An Emirates passenger has been caught ‘contorting herself’ so that her feet were resting on top of the seat in front. The ‘offensive’ seating position meant that her shoes were almost touching the head of the man sitting in front of her but incredibly the cabin crew didn’t say a word and the man slept throughout the incident.
The airplane etiquette faux pax is believed to have happened on a recent Emirates flight from Dubai to London. Passenger Paul Stothard was sitting near the lazing women and took a photo as other passengers carried on seemingly oblivious to what was happening.
Although such behaviour would be considered bad manners on any airline, observers have pointed out this is particularly offensive onboard a Middle East carrier as in Arabic culture showing the soles of your feet is considered an insult.
Paul admits that he didn’t challenge the woman as he expected the passenger sitting in front of her to say something or for the cabin crew to politely intervene. Instead, he admits to do the “standard tutting and sharp glances” in an attempt to get her to realise the error of her ways but she carried on in this position for about an hour.
In Arab culture, the sole of the foot or shoe is considered dirty because it is on the ground and because it is the lowest part of the body. To hit someone with the shoe is a sign that you view them as even lower.
The art of showing the sole of the foot or throwing a shoe as a form of insult came to prominence during the downfall of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime in Iraq in 2003 when Iraqis struck the dictator’s statue with their shoes.
In recent years, it has become commonplace for protestors against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to throw shoes at Israeli embassies around the world.
The sole of the shoe is deemed so offensive in Arab culture and many people don’t cross their legs in a way that would display the sole of the shoe, while shoes are prohibited from being worn inside Mosques.
One person on Twitter suggested that the woman hadn’t done anything wrong because she might have a medical condition that was alleviated by raising her legs, although Paul replied that the most obvious condition was one too many gin and tonics.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.