I always take the pre-boarding courtesy afforded by Southwest for individuals with disabilities. While I don’t consider myself to be disabled, I have come to accept that the extra time to get situated is not only beneficial for me but also for my fellow passengers. As an added bonus, I am allowed to pick the seat of my choice, which is a benefit I don’t take lightly!
I boarded early and took a seat by the window in the third row of the plane. I deliberately chose to sit towards the front of the plane becauseI had plans of disembarking as quickly as possible. After a wonderfully exhausting and emotional visit with my Dad, all I wanted to do was hug my kids and kiss my husband.
After I was situated, I settled in and watched my fellow passengers begin to filter through the aisles. An elderly gentleman was struggling to put his luggage in the overhead compartment. Just as I was preparing to stand up to help, I witnessed an exchange which left me disgusted. In fact, the interaction haunted me the entire flight.
A younger (probably early 20’s) man who was also considerably stronger, took the opportunity to berate the elderly passenger. Instead of offering to help, which would have only taken a moment of his time and would have certainly expedited clearing the aisles, he proceeded to ridicule and chastise the senior citizen.
“Hurry up and get in your seat. You’re blocking the aisle,” the rude whipper-snapper loudly barked.
The man, now looking increasingly frail and obviously embarrassed, softly said, “I’m trying to get my bag in the overhead compartment. I pre-boarded because I knew it would take me more time. Please be patient with me, I hurt my shoulder and my wife isn’t feeling well today.”
Without missing a beat the younger man, and I use that only to describe his gender because he certainly didn’t possess the manners and civility I expect to accompany that descriptor, continued with his chastising. “Maybe you shouldn’t be flying old timer. Hurry up and sit down.”
I saw the look of despair flush over the face of what had previously been a proud man. I quickly grabbed the bag and placed it in the overhead compartment. As soon as they were settled in their seats the rude young man pushed his way through the aisle and disappeared into the back of the plane
I spent the remainder of the flight kicking myself for not speaking up to defend the couple. While I did help, I regret not doing more. I hate that I continue to become intimidated by verbal confrontation!