Last week, the internet was up in arms about a Major League Baseball player’s pregnant wife not picking up the mess their two little kids (ages 2 and 5) made on a United Airlines flight. Some readers didn’t seem to realize that the father wasn’t on the flight; once baseball season starts, they don’t fly with their families except during the All Star break in July. But it doesn’t matter if he was on the flight or not.

As I wrote in the post, “I have two little kids around the same age and mine travel a ton so I can relate. One of my kids’ favorite snacks and plane pastime is eating Cheerios but they can definitely be messy. My wife and I try to pick up anything that falls on the ground, but we can’t always get them all. Besides, after the pandemic, everyone wants to know that the planes have been cleaned. This is one way to know if the cleaners are actually doing their jobs. A portable vacuum can pick this mess up in less than 10 seconds. And let’s be honest – I’ve seen grown adults leave behind a huge mess plenty of times.”

I didn’t include any examples of messes I’ve seen adults leave behind but I’ve seen plenty of examples. I’ve seen passengers clip their toenails and leave their nasty clippings on the floor below. One of the worst offenders was an obnoxious lady who was obviously sick. She was two rows in front of me on a 13-hour Los Angeles to Brisbane flight. I couldn’t believe she blew her nose and just dropped her used tissues in the AISLE! She didn’t even have the courtesy to put them by her foot. What she should have done is used the airsickness bag as a garbage receptacle. So I would argue adults are way messier than kids and no one is bashing them.

I don’t have photos or video from these encounters but I did come across some examples from the last few days posted on Twitter.

Here’s one from an American Airlines passenger with the caption, “@AmericanAir y’all don’t clean up between flights no more?”

Another tweet that has made the rounds on social media comes from Jennifer Schaper who posted, “Because my travels seem to involve unintentional comedy: Just boarded the plane and somebody spilled food. The flight attendant screamed “who spilled rice?” and is walking up and down the aisles. They are refusing to leave the gate until someone cleans the rice.”

The photo says it all and Jennifer turned the whole thing into a suspenseful and hilarious thread with the hashtag  #RiceGate that went viral. She gave a play-by-play about what was going on and it seemed like the Southwest Airlines flight attendant wasn’t too happy. Jennifer posted a series of tweets:

Update: The people in my row and I have now the giggles and she’s looking at us suspiciously. #RiceGate

Update: Rice is getting cleaned but she is MAD. She has let us all know that we were not raised right and she is disappointed in all of us. #RiceGate.

“For the record – I did not spill the rice, and the person who did absolutely should have cleaned it up. However, SWA staff was out of line in how they handled the situation and continued to delay an already delayed flight. #RiceGate”

“Update (2/2): The over-dramatization of the whole event made it more comical than anything – coupled with the fact that we were further delayed by an oblivious passenger who took advantage of #RiceGate to use the bathroom and further delay the flight.”

She also posted a video:

I realize that being a flight attendant isn’t an easy job and their first priority is passenger safety and not, say, picking up your dirty tissues off the ground. But unfortunately, sometimes they have to do the dirty work when the cleaners aren’t available.

If you’ve ever flown on a Middle Eastern or Asian airline, you will see the difference in the cleanliness of the plane and bathrooms. I was amazed that in between passengers in Business Class on Korean Air, the flight attendants cleaned and tidied up the lavatory. Even in coach, they clean it every hour, which makes for a much pleasant experience.

There’s no question that passengers should be considerate and not expect that flight attendants are going to clean up after them but sometimes maintaining the aircraft is part of the job. The person who spilled the rice should have copped to it, alerted a flight attendant and asked for help. Making the mess and leaving it there, pretending you didn’t do it is probably what irritated the flight attendants more than anything.


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