Airplane Etiquette for Dummies: 10 Basic Rules

20 Mar

If everyone would just follow a few simple rules, air travel would be so much less unpleasant. The complete lack of common courtesy on airplanes never ceases to amaze me, but even more than that, the lack of simply thinking. Most people actually aren’t being willfully rude- they just don’t think about what they are doing. Though if they did, I suppose in this ego-centric world, most wouldn’t care.

"Aaaand where's my stuff supposed to go?"

1) Don’t be a bin hog.

Got more than one carry-on? The smaller one goes under your seat. Can’t fit it under your seat? Ask for a gate check. There’s no reason you should take an entire bin for yourself (other than the fact that you are a selfish jerk) and leave people who board behind you without anywhere to put their things.

2) Just because your seat CAN recline doesn’t mean it SHOULD.

Do you really need to recline your seat the whole way for the entire flight, thereby completely pinning the person behind you into his seat so he cannot move? The truth is, airline seats don’t recline that much and you probably won’t notice it at all if you don’t put your seat all the way back. The person behind you will notice, though, and will be eternally grateful that you have shown consideration to him by not intruding into his personal space so much that he can’t even reach down to untie his shoes.

If you think your extra bit of comfort is so important that you don't care if it maims the person behind you, you're first on my list to be executed when I take over the world.

While we’re on the subject, if you must recline your seat, there is no need to slam your seat back without warning. Anybody who does this truly deserves to have the back of their seat kicked for the entire flight. Before reclining, turn around and look at who is behind you and perhaps ask them if they mind you putting your seat back.

If for some reason you can’t speak to the person behind you- maybe they are sleeping or you are shy or they speak another language or whatever- then at least put your seat back veeeeeeery sloooowly. You never know if they might have an open laptop or an open drink on their tray table or are resting their head on the back of your seat. Give them ample time to move their stuff. You wouldn’t like it if someone broke your laptop, so don’t do it to anyone else. I mean, duh.

I’ve had so many problems with reclining offenders in the past that I am considering getting a gadget called Knee Defender. Looks promising.

Use your imagination to figure out what this might mean.

3) Clean up after yourself.

Airplane bathrooms are gross. They are also cramped, which means that if someone leaves something nasty in the lavatory, chances are, you’re going to come in close contact with it.

Seriously, people, if you pee on the seat, clean it up. Don’t leave your used towels and Kleenex in the sink- put them in the trash. No one wants to see your used Band-Aid or tampon lying on the floor. If you hack up a miniature shoggoth and spit it in the sink, please have the decency to wipe it up or rinse it down. If you use the very last of the toilet paper, say something to the flight attendant and warn the person in line behind you. All these are very basic things that I assume people abide by in their own homes, most of the time. The airplane is no exception. In fact, you should practice even better sanitation there than you do at home.

And for the love of God, please flush!!!

4) If you’re fat, buy two seats or fly in first class.

A ticket for a second (and maybe third) seat would have probably cost less than what he spends on food in a year.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting next to Mr Fatty Fidgety on a 16 hour flight. Actually, no. It wasn’t a pleasure. I kinda wanted to kill him. Or at least make an extremely rude comment about his girth in order to shame him into losing weight before he thinks about getting on a plane again.

I don’t care how big or small you are. You only have the right to the amount of space that an airline decides to alot to each individual. If you exceed that space, you do not have the right to encroach upon your neighbour and let your fat disgusting thighs rub all over them and let your fat ass spill over into their seat and take up the entire armrest for the whole flight. Look in the mirror, recognise you are fat, and buy two seats. Don’t like spending the extra money? Lay off the Fritos.

At amusement parks, I have seen them refuse fat riders. The roller coasters have test seats and the ride operator can ask you to sit in it to prove that the safety harness fits you properly. If you do not fit in the seat, you do not ride. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

I think all airlines should have an economy class seat at check in and everyone should have to prove they can fit into it without spilling over the edge, much the way they make you do with your carry on bag. Frankly, I’m less concerned with whether someone’s bag fits into the overhead compartment than I am with a fat person rubbing on me and squishing me the whole flight. You can always gate check a bag if it doesn’t fit. To date, airlines don’t gate check people.

