age discrimination young man
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Age Discrimination While Traveling?

“I not sure if it’s an age deal (as someone in my 20s),” a reader of The Gate named Simon posted in response to this article pertaining to the controversial armrest wars, “but when I sit next to an older male, they assume they control the armrests. I usually don’t use the armrest much in-flight, but will jockey until post take-off. If I don’t, I find by an hour into the flight that claiming the armrest has turned into extending their elbow /arm into my space to read their newspaper, type, eat etc.”

Age Discrimination While Traveling?

To my knowledge, I have never been subject to age discrimination while traveling — despite becoming a frequent flier when I was 25 years of age and qualifying for elite level status shortly after that; and being a passenger on airplanes since I was twelve years of age.

I decided to find out if age discrimination is an issue amongst frequent fliers. I found six specific discussions pertaining to this very topic posted in various forums on FlyerTalk:

Another Side to This Issue?

“I am in my early 20s and I always travel in a blazer and/or proper attire as it is a proven fact (in my experience) that people take you more seriously and give you more respect and better customer service”, posted FlyerTalk member CO Platinum. “Also, being cool-headed and polite earns you more respect than being an arrogant, obnoxious, and whiny Elite.”

Looking like he was 14 years of age when he was in his 20s, FlyerTalk member runarut admitted that he experienced what he originally attributed to age discrimination — but over the years, he was not so sure anymore. “My belief is that, in general, presentation (how you dress, talk, etc) has more to do with how you are treated than any other factor. Testing my theory is easily done at new car dealers.”


“In my life experience, the best solution is to focus on what you can change instead of trying implement change in others”, posted runarut. “There are things that you can do that improve the odds of good treatment. They can be difficult to figure out. The ones that work best for me required behavioral changes on my part. This doesn’t require you to sell out and not be who you are. Think of it like driving a car. Can’t drive the car effectively unless you understand the controls.”

In other words: we should consider changing what is within our control. I agree with that thought for the most part. I typically wear black jeans or blue jeans and a shirt while I travel — casual, yes; but neat — and I always do my best to treat employees of a travel company and fellow travels with politeness, civility, patience and respect. This is despite looking younger than my age when I started traveling frequently.

This does not mean that age discrimination does not exist or is excusable. Any form of purposely blatant discrimination or stereotypical behavior towards other people is unacceptable…

…and as I was searching for examples of discrimination, I found documented claims of discrimination over the years based on geographic location, gender, disability, religion, race and sexual preference — the veracity of many of them not confirmed.

That caused me to wonder: have you ever experienced or witnessed age discrimination — or other forms of discrimination, for that matter? Can circumstances cause incidents to be mistaken for discrimination of age or any other type? Are acts of actual discrimination isolated incidents — or are they more prevalent than we might think?

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

  1. I have definitely been discriminated against in both my age and while I was traveling with family. I’ve had a gate agent tell me we are only boarding first class right now while I was folding my baby stroller. I was like I know that’s what it says on my paid first class ticket. She was like oh ok. I find the Asian carriers are more likely to treat me like a premium passenger regardless of my dress and if I am flyin pg with my wife and baby.

  2. I became a 1k on United at 21, mostly due to my job. (Highly unusual). I can assure you that I have been treated differently by United many times mostly do to my age. However, what this comes down to is that I expected different treatment because of my status or fare class. In united’s defense the gate agents usually treated me like any other economy passenger until they found out my status. I was even asked for my ID once when my CPU cleared at the gate…

  3. My 13 year old Delta fanatic is always complaining about how unfair it is that his 8 year old sister is also Silver..

  4. Discrimination based on being young is a short lived problem if a problem at all. Youth is a time for learning. Most people over 45 don’t fully understand the expectation of entitlement that the youth today. Frankly I think that making accusations of age discrimination on the basis of being to young is making a mockery of actual age discrimination

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