Wanderlust: A snobby way of being polite on an airplane

Opinion by Johnny Bartz
March 30, 2011, 12:28 a.m.

Wanderlust: A snobby way of being polite on an airplaneI often wonder why I’m always so inspired to write when I’m sitting on an airplane. As I head home this weekend for a breath of cool Minnesota air and some fabulous (and free!) home-cooked meals, I have this constant reminder shaking me of why I should be polite on an airplane. I wonder why on earth the person behind me keeps banging on my seatback. Maybe we all need a bit of a reminder of flying etiquette.

At the airport, be courteous to airline personnel and TSA representatives. It is not they who are personally deciding to charge you a baggage fee or arbitrarily not permitting you to carry on that fifth of vodka. Also, they did not cause you to arrive late to the airport, nor should they care for your irresponsibility. So, even if you’re frustrated about something at the beginning of your travel journey, don’t take it out on them.

In terms of baggage, it’s courteous to the passengers waiting in line behind you if you make sure your baggage is not overweight prior to arriving at the airport. If you do have a lot of baggage however, please just (wo)man up and pay the baggage fee — they are just going to make you check that huge rollerboard at the gate anyway.

While you brave your way through security, prepare in advance by putting valuables or metal objects inside your carry-ons. Wear slip on shoes for ease of security screening. Don’t push yourself forward, but move as quickly and efficiently as possible, just as you would appreciate others to do in front of you.

When you get to the gate area, it’s rude to talk loudly on your phone. If you must have a conversation, take it somewhere where there aren’t other people around — who may be trying to read or finish up a bit of work before the flight begins. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people bring stinky food on the airplane. I don’t care what it is — when confined inside a metal tube with re-circulating air, just about any kind of food has a smell. I either dislike it and feel nauseated or like it and want some. So leave your eating to the food courts on the ground. Lastly, be sure you use the restroom before you get on the plane. “Lavs” are only for peeing in my opinion, and should be avoided at all costs if possible.

A note on interactions with gate agents: they’re busy, so unless you have to check-in for a connecting flight or some other actual service, don’t bother them. Almost all information, including upgrade and standby information, is present on overhead screens. The agent will call your name if they need to talk to you. If you’re one of those “I’ll just flirt my way into first class” types, think again, unless you know how to flirt with a computer. All upgrades are handled electronically, weighing in elite status, fare paid, seniority, etc., so unless you’re genuinely flirting with a cute agent, don’t bother.

When about to board, don’t be one of those people who blocks the line before their boarding zone has been called.  It’s usually pretty easy to predict the order of boarding — and by predictable I mean it’s always the same. During pre-boarding elderly passengers needing assistance and families with children under the age of five are permitted to board. Then comes first class. You should know if you’re in first class, but if you’re unsure and your ticket doesn’t say something like “First Class” or “Business Elite” then you’re not allowed to board yet. Then come elite members, followed by — and this is the kicker — zones in ascending numerical order. So, if you have a big number four on your boarding pass, don’t line up when they call zone one for boarding. There actually is a method behind the madness, and contrary to what some may think, if you have a seat assignment, it will still be there regardless of when you board the plane. If you’re worried about overhead bin space, your carry-on is probably too big. Gate checking it to your final destination is not the end of the world.

On the plane, flash a smile, say a quick hello to the crew and take your seat. Turn off electronics in advance, pay attention to crew member instructions and overall just keep quiet. It’s courteous to have your seat upright during beverage and meal service, and don’t hog the armrests. Keep your seatbelt buckled during flight for your safety and the safety of others — if the plane loses altitude quickly you don’t want to break your neck on the ceiling. Flying should be relaxing, so keep your conversations quiet and forget about that loud obnoxious laugh (culpable).

And lastly, don’t ever push on the seatback in front of you — it’s just really annoying. Happy flying!


Do you have any really annoying stories about passengers on a plane?  Email Johnny Bartz at [email protected].


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