Warning:Ugly Malaysians on board!

In this morning’s news, I read that a supermodel was escorted off a flight by police after she was reported as “being disruptive” on a flight.

The premium seats are capped in Red in the rows ahead
This report struck a familiar chord and I just wish that our carriers have stricter rules and regulations – and train the cabin crew to enforce them – so that it will deter obnoxious passengers from disturbing the peace and comfort for others in the shared space in the cabin.  Here’s my recent unpleasant experience with passengers from hell:

I had a holiday break with my sisters in Vietnam recently but our flight experience was utterly spoiled by a group of obnoxious Malaysian travellers whose bad behaviour deeply embarrassed us particularly when it was also witnessed by foreign passengers.  The carrier’s tagline, Now everyone can fly, truly encourages everyone to travel but being frequent travellers does not justify rude and despicable behaviour.  It was a great pity that such travellers do not understand basic travel etiquette in being mindful of invading other passengers’ private space.

I’m compelled to share this because I witnessed how they made such a nuisance of themselves in two flights that we shared, to and back from Vietnam.  After we took off from KLIA, my sisters and I were quietly reading and dozing until we were rudely awakened by loud talking.  I opened my eyes to see a group of men standing in a circle literally around us, talking and laughing at the top of their voices in Hokkien dialect!

I knew they were trouble because when we boarded, some of them tried to move from their economy seats to the premium seats but the stewardess politely asked them to shift back to their own seats.  From the way they were talking, they certainly had no consideration for the comfort of other passengers.  So I did not hesitate to press the call button and when a steward responded, I asked if he could find us seats in the rear of the cabin, away from these noisy people.

He went away to check and came back with a disappointing reply because the flight was full and there were no available seats for us.  Resigned to our situation, I asked the steward to please tell those men to pipe down.  The steward was aware of our predicament but he simply told the men to (and I quote), “slow sikit.”

I wished he could have spoken more assertively and with more authority to make those men see that they were disturbing the peace in the cabin which was shared with other passengers.  I knew that staring at them would not work but I still looked at them in wonder because the Ugly Malaysian has reared its head so soon into our flight.  Shortly after that, the group broke up and returned to their seats where they continued talking loudly to each other across the aisle.

My sisters and I, in happier moments, at the start of
our return flight from Danang to KL
On our return flight, our economy seats were in the first row behind the premium seats.  After a delightfully memorable experience in Vietnam, my sisters and I were ready to settle into our seats for a comfortable flight home.  Just as the aircraft was preparing for take-off, we heard loud talking in Hokkien dialect and our eldest sister clutched my arm as she turned to me with eyes wide with horror because she instantly recognised the voice of that obnoxious passenger from our flight there.  

At first I did not see him because the opposite aisle seat was occupied by a Caucasian lady but when she moved away probably to find another seat, I recognised his distinctive long fingernails and chunky gold bracelet and necklace.

Then he moved into the premium seat in front and encouraged his friends to do likewise.  When the stewardess politely asked him to move back to his own seat, he gave obstinate excuses.  The stewardess patiently explained that these were premium seats rated at a higher price and he immediately whipped out a stack of money and started to count them out, as if to prove that he could well afford to pay the difference.  She however, told him that their carrier required pre-booking and could not accept any payment from him and again requested him to move back to his own seat.

I was sure he knew that he could not have his way but still refused to budge and arrogantly told her, “Wah hati shiok baru saya tukar.”  His ego was obviously dented and to save face, he told the stewardess that he will change his seat when his heart felt ready to do so.  A few minutes passed before he got out of that premium seat but with a great deal of cursing and swearing in Hokkien expletives directed at the stewardess, who thankfully did not understand this dialect.

I was mad with disgust but my sisters reminded me not to get involved because the cabin crew is trained and they would have plenty of experience in handling such passengers from hell.  Just as we thought it was over, that same man accosted the stewardess with an accusation of double standards because she had let that Caucasian lady move to a premium seat.  This made the stewardess request that lady to return to her seat next to that obnoxious man but once the seatbelt sign was turned off this lady went away to find another place in the rear.

When meals were served, members from this group asked for food and the stewardess told them she would serve the pre-booked meals before serving them.  I tried to ignore them but it was impossible especially when one man [who was technically not sitting], kneeled on a premium seat on the opposite side of the aisle, to face his friends behind for a chat.  Another man stretched his legs out and sat on two arm-rests of the premium seat in front of us – again he was technically not on the seat – probably just to spite the crew.  Things went too far when the kneeling man took a carton of food and started to eat [Yes! While kneeling and facing backwards!] and the stewardess had to tell him to return to his seat!

It was ridiculous to cheer when the pilot announced that we will be touching down in KLIA soon but my sisters and I never felt so relieved to be free from being trapped in the company of such loathsome Malaysians.  

Chinese tourists have earned a bad reputation worldwide but this experience proved that some Malaysians are just as bad.  I hope that responsible people in the travel industry will come up with some travel etiquette guidelines for local travellers so that they will not earn a bad name for Malaysia from their in-flight behaviour.  And the airlines must give better training to the cabin crew to sharpen their skills in dealing with such passengers from hell.

A version of this was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 4 June 2015

1 comment:

  1. Working for Air Asia as a steward/ess is a job hazard itself