How to cope travelling with slobs, wise words in Australian Traveller mag

Stuck in the middle with you…

Clowns to the left of her, jokers to the right, Melissa Hoyer comes clean about one of her all-time pet hates: flying with slobs.

We’re all pretty good at bashing our airlines. Cancelled flights, the ’tude of out-of-whack flight attendants, lost luggage, questionable food, stuffed audio systems and the at-times, lamentable loos – complaining about these, and more, is all part and parcel of travelling.

But there are a few issues that aren’t always the fault of our much-derided airlines. I mean, how can we blame carriers for having the misfortune to carry some simply smelly and sartorially insolvent passengers? Or those with loud mouths? Or gaggles of giggling girls? Or plain old smarty-pantses?
It always stumps me, as I move through the country in the process of purveying pop culture and style, the extent to which some travellers’ mile-high clothing, quite frankly, stinks. It’s the choice of clothes that astounds me the most.

Sure, I’m all for comfy in-flight clothing but can someone tell me how a pair of rubber thongs or a strapless party dress constitutes even vaguely comfy, smart plane attire? How would you ever expect to be considered for an upgrade (okay, they hardly happen anyway) if your plastic flip-flops are so down at heel you may as well have gone barefoot?

It’s no wonder ground staff and flight attendants treat some passengers with slight disdain. Checking in a gang of baby boomers reeking of booze and fags as they parade their stubbies, singlets, thongs and muffin-front bellies can’t be that pretty for any Qantas, Jetstar, V Australia or Tiger staffie.

Or how about the incessant chattering passenger we’ve all been stuck next to at some stage?

The man or woman who WILL NOT SHUT UP. No matter whether you feign sleep, no English, an anxiety attack or complete lack of interest, they still go on and on and on with their travel ramblings and tedious references to the weather. Yes, it was a hot day today in Melbourne. And your point is?

I also don’t understand passengers with giant carry-ons. One guy recently brought on board the biggest roll-on bag I’d ever seen. It seems that hand luggage is allowed on depending on its size ratio to the person carrying it. If I, as a rather petite thing, had attempted to bring this humongous bag on board, I’d have been told it was a total no-go. But this guy paced the aisles searching for a big enough overhead locker space before proceeding to take five minutes to cram it in as we all looked on, surprised at the enormity of his gear. And his gut, for that matter.

Which brings me to a more recent journey, a midday flight from Brisbane to Sydney, when I really hit the jet-set style jackpot. To the left of me, a clown so riddled with the smell of booze and fags I was nearly dry retching (and as a former social smoker, I can say this with some experience). To the right of me and across the aisle, a joker radiating so much body odour it could have fuelled the plane’s 65-minute journey. I tried to avoid either but, alas: my head would turn left, and voila, it was like smelling what I used to smell like coming home from a night of clubbing; while recoiling to the right simply brought me back in range of the kind of body odour normally associated with a crew of pimply, pubescent boys.

So how did I address my fellow passenger issues on this packed plane? Well, I kind of didn’t. Not verbally anyway. But I did take another approach. I whipped out my current favourite scent, Tom Ford’s delectable Black Orchid, and dabbed some beneath my nostrils. Sort of a Vicks VapoRub approach, only with a price tag and without the burn. Although I did wonder if my fellow passengers were then secretly complaining about my scent.

So next time you’re thinking about pulling an airline apart – and sure, we’ll all still do it, and most of the time with some good reason – have a think about the commuters we’re all forced to travel with. Unless it becomes legal for staff to perform cleanliness checks, we’re all stuck with the smellies, the smokers and the jokers.

Perhaps airlines should forgo the white chocolate and macadamia cookies and supply smelling salts, travel-sized deodorant and scent samplers. That way, while we might not always arrive with our luggage, at least we’d land with our olfactory senses intact.