We’ve all been there – the screaming kid. The talker. The frazzled, unprepared traveler holding everyone up at the security checkpoint. Ah yes, when it comes to air travel, it seems as though we encounter these scenarios more often than not. And with so many airlines packing us into planes like sardines these days, it’s safe to say that many of us would rather get a root canal than go on an airplane. But it doesn’t have to be that way! If we all do our part in practicing good air travel etiquette, we can make the airplane a better place (for all of us). Here’s how:
Be Prepared for Security: Leave yourself plenty of times to get through security — especially if you’re traveling during peak travel hours, which are typically 6:30-9:30 AM and 3:30-7:30 PM. Layer items neatly in your carry on and keep your toiletries/liquids to 3.4 ounces or less. Prior to arriving at the checkpoint, take off jewelry, belts, and watches and take your laptop out of the case. Place everything in the bin with your shoes, coat, and other belongings. Make sure you don’t hold up the line by taking things off in front of the scanner or by fumbling through your bags last minute.
Think Before You Recline: It’s the age-old question in airport travel etiquette: to recline or not to recline? Even after all these years, it still remains what it always was: a question at best. There’s really no easy answer, but here’s a general rule of thumb: if you’re taking the red-eye, most people fully exercise their right to recline (except during meal times). But regardless of the circumstance, if you decide to recline your seat, try to put yourself in the shoes of the person behind you. Turning around to let him or her know that you’re planning to recline is always a nice gesture. If they seem put off or if you notice they’re eating or working, be considerate of how far back you go (if at all).
Entertain Your Kids: Make sure you pack plenty of quiet activities to keep your children distracted, especially during those long-haul flights. A pre-flight trip to the dollar store can work wonders in quelling boredom and the inevitable meltdowns that can result. The key is getting toys and books that your child will like… and most importantly…have never seen before. Wait until the airplane to do the “big reveal” and cross your fingers the novelty will keep them entertained for hours. Another area where it may make sense to splurge is snacks. For instance, if your child loves fruit snacks, you may want to spring for the slightly more expensive package with his or her favorite cartoon character on the wrapper (sometimes when it comes to kids, it’s the little things, right?).
Keep Your Cool: : If you’re on the other side of the fence and a passenger’s child is disturbing you, remember that the parents are (most likely) trying their best to diffuse the situation. An empathetic nod or the words of “I get it,” may not stop a crying fit, but could send some good karma your way. If you notice, however, that a parent is leaving their child to do as they please, it’s best to speak with a flight attendant to see if they can assist. Speaking to the parent directly—or worse, the child—will likely have an alienating effect and make the situation worse.
Decompress (and let others do the same): You don’t have to be an introvert to look forward to a little in-flight alone time. Whether you use that time to catch up on work, watch movies you’ve had in your Netflix queue or even get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, these can undoubtedly be some of the brighter moments of air travel. However, if the person next to you is a chatty Cathy, these plans can quickly fall to the wayside. In this instance, putting on your headphones or opening a book is both an easy and polite way to give the chatterbox next to you a subtle signal. On the flipside, if you’re in the mood for a chat, be respectful if the person is busy working, reading, listening to music, or generally looks as though they do not want to be disturbed. When people begin giving you one-word answers such as “uh huh” or “sure”, it’s probably time to find other ways to direct your in-flight energy.