We love to travel, but flying can be a pain. Here are a few ways that responsible travelers can lead by example with preflight etiquette to make flying a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
Acting For the Greater Good
Sometimes in life, we have to do things for others. Think of it logically, when everyone is out doing what benefits themselves, everybody else suffers. Then, nobody is happy. When more people strive to do what is nice for others, more people benefit. There will always be those who, for whatever reason, behave without any consideration for others. We have to let them, but we don’t have to be like them. Display some dignity and a little decorum. We are civilized people.
If you think about it, you don’t want others encroaching on your freedoms and comfort. Ask yourself who does that sort of thing. If you are encroaching on someone else’s freedom or comfort, then what does that make you? It probably turns you into that which you don’t like.
These are suggestions to make flying more pleasant for everyone. If everyone on the flight does these things, then as the saying goes, a rising tide raises all ships.
Or do it because it is the right thing to do.
Preflight Etiquette Before You Leave Home
1. If Your Sick, Stay Home
There may be no worse preflight etiquette violation than traveling when you’re sick.
If you’re sick, stay home. I don’t want a sick person getting on the plane and getting me sick. I’m sure that you don’t want that either, so it is up to us to not do what we don’t want others to do. If we’re sick, we need to stay home and not get on the plane and spread the germs.
Get trip insurance. I’ve got an episode coming up in a few weeks, in which I will dispel all the common reasons for not purchasing trip insurance. For today I’ll recommend just be an adult and purchase trip insurance. After the COVID-19 outbreak, I’m sure doctors will not hesitate to write a note saying you were too sick to travel so that you can claim they canceled or changed the trip on your trip insurance policy. The important thing will be not to spread your sickness to someone else.
2. No Smells!
Take a shower before your flight. At least the night before. Slap on a little deodorant. Maybe a little perfume. A LITTLE. A strong body odor is bad etiquette in general. My wife reminds me of this every time I return from a run. Making sure you don’t smell bad is preflight etiquette that everyone will appreciate.
I love to snack. I almost never stop snacking. It’s not healthy. I know. We always take snacks on airplanes. Don’t take smelly snacks.
One of my favorite snacks is salt and vinegar chips. I can’t say no to Sultan vinegar chips except on airplanes I won’t take them on an airplane because they have a very strong smell. No eggs no garlic and no fajitas. Yes, fajitas smell delicious but there’s no point in showing off that’s just rude.
Preflight Etiquette: Make Security Fun!
3. Don’t be a security log jam
Security takes long enough when it runs smoothly. Yes, security is annoying. That doesn’t give us cause to abandon good behavior. Security might be the most important place to display proper preflight etiquette.
We don’t have to do the same things for security in one airport that we do in another. Once, A TSA agent told me that I don’t need to remove my Apple watch to pass through security. In that same airport a couple of weeks later, a TSA agent scolded me for not taking off my Apple watch for the security check.
It’s okay. Maybe it’s not consistent. They’re just following what rules they think they have. Maybe they don’t always get the rules right. That’s okay. They’re doing their best. They have to deal with way more annoying people than you and I do. Just smile and do what they say so that we can all get through security. I know. They’re inconveniencing you. They’re inconveniencing everybody. It’s their job. Don’t make it worse because you disagree. Just do as they ask, smile, and get on to where you need to go.
Before you get to the belt and trays, put everything you need to take out of your pockets into the bag you’ll put on the belt.
After the scan, gather your things and move to the chairs to put on your shoes. Even if you have great balance like me and can tie your shoes while balancing on one leg, grab your things as quickly as you can, make sure you get everything and move out of the way of others exiting the scans.
4. Don’t Crowd the Gate
I don’t like carrying things around the airport, so I try not to carry on luggage. Since I don’t have to fight for overhead bin space, I like to board the plane last instead of sitting in the tiny seat waiting for everyone else to fight over overhead bin space. Recently I paid extra to board first. When the gate agent called us, my wife, kid, and I had to fight through all the people huddled around the gate who weren’t boarding until a later zone.
Be considerate. Wait until your boarding zone is called. At least wait for the zone before yours. Yes, I know you want to get in so you can find space for your carry-on. I get it. But it’s considerate to not block the gate. When everyone blocks the gate everyone is miserable.
Unless you’re at a campfire, and it’s cold, crowding is generally poor etiquette. Form a nice queue, display good preflight etiquette, and leave room for those who need to get to the gate.
Go to the Bathroom
This isn’t as much for preflight etiquette as it is for your own personal comfort.
The human to lavatory ratio on airplanes is way out of whack. Go before you board. I’ve heard that airplane lavs aren’t the cleanest place in the world. I always go. Sometimes twice. If I don’t have to go, I take what I call a “Preemptive Strike.” This is something I’ve learned to do before every flight and before every movie. When I saw “The Avengers” the first time, I sat in complete misery for an hour and a half.
What if there’s a lot of turbulence. What if someone didn’t leave their germs at home and has to occupy the lav for an extended time.
Preemptive Strike. The Travel Wizard has spoken.
Shout out to Kuiil.
5. Don’t be backpack whacker*
I don’t mean a person who whacks backpacks. I mean, don’t be a person who whacks others with your backpack. While you’re walking down the aisle to your seat, make sure your backpack isn’t watching people who are seated. If you’re backpack or bag is that big, maybe it’s not a carry-on.
I take off my backpack and hold it in front of me with both hands. Holding my backpack with both hands helps me remember another important aspect of flight etiquette, which is holding the seats to balance.
6. Don’t use seats for balance*
As you’re boarding the plane and while you’re walking around during the flight don’t use the backs of seats to balance as you walk up and down the aisles.
People are sitting in those seats. You’re going to wake up the ones who were sleeping, make people spilled drinks if they’re drinking, drop food after eating, or just unnecessarily bug them.
Yes someone is going to do this to you. It will happen eventually. Just let it go. Unless the same person does it repeatedly. To increase your chances of making sure it doesn’t happen to you share this with everyone you can think of. If everyone were to listen to this episode of The Travel Wizard then nobody would do all of these annoying things on planes. For the good of all humankind share this episode with everyone.
7. Sit Quickly and Clear the Aisle
When you get to your seat, place your items in the bin above your seat and sit quickly.
We all want the plan to leave on time, so we should do our best to put our bags away and get into our seats as quickly as we can so that We can free the aisle for other passengers can get by us and find their seats.
8. Use the Overhead Storage Above Your Seat
Use the storage bin above your seat. Some like to put their bags in overhead storage in front of their seat so they can watch it because they’re afraid someone’s going to steal their bags. Have you ever heard of anyone having their bag stolen out of the overhead storage bin on an airplane?
When someone has to look for a place for their bags because the one over there seat has been taken by someone else, it means they will have to look for a place to put their bags over someone else’s seat. They, in turn, will have to take the time to look for a place to put their bags. Not putting your bag above your own seat doesn’t accomplish anything but taking longer for everyone to put away their bags and find their seats.
Nobody is going to steal your bag from the overhead bin. Put your bags in the overhead bin above your own seat. It makes boarding the plane faster and will make getting off of the plane faster.
*My friends covered this on episode 109 of their Disney Travel Secrets podcast.
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Next on The Travel Wizard: Episode 09: For the Greater Good of Flying, Preflight?
Previously on The Travel Wizard: Episode 7: All about tapas in Madrid.