If this goes any further, they might end up joining the Mile High Club...

5) Choose your seat wisely.

Are you one of those people that likes to sleep the whole flight? If so, you belong on the window seat. Are you one of those people who goes to the toilet ten times as often as everyone else? Then please choose an aisle seat.

In the case of the former, no one wants to have to wake a sleeping person in order to exit their seat and if you’re sleeping, you probably don’t want to be disturbed either. In the case of the latter, it’s very rude to take a window seat and constantly disturb your seatmates as you get in and out every half hour.

Sometimes you don’t get to make a seat request and if you find the airline has seated you inappropriately to your in-flight proclivities, then do the right thing and warn your seatmates of your tendencies and offer to trade seats if they want.

These are not hand railings.

6) Learn to walk with your feet, not your arms.

My biggest pet peeve as a frequent aisle seat sitter (yes, I’m the one who gets up to use the restroom constantly) is people who somehow forget to walk once on board an aircraft and grab people’s seats to haul their morbidly obese selves down the aisle. There you are getting all cozy, starting to fall asleep when some butt-cheese grabs the back of your seat as hard as they can, rudely jolting you out of the almost-sleep you’d worked SO hard to reach. You then see them doing this to every aisle seat they pass, using their arms to move their body weight instead of their legs. Makes me wonder how they manage on a normal sidewalk in every day life. Anyway: don’t do this! It’s annoying!

Where naughty children belong!

7) Keep your kids under control.

There’s a very good reason that some airlines have banned children in first class and I wish I could get in on some kind of child-free economy class deal at some point.

I understand that sometimes you just cannot avoid bringing a child on a flight and I understand that children get antsy and fussy and don’t always behave the way adults want them to. They cry, they scream, they get excited, they get restless. For the most part, I’m pretty easy going about normal kid behaviour, but what I can’t stand and find unacceptable are parents who just sit back and let their kids act like brats the entire flight, especially on long flights where many people will be trying to sleep.

There is no excuse for a child to cry the ENTIRE flight. There is no excuse for a parent to allow a child to kick someone else’s seat repeatedly. There is no excuse for children to run in the aisle, bothering other people, or leaving their toys for others to trip on in the dark.

I know it’s probably hard to be a parent with one or more small children on a long flight and I do feel bad for them when they do everything they can to get their child to behave and for whatever reason, it’s just not happening. But at least the parent is trying and I can’t get mad at them for that.

But a lot of parents make no effort and are happy to sit back and enjoy the flight, paying no attention to what their little ones are doing or who they are bothering. I’m in favour of locking those children in overhead bins and assigning their parents to clean the disgusting lavatories. Since I can’t do that, if I happen to be behind them, I engage in a bit of obnoxious seat kicking, so that the parents can be as annoyed by me as I am by their kids. Passive aggressive? Yeah. But I have actually exchanged words with such parents before only to have them continue on as before. I figure the seat kicking is more effective.

Is "queue" a foreign word?

8) Quit pushing and shoving when boarding and disembarking.

It’s not a race. We’re all going to leave at the same time and we’re all going to arrive at the same time. Your seat will still be there even if you are the last one to board and you still have to go through customs and wait at the baggage carousel even if you’re the first one off the plane. Take a chill pill.

Flight attendants: not to be messed with!

9) Be nice to the flight attendants.

There’s no reason to be rude to a flight attendant (unless they started it). If they tell you turn off your electronics, don’t argue with them. If you wanted beef for dinner and all they have left is chicken, don’t demand they go slaughter a cow in the galley just for you. If you’re having a problem with another passenger, don’t yell at the flight attendants and expect them to radically reform the other person’s behaviour.

I have a serious problem with people who are rude to flight attendants because this tends to put the flight attendant in a bad mood, which they then take out on the rest of us. So just be nice to them, okay? Remember: They can ruin your day a lot worse than you can ruin theirs.

I so need to get a shirt like this.

10) Be nice in general.

Aside from all the super basic stuff I’ve already listed that you should already be doing anyway, it’s nice if you can go out of your way to be pleasant to others. Help the old lady with her bag. Offer to trade seats so a separated couple can sit together. Small kindnesses among passengers go a long way towards making an otherwise miserable flight a little better for everyone.

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