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Men's Health

Travelers' Advisory

When going abroad this summer, a little advance planning can go a long way to help you sidestep disaster, diarrhea -- and sheer rage.
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Complaining 101

Sometimes, just getting to your travel destination can be the biggest disaster you encounter. Flight cancellations and long delays -- in the airport, on the tarmac -- have created something called "air rage." It's a ratcheted-up version of "road rage," says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor and chief psychologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. At its core are anger and frustration.

Kaslow logged 30-plus trips last year alone and knows only too well the frustrations that air travelers face. A few years ago, she nearly missed a long-awaited Alaskan cruise when a flight to the West Coast was canceled.

"I'd been planning it for a year, laid out all this money. It was one of those nightmare situations. I ended up taking seven plane trips to different little towns in Canada so I could get there and not miss the boat," she tells WebMD.

The anger you feel is understandable, says Kaslow. "But getting out of control, becoming so frustrated that you take it out on flight attendants, on people who are not really responsible -- that's what's not acceptable."

The frustration escalates when people are stuck in the plane -- and especially if passengers have been drinking, Kaslow tells WebMD. "People become less inhibited, more impulsive. And I think they have a real sense of entitlement, a feeling that they're special and that these things shouldn't happen to them. Frequent flyers really seem to feel this."

To control anger, Kaslow advises:

  • Plan for problems. "Bring something to entertain yourself like a game, books, food," she says. "If you know you're going to need different clothes when you arrive, put them in a carry-on bag."
  • Talk to people next to you on the plane. If they can't relate, who can?
  • Do as much problem-solving as possible. "If it's possible to get rebooked, get your cell phone out or go to a pay phone -- even if flight attendants or gate personnel are offering to make the reservations for you," Kaslow says. "Sometimes they will even advise you to do the same thing."
  • Spend your time writing a letter to the airline, says Kaslow. "I certainly know plenty of people who have gotten complimentary tickets, had $30 taken off their next flight. It won't fix your current situation, but it might make you feel more in control."

Airline personnel could also be more forthcoming with information, she says. "I've thought about this a whole lot. People feel helpless. And if they don't know what's going on, the angrier they get. If they keep people informed, it gives them a sense that someone is trying to take care of the problem."

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