A dozen ways to be a more congenial air traveler
On a recent United Airlines flight, my seatmate didn't acknowledge my existence with so much as a nod or a wan smile, but he did manage to nod off on my shoulder for 30 or so minutes before he woke up. I didn't have the heart to shake him awake. It was kind of funny. Ironically, he didn't bother to apologize for invading my personal space nor thank me for letting him get some shut eye.
But many of the things we do in airports and on planes are not so amusing.
Is it really a surprise that your cellphone will set off the metal detector at the security checkpoint? Help speed things up by placing all your metal and electronic doodads in a coat pocket or carry-on pouch, remove your laptop from its case, have liquids/gels/toiletries in the TSA-approved quart-sized bag, and have those shoes ready to toss in the tray (unless, of course, you're enrolled in TSA PreCheck). And yes, that nonfat macchiato you just bought does in fact count as a liquid. As does that 6 gallon vat of Gold Bond Medicated Cream you forgot to put in your checked baggage. Don't argue with the nice agent. Keep it moving.
Standing still on the people mover. Exhilarating, isn't it? Enjoy the ride! But at least move to the right so others can get around. And move those bags out of the way too. Thanks!
Carry-ons and overheads, bad news first: You may have to store your carry-on in an overhead bin other than the one directly above your seat. The good news? Every overhead bin on the plane is going to the same place you're going! Quelle coinkidink! Heck, even if you're asked to check your carry-on, you'll still see it again upon arrival, and it'll be free. A slight inconvenience, yes, but no need for a meltdown. Just take whatever items you may need during the flight and keep them under the seat in front of you. No biggie.
What is so hard about putting your rolling suitcase in the bins wheels first? That makes room for more bags, as the cabin crew constantly remind us. And how about stepping out of the aisle if there's room to do so, so others can pass by you?
Be accommodating to your seatmates and fellow passengers, without being creepy. Are they avoiding eye contact when taking their seat? If so, they probably aren't up for a get-to-know-you chitchat. Taking the red eye and notice everyone in your row sleeping? Then keep your shade down and turn the reading light off a little sooner. And would it kill you to swap seats so that family can sit together? Probably not.
Whoa there, Burger King, go easy on the smells. You wouldn't want your seatmate blowing stogie smoke in your face, and that steaming Whopper with onion isn't any better. If you're starving, forgo that grease-blotted bag of fast food for something a little more discrete. Have you ever in your life caught a whiff of M&Ms, or a ham and cheese, or a bag of trail mix? No? Well, there you go. Buy those instead.
And this isn't solely a food offense. Remember, you're in a plane, not the hair & makeup trailer. While your attempts at getting beautiful are sure to be a hit on the ground, the nail polish and the Axe body spray aren't gonna make you any friends up in the air. At the very least, do your spritzing and fixing in the lavatory. Related: Armpits and feet ... hellooo? Are you smuggling Doritos in those socks? Keep it clean, people.
All mobile phones must be switched off or put into airplane mode once the doors are closed. Think this rule is just a bunch of hooey? Whatever effect your last minute call to the office might have on the delicate instruments of the aircraft is not up for debate. It's a risk your fellow passengers and their families probably don't care to take. So, whatever it is, it can wait. And please don't give the crew any lip if they ask you again to turn it off, mmkay?
Kicking and screaming. Parents traveling with children, please keep your child from kicking the back of the seat, slipping arms between seats, yelling and being a nuisance to fellow passengers. You may be desensitized to this sort of thing, but the guy in front of you is not. Annoyed passenger, should the trouble persist and you have to ask the parent to intervene, do so in a polite and pleasant tone. Making someone feel like an inadequate parent will only make things worse.
aAs for crying infants ... well, sorry, it happens. And there's not much to be done about it. One thing's for sure. Those pricey noise-canceling headphones you passed up on the ground are looking puh-retty worth it about now, aren't they? Maybe buy them next time. You'll be so glad you did. (As you can see in the pic, I'm wearing my Bose NC's. Never leave home without them!).
Clapping upon landing? Really? This one isn't so much annoying as it is baffling. How exactly did you imagine this flight would end?
Stay seated until the aircraft has reached the gate. Yes, the siren song of 200-something seat belts unfastening in unison is very exciting. You've landed, you want to stand up, and you want your stuff! But hang cool, teddy bear. Even if by some chance you've collected your things from the overhead the moment the wheels touch the ground ... uh, where exactly do you plan on going? The door is still closed and there are about 60 people seated in the rows before you, all of whom are just as eager to deplane.
Inevitably someone on that plane has a tight connection to another flight. Would it be so difficult to let those passengers get out of their seats before you wrestle your luggage out of the overhead bins for you and your family of 5?
Once at baggage claim, all sense of personal space seems to go out the window. And it's no wonder, after having spent all those hours confined to such a tiny seat. But don't wriggle your way through a cluster of waiting people only to block their access to the belt. That's annoying. Those people are waiting on their bag too. The conveyor belt is long and winding, with plenty of room for everyone. And your bag is still on the luggage cart.
And finally, even if you think you've memorized the safety demo (which, of course, you haven't, because the last time you actually listened to it was 20 years ago), don't yak loudly to your colleague across the aisle while others are trying to pay attention. At least pretend to pay attention.
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