Why flight attendants dislike Indian travellers

Published: September 10, 2018
Air India flight hoestesses. PHOTO:REUTERS

Air India flight hoestesses. PHOTO:REUTERS

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.

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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.”

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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.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Libra
    Sep 10, 2018 - 12:39PM

    Attitude of Indians is in-civilized everywhere not only in flights. Recommend

  • bsdetector
    Sep 10, 2018 - 12:55PM

    And, they love Pakistanis! True story.Recommend

  • Syedpk
    Sep 10, 2018 - 2:27PM

    we have the same issues with fellow Pakistani passengers, we are just a bit better in one aspect, i.e. the use of WC, which is alot more common in Pakistan as compared to India where squating toilet is still the norm.
    other than that us Pakistanis have the same problem, havent flown on Indian bound flights, but the flights from and to Pakistan at the end are always full of rubbish like literally everywhere.Recommend

  • Lilly
    Sep 10, 2018 - 2:36PM

    True to every word in this article. Kudos!Recommend

  • NKhan
    Sep 10, 2018 - 4:04PM

    The same could be said about Pakistanis, it is unfair to single out Indians. I have traveled on a flight from the Middle East to Lahore where Pakistani migrant workers were travelling home for Eid. I saw similar behavior among the passengers and I saw flight attendants looking fed up and miserable. I found the journey and behavior of these passengers uncomfortable but I did my best to control any arrogant thoughts and instead be grateful for what life had given me. I also tried to remember how terribly these workers are sometimes treated by their Arab employers but are forced to bear it quietly in order to provide for their families.Recommend

  • Fly
    Sep 10, 2018 - 4:39PM

    Who cares what flight attendants say…..they would be thrown out if they don’t do their job. Poor work ethics by emirate staff.Recommend

  • kp
    Sep 10, 2018 - 10:17PM

    If you travels with Welders, Plumbers, Electricians, Carpenters than you can not expect high civic manners, Same applies for Pakistanis as well. Be rational. I have seen worst behaviors of Caucasian Electricians, Fitters as well. illogical storyRecommend

  • Saul Goodman
    Sep 10, 2018 - 11:34PM

    So now a couple of answers on Quora by unreliable sources qualifies as as a norm for 1.3 billion Indians? Great! Recommend

  • Sohail Amir
    Sep 11, 2018 - 3:35AM

    India/Pakistani air travelers are the same. The socio-economic factors are irrelevant. I have seen Desi travelers o be rude to the cabin crew, they let children act miserably on the flights and that is common even at events and other gatherings. They stand up when the plane taxis to the gate. They bring way too much on baggage then complain. I see at airport check in they will cram the person at the counter will give no privacy and get in the wrong at the immigration and always bother the cabin crew for extra food! Recommend

  • BrainBro
    Sep 11, 2018 - 9:16AM

    This is true and their caste system plays a role here.Recommend

  • waqas khan
    Sep 11, 2018 - 9:57AM

    Every Indian in the comment section is trying to humiliate Pakistanis as well, when you should be first accepting your drawbacks. I as a Pakistani agrees that most of us are not civilized but first all of us needs to fix ourselves then put fingers on other people.Recommend

  • arlo
    Dec 31, 2018 - 9:02PM

    The reason they have introduced Premier Class between very costly Business Class and Economy Class like Inter Class in Trains.
    But ground reality is overlooked Most going to. ME first time remind me of slave ships from Africa to America. Don’t expect civilized manners from the primitive bunch. Emirate has to tolerate such inconvenience for hauling cheap labor.Recommend

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