‘Always Flush And Don’t Be An A**hole’. Meet The Air Stewardess Who Thinks It’s Ok To Shame Disgusting Passengers

Shawn Kathleen insists RantsOfASassyStew.com isn't abusive – it's social commentary. We're less sure


by Debrief Staff |
Published on

In this busy, bustling world there are some situations where we’re forced to spend time with strangers and all their habits. And if we’re trying to traverse this busy, bustling world there are situations, like planes, where we’ll have to spend up to 14 hours crammed into a tiny space with a bunch of strangers and all their visceral tics and habits. And despite the old-school idea of planes being these fancy, slick lounges where women politely sip from martini glasses and the most foot you’ll see on a man is his cashmere sock under a fine blue suit, the reality is different.

The threat of DVT (blood clots from sitting in one place for hours on end), the fact you’re flying for an entire night and the way you’re kind of encouraged to get comfortable as possible within your designated cubic centimetres (what else are the pillows, blankets and reclining seats for?) means that people will get slobberingly familiar with their plane space. Socks will be flung off and increasingly creative ways of contorting a body around the fold-away table will be employed as people seek to snuggle in for the evening and watch holographic edited films.

Apparently this behaviour – the overfamiliarity with the cold plastic surrounds, if you like – can agitate people. Not only the fellow passengers who have to share their personal space, but the cabin crew. The employees who have to tidy up after these passengers or settle disputes when one passenger's got their feet all over another's chair, are getting so annoyed, in fact, that some are now uploading photos of passengers' bad behaviour on a dedicated Facebook group designed to 'shame' them.

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Passenger Shaming is run by Shawn Kathleen, an ex-air stewardess who blogs about her time at 30,000ft and those believe-it-or-not stories of bizarre things happening up in the sky. Other cabin crew thought she might be the right person to shame their errant passengers, so she collated the best images she recieved, and put them into a Facebook group. Now anyone can go on and upload their own photos of people 'acting like assholes' on planes.

'People know that I don’t cut people a lot of slack about that nonsense, so they sent me that stuff because they know I will call people out about it,' Shawn told The Debrief why she started the site in the first place.

But when people are invited to comment on the photos and have a go at these 'assholes' for e.g. changing a baby on the tarmac next to a plane, it all gets a bit... mean. Last week, the site had 17,000 likes, now it has a whopping 167,000 likes, that's an increase of 150,000 since news first broke of the Faebook group. And the more people who join, the meaner the group gets. Passengers think they're doing something in front of a select few people but then get their barely-censored faces uploaded where they can be laughed at and mocked.

The page has its own supporting Instagram account, where only Shawn can upload the images. Here, there are pictures of the piles of rubbish (sometimes including used knickers) that fliers leave behind for the cabin crew to pick up. We concede that it’s not fair for people working on planes to deal with this sort of crap. Literal crap, sometimes. Like in the case of a child whose parents have deemed the aisle a suitable place to put its potty as it makes toilet. But surely, it's still wrong to use social media – a mass medium broadcasting to over a hundred thousand people – to shame just one, solitary person, doing a teeny tiny thing wrong? She must know that, after all, she blurred out the toddler on a potty's face before uploading it.

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Shawn is quick to defend herself. ‘Children are out of the equation. And we don’t shame people for their weight or clothes. 99% of the stuff we use and focus on [on the site] is the obvious behaviours where [passengers are] doing the worst stuff. You have a child on a port-a potty in the middle of the aisle. Can you imagine if you were that guy who’s paid however many hundreds of dollars for your ticket and there’s this toddler sitting next to you taking a shit?’ she argues.

It’s a bit gross, yep. We also get that it’s a double standard that cabin crew must always look their best as walking, talking, coffee-pouring adverts for the plane's service, while customers are increasingly slobbing out. But we don’t understand why people are singled out for taking their tops off or wearing hair curlers. Shawn insists she turns down ‘around half’ of content submitted because it’s inappropriate: ‘But sometimes outfits go with behaviour. You’re standing there and a 28-year-old woman walks on the plane wearing full-on pyjamas. Or a 45-year-old man walks on the plane and he’s wearing a cut-off shirt and the arms are cut down to the waist and you can see his whole side on show.’

We’ve all experienced some sort of behaviour that goes against what we deem comfortable – mouth breathers, someone who constantly tosses and turns in their seat, the Chinese water torture method replicated by a child kicking your chair at inconsistant intervals – but why does Shawn thinks this happens? ‘I wish I had an answer as to why. In my world it’s so abhorrent, you would never dare to, at home, do half of the things people do on airplanes, like removing socks or take your bare feet and put it on an arm rest inbetween two people, or up on a wall.’ In the same breath, she adds: ‘I feel like saying "this is not your living room!"'

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Maybe it’s that we’ve always had a problem with passengers misbehaving, we just haven’t had the means – digital cameras, social media – to publicise our woes. Shawn agrees that things have changed. 'You notice with older people, they dress up for a flight. By the way, I’ve only done this post 9/11 and before that it was a whole different situation.’

But there's also a whiff of that tired adage that things-were-better-in-the-olden-days about her complaints. 'Flush the toilet. Nobody flushes the toilet. When I signed up to be a flight attendant, I didn’t sign up to flush your… stuff. That’s not in my job description,' she says before offering a piece of advice: 'Keep your socks on… don’t go to the lavatory with bare feet, that’s not water on the floor.'

Which is all well and good. But can we also consider that asking someone to get their feet away from you might work more effectively, and be more proportionate than taking a photo to be uploaded to a Facebook group full of strangers the moment you get a Wifi connection on holiday? Using your hand-held camera with a pixellation of a few thousand to take photos of someone on your half-a-grand flight doing something a little bit annoying but will soon deem them an ‘asshole’ forever across the internet… well, sounds like entitlement to us.

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Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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