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Ask Mister Manners: Am I wrong for eating a full rack of ribs on a plane?

A viral tweet has frequent flyers and foodies alike getting all saucy.
Ribs on a plane
It's a bold move, to be sure — but is it rude?@lannatolland / Twitter

Heaping portions of gentle ribbing erupted on Twitter last week when a disgusted passenger on a Ryanair flight posted a photo of the meal the man next to her had brought on board. A greasy pizza box containing an equally greasy rack of pork ribs, the meal was impossible to ignore.

Internet sleuths quickly established the carry-out had come from U.K.-based fast-food eatery Frankie and Benny’s at Scotland’s Glasgow Airport. The pizza box struggled to contain not a pie but rather the establishment’s Smoky Ultimate BBQ Ribs, fries and corn. With its printed message promising “a slice of happiness,” the salmon-colored container proved to be the airplane-food equivalent of a Trojan Horse, delivering anything but happiness to at least one passenger in this particular aisle.

“No chance is the guy next to me eating a full rack of ribs plus sides on this plane,” tweeted aggrieved traveler Lanna Tolland.

How low can we go?

With no intended irony, the airport’s website promises: “Step inside Frankie & Benny’s Glasgow Airport and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported right back to 1950’s America.”

A rose-colored journey to the Eisenhower-era may not be everyone’s idea of a dream trip, but there are plenty of things to miss about flying during that time — not least of which are aisle-side meat-carving by attentive servers in the sky and entrées gingerly presented on fine china.

As airlines have sidelined meal options or eliminated them entirely, we surely cannot blame passengers for taking food matters into their own hands. Veteran flight attendants acknowledge the days of free food have given way to a free-for-all of takeout food being brought on board. Passengers, meanwhile, wonder where to draw the line.

(Mealtime with Mister Manners is a column that delves into a smorgasbord of dining-etiquette dilemmas.)

Dipping into the controversy

Tolland’s original tweet has now been seen over 5.5 million times, with the same seeming number of opinions about whether her fellow flyer had committed any sort of transgression. Some weighed in that his greatest offense may have been not offering her any. While others doubted his ability to keep the sauce from splattering throughout the row.

“Hope you don’t hit turbulence.”

“There’s a short list of foods that should be illegal to sell in an airport.”

“I’d only be mad because I’d be jealous. At least ribs smell good.”

“That’s why people pay extra for first class.”

“Probably better than the food they serve on the plane.”

Table for one, please

Much as the sight of watching anyone gnaw a messy rack of ribs —whether in the air or on the ground — is enough to turn my stomach, I can cast aside my own dietary preferences and state objectively this is not an ideal cuisine choice for anyone who cares about consideration. As the Twitter replies proved, the smell alone is enough to drive others crazy — whether with envy or revulsion.

Snakes on a plane may be scary, but saucy ribs on a plane are just plain risky.

Some meals are truly best enjoyed in a chair. At a table. With finger bowls. And plenty of elbow room. Copious napkins at the ready. In the No. 2 position on that list, I nominate you, barbecued rack of ribs. And for the top spot? Let’s call out the ultimate on-board no-no — a whole lobster. Just. Please. Don’t.