Traveling by plane is meant to be a convenient way of getting around, but for many the experience is a huge ordeal. Flight delays, grumpy passengers, overworked staff, long lines, that suitcase that’s one pound over the baggage allowance…talk about a headache! By following these flight rules of etiquette, however, we can all reduce our stress and make our journey a more enjoyable one for all involved.
-Plan, plan, plan. Much of the stress associated with travelling by plane has to do with last-minute snafus—you wake up late, get stuck in traffic on the way to the airport, don’t know your gate, etc. To avoid this, it is vital to be prepared. Have all of your travel documents organized and put in a place where they are within easy reach and won’t be forgotten. Book a shuttle service to take you to the airport well in advance of your boarding time so you don’t have to worry about parking. Set a backup alarm to ensure that you wake up on time; if you are not an early-riser you may want to avoid booking early flights in the future. Input your frequent flier numbers and seat preferences into online booking systems so you don’t have to worry about it the day of. Some online booking agents, like Orbitz, can also send you text alerts to keep you abreast of flight delays. Determine your terminal before you go—your driver will appreciate it and it will save you from making a lengthy trek across the airport. Make sure your toiletries and any other liquids meet airline regulations and are placed in a Ziploc bag which you can reach easily (I always pack that last). Also, do some research so you know exactly how much luggage you can take, and whether or not there is a charge for baggage. If so, have that money ready. I also like to bring some small bills along should I get assistance from a skycap—you should tip them if they help with your luggage.
-Dress nicely. I’m a sucker for consistency in everything we do, which means dressing tastefully no matter where we are. Instead of throwing on baggy sweats and Ugg boots for your flight, find an outfit that is comfortable yet still classy. It’s a flight—not a slumber party. And who knows? Your polished look could get you bumped up!
-Be efficient. Don’t step into the security line until you have your boarding card and ID in your hand, and your Ziploc bag of liquids ready. As soon as you can grab a container and set your stuff down, try to prep yourself—taking your laptop out of its case, removing belts or earrings, taking off shoes and jackets, etc.—as quickly as possible so that when it’s your turn to walk through the metal detector you are ready to go. Be patient if you are waiting on others, and don’t be huffy with the security guards if the detector goes off or they require an additional scan; this will only make the situation worse. As you pick your belongings out of the end of the line, be conscious and considerate with other passenger property. I’ve seen laptops fall onto the ground because someone was careless and grabbed their carry-on without looking to see what they could be knocking down. I like to wear shoes that are easy to slip on when I fly, but if you have tennis shoes or lace-ups that require more time to put back on, quickly step aside and find an area off to the side so you don’t hold up the line.
-Keep cool. It’s a fact of life—delays happen. The best thing you can do in this situation is to stay calm and not blow up at the staff. It’s not their fault the rain is pouring down. If you talk to staff to inquire about delays, always end the conversation with a pleasant “Thank you for your help.” Yes, delays are a major inconvenience, but with most airports outfitted with wireless Internet and a slew of other attractions, you can now make the most of your waiting time.
-Be considerate. One thing I always notice when I’m waiting for a flight is how hard it is to find a seat! So many people seem to commandeer a section of seats, using them for their carry-ons and shopping bags or just sitting spread-eagle so they can be more comfortable while others have to stand or sit on the floor. Only take one seat in the waiting area! Also, avoid joining the crowd waiting to pounce when their gate is called. We’re all leaving at the same time!
-Be a good passenger. Good passengers smile and say “please” and “thank you” to staff, get seated quickly and don’t spend ages fiddling with their carry-ons, don’t clog up the aisles, listen when flight attendants are making announcements, and pay heed to seatbelt lights and other rules. Don’t spend ages in the bathroom, don’t use electronics when you aren’t supposed to, don’t hog the arm rest or rush to recline your seat (it would be polite to ask the person behind you before you do so), and don’t spend the entire flight yammering at your seatmate if they’ve clearly got work or a good book to tear into. If you don’t want to be chatty on your flight, pull out your book or laptop as soon as you can, but do acknowledge and smile at your seatmate, or even wish them a great trip upon landing. If someone won’t take the hint, smile politely and say, “Oh, well, I should make some headway on this report. I’ve got a meeting as soon as I arrive,” or wait for a break in conversation and excuse yourself to go to the restroom. When you come back say, “If you’ll excuse me I’m going to try to catch up on some sleep before we land” or “Now I’m going to dig into this book—I never get a chance to read these days.”
Avoid messing with the tray table or hitting your feet against the seat in front of you—it’s very annoying! If you are listening to music, keep the volume at a moderate level so that it’s not spilling out of your ears. If you’re travelling with children, keep a close eye on them. And finally, consider giving your flight crew a batch of cookies or other treats—they’ll love you for it!