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Passenger Shaming: A Jerk Move?

Passenger Shaming: A Jerk Move?
Ariana Arghandewal

We’ve all seen those photos on Twitter, Instagram, and everywhere in between: A passenger in a bulkhead seat is sticking his bare feet against the wall while reading his US Weekly. Or maybe the feet are sticking out between the seats. Or perhaps it’s a distressed person seemingly re-packing their luggage at the airport. These images of passengers behaving in a baffling manner are fairly common and, let’s face it, hilarious. But is posting them a jerk move? Sometimes, yes.

What Does #PassengerShaming Accomplish?

We’ve all seen that video of a passenger trying to shove his carry-on bag vertically into the overhead bin. It’s actually kind of baffling because he’s fairly tall and should be able to see the problem. He doesn’t and has to be assisted by a flight attendant. Someone recorded the incident and posted it online. It went viral and even major news networks played it on the air. But what did sharing that video accomplish?

I understand posting photos of people misbehaving might help others figure out what’s acceptable in a public space. But embarrassing someone who is struggling with a simple task is just downright mean. And unnecessary, because all it accomplishes in the end is humiliating someone.

We all have our moments – how would you feel if one of them was posted on the internet and replayed for others to laugh at over and over again? The idea that we’re now posting videos of people’s humiliating moments as if we’ve never had one ourselves is just obnoxious.

Who Really Needs Calling Out?

Don’t get me wrong – I can take a joke. And if I see someone humiliating themselves, I will probably laugh and tell others about it. I just don’t think it’s right to photograph or video them and share it with others. Especially if it invades their privacy and makes them easily identifiable. I will make an exception for behavior that needs to be called out. If someone is behaving in an inconsiderate manner towards others or being rude, racist, misogynistic then I don’t object to shaming them. Witnessing bad behavior rather than hearing about it is more effective in 1.) addressing it and 2.) teaching others (and ourselves) a lesson in how not to behave.

Better Options?

It’s easy to point the finger at other people for acting “out of the norm” and talk about it. It’s more constructive if that behavior is addressed. So rather than pointing and laughing or broadcasting a passenger’s embarrassing or obnoxious behavior on the internet, try addressing ti directly. “Excuse me sir. Can you please move your bare feet away from my head? We’re in a public space and it’s probably best we all keep our socks on.” That’s way more sarcastic and shady than necessary, but then again I can be a jerk too. ;) More effective than shaming someone publicly would be to educate them. And if you are going to share videos and photos of their shame, respect their privacy and block out their faces.
What are your thoughts on passenger shaming? Do you think it’s OK or a total jerk move?


[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

View Comments (15)


  1. ioto1902

    September 15, 2018 at 2:58 am

    Passenger shaming is totally OK. Some behave really as if they were at home, while being in a public space.
    On the other side, making fum of someone is tricky, as it may hurt. Personally, I don’t mind people laughing at me if I do something stupid, but I fully understand that some may get hurt.

  2. Snuggs

    September 15, 2018 at 3:00 am

    Not getting the point of the passive aggressiveness. You obviously feel that ‘shaming’ makes you a jerk. I do understand the frustration of folks feeling the need to lash out, as you intimate yourself. Posting these pics is a way to do so express their feelings. It also potentially achieves another goal that while you suggest, you mock…education. Someone putting their feet on a tray probably is not going to respond well to ‘education’.

  3. aviatorzz

    September 15, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    In a nutshell, if you have to be told to not place your bare feet near someone else, or placing them on a bulkhead/traytable/headrest, chances are you aren’t going to be having an epiphany by having someone tell you not to do that. Also, if you don’t know how placing a piece of baggage into an overhead bin, and in the example above, and it’s clearly not fitting, you should probably be out in public. We all have our faults, but people are taught that disgusting behavior (from a very early age) is acceptable (eg cutting nails on an airplane/in the open seating area in any airline club, feet okay on everything) it’s hard to teach/train an old dog new tricks.

  4. jazgeek

    September 15, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    not shaming them will empower them to continue to do socially unacceptable things on airplanes and airports. These are public area’s, not their homes. I fly a lot and I’ve witnessed some horrific public displays of disgusting habits.

    if a post of a pair of bare feet on a bulkhead wall will prevent someone or at least give them second thought about doing that, aren’t we bettering the airways by not spreading their fungus around?

