Wednesday, May 06, 2020

The unruly Indian flier is about to get a crash course in airport civility thanks to Covid

We all know the typical Indian flier who cares little about protocol. They crowd around an aeroplane’s exit gates, don’t stand behind the yellow line at security checks and jump from their seats the second the plane lands. There’s always that absurd moment when both plane exits are choked with people and the doors are yet to open. I’ve always wanted to shout – Why can’t we all just sit down?

The Indian flier is definitely in for a crash course in airport civility
Delhi airport recently unveiled its plans for resuming operations after the lockdown, which seem to hinge on social distancing guidelines. For one, people will have to maintain a reasonable distance with each other in check-in queues. This means no more chatting around in Kumbaya circles in the middle of queues or ramming a trolley into the person in front of you because you were too busy on your phone. This alone will be a lesson on respecting personal space. Perhaps, even those lonely self-check-in kiosks will get more attention. They always seem to be collecting dust while check-in queues grow longer.

Mask-clad staff, staggered check-in queues, ultraviolet disinfection tunnels for baggage: this is the future of flying. But if there’s one thing these depressingly clinical precautions will do for good is tame the typical Indian flier.
All this won’t just take the fun out of air travel but also take the ‘Indian’ out of the Indian flier.

From getting drunk before boarding and misbehaving with crew to smoking in plane bathrooms to pushing and kicking co-passengers – Indians don’t have the best reputation for flight etiquette. Take for example the incident in January this year: a video of a bunch of unruly Air India passengers knocking on the cockpit door and taunting the pilots went viral. Apparently, they were annoyed at the delayed take-off.

And it’s parliamentarians too. Who can forget the scene BJP MP Pragya Thakur made in December last year when she delayed the flight, refusing to move from an emergency row seat, which is not meant for wheelchair passengers.

Now, if masks are made mandatory in airports and people are less inclined to touch others, drunken brawls and tantrums may all subside. With a facial obstruction, the noisy Indian flier (another avatar of the typical Indian flier) is going to have a hard time shouting, screeching or being loud in any form. It may just give power to the term “silent airport”.
06/05/20 Pia Krishnankutty/Print
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