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I fly at least every 6 weeks, and I try very hard to be a good neighbor in what usually ends up being a quiet, uncrowded flight. I try to fly during the week and early in the morning because the planes are not as full, and if they are, they usually contain like-minded individuals that travel a lot and have a halfway-decent standard of Passenger Etiquette.

Passenger Etiquette

Passenger Etiquette is how you treat the people around you, how you allow for “personal space” and live within a “do unto others” envelop of manners. I often see persons that get on planes that do things that portray them in a light in a range from uncaring up to and including total douche-baggery.

The following are a few points to contemplate before you step on another crowded plane; they allow for others to enjoy a flight as much as humanly possible, which is often at the very edge of human endurance anyway:

  1. Check your bags if they are too big — Please. The compartments are only so big, and everyone needs to put something in them. If you put your foot-locker and over-sized backpack in there, what happens to others’ stuff? Airlines are putting video equipment under the seats now, and there’s not a dimes worth of room there. I check all my bags save my laptop pack — and have NEVER lost bags in millions of miles of flying, and frankly, the extra 15 minutes I spend picking up my luggage at the terminal downstairs allow me to make calls and get my schedule in order.
  2. Don’t clog the aisles when getting on the plane — If you stand in the aisles while everyone is trying to get on, blocking everyone else, you’re a hoser. While you’re waiting to get on the plane, take a second to figure out how everything gets stowed. If you have observed item #1 above, this shouldn’t be a big deal. You can also get back up after everyone is on the plane and adjust your stuff before the attendants go up and down the plane checking things. Attendants are especially cranky about this rule, and if you really act like an idiot, you should expect some retaliation since attendants only get paid when the plane is moving.
  3. Just because the seat reclines fully doesn’t mean you should do it – on really crowded flights you’re going to have people seated behind you. While the seats on a plane may recline a great deal, they drastically limit the space a person has behind you, to the point that if they can’t recline their seats, they are doomed to hours of staring at the top of your head. I personally will not recline my seat more than an inch or two if there are people behind me, and I will leave it straight up and and down if there are elderly persons or kids because they or their parents need the space. If you are in front of me and recline the seat all the way back, I will ask you politely once to move it once, then hip check you like Wayne Gretzky as I get up every 15 minutes after this.
  4. When bringing food on a plane, try to keep the smells to a minimum — Airline food sucks at best, and is completely absent at worst. It’s definitely a treat to bring your own food on the plane and eat something decent instead of the crackers and stale peanuts; I get that. But for all that is holy, please don’t bring food that contains heavy smells like garlic, wine sauces, liverwurst, sardines, etc. ’nuff said. You do this, you are a douchebag.
  5. Don’t try to make life-long friends with your row-mates – I’ve struck up some great conversations on planes, but you need to do this with restraint; If you feel like talking, say hi and test the waters. If there is a curt reply, you should expect to have a nice quiet flight and do your part. At some point it in the flight your row-mate may say something conversational to you, and well, if that happens you might just have a nice chat. Be sensitive and figure this out.
  6. Keep your eyes off my screen! – Frankly, I don’t care if you look at my screen or not, but some persons get really whacked out when other passengers begin reading their email. A casual glance is unavoidable, but if you’re going to rubberneck you should expect someone to call you on it.
  7. Be nice to people with kids on airplanes – If you get stuck next to or in the vicinity of, a screaming kid on a plane, sack up and put up with it! As a dad I can guarantee that no matter how cranky, pissed or insane you feel, the emotions going through the parent(s) at that point are at least ten times worse. They KNOW that everyone on the plane wants them to have an immediate and violent death. They KNOW that the other people on the plane have paid good money to be there in peace. They KNOW that young kids usually put up a fuss on planes and “what were they thinking?”… You should KNOW that if those parents could do things any different they probably would have. Parents are not idiots and almost every one of them that I know loathe getting on a plane with a cranky kid and avoid it at all costs.
  8. When getting off the plane, take it easy — Everyone will be allowed to get off the plane. There is no reason to push your way forward and bully everyone because whatever you’re doing is more important than anyone else. There’s people on the plane going to funerals, vacation, interviews and business deals. What’s important to them is just as important to you. Relax — if you’ve checked your bags, you can relax and just get to the carousel at your own pace.
  9. Medicate – If you are sick, for all that is good and holy medicate yourself. Bring tissues. Don’t make everyone sick around you.

I’m sure there’s more, and I would look forward to any and all comments! A guideline I use is to be sensitive to those around you. Keep a small “footprint”, remain patient and courteous, and if you have a screaming kid near you, lighten up and offer some help if you can.

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7 Responses to “Airline Passenger Etiquette — When you're NOT the only one on the Plane!”

  1. C.C. says:

    i seldom travel. i don’t want to check in bags. however, i plan to take a duffle..is that a nuisance to people? the bag is practically an average sized gym bag. i also will have my son carry a kiddie backpack. flying with UA.

  2. Danilo says:

    The fact that you’re asking says a lot! Personally, a big reason for checking bags is so you don’t have to mess with them for a large portion of your travel. If you’re going to carry on, duffles make a lot of sense because they will fit just about anywhere. Kids tend to need stuff, and it’s nice to have things that keep them occupied and entertained. Again, it’s kind of the “footprint” issue — are you taking your fair share but no more? It seems kinda-touchy-feely-arbitrary….

    I just finished a LAX-Atlanta-Orlando-LAX flight last week,and my security line screeched to a standstill with a lady traveling with her little girl, dog, PARROT, laptop, and two carry-on bags. She had a purse that was so large it had its own zip code, and everyone at this Orlando security line had to wait while she “talked” her parrot out of the cage to take through security, like we all might think it was cute that a parrot would talk to mommy, etc.

    Good thing the daggers flying out of everyone’s eyes behind her were just “virtual”, or nobody would have gotten through….

    Asking means you care, and frankly that, in and of itself, rocks.

  3. Jeff Pabian says:

    Hoo-boy… you said it. Especially about traveling with kids. I know how that feels and when I travel alone, (without the kids), I make it a point to be understanding and even helpful.

    Another item should be, “no porno on the plane.” Once I was on a flight and sat next to a girl reading a Playgirl. That was uncomfortable to say the least… casual glance, indeed!

  4. Matthew Bohun says:

    I am a bit of a road warrior. I agree with everything you say. One point I would make, however, parents traveling with children should make a point of depriving said children of sugary drinks, candy and other junkfood for at least 12 to 24 hours before the flight, and for the entire flight. Kids scream and are restless, but the sugar and artificial ingredients in junk food is only going to make them zippy and in a confined space that spells trouble with a capital T.

  5. Richard E. Hermann says:

    I plan to request a wheelchair at the airport to transport me from the check-in to the plane. What amount of tip would be fair and/or expected for the attendant?

  6. Danilo says:

    Hmmm, 5-10 bucks? I think what you can afford, based upon how far they have to go, how nice they are and if there are any special circumstances.

    I think that they’d be thrilled to get anything, because I’ll bet they might get stiffed more often than you think!

  7. Tony Z says:

    One more tip: Be nice to the flight attendants. I once helped a flight attendant on the ground and later discovered she was working my flight. When she saw me at the gate, she told to be sit in first class where she was working. Not only did I get the free upgrade, she dropped an unopened bottle of campaign in my lap just before deplaning.

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