Air Travel Etiquette
Any kind of travel is stressful, but flying particularly so. Where else do you have to spend hours on end in a small cramped metal tube at around 30,000 feet, sharing recycled air with 200 odd strangers?
One way of making air travel as bearable as possible for everyone is being considerate to others. Behaving in a kind, thoughtful manner can make a difference in all situations and especially when you’re all in such close quarters. Your attitude can make a huge impact, not only will you feel better for behaving considerately, but others will be far more responsive. Negative emotions only breed stress and tension and if you get into a disagreement with your seatmate or any of your other travelling companions then it will not make for a nice journey for either of you, or those around you.
There’s no hard and fast rules about how you should behave while flying but packing respect, manners and consideration to use will help immensely, and that’s not just for your fellow travellers but the flight attendants, ticket and gate agents too. Airline and airport staff are always far more receptive to a friendly face and if you need help from them you’ll get a much more positive response if you’re polite and respectful.
Being a courteous traveller is mostly common sense and being mindful of how you’d like others to behave, but whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned traveller take a look at the following tips and make flying a little nicer for everyone:-
At the airport –
– Arrive well in advance of your flight. Showing up late will make you stressed, anxious and probably not very nice to be around.
– Wait your turn to board. If you’ve not been called to board then loitering around the gate, getting in everyone’s way won’t get you to your destination any quicker and will just antagonise your fellow travellers.
– Pay attention to your surroundings and others. This applies whilst in the airport and on the plane. Don’t stand around or wander aimlessly getting in the way. If you’re travelling up an escalator and not sure where you’re going at the top don’t stop dead until you find out. Move well out of the way before you cause a pile up behind you. Be conscious of where you leave your luggage and make sure you don’t bash another passenger around the head with your bag when boarding the plane.
– Be prepared for security. Check security requirements online before you travel and find out what to expect. Make sure items you’ll be requested to remove, such as watches, jewellery, belts are packed in your carry on luggage if possible and dress appropriately so you don’t need to fuss around removing items of clothing, untying and tying shoelaces etc.
– Book your seat in advance. Consider your circumstances and book appropriate seats. i.e. if you know you will want to sleep or work for the entire flight and don’t want to be disturbed then book a window seat. If you have a weak bladder and will be up and down to the toilet constantly book an aisle seat so you’re not frequently shifting your seatmate.
– Don’t get drunk in the airport, not only will it diminish your chances of getting on your flight (airlines can and will refuse to allow intoxicated individuals to fly), but if you have had a few too many then you won’t smell very pleasant and losing some of your inhibitions is not a great thing at 30,000 feet either.
On the plane –
– Be quiet and respectful during the safety speeches. You may well have heard them so many times you could recite them yourself. However, some of your fellow travellers might just be flying for the first time and it’s plain courtesy to be quiet while someone else is speaking anyway.
– If you’re travelling with children make sure you’ve planned well, prepared them in advance if they’re old enough and have everything you need required for entertainment and distraction throughout the flight. Taking plenty of drinks and snacks is great, but try to take healthy snacks. Loading them up on sugar and additives while confining them in a tight space is just going to be a recipe for disaster, or a major meltdown. Although, just one emergency bag of chocolate buttons might turn out to be a lifesaver!
– If you’re travelling child-free and there’s a screaming baby on board, remember that it might be irritating to you but the baby’s parents will feel much, much worse. They will be more than aware of the annoyance it’s causing to the other passengers, so don’t tut and roll your eyes at them. Take earplugs for such eventualities and cut parents some slack – save for occasions where their child might be repeatedly kicking the back of your seat and they ignore it!
– Stay in your own space. The person next to you is entitled to just as much room as you are so don’t encroach on theirs. And as for armrest etiquette, the person in the middle will have very little personal space so be sympathetic to them and allow them to have both middle armrests.
– When getting out of your seat, do not use the seat in front of you as leverage to get up. The person sitting in it will not thank you for shaking them violently and potentially giving them whiplash. Especially if they’re asleep or trying to work!
– Pay attention to your personal hygiene. Even if you get up the morning you’re flying and think you might be able to risk not showering, don’t! You’ll be in close quarters with lots of other people and a passenger reeking of body odour can make the journey extremely unpleasant for other travellers. Be considerate to your travel companions, have a wash and however much your feet could do with a stretch, unless you’re certain that you don’t have foot odour, don’t take your shoes off! If you absolutely have to remove your shoes then at least take along some slipper socks to wear.
– The above goes for strong smelling perfume or cologne, just don’t! Not everyone will love your signature scent as much as you do and chances are one of your fellow flyers could actually be allergic to it.
– Don’t take strong smelling food to eat on the plane. You might love your onion and egg salad drowned with garlicky dressing but it could make someone else feel physically sick. Leave the pungent food at home and everyone will thank you gratefully for it.
– To recline, or not to recline? Some argue that as the facility to recline is there, it’s every passenger’s right to use it. Others say that as the seat space is so small that it’s unfair to recline. So do you? Or not? Well, there’s no right or wrong answer but either way be considerate. If you can avoid reclining then do, but if you are uncomfortable and feel that you need to recline then it would be polite to ask the person behind you if they mind. Or at least check that they’re not using the tray for their laptop or a drink. The last thing you want to hear is the crunch of a laptop screen or your neighbour yelp as their hot drink splashes all over them!
– Be respectful of your seatmates. It’s always polite to acknowledge their presence, say hello and even introduce yourself, but if they are engaged in another activity such as working, reading, watching the in-flight movie then chances are they are not interested in your life story. If you do find yourself talking to them be aware of any cues they might give to show that they really don’t want to talk. If you find that you’re the one doing all the talking, then shut up!
– Be thoughtful about where you put your luggage. If you can use the under seat storage then do that, particularly if you will need access to it on a frequent basis. If you need to stow your luggage overhead then try to stow it above your own seat.
– Don’t make jokes about terrorism or say anything that could be construed as a threat to anyone or the aircraft. Airline staff have to take any such comments very seriously. Not only could it land you in major trouble, it will be unsettling for all the other passengers and could result in your family missing their well-deserved holiday. Some things are just not worth a cheap laugh!
And after –
– The dreaded baggage claim. Lots of passengers feel that they almost have to stand on top of the luggage carousel in order to get their suitcases but absolutely everyone is in the same situation and there is never enough room for everyone to stand right next to it. Stand back, leave room for others and only approach the carousel if you see your bags. Make your luggage easily identifiable so that you can be sure when yours is making its dash for freedom!
Izaak Hutchinson is a Digital Media Executive for Electric Dialogue, and an avid blogger on behalf of his clients such as No.1 Traveller, who operate Gatwick Airport Lounges and other lounges at Heathrow, Terminal 3 and Stansted