We’re in an unfortunate time where common decency sometimes goes out the window and a whole lot of people only think about themselves. Or sometimes it’s just a matter of not thinking, period.
When you’re not flying, a person who makes a mistake in etiquette might get a little side-eye. But the same mistake before, during or after you’re on a plane, where people are not in control and are uncomfortable, and that little oops moment can escalate quickly. Here are some ways to help ensure that you aren’t the one being labeled as the troublemaking annoying passenger.
- Know what’s required of you before you get to the TSA checkpoint – If you don’t fly very often, learn what to expect before you get on the X-ray line, so you can be prepared. This post is a very good place to start. And if you’re behind someone who’s a little slow on line, don’t sigh and don’t roll your eyes; they probably don’t do this very often and are therefore under enough stress without hearing and seeing you judge them.
- Stand to the right, walk to the left – On a moving walkway or escalator? Don’t hog up the width of the whole thing; people will want to pass you. So stand to the right, and keep your stuff to the right, so people can pass you on the left. And if you’re passing people because you’re in a hurry, say, “Excuse me;” don’t judge try to nudge through them.
- One person, one seat – If you’re at your gate and decide to sit down, unless there are LOTS of empty seats, you really should only take up one seat. Not one for your butt and one for your bag. If the gate is empty enough to do that, HOORAY! But take note every once in a while, so if the area is getting filled up, you can move your bag so someone else can sit there. And maybe – just maybe – be proactively polite and move over one seat so a couple can sit next to you.
On The Plane
- Carry-ons in the overhead – If you have a seat in row 32, don’t leave your carry on in an overhead over row 9; all it does is make the people in Row 9 have to move their carry on to row behind them and so on and so on and so on. I know you don’t want to carry your bag ALLLLL the way back there. But unless there’s some physical reason why you can’t bring it to the back of the plane, it’s not that much of hardship. Besides, it’s selfish.
- Talking to your neighbor – If you’re a chatterbox, kindly “read” your seatmates. If they say “Hi,” and that’s it (or maybe not even that), or are turned away from you, or have their nose buried in their phone/tablet, or are wearing headphones and are rocking to the beat, or their eyes are closed, don’t try to start conversations with them. Some people are introverts (Hello, hand raised!) and don’t take kindly to talking to most people, least of all strangers.
- Shhhh! – Even if you have someone to talk to, keep your voice down so half the plane can’t hear you. Pretend you’re at the library.
- Make sure your kids are good travelers – Your children’s behavior is your responsibility. Have enough activities for them. Remind them to keep their voice down (just like you’re doing, right???). Ensure they don’t kick the seat in front of them, or reach through the seats, or if they wind up doing those things, stop it as soon as it begins. Be ready for their experiencing ear pain due to pressure changes and maybe use these proactively. If you’re the one stuck listening to a crying baby, pull out those noise-canceling earbuds. Or if you have a kicker behind you and need to say something to the parent, be kind and polite – there’s no need to make a parent feel inadequate or to embarrass a child.
- Watch your personal space – remember the #1 rule of the 10 unwritten rules of flying: the middle person gets possession of the armrests. And no manspreading allowed! If you do get stuck next to a man spreader, here’s an easy way to stop him in just 3 steps. And keep your feet on the ground, where they belong. And if you have long hair, make sure it stays on your side of the seat, not flipped over the top.
- Watch the smells – Beware of stinky food; no tuna, garlic, onion, etc. A plane is not the place to polish your nails. Don’t go crazy with the perfume or cologne. But DO wear deodorant. And make sure that all of your upper body clothing (shirt, vest, jacket, etc.) are clean and not stinky. If you ARE stuck next to someone with B.O., well, consider always carrying this in your personal item, and then it will be less of an issue.
- Recline carefully – It’s 100% within your right to recline. But there’s nothing stopping you from telling the person behind you that you plan to recline, before doing it. If they’re over 6 feet tall, they may tell you they’d prefer if you didn’t, and maybe you’ll take that into consideration. Because sometimes it’s not just about you, regardless of who you think you are. And if someone decides to recline into your space, think good and hard if you really need to make an issue out of it, for those 4″ or so.
Once You’ve Landed
- Wait your turn – Have a seat in row 27? You’ve got 26 rows of people to get off the plane before you do; don’t try to cut in front of people.
- At the baggage carousel – Stand at least 3 feet back so other people can see if their luggage is on the conveyor belt, too. And if you see your bag, don’t nudge people out of the way to get it; say, “Excuse me.”
It’s easy to be polite and show proper social etiquette, even in the more uncomfortable situations in life. If nothing else, it makes you seem like the better person and in some situations, that’s a very important thing.
Meanwhile, I’m sure I missed some; what can we add to the list?
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary