Whenever I travel, I’m reminded that we can be awfully chaotic creatures.
Remember that reality show Airline? The one that exposed the behind-the-scenes action at Southwest Airlines? What really struck me is how people seemed unnaturally stressed when they flew.
Because we paid $700 for a ticket, do we forget that there are plenty of others flying, too? Or is it the breathless “can’t you see I’m risking my bloody life here!!!?” morbid mentality that leads us to justify rude, juvenile behaviour? The way some people crowd the gate, I swear they think the Titanic’s going down and that’s the queue for the lifeboats.
Like, I can understand the Wright brothers feeling thus entitled, but the 3254th passenger in Pearson Airport on any given Wednesday?
It’s no picnic being wedged into a flying can with two hundred people with vastly different approaches to personal hygiene. However, it can be a lot smoother if we all brush up on simple air travel etiquette. Here are my biggest pet peeves, and their antidotes:
SCENARIO: Everybody storms the gate as soon as the preboarding announcement is made.
THE RULES: There is a reason they board economy by row number: they fill the back of the plane first, followed by the centre, followed by the front. If they filled the front first, people in the middle and the back would be held up as the front people obstruct the aisles, grappling with their suitcases and coats. If your number is called but you see a horde of impatient idiots blocking the entrance, just muscle your way up there and politely ask the person at head of the line what row they’re in. If their section is not being called, say “excuse me, but I’m in the group that’s boarding now” and cut in front of him/her. YEAH. Now that’s sweet justice.
It seems so basic, but an infuriating number of people break this rule. Every. Time. I. Fly. The plane isn’t going to take off before everyone has boarded. Think of it this way: if you rush on before your turn like a smartass, you are quite possibly delaying take off. Nice one, schmuck.
SCENARIO: The overhead bin is packed, but you might be able to coax your hard-shelled suitcase in there with a little force…
THE RULES: Never put other peoples’ possessions at risk. How would you like to be responsible for crushing a priceless antique vase…full of Aunt Mimi’s ashes!? If space is tight, ask a flight attendant to find a suitable spot for you.
SCENARIO: You’ve drawn the short straw and you’re in the middle seat. A-gain. Who gets those shared armrests? Elbow fight?
THE RULES: The official word is that the middle person gets both of the shared armrests. That’s right, middle guy: live it up like a king on his throne! The reason: the aisle and window people don’t have to be sandwiched between strangers, and they each have an armrest that is exclusively theirs.
SCENARIO: The plane’s wheels touch the runway. FREEDOM!
THE RULES: Don’t remove your seatbelt until the seatbelt sign is extinguished, unless you want to be admitted to the “injured dunces” wing of the hospital. The plane still has to taxi to the gate and may stop abruptly.
SCENARIO: Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off the plane we go!
THE RULES: Common courtesy dictates that you should let everyone in front of you exit before you do, even if you’re already standing and have been snorting steam for twenty minutes. Yes, they need to get their bags out of the overhead compartment as well. Don’t rush ahead before your turn. The only exception is people waiting for assistance – but make sure you check first by offering to let them out.
SCENARIO: “But I’ve got a tight connection! OMG! OMG! The world as we know it is ending!”
THE RULES: First, talk to the flight attendant before you’ve landed if you’re concerned. Remember that you’re probably not the only person on board with a worrisome connection, especially if the plane is delayed. I’ve heard attendants ask everyone without connections to stay seated until the affected individuals have disembarked, although this is rare. It is okay to politely ask people if you can go ahead because you have a close connection – they will be understanding. It’s all in the delivery. You have my permission to bat your eyelashes. What the heck, blow kisses too.
SCENARIO: You’re on the airport conveyor belt – a.k.a. the super sidewalk.
THE RULES: WALK! The sidewalk is mean to help you stride like Superman, it’s not a device for transporting statues. Standing on that thing will actually move you slower than if you had just walked beside it. Plus, you’re inconveniencing the rest of us, who would like to have that wonderful apres-flight sensation of having bionic legs.
SCENARIO: You’re waiting at the baggage carousel and – whoo hoo – here comes your suitcase!
THE RULES: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed someone violently barge ahead of a person who is already standing there, then haul their oversized bag off the carousel with absolutely NO control, hitting a bystander with the monstrosity in the process. Is it impossible to say “excuse me, that’s my bag?” Pick it up with an awareness of what’s around you.
Have I missed anything? What bugs you when you fly, and what solution would you offer?
Oh, and you might enjoy this video my travel writer friend Tim Johnson shared with me, last time I was waiting for my luggage at Pearson: