Dirty diapers, bare feet, tobacco spit: Former flight attendant shares passenger horror stories

5d83bb9648cbe rawImage
5d83bb9648cbe rawImage

Every flight attendant has stories.

What separates retired flight attendant Shawn Kathleen, though, is that she also has pictures.

Kathleen — who spent seven years flying in and out of SFO and OAK for more than one domestic airline — is the tour de force behind @passengershaming, an Instagram account that showcases people on airplanes who’ve all but given up on being part of humanity. (Don’t believe me? Flip through the slideshow above and try not to lose it.)

“People leave dirty diapers, soda bottles full of spit from chewing tobacco, underwear, banana peels,” Kathleen recounts. “They let their kids put stickers all over the tray table and the window — it’s like, I have two minutes to clean this off before the next set of passengers board. Great.”

A former police officer and paramedic, Kathleen has seen virtually everything in the not-always-so-friendly skies, but her biggest pet peeves are still some of the most common for frequent fliers.

“When you’re boarding, there are 100 people behind you, start unloading your luggage ahead of time, if you’re gonna need this sweater get it out before you get to your seat,” she says. “Have your stuff prepared before you get on, have the things you need in an outside pocket.

“Then there’s the guy who walks on the plane with their bag, and the first place they see that’s empty they put it in there, then walk back to the 24th row. That’s kind of messing it up for the whole rest of the plane — obviously there’s room back there, you see all the empty bins, but then people sitting up here now don’t have space and have to put their luggage back there. There’s even the guy who will throw it in the first-class bin.”

Kathleen’s Instagram account, which is now at 992,000 followers, takes these pretty average annoyances to another level though, with myriad bare feet (“keep your socks on, no bare feet ever”), bare feet on the bulkhead (“it’s a $100 million airplane you don’t own, those things break or bend or bow and then that plane can’t go anywhere — that’s a good 6 hour delay”), and even a handful of people changing babies on seats (“No no no no — 99% of lavatories have a changing table”).

And Kathleen has a pretty simple fix for most of them: common sense.

“Here’s a really big one: not impeding on the working space of the flight attendants. There’s only an aisle and a couple galleys. That’s my office, when you come to the back galley and we’re trying to pull out 250-lb. stocked carts, and preparing to pull it through the cabin, and you come back there and you start doing galley yoga bulls—, we have a problem,” she says.

“Just general spatial awareness. A lot of passengers follow this, some don’t care or think about it. You see flight attendants pushing that cart get to the very front of economy and then the person one row behind you goes to the bathroom. And then they come back, and we have to pull it all the way back and suddenly you do that 18 times, and people in last row are screwed when it comes to getting drinks. Know you’re not the only person on the airplane, drop the entitlement stuff.”

Her biggest passenger trigger, though? Everyone on the entire plane standing up as soon as the airplane gets to the gate.

“Really it’s a few minutes, the door is not open, the jetbridge is not at the aircraft, and you need to understand that that 18-inch wide aisle is not equipped to handle 200 people standing in it,” she says. “It’s just like church, when it gets to my row then I stand up, I get my bag, quick and easy, and guess what: I’m still alive. Those extra 4 minutes never killed me. I get that your feet hurt, that your leg and back hurt, but what about everybody else?”

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