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In Defense of the Passenger Who Slept on the Floor of a Plane

Air travel sucks. Leave people alone.

If you’ve spent any amount of time on planes you’ve probably witnessed or been impacted by the less than courteous inclinations of your fellow passenger. And for anyone looking for the catharsis that comes with publicly shaming the discourteous, you’ll find just about every variety of mid-air transgressor being put on blast on the Passenger Shaming Instagram account.

And, as sometimes happens, a recent Passenger Shaming post started making the rounds on travel-related news coverage. In this case, it was a couple sleeping with one sleeping across the seats and the other stretched out on the floor below.

And while the original caption (“QUESTION: Would you ever lay on the floor of an airplane? #mondaymood”) isn’t overtly shaming, the conversation and headlines that cropped up in its wake were primed to scold the slumbering pair.

“Plane couple shock with unpleasant action on aircraft floor.” “Airline passengers horrified.” “Flyers are left disgusted.” ”Plane passengers horrified by this sleeping solution.” One outlet even blurred the photo to heighten the supposedly illicit nature of their “unpleasant action.”

Of course, once you get past this initial framing, the “horrifying” part of this is that plane floors are unimaginably filthy. But it’s unfair to pile on and clutch our pearls in response to people doing nothing to affect another soul on an aircraft. Bare feet are less than ideal, and you or I would probably rather suffer a thousand sleepless nights before flushing our one and only corporeal forms against something as gross as an airplane floor, but if someone wants to make that choice just let them.

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If you happen to see someone so desperate they’re willing to sleep on the floor of the plane do not look upon your fellow traveler with disdain, just remind yourself that old adage of “There but for the grace of God go I.”

There are so many real, grievous breaches of etiquette that happen you can’t afford to waste energy on being “horrified” at something that doesn’t affect you. I would much rather be sitting in aisles adjacent to floor sleepers than any number of men who thought they were entitled to my middle armrests. I would much rather be able to spend my flight blissfully unaffected by someone else’s sleeping choices than having the person sitting behind me nudging their crusty, bare toes up and under my elbow.

And, you might have noticed, everything about air travel is designed to be as hostile to your comfort as is possible within the known laws of physics. If you happen to see someone so desperate they’re willing to sleep on the floor of the plane do not look upon your fellow traveler with disdain, just remind yourself of that old adage: “There but for the grace of God go I.” Sure, we all like to think we know with certainty what we would or wouldn’t do when pushed to the edge. We’d stand up to that mugger, outrun that grizzly bear. But when you’re faced with very real, very un-theoretically long travel days followed by long layovers and long flight times and you feel like you’ll lose your faculties if you don’t get some relief, and then you find yourself gifted with an entire aisle—well, you just won’t really know what you’ll do.

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