Two weeks ago, I published a post titled “Is Plane Talk Dying?” in which I asked if we, as travellers, are becoming less social on planes. This post sparked a fascinating discussion and many readers contributed their views both on this blog as well as via social media. A week later, this post was re-published on News.com.au, the leading Australian online news portal. Many more people contributed their views and I had a great time reading through the numerous comments.
So… is plane talk dying? What do the readers think?
Judging from the many responses, I’m inclined to think that we are indeed becoming a lot less social on planes for a multitude of reasons: some want a bit of ‘down time’ for themselves whilst many others simply couldn’t be bothered anymore after previous rather harrowing experiences. Many attribute it to improvements in inflight entertainment whilst others point to a broader development in today’s society, namely the rise of social media.
There were also various stories that I found very uplifting – people who met the love of their life or someone who inspired them. Phew! There’s still hope for plane talk!
Here’s a selection of some of my favourite comments sourced from both Velvet Escape and News.com.au:
I loved this little story
I’ve been wondering lately when airplanes became like libraries. It can be daunting talking to people because you feel so conspicuous. Nevertheless, in January I was on a daytime flight from Toronto to Los Angeles and ended up talking to my seatmate Eric for 5 hours! I was starting my South American odyssey and he was on his way to study veterinary medicine in New Zealand for a year and it was his first time away from home (he was 17 but by his own admission looked like he was 12.) We were both brimming with nervous energy and it was a fun, meandering conversation that seemed to bemuse our third seatmate who stayed silent throughout, but could be seen smirking from time to time. Aside from us chattering away, the rest of the plane was eerily silent. I occasionally think about Eric and wonder how he got on in NZ and whether he still has a photo of his cow on his iPhone case. – Steph
When flying isn’t fun!
I feel like I’ve had similar situations on planes these days. Usually, I bring my journal along in the plane to see if someone strikes up a conversation (begging the “what cha doing?” question). I have tried myself, but it has, at times, lead to some disastrous results.
This sums up my past experiences:
*10 hour flight Seoul to Amsterdam with a rather smelly 20 yr old.
*10 hour flight Amsterdam to Seoul with middle aged women talking to each other the whole time, while basically leaning over my seat and covering my screen the entire time. The crew wouldn’t say anything because of the honor older people are given in Korea
*5 hour flight with a guy who took up at least a seat and a half.
But I had had some pleasant flights.
*I met a girl on a flight in 2009. We didn’t speak each others language but found out we live in the same city. We exchanged info, but I lost track of her once we reached China. We actually hung out when I returned, but the magic of “meeting on a plane” had ended.
I wish I met more talkative people on planes …and that I wasnt so shy. – Julio Moreno
I remember that a guy I had a really good conversation with, later threw up on me. Is that why I stopped talking to people on planes? hahaha – Melvin Boecher
I met a really nice guy on my flight back from San Francisco in 2011. He encouraged me to continue working toward my life’s ambition, and also gave me some great inspiration. I’m so grateful for that, even if I only knew the guy for a 12 hour flight. – Ethan of Sydney
Un-social impact of social media
No body has conversations these days cause it is all done through our phones on facebook and other social media. I was having a conversation with my father about this and he said no one knows how to socialise or engage anymore, I tend to agree. The only time people will do this is drunk in a pub, chatting to someone on the train or a plane is not a regular thing you see (or hear). I have met some very interesting people on planes, however it is a bit of a skill picking the person to talk to as you don’t want a drunk or someone who just doesn’t shut up, or listen. I’ll continue to chat away. – Sean Cullen
There’s no escape!
The reason we don’t do it on planes is that if the conversation is no good you can’t escape. Its hard to say “gee look at the time, I have to run as I have an appointment to get to” hmm come to think of it, that would be an interesting thing to say to someone at 35,000 ft just to see there reaction. Gold! – Ejay of Australia
Food for thought
What a sad state of affairs. People afraid to not look at each other or engage with each other because they can’t be either bothered or are scared the other person might be a “nutjob” Have you ever stopped to think others might think YOU are the nutjob and are avoiding you? I was born and raised in the inner west in Sydney and worked for half of my life in the city where talking to the person next to you on the bus or train was something you didn’t do and we all sat their expressionless as we were transported to and from work. This article just proves that this behaviour has moved to airline travel. For the last 20 years I’ve lived in a small country tourist town and I love interaction with both people I know and visitors. When some city visitors come to town and are greeted with a simple hello they almost recoil and avoid contact. It’s almost as if the hello is unbelievable and that I must want something. We just want to say hello. The scary thing is that I acknowledge that is what I used to be like and it took living in the country to realise it. It’s a sorry world where we can’t be bothered to simply talk to a person next to you. – Snowy Mtns Man
Cheap fares, flying buses and bogans
I have been a frequent flyer ever since my 1st flight when I was 6 weeks old. I have experienced the loss of excitement about flying and lament that loss. The excitement, when shared, does make the flight more enjoyable. However, as we have now all become little more than numbers and the the experience has been downgraded to little more than travelling in a “flying” bus, the social side has also died. The major reason however is the rise of the “entertainment” options, stick on some earphones and you don’t have to talk (or listen) to your neighbour. – Mungo of Sydney
In the distant past it was something special to travel by plane…..back prior to cheap fares. Of course a pleasant conversation with an adjoin passenger was the thing. Now with the cheap fares enabling noisy, rude and common bogans to travel…..most even avoid eye contact with them, forget about conversation. – Pacific Pam
We seem to be becoming more elite, arrogant and less compassionate at about the same rate we’re overpopulating. Just bury your head in your phone and forget about being human. – Troyboy
That’s ridiculous. We probably speak to and communicate with more people in our modern lives than at any point in human history. And we get criticised because we want a bit of time to ourselves on a flight? It’s not rude or even anti-social. It’s just called getting some balance back! – Richard
Nice. I recently spent 14 hours on a plane from LA next to a couple that wouldn’t even look sideways at you. Weird, especially since we all had to sleep next to each other. I didn’t mind that much but thought it strange. It’s good to respect peoples privacy but some people take it to extremes. – PF of Perth
You can sum people up fairly quickly when you settle into an airplane seat. And most of the time, they don’t want to talk to you and you don’t want to talk to them. You can say hello, smile and settle back with earphones and book at the ready. Neither of you are exposed to the horror of 2/12/24 hours of being bored to death by someone who doesn’t know when to stop. Planes are so cramped nowadays you just have to have a bit of personal space for survival with sanity intact, and that means merciful silence when appropriate. – Primmy of Sydney
A big thank you goes to the readers who contributed their views via Velvet Escape, News.com.au and social media.
Thank you Abhishek for your comment. That’s a great point about our society post-2001.
Great post Keith and a great topic to talk about. Yes, I feel plane talk has become certainly un-sociable as we can ever get. Partly all this has started post 2001 and the war on terror phase. We as traveller have to go through hell with various security checks and the last bit is when people just need their own space to sit back and relax… All this in mind – I always make it a point to have a chat with fellow passenger on a flight 🙂 I guess social acceptance is that we live in a society where trying to spoil ones space can be sadly taken as offensive !!
Normally I sit next to my hubby on the plane, so I’m talking with him. But, when I’m traveling alone I really look forward to that alone time. I never get it at home. I’m not trying to be anti-social or rude, however I think alone time is SO important!!!