  5. JackE

    September 15, 2018 at 9:06 pm

    And you shared the video? SMH.

  6. BobNoxious

    September 17, 2018 at 9:51 am

    It is totally ok. Reminds us not to do these things.

  7. J S

    September 17, 2018 at 11:32 am

    Just to be clear: You think it was wrong to share the video of the person struggling to get his bag into the overhead (I agree)…and then you went and reshared that video with every one of your readers?

    Is it wrong to be a hypocrite?

  8. Cathchawave

    September 17, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Because of a photo my husband took innocently, we learned a shameful lesson about taking people’s photos for the sake of our fun. We were on a Christmas harbor cruise and the night was pretty chilly. One of the passengers was seated with all but his eyes covered–heavy jacket, scarf, hat. We ignorantly did not consider all the possibilities and just assumed that he was taking an extreme, kind of funny approach to the cold. Heck, we were cold as well. And we thought it was funny. When we were disembarking, one of the man’s relatives came up to my husband and told him that he hoped that my husband had a good time making fun of his relative and that his relative was very ill. I could see the hurt in the man’s eyes. I can still see it. My husband immediately apologized and said that he didn’t know the man was ill. But the relative of the man was still emotional and another relative led him away. So (deep breath), I will not take any photos to make fun of anyone. I don’t know their mental or physical abilities. I don’t know if they are returning from an all-night vigil at their dying relatives bedside. I think too many of us now look at the world through lenses of how the scene before us will play on social media; the people we film or shoot are merely there to amuse us. I still feel such shame about that incident on the boat.

  9. ChrisHaynesUSA

    September 17, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Some people do not belong in public.
    If these public shaming sway one person not to do the same in public it is worth it to me the frequent traveler.
    some people do not learn , nor respond to behavioral request.

  10. Lakeviewsteve

    September 17, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    I think it is fine to shame those who impose their “grossness” on others. Just looking at that pictures with the girl with dirty toenails is disgusting.

  11. NoleATL

    September 17, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    So, you post the pictures and videos here? That wasn’t necessary for the article.

  12. pointchaser

    September 17, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    @Cathchawave your story is a good example of how we shouldn’t make assumptions about people – esp the part about people’s mental capabilities. Thanks for sharing and being compassionate.

  13. jmayo

    September 17, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    There is a line that has been crossed when someone treats a public space as if it is not a shared experience. Especially, as others have pointed out, when it comes to your bare feet in or on shared/public space. Feet on a wall? Come on, put your dirty shoes or feet on the floor. Bare feet on a tray table? Disgusting and wrong. They should be asked to deplane, as far as I’m concerned.

  14. raytseng

    September 18, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    The guise that posting is to shame the other person is thin at best. The poster doesn’t want the target to know they posted, they want the hiddenness/anonymity.
    Ultimately the people are posting for THEMSELVES more than the issue, and to get likes or views or attention to the perceived slight.

    It’s quickly a slippery slope when that guise of making improvements is dropped and it purely becomes a wicked thing poking fun at ugly people or other basic bullying.

  15. mc4bbs


    October 4, 2018 at 7:44 am

    With any form of “shaming” something is said of the shamer as well as the shamee.

    Some of the things I’ve seen in #PassengerShaming are really minor and are a matter of opinion, not worthy of shaming. For example, an adult changing in to and wearing pyjamas on an overnight flight should be acceptable. Pissing on the floor in a lav is NOT acceptable.

    If you think #PassengerShaming will change behaviour, you’re sadly mistaken. If anything, it will increase the level of frustration felt by the pax who have been prodded by TSA, jammed into a tiny seat with barely any recline who have been nickelled and dimed through the entire process of booking a flight. Some of the bad behaviour you see is a direct result of how pax are treated. If you treat pax like shit, they will very likely behave badly getting what little revenge they can on the airline’s bottom line.

    If anything, #PassengerShaming should focus on “self upgrades” and truly reprehensible behaviour — not the poor lady who’s struggling with three small carry-ons.

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