I don’t know what it is about air travel, but it certainly brings out the worst in people.
I’m sure you’ve experienced what I’m talking about first hand, but in the spirit of providing context, let me recall one particularly odious flight from Melbourne, Australia to Singapore. I was already tired from a hard day at work as I settled into my business class seat with an open berth beside me. Just as a sigh of relief slipped between my lips, a rather well-nourished sweaty blob wedged himself in and introduced himself as “Jeff.”
Jeff was anything but the perfect gentleman and the flight was arduous. Over the next seven hours, I was subjected to a veritable horror show as the cheese plate arrived and Jeff regaled me with an extended conversation about his love for muscle cars while occasionally pausing to spray me with well masticated morsels of his artisanal cheese sandwich. When we finally set down in Changi airport, I was amazed that I had not strangled the oaf.
Such people are not inherently evil; they are simply part of a mass hallucination that occurs when you pack several hundred people into a long silver tube and accelerate them down a runway towards the wide blue yonder. It’s hardly reasonable to expect passengers to follow normal etiquette when under such stress, yet I have come to the conclusion that some simple rules are in order. They may help the more challenged amongst us to be decent people at the airport.
Here, I present my twelve rules of decent behavior at the airport, in no particular order.
Do Stay In Your Seat And Out Of Mine
Perhaps the most important concept in air travel is personal space. We are each allocated a tiny berth consisting of a seat and its associated legroom that we guard jealously. The edge of our space is a small armrest that defines an inviolable boundary. Cross it at your peril.
Do not place your items in my space. Do not allow your overextended frame to ripple into my sacred air. This is my seat, I bought it, and I claim it as my own.
Do Say Hi To Your Seatmates And Then Stop Talking
Ah, the blabbermouth — where to begin? It’s fair to say I probably don’t want to talk to you for the entire flight, and, in fact, I may desire no social discourse at all. Why not say hi to me, then gauge my response to see if I have any interest in continuing the conversation? If not, close your mouth and leave me alone so that I can plug my noise-cancelling earphones (hint, hint) into my iPhone and listen to something interesting. It’s only courteous, after all.
Don’t Let Your Kids Kick the Back Of My Seat
So you are traveling with kids. I get it — I have three of them myself and traveling with them can be stressful as you try to keep them under control, so I won’t be sweating the small stuff like screaming. However, I do take umbrage to your child’s repetitive act of kicking the back of my seat all the way from San Jose to Boston, and if you could please spare me this hideous journey I would be forever grateful.
Don’t Grab The Back Of My Seat
Need to get up to hit the restroom? Take your time and don’t reach forward to grab my headrest to support you as you clamber out of the row. The whiplash you cause when you let go and the violation of my personal space as you reach forward are unacceptable to me. Worse still is the lout who grabs my hair at the same time.
Don’t Save Seats When You Have Preferred Booking
In today’s economically challenging world, airlines will sell anything, including the right to get on the airplane first before the rest of the maddening crowd begins their lumbering charge for seats. This is a wonderful expression of capitalism at its finest that I support wholeheartedly. What I cannot abide is the preferred passenger who boards and then attempts to “reserve” an entire row of seats for his or her traveling companion who did not pay the preferred fee.
Don’t Hog The Chargers
Many airports now provide power in the area around the gates, and the days of scrounging for an outlet in the middle of the corridor are largely gone. Unfortunately, there are rarely enough of these outlets to go around. If your battery is at 100% and you are still plugged in while others wait, then I say you are less than human.
Don’t Touch My Bag
Continuing with our theme of personal space as a pivotal concern of travel, please don’t touch my bag once I’ve placed it in the overhead. Ask me politely and I will move it to a new location on your behalf or suggest a place where your bag might fit more gainfully. Touching my bag without my permission will elicit a less gentlemanly response. Airline attendants are excluded from this rule, of course.
Do Respect Baggage Limits
In its infinite wisdom, the airline has allocated each of us a certain number of bags that may be carried on the flight. The computation of this travel limit is based on weight and balance computations for the aircraft, as well as profit calculations by the airline. Regardless of how we feel about the veracity of this sacred formula, it is set in stone and attempting to override it only causes delays.
Please don’t velcro extra bags onto your main bag in an attempt to get past the baggage limit. Don’t turn up at the gate with your bag plus some massively oversized lug-around pack and then act surprised when the agent turns you back or insists on charging a fee while we all wait to board.
Do Check Your Bags
The days of expecting to get all your bags onto a plane are largely gone. If you are boarding in zone 4, the chances of you getting your bags on the plane are non-existent. Get ahead of the game — check your bags and save us all some time.
Do Pay Attention To Your Hygiene
Is it really so hard to take a bath before you decide to travel on an airplane with me?
I’m not talking about genuinely earned travel smells such as those that come from a long-haul flight followed by a domestic leg, but rather the slob who appears to never have heard of the concept of soap and deodorant. If you are to be my partner for the next several hundred miles, I am going to have to smell your foul scent. Rest assured, I will be planning a long and arduous death for you as we traverse each and every mile.
Do Be On Time So We All Leave On Time
Airplanes leave at specific times and must abide to flight plans. Running up to the gate 20 seconds before the flight is set to leave will not endear you to me. You may inconvenience several hundred people if the gate agent does not turn you back. Think of all the drama that could have been avoided if you’d just been on time.
Do Know The TSA Rules And Follow Them
While I understand that not everyone flies regularly, the TSA rules are readily available, and reading them before we fly may save ourselves and our fellow travelers significant time in the security line. Packing bottles of vodka or keeping knives on your person and then acting terribly surprised during the pat down are all idiotic things to do in the post-9/11 era. Read the rules, then follow them.
Let Me Leave You With a Travel Quote
“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck
Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com