Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Airplane Etiquette - guest post by Suzanne Richardson

Traveling. You’re stuffed into a tiny metal cylinder for hours at a time. You’re cramped. You’re hungry. You’re slammed up against a stranger. So why make it any worse than it has to be?

But some people seem to think that the world exists for them and them alone.

Take, for instance, the gentleman who sat down beside me on my flight home after Bootcamp, pulling on the seat in front of him as he eased into his. He proceeded to pick his nose, sneezed, and then kept creeping into my personal space. (Every time his arm touched mine, I’d squinch a little closer to the window. Only to feel his arm touching mine – again.)

The two hours I spent on that plane rank right up there with getting my wisdom teeth removed as one of my top-10 most uncomfortable experiences. (At least I was knocked out for the wisdom teeth!)

Travel – extra costs, constant delays, overworked airport personnel – is already high-stress. And with the holidays coming up, you’re probably going to see bigger crowds and feel even more frazzled.

Here are seven rules to make sure you never drive your seatmate as crazy as mine drove me. They’ll make you a lot more pleasant to travel with. And here’s hoping your good manners will rub off on those around you.

Travel Manners Rule #1. Keep it down.

iPods are super. Portable DVD players – great. But I don’t want to listen to the latest Jonas Bros. CD or listen to you guffaw at Steve Carell’s antics in Get Smart. Bring headphones with you – noise-canceling headphones. Because they keep outside noise to a minimum, you’ll be able to do your listening at a more reasonable volume. That’ll keep your seatmates happy and protect your hearing. Hold the headphones about a foot away from your body. If you can still hear something, it’s too loud.

Travel Manners Rule #2. Watch what you eat.

Yes, it’s annoying that most airlines have eliminated any sort of food service. But there’s nothing worse than getting my nose up-close-and-personal with my seatmate’s egg salad sandwich and side of Funyuns. Before you wrap up that garlic sausage hoagie to enjoy on the plane, remember – smells that make your mouth water just might curdle someone else’s stomach.

Helena Echlin of Chow.com offers a few suggestions: Bring cold food, which is less aromatic than hot food. (She recommends sushi, wraps, and sandwiches.) Avoid tuna. Skip “crumbly or slithery” foods like crackers and noodles. And give your trash to the flight attendant as soon as possible.

Travel Manners Rule #3. Watch your mouth.

For my last trip to Delray Beach, I’d printed out a stack of articles to edit. When my seatmate sat down, I smiled and agreed that the weather was delightful. But then I got back to reading and making notes. He, however, kept asking me questions and making comments about the weather. Hey – I’m fine with exchanging pleasantries and sharing a little small talk. You never know who you’ll meet on a plane, after all – a potential partner, customer, or future boss. But if I’m reading or sleeping or otherwise engaged, don’t try to strike up a conversation.

A Harris Interactive and Yahoo! FareChase poll found that 50 percent of people surveyed dread sitting next to an overly garrulous seatmate. And a CheapFlights.com survey found that Chatty Cathys are the most offensive violators of airplane etiquette.

Travel Manners Rule #4. Pay attention to boundaries.

• Armrests. I’m sorry if the armrest between us is uncomfortable. But we are already closer than I want to be, and that slim metal rectangle is the only thing separating my space from yours. So keep it down.

• Leg room. Yes, your carry-on is too big to really fit under your seat. But that doesn’t mean you can stretch out your legs under MY seat.

• Under the seat. Your carry-on luggage – that includes your purse, ladies – goes under the seat in front of you. NOT under the seat you’re sitting on. I don’t know why this is the rule, but it is. And if you shove your laptop under your seat, you’re robbing the person sitting behind you of leg room and a space for her own bag.

• Tray tables. I’m happy to keep your drink on my tray table when you head to the bathroom. (Not so much when you’re just sick of having your tray table down.) But ask first.

Travel Manners Rule #5. Keep your toys quiet.

I’m not a parent, so I’m sure there’s more to picking out toys than finding those that might be least annoying to other people on an airplane. But even if that beeping fire truck is Jimmy’s favorite, leave it at home.

Travel Manners Rule #6. Figure out which seat you’re in.

On one of my trips home from Florida, I overheard a conversation I’ve heard a dozen times:

“Oh, I think you’re in my seat.”

“What? I’m in 10C. That’s this one.”

“Um, no it isn’t. You’re sitting in 10D, not 10C. 10C is the aisle seat, not the window.”

“Oh, sorry, I thought it was the window.”

Even if it’s your first time flying – ever – it’s not hard to figure out where you’re sitting. First, look at your ticket. Prominently, under “seat,” you’ll see a number next to a letter. That’s your seat.

Now, take a look around the airplane. Turn (mentally, if you like) toward the front of the airplane. Starting on the left and moving right, the seats will be lettered A to D (or higher). So A is always the window seat. The highest letter (C on most Embraer planes, F on most Boeing 737s, L on Boeing 777s) will also be the window seat.

