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Air Travel Gripe No. 1,234: Loud DVDs

John Deiner

Those airline complaints just keep coming and coming. Each Monday during our weekly 2 p.m. chat at www.washingtonpost.com/travel, we garner our share of vents from troubled fliers (which is just about all of us, no?). This week a lot of folks were complaining about long waits for baggage once they arrived at their destination, and we shared their pain.

But this week, one gripe really stood out. Here it is:

Washington, D.C.: When did it become acceptable to use a personal entertainment device in a public place without headphones? During the last week's travel, it happened TWICE that several rows of passengers were subjected to someone else's personal DVD player, with all its explosions and insipid dialog and other noise pollution. The flight attendants did nothing. Is this the next torture we have to endure on airlines?

One thought leapt to mind: WHAT?!!?? Who would have the gall to just play a personal DVD player without earplugs, booms and all? And second, no one did anything? Not a single person complained to the flight attendants on board? And the flight attendants didn't just take it upon themselves to tell the person to can the noise?

I keep wondering what I would have done. I probably would have grumbled to my seatmate at first, and grumbled even louder if my seatmate was my spouse. Then I would have become totally absorbed and annoyed by whatever flick the person was watching. Then, I hope, I pray, I would have summoned a flight attendant and whined loudly. I've been known to do it before. Why suffer in silence, especially on a long flight?

No doubt about it: Those little DVD players are great on long flights or train rides. On a recent trip to NYC on Amtrak, I watched "Notes on a Scandal" over someone's shoulder for half the ride. I didn't hear a word of the flick but pretty much could follow was going on, though I did have to look away when Judi Dench was soaking in a bathtub.

Anyhow, I have to agree with our chat correspondent that not listening to a DVD via earplugs is incredibly rude and shouldn't be tolerated. (And while we're at it, I can't stand listening to that tinny little twang in the air when someone's iPod is turned up too loud.)

Your turn. What would you have done in our chatster's place? Grin and bear it? Or protest loudly?

By John Deiner |  August 21, 2007; 1:14 PM ET  | Category:  Air Travel , John Deiner
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This exact thing happened to me a couple months ago. It was some parents who gave their 3-ish year old the laptop to watch "Frosty the Snowman". And apparently only one scene, b/c I heard that song about 4 times before the plug got pulled. The incredible part, was that the child was quiet & calm the whole time, even during take-off when she couldn't watch the video. I was about to start complaining to the flight attendant, but she knew what was going on (the drink cart was in the way & I think a few people had complained already) & eventually got over there to shut it down. Incredible. No wonder so many kids these days have entitlement complexes.

Posted by: Alexandria, VA | August 21, 2007 3:15 PM

I would have said something and it would have been right away. If the person was sitting close enough I would have asked them directly to turn it off - no headphones! If further away I would have asked a flight attendant. I, too find it hard to believe that no one said anything. I have asked people before to turn down the volume on flights - usually no problem.

I have more problem sitting next to someone who is heavily perfumed. I spent two horrible flights almost gassed to death. One was next to a Russian woman who spoke no English and took out her perfume and sprayed regularly. The second was a California to France flight where the woman in front of me would go to the lavatory and spray whenever the scent dissipated. The flight attendant agreed there was a problem, but there were no open seats to switch me to. At the end of the flight, as we were getting off, I did mention it to the woman. She seemed to be a sweet older woman and her face which was excited at being there fell in pain. I've never been sure if I was right to say something, but I was hoping to save someone in the future.

Posted by: ERS | August 21, 2007 3:17 PM

That's ridiculous. I would say something to the person, and if that didn't help I'd say something to the flight attendant, then if that didn't stop the DVD noise I would have to turn to the DVD viewer and start singing "99 bottles of beer on the wall". Honestly, some people are brought up by wolves.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2007 3:49 PM

OK, I totally understand this. However, I sometimes travel with my 2-year old, and she just doesn't get how to keep headphones on yet. On occasion, I've let her go without the headphones, with the volume down so slow that I can barely hear it sitting in the seat next to her (as in I can hear some noise, but can't understand the words). We're talking a setting of 4-5 on a scale up to 25. Is that obnoxious? No one has ever complained, but I don't want to be one of "those people."

Posted by: Wondering | August 21, 2007 9:53 PM

I wouldn't hesitate to press the attendant
call button--immediately--well before the person with the DVD took its use for granted. If the attendant felt that (s)he couldn't say anything, I would tell the person (respectfully, using my best smile) that it's kind of loud-- before the situation becomes embarrassing for her or him. It might be appreciated. If not, what is lost? Who are we afraid of
"offending"?

The poor attendant simply follows airline rules, and it's an increasingly tough job. One wonders how many CEOs give up a ride in their Gulfstream to join the passengers in second class (i.e, steerage) seats, in order to experience
the latest Orwellian adventure they've devised for the travelling masses.

Posted by: Christian R | August 22, 2007 9:04 AM

I wouldn't hesitate to press the attendant
call button--immediately--well before the person with the DVD took its use for granted. If the attendant felt that (s)he couldn't say anything, I would tell the person (respectfully, using my best smile) that it's kind of loud-- before the situation becomes embarrassing for her or him. It might be appreciated. If not, what is lost? Who are we afraid of
"offending"?

The poor attendant simply follows airline rules, and it's an increasingly tough job. One wonders how many CEOs give up a ride in their Gulfstream to join the passengers in second class (i.e, steerage) seats, in order to experience
the latest Orwellian adventure they've devised for the travelling masses.

Posted by: Christian R | August 22, 2007 9:04 AM

Wondering - I hate to say it, but it would probably annoy me. :( Even when you can't make out the words, it's pretty annoying to hear that worpleworpleworple sound of ongoing dialogue. (I have much experience from my office-neighbor who enjoys leaving the TV on all day.) Also, the person sitting in front of your kid, or in the seats on either side of the one in front, has their ears pretty close to the DVD player. I wouldn't necessarily say anything to you if I were there, but I'd be cursing the player silently.

Posted by: m3 | August 22, 2007 2:15 PM

Wondering, yes you are one of those people. I've flown with my kids (now 6 and 4) quite a bit and I didn't bring a DVD player until they were able to use headphones. I found earbuds or "street style" headphones (where the band is on the back of your neck instead of the top of your head) worked better for them than regular headphones at first.

Posted by: Dennis | August 22, 2007 2:51 PM

That "tinny little twang in the air when someone's iPod is turned up too loud?" I am regularly able to hear people's music when they are sitting five rows away from me on the metro. People turn up the volume because the earbuds aren't good at blocking outside noises, but they seem to be equally as bad at keeping the music in.

I have to wonder if the wealth of dvds players and portable video games available to parents of small children doesn't adversly affect the kids. I use my gameboy as much as the next guy, but I think kids need to learn how to occupy themselves without electronics. When I was little, my parents would give us a new coloring books or some such thing whenever we crossed state lines on long car trips. One night I was appalled at a restaurant to see a dad and his three children watching a portable dvd player while eating pizza. Is that really necessary?

It does lead to an interesting question: would you rather hear the muted sounds of a kid watching a dvd player, or a screaming, fussy child that can't be quieted? I think I would have to lean towards the dvd player.

Posted by: Noise Pollution | August 23, 2007 10:56 AM

DVD players? Why not bring a whole home entertainment system along so that you can experience the same quality of media you would have at home?

Whatever happened to reading? You can read to a child to keep him/her occupied.

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