The Inelegance of Travel

Posted by: on May 26, 2010 | 4 Comments

This past week I traveled home from University, and must say I was more than a bit appalled by what I saw in the airports and on the planes. Now this was no long trek – a simple hour and a half flight, followed by a short thirty minute connecting flight with just an hour layover in between. Should be uneventful, right?

Obviously I was not alive during the glory days of truly elegant travel, with its beautiful trunks, well appointed train cars, and dressed-to-be-seen travelers, and I neither expect this of others nowadays nor travel this way myself. But, I don’t think a little decency in manners and a little respect in dressing are too much to ask for.

First, most travelers seem to think they will be trying out for an olympic sport whilst flying. Track suits, sweat suits, high-tech, nitro-powered, day-glo running shoes, and more dirty sweat socks than I ever cared to see seemed to be taking over the airport. I understand wanting to be comfortable, and that’s why I wear a lightweight jacket, loafers that are both easy to walk in and slip off for security, and a little scarf or ascot for if the plane is cold – a seafoam green argyle velour tracksuit and flip-flops seem like overkill to me.

Going through every incident of poor airport dress would take me a century, and whilst lamentable, the real problem for me is travel etiquette. If you show up at the terminal looking like it’s triathlon time I might chuckle (haughtily), but if you act poorly, things get more serious. A young man about my age felt the need to cut in front of a young lady in the security line because she had a hard time getting everything on the conveyor belt, with nothing so much as an “excuse me,” a “thank you,” or even eye contact. I know I sound like an old curmudgeon, but when did it become acceptable to act like that? No one but the offended young lady and myself even seemed to notice, which I think was the most disappointing thing about the whole situation.

These are just a few of the things I encountered, and they highlight the general attitude I found to be problematic. Disregard for one’s fellow travelers and a general lack of respect for those one is sharing space with for a few hours seemed to be the order of the day- and while the issue of poor airport dress is more funny than anything, it does represent this underlying attitude of self-absorbed comfort with a disregard for the outside world. Anyone for loading up a few trunks with some fine linen, donning a straw hat, and boarding the Orient Express?


  1. *~ami~*
    May 26, 2010

    It is absolutely appalling what people will wear and how they will behave.

    There is a Facebook group called "What Happened to Dressing Up on Airplanes?" Indeed.

    I'm all for a well-packed trunk and a well-dressed crowd on a beautiful train…

  2. Brian R. Sheridan
    May 26, 2010

    I agree with the lack of civility and manners. But it is also the fact the air travel today is equal to what bus travel was in the past. They treat everyone like a criminal, cram us into dirty airplanes, don't even feed us anymore, and then miss or cancel flights. If the experience was nicer, people might feel guilty looking like slobs and behaving like hooligans. Great blog BTW.

    Erie, PA

  3. Anonymous
    March 16, 2011

    In my last flight I have to put off and on my belt 5 times (in security checks), an attendant spilled coffee in my t-shirt (it was blue fortunately), I spent five hours in a parked plane due to a air-controllers strike, I missed the last train so I had to stay five hours in the airport waiting for the first train in the morning. Though I hate people that dresses in flights as if they were going to the gym, I understand them. Nevertheless any of this is by no means an excuse to be unpolite. Great blog by the way. Regards, S.

  4. Daniel Barr
    August 20, 2011

    As David Sedaris said in one of his recent-ish books, people show up looking as though they’re expecting to cut the grass when they they deplane…. Not expecting a runway show, but don’t make me look at your lack of time at the gym. Crickey!!!


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