Jelly snakes on a plane

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

A re­cent Aero­plane Eti­quette Study by Ex­pe­dia.com has re­sulted in a list of the “worst type of air­line pas­sen­ger”, from The Seat-Back Guy to The Arm­rest Hog. While there are few sur­prises, The Aro­matic Pas­sen­ger was the worst night­mare for 55 per cent of re­spon­dents. I am guess­ing these of­fend­ers are not just guilty of go­ing amok with cologne testers in the air­port duty-free stores but could be on the frankly whiffy side.

It is in­trigu­ing, too, to see Pun­gent Food­ies of­fend­ing 30 per cent but are these gal­lop­ing gourmets who board with lit­tle pic­nic bas­kets and pro­ceed to roll out the Mun­ster cheese and onion mar­malade? Or do they just reek of last week’s bouil­l­abaisse?

There must be dozens of such lists but the eter­nal pest is the chat­ter­box. We’ve all been seated next to mouthy types who in­tro­duce them­selves the minute they sit and pro­ceed to talk about their life his­to­ries, fre­quent flyer plans and how much their ticket has cost, which sod’s law dic­tates will have been tons cheaper than yours and if you are in a premium cabin, and paid hand­somely for your seat, they will have been up­graded at the gate.

I was think­ing of the sur­vey and that type of trav­eller last Fri­day as I took a train trip of about 75 min­utes north from Syd­ney’s Central ter­mi­nus and, hor­rors, there were no seats left in the des­ig­nated quiet car­riages. So I had to go to the gas­bag com­part­ment where phones trilled and pas­sen­gers yapped at fever pitch. It made me re­alise I would pay ex­tra for a seat in a quiet zone, train or plane.

So, air­lines, how about it. With sleeper pods and civilised touches in first and busi­ness-class cab­ins, there would be lit­tle need for such mea­sures. But why not take a zone in econ­omy class and sec­tion it off for those who do not want to speak or be spo­ken to. En­force volume con­trol on head­phones to sup­press the kind of am­bi­ent noise that sug­gests a zil­lion ci­cadas are on the loose. Is­sue gags, if nec­es­sary, like the Ja­panese air­lines that hand out sur­gi­cal masks to those with colds and snif­fles.

Ah, but then there are the snor­ers and snuf­flers. So we would need a pil­low menu with an anti-snore model. Would cir­cu­lat­ing a tray of nose pegs be im­po­lite? Cabin staff could com­mu­ni­cate with pas­sen­gers via nods and smiles, Ja­panese-in­spired bows and the odd whis­pered com­ment. Leap­ing up on a night flight and open­ing and then bang­ing shut the over­head lock­ers would also be taboo. And why hasn’t some­one in­vented a noise­less catch, a pres­sure pad per­haps, that en­ables those com­part­ments to be closed po­litely and rea­son­ably silently?

Chil­dren would be al­lowed but only with strict parental con­trol. Most ju­nior jet­set­ters, even tod­dlers, seem glued to their baby iPads and var­i­ous de­vices and rarely con­verse. On last week’s train, as we cleared the in­nercity sta­tions and seats emp­tied, I swapped to a quiet car­riage and then a school­boy promptly flopped be­side me. He looked about eight and was beau­ti­fully man­nered, as it turned out. He pro­duced a packet of jelly snakes and pro­ceeded to chew and chew. It was a sooth­ing, all-con­sum­ing sound and made me smile. “Here you are,” he said, wav­ing a red one at me. Oh yes, don’t mind if I do.

You can’t speak, ac­tu­ally, with a mouth­ful of gela­tine. So, jelly snakes on a plane? Might not be such a stretch.

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