Perhaps you remember a time when traveling by plane was something you looked forward to. Flying etiquette prevailed. People dressed in their “Sunday best”. Passengers didn’t bite, claw and scratch their way through lines. Seats were spacious and comfortable. You chose a window or aisle seat based on whether or not you wanted to check the landscape below, not in order to gain a few extra inches of leg room. Flight attendants were friendly. Airlines served real food. There were sky caps to help you with your luggage, which managed to arrive at your destination when you did.
I could continue reminiscing about the “good ole days”, but they are long gone. Flying today is an ordeal which most people dread. When I fly, I worry if my flight will be on time, if I will make my connections, if my luggage and I will arrive at the same time and place, if my seatmate will be an oversized person who should have purchased two seats, or if I will get stuck on the tarmac for hours on end without food or water.
Over the next two weeks more than seven million people will be flying the not-so-friendly skies. There will be the usual mix of business and leisure travelers—most of whom will be in something akin to combat mode. You can’t control what others do, but you can manage your own behavior. Let me suggest nine rules of flying etiquette that, when observed by all, could transform the travel experience.
Don’t hog the overhead bin. Although you are allowed one carry-on plus a handbag or laptop bag, you should only put one of those in the overhead.
Middle seat gets the armrest. That seems fair since the people on either side can lean right or left for more room.
Be considerate when reclining your seat. Notice if the person behind you is using the tray table and alert them that you plan to recline so neither their laptop nor their snack ends up in their lap.
Resist the urge to chat. Everyone should acknowledge seatmates with a smile and a greeting. Once you do, you’re done. Leave your seatmate to fly in peace.
Try not to be a jack-in-the-box. That’s the passenger who hops up and down repeatedly during the flight and crawls over everyone in his path.
Control your kids. Noisy, whiny, loud children ruin the flight for everyone except the parents—or so it seems. Anyone who has ever had the child behind them kick their seat understands the urge to kill.
Leave smelly food in the airport. Seatmates’ noxious food is one of the top peeves of air travelers.
Move as quickly as you can through the security line. Be prepared to remove your shoes, take out your laptop and toiletries and shed your jacket or sweater. Don’t wait until it’s time to place your carry-on luggage on the conveyor belt.
Be considerate of people with close connections when the flight has landed. How often have you heard a flight attendant on a late-arriving flight request that people with time to spare remain in their seats and let others in danger of missing their connection disembark first? Few people honor that request.
Good manners won’t make planes any less crowded, seats any more comfortable or security checks any less stressful; but they can help you and your fellow passengers arrive at your destination in a much better frame of mind—ready to go to work or enjoy the holidays.
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com. Find out how her presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.