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Airline passenger's ponytail sparks Internet outrage, debate over in-flight etiquette

A photo showing an airline passenger draping her ponytail over her seat, obscuring the seatback display of another passenger, has gone viral.
/ Source: TODAY

Airline travel can often be a less than luxurious experience these days. Between baggage fees, mediocre food and cramped spaces, many travelers are frustrated before they even take off. To make matter worse, there are a handful of passengers who make it even more frustrating by being loud, taking over your space or emanating some rather curious odors.

But one man shared a different flying experience when a woman covered his partner's seatback display with her ponytail.

“Congrats to the ponytailed woman in seat 22B,” wrote Dante Ramos on his Twitter account. “You’ve invented a whole new way to be awful at 35,000 feet.”

Since he posted the picture of the woman carelessly placing her hair over her seat on March 28, it’s gotten more than 8,500 likes and has been shared nearly 9,000 times. Ramos, who happens to be a Boston Globe reporter, wrote about the incident in an article on March 30.

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“On Monday evening, I was sitting next to my partner, Ryan, on a plane somewhere between Houston and Boston,” he wrote. “All of a sudden, an enormous ponytail flopped out from atop the seat in front of him, over the in-flight entertainment screen, and down almost to his open tray table. It broke an unspoken rule of economy class: Keep your coats, extremities, and expansive hairstyles under strict control.”

"I fly often and see bags in weird places and people sitting in weird ways. This was a new one," Ramos told TODAY. "It's a rather large and unusual ponytail. It didn't seem like it was connected to anybody, so it took a second to realize what it was. We sat there seeing if she would notice for about five or ten minutes. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I assumed she didn't realize it was bothering someone."

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Commenters on the tweet offered a variety of solutions to the situation like cutting off the woman's hair, putting gum in it or simply pulling it. Instead, he later revealed that he asked the woman to move it, to which she obliged. “For the record,” he tweeted. “After marveling for a bit at her obliviousness, we got her attention. She moved it.”

He added in his article, “Once it was clear the ponytail owner, who was playing a game on her phone, was indifferent or oblivious, Ryan stood up and got her attention. Barely looking up from her device, she moved her seatback forward, and her ponytail flopped back out of our sight. We chuckled about the episode until we landed.”

Now that the incident has unexpectedly gone viral, Ramos believes that it's gotten a bit out of hand. "There's a tinge of regret because I thought the tweet would be chuckled at by five people and it has been tweeted many thousands of times," he told us. "It seems a little out of portion to the problem, if it's even that."

Indeed, earlier today he tweeted: "'Going viral' on social media isn't a feature. It's a bug."

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This incident is just one of many that have been exposed on social media recently. Airline passengers have shared photos of strangers’ feet on their chairs, garbage strewn about the cabin and other obnoxious behavior.

In an age of social media and omnipresent gadgets — always on and ready to document the latest offense — have people become too sensitive?

“We think passengers’ rudeness levels have held pretty steady over the last decade; what has changed is how quickly and publicly transgressions can be shared,” Christine Sarkis, senior editor at, told TODAY. “For many passengers who are confrontation-averse, the chance to be outraged on social media can feel like a safer way to process incredulity. But it’s not a better way. I was happy to see that in the case of the ponytail, the shamer — after posting a pic — was decent enough to deal with the issue by alerting the owner of the ponytail to the problem.”

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Ramos agreed that the situation was not that big of a deal. "People made assumptions about her or me that are out of any relationship to what happened. It's bizarre to me," he said. "Here's a photo I thought a couple of friends would see and now I'm talking to you and a thousand other people. I think it has to do with the fact that problems we encounter when traveling is something we can all sympathize."