Whether or not you’re on team Steven Slater – the Jet Blue flight attendant who told off a plane full of passengers before making a dramatic exit down an emergency slide –you’ve probably dealt with rude or inconsiderate in-flight behavior.
Perhaps the extra fees for luggage and blankets, long security lines and chronic flight delays have made you an irate passenger in the past. It doesn’t have to be this way. With a little advance planning and common courtesy, you can try to enjoy your next flight. Or at least vow not to get annoyed – or annoy fellow passengers. Here, some travel tips to keep in mind the next time you fly.
1. Be considerate when you recline your seat. “The unwritten rule is to make a ‘looking behind you’ motion and then recline slowly, giving the person behind you time to react.”
—From msnbc.com: Airplane Etiquette 101
2. Keep the volume down on your ipod. Your neighbor may not want to listen to Celine Dion.
3. Know how to deal with an incessant talker and try not to be one yourself. Here’s how to know if your neighbor would rather not chat: “Start by introducing yourself when you sit down and if your introduction is met by a quick opening of a book or an immediate grab for the headphones, it’s safe to assume your neighbor is not in the mood to be social.”
4. Book the right seat. “Reserve an aisle seat if you have long legs or if you expect to be up and down a lot. If you intend to sleep during the flight, try to get a window seat so that others won’t be inconvenienced by climbing over you and you won’t be awakened by them doing so.”
–From familyeducation.com: Airplane Etiquette
5. Be respectful to your flight attendant. Try not to use the call button unless it’s absolutely necessary. And though it may be obvious, remember that thank you goes a long way.
And now for some practical tips:
6. Pack for the flight, not just for the trip. I’m such a procrastinator that I often forget to pack the things that make a flight much more comfortable. On my list: Bose noise-canceling headphones, an eye mask, an inflatable head pillow (they’re easier to pack), water, snacks, hand cream, and a blanket so you don’t have to shell out $7 for a cheap one from your airline. Don’t forget to bring a good book. This is obvious but worth mentioning so you don’t get stuck having to buy one in the airport, where the selection is limited and prices are higher.
7. Reserve towards the back of the plane to increase your chance of having an empty seat next to you. If the flight isn’t sold out, the middle seats in the back of the plane will likely be empty.
8. Gather your in-flight necessities before you board the plane. “Blocking the aisle during boarding while you dig for gum, a book, or a snack can delay the entire plane.” One flight attendant suggests “packing small must-haves in a resealable gallon-size bag that you can toss onto the seat while you put away everything else.”
—From realsimple.com: 20 Tips from Air Travel Insiders
9. Always bring a car seat for your child. Most airlines allow kids under 2 to travel for free as long as they sit on your lap. Lots of parents go this route to save money. But is the savings worth what could turn into an unbearable flight with an unhappy kid? Kids are used to being in their car seats plus it’s much safer. I’ve bought a seat for my son since he was 3 months old. He’s happier, I’m calmer and our airplane neighbors can (usually) enjoy some peace and quiet. Some airlines offer discounted airfares for kids so it’s worth asking if you decide to buy a seat.
10. Avoid carrying on a gigantic piece of hand luggage. It’ll be easier to get through security and carry and store in the overhead compartment. (Too many bags crammed into a tight space is what allegedly triggered the Jet Blue incident). “The secret to getting through security smoothly is to de-clutter your carry-on bag. This lets our Transportation Security Officers get a clear, uncomplicated X-ray image of your carry-on.”
–From the Transportation Security Administration