Entertainment Style Kirstie Clements: Flying cattle class doesn’t mean you can act like a pig

Kirstie Clements: Flying cattle class doesn’t mean you can act like a pig

International travel has changed with the outbreak of coronavirus – but there's still room for manners. Photo: AAP
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The coronavirus epidemic has changed everything about international travel, and flying through Asia this week has been an eye-opener.

On my flight from Sydney, via Bangkok to Bhutan, both travellers and staff everywhere were taking the threat seriously; it was rare to see someone without a mask, and hand sanitiser was in every bathroom and customs screening station. 

Anyone who has been around for a while looks back on the bygone rules and behaviours of international travel with horror and in disbelief.

Passengers used to be able to smoke on the plane, dear God. People were allowed to get fall down drunk in the departure lounge bar, board legless, and then order double scotches all the way from Sydney to London.

Sanity began to prevail, starting with the banning of cigarettes and the policing of alcohol consumption, but personal hygiene has always been hard to police, and so many people are shameless.

We all have out stories of fellow passengers from hell – my favourite was on a red-eye flight back from Denpasar. I had booked an economy ticket in the front row for more legroom.

The young guy next to me slipped off his thongs and then put his grime caked feet up on the wall, those feet having just been tattooed so that they were pretty much an open sore.

I also never really got over the guy who boarded the plane in Brisbane in bare feet. I can’t fathom how you leave the house without shoes, let alone think that’s a great look for interstate travel.

People cough on you, blow their nose and drop the tissues on the floor, walk to and from the toilets bare-foot and then put them up on a seat.

The Instagram account @Passengershaming shows the worst of humanity, and the way people behave as if they are in their own lounge room, using their dirty feet to change the movie screen, draping long hair over the back of the seat, drying underpants under the air nozzle, practising yoga up the wall.

The airline lounges can impose the dress rules they like regarding the banning of flip flops and sports leggings, but all bets are off once you’re in your seat and your neighbour has slipped into pyjamas and slipped their dry, cracked feet out of their shoes.

People were amused when supermodel Naomi Campbell shared her travel tips which included wiping every available surface, from the trays to the TV screen to the overhead controls with Dettol wipes and putting a paper cover on her business class seat, but no-one is laughing now.

Where members of a travel group would once share face masks and hand creams and lip balm, we are now all passing around handbag size hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes and spare masks. 

This new approach to cleanliness and hygiene during travel is, hopefully, something that will remain, as we become more mindful of our shared responsibility when it comes to health practices. And our manners.

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