Two weeks ago, I returned to Toronto after a month-long vacation in South Africa. The trip involved five flights: four long-haul flights to get there and back, and one domestic flight within South Africa. I spent a total of about sixty hours either on planes or at airports, and my observations and experiences during these hours inspired me to create this list of things to do (or not do) when traveling by air.
1. Don’t argue with the airport security people. If they ask you to take off your shoes, just take off your damned shoes. Yes, it’s inconvenient and at times it can appear unfair, but if you resist, all you’re doing is delaying the people in line behind you.
2. Don’t board the plane until your row number is called. They board large flights by row number for a reason: so that passengers seated near the front of the aircraft don’t clutter up the aisles while those near the back are trying to get to their seats. You seriously don’t have to be the first one on the plane. Once you have checked in, the plane is not going to leave without you.
3. If you check in, and especially if you have checked bags, for the love of God please show up at the boarding gate. The plane won’t leave without you – until you have been paged eleventy million times, your luggage has been located and removed from the plane, and all the other passengers have endured a lengthy delay prior to takeoff.
4. Pee before you get onto the plane. Especially if it’s a long overnight flight and you’re not in an aisle seat. It’s hard enough to fall asleep on a plane without someone waking you up because they have to answer the call of nature. If you’re someone who needs to pee several times a night, ask for an aisle seat when you check in.
5. If you are seated apart from someone who is traveling with you, the person beside you is not obligated to switch seats so that you can sit together. Some of us check in online ahead of time specifically so we can choose where we’re going to sit. If we decline to move to a seat that we were making efforts to avoid (like one of the dreaded middle seats), we shouldn’t get attitude from you.
6. The aisle of the plane during boarding is not the time or place to be rummaging in your carry-on bag trying to rearrange its contents. When you get onto the plane, stow your bag and sit down so other people can get to their seats.
7. Be as clean as possible before you fly. You probably won’t be able to take a shower if you are taking a connecting flight, but you can at least brush your teeth and apply a bit of deodorant. Believe me, it is not pleasant to spend twelve hours sealed in a metal tube with someone who smells like dirty feet.
8. Mind your manners while you’re on the plane. The people beside you do not want to endure loud belching and farting, they don’t want to see you pick your nose, and they don’t want to hear every mouthful while you eat your dinner.
9. Don’t engage fellow passengers in a lengthy conversation unless they’re up for it. If the person next to you puts on headphones or opens a book, that’s a clue that they want to be left alone. It’s fine to say hello and exchange pleasantries, but don’t overdo it. If you are traveling with someone, hold your conversations with them at a reasonable volume.
10. The absolute worst place to sit during a flight is in one of the middle seats, with people on either side of you. If you’re fortunate enough to be in an aisle or window seat, be considerate and let the guy in the middle have an armrest.
11. Keep your seat upright during meals, and if you do incline it at any time, don’t put it all the way back. Have some pity for the person sitting behind you.
12. If you have to stand up during the flight, don’t use the back of the seat in front of you for leverage. It gives the person in the seat a nasty sensation of whiplash and if they’re sleeping, they get a very rude awakening.
13. When you arrive at your destination, don’t be the jerk who pushes and shoves in order to be the first off the plane. Everyone has spent several hours in cramped discomfort, and everyone is as anxious as you to escape.
Basically, if people show common sense and consideration toward their fellow passengers, everyone is safer, happier and more comfortable.
This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.