Indians have a really bad reputation when it comes to air travel.
After an Emirates flight from Kerala made a hard landing in Dubai last month, an ex-flight attendant referred to the panicked passenger as an “untameable bunch” on Facebook as videos emerged of them rushing to grab their luggage in the midst of the emergency.
The post was slammed for its racist and insensitive undertones. Yet disgruntled flight attendants are a regular sight for frequent flyers from India. Question and answer site Quora looks into the reasons why.
Many Indian passengers, especially ones travelling to the Middle East, are first-time flyers from socio-economic classes that have limited exposure to air travel. The lack of awareness of protocol and etiquette associated with aeroplanes can explain why passengers rush to grab luggage the second a flight lands instead of remaining seated until the seatbelt sign is turned off.
One Quora user Maazin Bhuari says, “A lot of the time, (on flights to the Middle East especially), the passengers on board these flights will be migrant workers who are travelling to earn a livelihood in the city they are flying to. Often they are of a lower socio-economic background, will be carrying all or a significant amount of their possessions with them, and are not used to frequent air travel.”
Quora user Sri Ka notes that often Indian passengers are unfamiliar with in-flight behavioural norms.
“For example, practically no Indian uses cutlery at home—they eat with their fingers—but the flights are not suitable for such a lifestyle as they are not designed with sufficient hand-wash facilities so one is forced awkwardly to eat with cutlery, that too the plastic ones. It is quite difficult. Similarly, the toilets in the flights are nowhere near like the toilets in Indian homes and many Indians, particularly first-timers, do not even know how to use paper instead of water. When people are forced to do something unnatural for them, they are likely to fumble and make a mess.”
Yet inconsiderate behaviour is common even among frequent travellers.
Supreeth Shankarghal, a self-described frequent flyer and aviation enthusiast, identifies some of the worst offences Indians are known for. These include insisting on placing their baggage in the overhead compartments of their choice, stealing cutlery, headphones and blankets, not turning off their phones when required, ogling at air hostesses and other female passengers, moving from their seats when the seatbelt sign is on – especially when the plane is still taxiing and getting drunk on the free alcohol served on board.
Another Quora uses, Buzzlair Voufincci notes rude and entitled regular travellers as the ones who are most offensive.
“They would explicitly say to the flight attendant, ‘I am a doctor’ to get treatment above all the others on board,” he wrote, adding that some even said things like “I know your CEO personally” or even “I pay for the seat, and the compartment above me, it’s my space.”
For Voufincci, it’s India’s “huge income gap” that leads to this “inflated ego.”
This post originally appeared on Quartz India.