Travel Etiquette

Ouch! Flying Is Painful!

Carry-on luggage in overhead storage compartment on commercial airplane.
Carry-on luggage in overhead storage compartment on commercial airplane.

When was the last time you flew? I just returned from a cross-country trip from Savannah to Spokane where I presented a four-hour seminar to an engaged and engaging audience of paraeducators. I flew diagonally across the United States.

To get to Spokane from Savannah is a challenge at best. You have to change planes twice–no way around it. Or I couldn’t find one. I changed planes in Atlanta and again in Salt Lake City. In the course of three days, I flew through six time zones on six different planes. That may seem like the hard part, but it wasn’t. The hard part was surviving the thoughtlessness of my fellow passengers.

I am sure many of you can relate to my experience. Given that I was graced with long legs, I prefer to have an aisle seat. This particular choice has its advantages and disadvantages. Once in the air you can stretch out your legs, assuming that the flight attendants are not coming through the itty-bitty aisle with their food and beverage carts.  Another advantage is that you have at least one armrest that is all yours.

Here’s the disadvantage. You expose one side of your body per flight to attack from passengers who board after you. You know what I am talking about, don’t you, fellow aisle-seaters? There are more than a few people who board looking like they are going on a month-long camping trip. They have suitcases, backpacks, purses and other paraphernalia that they wield like weapons.  Therefore compelling me to say, “Ouch, flying is painful.” After a week in recovery my arms are still bruised from all the hits I took during six boardings.

I try to protect myself and keep arms and elbows out of reach. Nothing works. Some of those bags and especially those backpacks can cover a large area and land a strong blow. The folks who are lugging them on board are completely oblivious to the pain they are inflicting on the aisle-seaters. Okay, I want to think that they are oblivious. Would anyone knowingly be so violent to a stranger?

I have two solutions: one that I can control; one that I cannot.

Here’s what I can control. I can protect my arms by keeping them close. I can switch sides of the aisle on connecting flights so I level the bruising.

Here is what I suggest to the airlines. When the flight attendant is reminding people to take their seat as quickly as possible to allow other passengers to move through the aisle in order to have an “on-time ” departure (what is that?), the attendant could recommend that people be mindful of the pain their bags might be inflicting on those they pass.

I know that is a dream.  People rarely, if ever, listen to or follow the requests of the crew.

On second thought, maybe those of us on the aisle could carry signs that say, “Please be careful with your carry on. Don’t hurt me.”

Ouch, flying is painful…

Photo from Savannah magazine
Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website,

Lydia Ramsey

Lydia Ramsey is a leading business etiquette and modern manners expert who offers seminars, keynote speeches, webinars and individual coaching. She works with corporations, associations, colleges and universities as well as individuals.

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