Airline travel has become accessible for almost any individual in the U.S. and for many people around the world. As the standard of living rises in places like China, you’ll see many more people traveling by air to explore the world around them. Let’s face it, the number one thing someone says they will do after winning the lottery is to travel.
With all of these people traveling, you’re bound to run into a handful of individuals who need a lesson in airline etiquette. The recent scraps you’ve heard involving the knee defender gadget are a prime example of how not to behave in the air. So here are my eight top tips for airline travel etiquette:
1. Don’t Use Gadgets
Don’t waste your money on gadgets like the knee defender or other intrusive items under the pretense that you are exercising your “rights.” You don’t have a right to lock the person’s seat in front of you in place—period! They paid for the same seat you did, and they have the same rights you do to recline or not to recline when they want.
2. It Isn't “Your Space”
Just because someone reclines into what you consider “your space,” doesn’t make it your space. The distance between seats is constant when both are upright or both are reclined. Respect your fellow passenger’s rights. Have a beef? Change airlines (Spirit Airlines locks all seats in place), pay for more seat room (United’s Economy Plus) or go all out for that first-class seat. Otherwise, head to the train or bus station, or simply drive yourself.
3. To Board Doesn’t Mean to Horde
The definition of horde from Dictionary.com is a moving pack or swarm of animals. In this case, we’ll swap airline passengers for animals and use it in a sentence: A horde of travelers amassed at the gate, even though the boarding process hasn’t even begun. There’s a reason the airlines all board by zone number now. Don’t be the person at the front of the line blocking everyone in your path when you are in Zone 5. Be one of the last to board and you’ll lower your stress level, and those around you, in the process.
4. Defer to the Flight Crew
The flight crew has the ultimate say in your inflight experience. If you are having an issue with another passenger, don’t argue with the passenger, but simply inform your cabin crew of the issue. In other words, don’t follow in the footsteps of the woman who threw water in the face of another passenger when he refused to move his knee defender device from her seat.
5. Keep Your Germs Home
Do you really need to make that trip while you are hacking and coughing all over the place? An airplane is an enclosed space and those germs can spread quite easily. Do yourself and your fellow travelers a solid by postponing your trip for a few days. We will all thank you for not sharing.
6. Stay Upright During Meals
We all know that the seats are getting smaller and smaller, and travelers are getting more and more frustrated, so give the guy behind you a break at mealtime. Keep that seat upright and you’ll both be happier while you munch, assuming you actually get something to eat on board! When deciding to recline, a courtesy heads-up to the guy behind you will go along way to keep the peace.
7. Maximize Overhead Space
If you insist on bringing your luggage on board, understand how to make the most use of the space. Most carry-on bags fit into today’s overhead bins wheels first. Don’t turn your bag sideways unless you have no choice in the matter. And please use the space under the seat in front of you for briefcases, backpacks and purses. You’ll probably want access to them while in flight so just keep them with you. You’ll free up space for your fellow travelers and expedite the boarding process. Indeed, you are really only allowed to put one bag in the overhead space.
8. Stick to Your Own Bathroom
Stick to Your Own Bathroom: One of the reasons people pay for first class on airplanes is the larger seat and service. Part of that service is access to a bathroom without having to stand five deep in a line. That includes not having to wait for the person who paid half the price for their ticket, but feels entitled to use the bathroom in your part of the cabin. They aren’t entitled. Airline policies clearly state for security reasons that they can’t wander up front whenever they please.
Airline travel can be made tolerable if people simply follow the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. It all comes down to a single word: respect. Respect those around you and understand you are all in the same boat, or actually, the same plane, and that flight might actually be better than you expected.
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