As so many people have said in recent years, flying is generally not a pleasant experience for John Q. Public nowadays. Airlines have figured out how to get every penny out of you, and if you don’t cough up what they consider to be a decent amount, they’ll stick you with a middle seat. Planes are delayed and what’s usually considered perfectly acceptable carry on has to be gate checked because airline employees claim there’s no room left in the overhead space. Cabins are 100% full and good luck trying to get more than a pack of cookies or chips for free on that 4-hour flight.
With all the angst the airlines make for us, the least we can do is be considerate to our fellow travelers, don’t you think? Here’s a partial list of things we can do to help make each other’s experience with air travel a little more pleasant, as well as the simple things the airlines and/or airports can do to help the situation.
Using Up More Than One Seat In Pre-Boarding
On a recent flight from Atlanta to Orlando, I counted 70 seats in the pre-boarding area. Seventy. This was for a flight on a 757-300 plane, which had 50 rows with 6 seats per row, so 300 people. 70 seats for 300 people. So of course, when Joe and I arrived at the gate 90 minutes before our flight, there was not even one set of 2 seats next to each other. Yet there were plenty of seats with peoples’ luggage on them, one person with empty seats on either side of her, etc. It took a “scanning the area, looking for an empty seat and giving a long look at the luggage on a seat, then at the woman sitting next to said luggage,” for her to finally say, “Would you like to sit down?” Why yes! Yes I would!
Now, I totally get it. When the seating area is empty, or almost empty, there’s a little more freedom in terms of sitting. But once you see there are more people standing than there are sitting, let your common sense kick into play. Move over so there are 2 seats next to each other. And for heaven’s sake, get your crap off the seat – that’s what the floor is for. Let someone sit down!
Guys, I know some of you have a thing for airing everything out but really, if your knees are wider than your chair, you’re just being selfish. And I don’t care who you are – if you’re manspreading and taking up 1/3 of my seat with your knees, I’m going to make sure to bang your knees with my bag, or worse, pretend to trip over them as I go to sit in my seat that was previously being used by the above woman’s luggage (true story!). Think of someone else and stay on your side of the invisible line between our seats, m’OK?
Taking Up Overhead Space
Overhead space comes at a premium. As it is, if you’re in Zone 2 or 3 on Delta, they’re going to ask you to gate check your roller-board carry on bag (even if it’s within their own 22″ x 14″ x 9″ guidelines), placing you at risk for them breaking something in your luggage. But don’t make it any more difficult for people by taking up valuable space with your jacket (put it on top of a bag, not next to it), a small bag that can just as easily fit under your feet, or putting a wide bag in sideways when it can fit straight in on its narrow end.
Where You Put Your Bag
Because 46B and C’s jackets and small bags took up so much space, there wasn’t any more room for 46A’s bag, so when he arrived, he put his stuff in the bin over 46DEFs’ seats. That meant 46E couldn’t fit her roller board in the seat above her when she arrived, so her bag went over 45DEF, which meant that…. You get my point. Keep your stuff in the space above you, and be aware of how you put stuff into the overhead.
You’re squished in tight with 299 of your new best friends. Need I say more?
The Food You Bring On A Plane
Odors travel, folks. If you plan on eating mid-flight, maybe reconsider bringing that seafood, curry, garlicky anything, oniony anything, egg salad, or anything else that stinks onto the plane – there are many other options that are much less stinky. Oh, and the same goes for unending crunching.
Be Aware of Your Children
Some parents are great at keeping their children happy, occupied and well-behaved when on a flight. Other parents, not so much. I remember my mother’s response to a kid directly behind her going back and forth between kicking her chair and continually putting the tray table up and down. She’d hold it together for a while and when she just couldn’t stand it anymore, when she got yet another kick to the lower back area, she’d loudly say, “Ouch! Will you stop kicking my chair, please?” Not the most socially appropriate reaction but do you know what? Invariably, it worked. Don’t be the parent of that child – be aware of what (s)he doing and limit set as needed before an annoyed senior citizen embarrasses your parenting style.
For Airlines (and/or Airports)
You guys have already taken nearly all enjoyment out of flying by judging everything on the almighty dollar. For passengers in Coach, actual meals on the plane went the way of the dodo, real utensils are gone in the name of safety, and we won’t even get into the smaller seats and nickel & diming us for just about everything. There are a few areas where it would be SO EASY to make things more convenient and safe…and they don’t even have to do with the actual planes!
Have Enough Seating In The Terminal
As mentioned above, there were 70 seats in the terminal for 300 passengers. Granted, 300 is a lot, but even a typical smaller plane is going to hold well over 100 or even 150 passengers. And yet you have just 70 seats. Why is this OK?
Have Enough Plugs In The Terminal
I’m grateful some of the more modern planes have plugs for all of their passengers, not just those in First Class. But when a plane is delayed and you want to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of power, it sure would be nice to have more than 4 outlets in a waiting area with 70 seats that will need to accommodate 300 people. It would also save the worry of someone tripping over this wire:
By the way, that’s Mr. Manspread’s knee in the foreground.
Figure Out A System To Load Passengers Onto The Plane In An Organized Fashion
This doesn’t go for every airline, since some (SouthWest and United come to mind first), thankfully, have systems to line their passengers up before loading so not everyone stands 10 to 20 feet away from the entry to the plane, waiting for their group or row number to be called. Delta and JetBlue, it’s the 21st century…if you have people who can figure out how to squish 300 seats onto a plane, you can figure out how to load us onto it in a more orderly fashion. It’s time to get on the ball.
I’m sure there are plenty of other things passengers and airlines can do to make flights more pleasant – what did I miss?
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