INSIDER – At every airport and on every flight, you’ll find the person who doesn’t stow their tray away after their belongings go through the scanner, or who spends the duration of the journey loudly wandering up and down the aisles, disturbing passengers who are trying to sleep.
These are habits that Shawn Kathleen, the former flight attendant who runs the popular Instagram account “Passenger Shaming,” knows all too well.
The account, which now boasts 850,000 followers and constitutes her full-time job, initially began as a journal she kept about passengers’ behaviour while she was in the sky.
“At some point early on I was getting ridiculous creepy questions, dealing with certain passengers requests, stuff that was just off-the-wall bananas … People who were belligerent, quite a few rude people that would say inappropriate rude things, people that would grab you/pull on your shirt/skirt/blazer, people that would snap their fingers at me or shake their empty cup,” she said.
“I would run to the back galley and start writing stuff down. The journal started becoming pretty full quickly.”
After colleagues told her she should start a blog, she launched the site “Rants of a Sassy Stew.”
“It was doing really well and people were loving it,” she said.
However, she said people thought her stories were fictional, despite the fact that the only details she changed were the number of flight attendants on the aircraft, the destination, and the airline she worked for.
“In aviation, people follow the social media policy to a T, so I never mentioned names or airlines,” she explained.
Eventually, crew members started to send her photos of passengers behaving badly.
“I was taking them too, and at some point, I said: ‘I want to do an offshoot sister site, so I came up with Passenger Shaming for photographs exclusively.
“For me, it was like vindication – now people know everything I’m writing is 100% true.”
Shawn Kathleen told INSIDER she’s been asked plenty of “stupid questions” in her time.
“I had a lady ring her call button and ask: ‘Are we moving?’ We’d been flying for two hours. It was just so bizarre.”
She added that people will also board and asked where their row is.
“They say, ‘Where’s row four?’ Just the most ridiculous questions,” she said. “I don’t understand how you don’t get that – how did you pack your bag, get luggage together, get in a car, go through TSA, how did you make it to 42 years and not know we’re at 35,000 feet moving or where row 4 is?”
However, while these types of questions are certainly annoying, she said there are two things passengers do that are the absolute worst.
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1. Not acknowledging the crew, or blaming them for things beyond their control
“This sounds rudimentary and ridiculous, [but] acknowledge the crew’s existence and maybe say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ or ‘hi,’” she said.
She added that when crew say “welcome aboard,” many passengers just turn and keep walking.
“Under that umbrella, be aware of your surroundings. Be friendly. It’s not the flight attendant’s fault there’s a tornado or thunderstorm or mechanical issue, the pilot can’t [help it] either. I’ve had passengers say ‘can’t we just fly around the tornado?’ It’s so cute that you think that.
“We all want to get home to our families tonight … Acknowledge the crew and their expertise and the fact it’s not their fault if there’s a mechanical delay or the engine went out. We don’t control mother nature.”
2. Bare feet on a flight
It’s clear to Passenger Shaming followers that Shawn Kathleen is not a fan of bare feet on flights.
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“Can you please keep your feet covered? That would be awesome, that would be amazing,” she said. “I’m even okay with people removing their shoes if 1. They have clean socks that don’t smell and 2. They keep them on the floor. [But] they don’t belong on the wall/bulkhead, those things break.”
She added: “You don’t go to your doctor’s waiting office and take your shoes off and put them up on the wall. Let’s not walk around in bare feet.
“Let’s not have bare feet on the armrest, or the feet up on the headrest of people in front of them. If you have to go to the lavatory, put shoes on because the liquid on the floor is not water. Unless you want to soak up urine and whatever else might be in there.
“I’ve stopped people and said ‘You might want to go back and get your shoes.’ A 9-year-old would come back and I’d tell them to get their shoes and they do it, it’s the adults [who don’t].”