncomfortable if you’re sitting next to them. Even worse is the seats that recline too far back. Reclining seats are fine if there was more space between seats, but it’s horrible when someone can recline right into my face, leaving me with about 2 inches of space. If the airlines are going to reduce space on the plane then they need to reduce how far back a seat can recline. My complaints are not with the people doing the reclining or the overweight people, but the airlines who have reduced space to a bare minimum.

  10. @Scott,

    Tip of the day – When someone is reclined too much into your face, I’ve found opening up your air vent and directing it at the top of their head quickly resolves the issue. 🙂

    Merry Christmas!

  11. @Kevin–LOL! I’ll have to try that next time!

  12. Darren William Grant

    Imo some of this post edges on hypocrisy. Let’s not complain about obese people. Well, there are some funny obese people out there, some of the stuff they do is indeed funny… why not laugh about it? Everybody thinks it but nobody can say it, is that how it works? Please… only because we don’t want to upset of offend those people? First of all they are the ones who brought it on to themselves, it’s not like anyone did anything to them. They decided to treat their bodies that way. Maybe they could have thought about all those doughnuts, pizza and mars bars before? So what’s wrong with that. And I don’t necessarily mean it’s okay to laugh at those people but you can expect remarks. Babies, God knows how much I love them but sometimes you just can’t deal with that! I mean isn’t it about time they invented a device that only allows the mother to hear her baby and so she could promptly feed or tend to without bothering the other passengers? But you have some good points regarding things. Oh, curiously enough, I scrolled through the comments and saw someone else had commented on those exact two points as well. Well then, it’s good to know I am not the only one to share this view. Regardless, I want to give you credit for a blog well-written and, like I said, some interesting observations you make. I would have others, which deal primarily with how flight attendants are often treated (‘disrespectfully’ would be an understatement), but I won’t go into all that as it is your post and not mine.

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