I am always fascinated by the way humans behave in public places. I guess if I had the chance, I would go back and study human behavior. But I suppose you don’t need a degree to see that we are a very strange bunch. I have been traveling now for over 4 years with my job and I have many tales to tell and I am thinking about putting them together in a book. However, one of the things that still cease to amaze me is they way people board a plane. And by the way, out of principle I do not fly low cost airlines, that is a separate article! And one of the reasons for it is the fact that they will not assign seats.
I have never really understood why, as you would think it is easier to give everyone a place as this will helps the boarding process. So whenever you are flying “el cheapo”, people will kill to get on the plan first! And this in itself aggravates me more than the actual attitude of the staff (I am sure they employ people for their rudeness). I remember once making the fatal error of flying with Ryan Air and writing on my Facebook profile “I now know how cows feel just before they are taken to the slaughter house” and I got a massive response from my facebook friends, all in agreement! (I wonder how we all know how cows feel just before the slaughterhouse???)
But what is fascinating about this sort of behaviour is that you may justify it in a low cost flight, as you do not have your seat number and people panic (not sure why anyway because the flight will not leave without you if you have a ticket, so there will be a seat for you) but I guess we are territorial animals and this is the basis of our behaviour, we all want the best seat! So what happens then on a regular British Airway or Lufthansa flight where you have a seat number? Where you have been able to choose that seat before you even get to the airport? That is where it gets very interesting! I will attempt to describe this as a nature program would, as we discover the extraordinary behaviour of animals in their habitat.
So we have 120 passengers traveling together from London to Munich. All have been given a seat number, and some may not be happy be seating between two people on the dreaded B or E seat! But nonetheless, everyone has a seat. I would say that 80% of those would have a bulky hand luggage. What I mean is they will have a small suitcase with their essentials for a short trip, which they wheel around with them. Of those, 50% would also have a handbag or briefcase with their laptops. A lot of hand luggage to store in the overhead compartments. 20 minutes before the flight boarding is announced, you begin to see this pack of animals gathering outside the door. It’s like they have to be the first to get on, must beat everyone in the race for a seat! BUT WHY? You have a seat number; no one will take your seat! But only when you travel as much as I do, beginning to understand these fascinating creatures. It takes time and good observation skills to understand them and see them in action in their natural habitat! They are not fighting for a seat; that is too primitive; they are fighting for the space above their seat for their hand luggage!
This is a different type of animal to the one we encounter in the cheap airlines! This animal is more sophisticated and has evolved through their silver rewards cards from the airlines, this animal knows that having a seat is not good enough, but having your hand luggage above your head is the ultimate reward of this battle when boarding the plane! And what is even more fascinating is that they will do whatever it takes to have their hand luggage above their head. We are boarding the Munich flight from London and the head lockers are getting pretty full by now. And a few have now arrived at their seat and there is no room above their head! You can see the expression of anguish on their faces as the look around at the full lockers.
Some, less bothered by this, take their hand luggage and move it down the plane to the next available space; after all, it will get there with at the same time. But there is one creature, a female of the frequent flyer species; she has to have her hand luggage above her head. She pushes and shoves other’s belongings in the hope that she will be able to squeeze her wheelie just above her. The flight attendant comes over and tries to assist, between them they move some items to the side, but their efforts are a waste and the wheelie still does not fit. She will not give up that easily, oh no, she is a silver member, you can see it on her luggage tag, this type knows all the tricks of the trade, knows how to manipulate a space to get the necessary room to put her bag, just above her head.
The flight attendant knowing this is a lost cause, walks away to look for a space in which store what seems to be a very precious piece of luggage (or at least to the frequent traveler) and then it happens, she moves the wrong piece and it all kicks off! She has pushed hard enough but has not work so she begins to remove other pieces to try and fit hers in and then put what she has taken out back (or at least we all think she will, but who knows in this game!)
A male, seating by the window, who fought his way through the crowds, who was standing by the door 20 minutes before they announce boarding just so he could have his hand luggage just above his head, see his precious item being removed from the locker and shouts “please” (I thought it was so British to say please as he was about to attack this woman) “please, do not touch my luggage!” and the already exhausted and exasperated woman said “I am just trying to fit mine in” and in a very firm voice he said “you should have been here earlier if you wanted your luggage to be above your seat” and at that moment I knew that he was the king, that he was not only just a regular Al fa male frequent traveler, one more of the pack, but the one who has ultimately earned his place on the frequent flyer “I have my luggage above my head” place. And with one last firm remark he said, “Please put it back”
And so she did, no one would dare to challenge him, the one who knows his place and is the king of the air. And guess what? She had to put her wheelie a few places behind her and guess what, it arrived at the same time as all the rest! Oh and worst of all, she had to seat near him, yes she not only had her luggage sent to the back, nowhere near her head, but she had to share the confined space of an airplane with him! I sat there for the rest of the trip thinking “if there is one thing I have never been bothered about has been to have my luggage above my head” it is bizarre how instead of worrying if your flight will make it across it’s route, we, humans, sit there for an entire trip thinking “I hope my luggage is OK at the back” and “how will I get it when the plane stops before everyone stands up” I know she was thinking that as I saw her ever so often glance backwards to see if she could see her bag. And so prevails the fight for survival, the fight for the space above your seat!