Once you know which seat you’re meant to be in, sit in it. (If there are empty seats on the plane, you may be able to switch – but only once the doors are closed.) On a flight from Atlanta, I went to sit down and found my seatmate in my window seat. When I smiled and told her she was in my seat, she wasn’t at all surprised. Hoping that I didn’t care enough to call her out? Too bad.

By the way, if you really want a window seat (or aisle), you can choose your seats on most airline websites when you buy your ticket. You can also try to switch your seat when you check in – either online or at the kiosk in the airport.

Travel Manners Rule #7. Be nice.

Traveling puts me on edge. And I’m betting it’s not your favorite thing either. But one way to make it more tolerable – for yourself and everyone around you – is to be friendly, polite, and just plain nice. If you have to ask someone to turn down her iPod or move her drink off your tray table, do so in a gentle, thoughtful manner. It doesn’t take a lot of effort. And it will make the trip a lot easier for everyone involved.

This article appears courtesy of Early To Rise, a free newsletter dedicated to making money, improving health and secrets to success. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.earlytorise.com.


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camper223 said...

Love your advice we just returned home from a trip from Tampa to San Francisco back to Tampa.
When calling airline I told them several times we are a party of 4, 2 adults and 2 teens traveling together and want seats together ( I know at 13 and 17 they should be able to handle seating separate from mom or dad but why make them when we are paying a higher price for choosing seats.
Sadly upon arriving at airport found we were scattered in 4 different parts of plane.
Then instead of our 1 time switching planes they had us switch 2 times, Tampa to Chicago to Phoenix to San Francisco if that wasn't bad enough we were put in economy their reasoning they were doing plane switches and were using different planes. Then since we had only brought carry on bags found that other travelers were putting all their items such as their carry on bag, laptop, purse, coat and whatever else they could cram into overhead into the overhead so no room had to check our carry on bags at last minute.
Then we get people who want to put their seat down like its their home recliner so your drink is pushed into your stomach and your only relief is putting your tray table up and holding your drink. After being on planes from dawn to dusk rushing through airports trying to make your next flight in 10 minutes you finally arrive to start your vacation, the whole vacation your thinking how to make the trip home less stressful then it was on the way there. You have pretty much done your part ok liquids and gels 3 ozs in quart baggie done, each outfit bra, undie, shirt and capri rolled and put into separate quart size baggie 7 outfits plus 6 pair sandals each bagged, swimsuit cover up bagged, nightgown bagged ok your done oh wait what about the extra jacket you had to buy and the t-shirt souvenirs you had to buy for other family members so off to post office to ship, no small boxes to be found cost will be over $30.00 so you decide 13 year old son just brought a 15" suitcase and really needs a new suitcase for future carry on and does have a trip coming up from Florida to Washington DC in the spring with his marching band so off you go to buy a suitcase finally finding a 2 piece matching set that will be perfect for future travel so at that moment you decide to buy it and you'll check the bigger one. Off to hotel to save $5.00 by checking in suitcase before arriving at airport. Do all that is needed time to print out tickets and checked bag tag, well hotel printer not working. You check your bag your switching planes from dawn till dusk you finally arrive at airport go to pick up checked bag and find your brand new suitcase is smashed and broken no handle so now your mad, so off you go to find your planes customer service, you stand in line and over hear and see a lady with her older beat up suitcase looked like it had seen many many trips telling customer service she can't use so they somehow have a brand new suitcase and hand it to her to have to replace her suitcase shes still complaining, our turn their response sorry we don't cover luggage. Well didn't I pay to check this? When checking it I was never told luggage isn't covered. So in the end all I got was a sorry but you travel at your own risk and a I don't care attitude from customer service.So now I'm out a suitcase, stressed out and rethinking plans about flying again and saying what a vacation I agree getting wisdom teeth removed might be a better trip.

RobynsOnlineWorld said...

Great article! they need to pass this out as people board the plane. On my last flight there was some parent who thought that a toy xylophone would be a good toy to keep her toddler entertained on the plane - ACK! Thankfully the flight attendant put a stop to that rather quickly.

Anonymous said...

Here are some things I've learned along the way that help me keep my sanity on flights:
first, I wear earphones as soon as I sit down. They might not even be connected to a device. I wear them the entire flight. Maybe it's rude, but one 8 hour flight of endless conversation when I'm trying to sleep is enough.

And if someone starts invading my space, I fake cough near them. Everytime, they instinctively move away. If they do it again, my fake coughs get louder and hacky until they don't come back. Got that tip from a flight attendant who took pity and it hasn't failed me. Also, if someone sticks their oversized handbag on my side, I rest my feet on it and can quickly move it back to their area when the opportunity strikes if they haven't already moved it because they were horrified that my foot was on their precious handbag.

Keep eyemask and earplugs with me also just in case. Maybe I would be more lady-like if I flew first class where there's room galore, but in coach, its all about strategy.
- Angie

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