Any reasonable person who has ever stepped foot on a plane has probably spent at least a few seconds completely puzzled by the behavior of their fellow passengers. People are strange, rude, ridiculous, selfish, inefficient, and sadly, often stressed out of their minds.
The last couple are easy to solve. It’s like that scene in Up in the Air where George Clooney and Anna Kendrick show up at the airport. He knows exactly what to do and she’s a total mess. But with a few simple rules it all becomes incredibly easy.
The rude part? That’s harder. But even so, I tend to think that most people are rude because they don’t know any better. At least, I try to remind myself of that to avoid getting upset myself.
In any case, here are some rules and tricks to follow for your next trip:
1. No one is going to steal your seat on the plane. Relax.
2. As you walk off the jetway and enter the airport after a flight, for the love of god, don’t just stop randomly as though you’ve arrived at the pearly gates. Have you ever seen how football players run out of the tunnel? They all step to the side so, you know, they don’t create a 20 player pile up. Step to the side lady, there are people behind you. Step to the side!
3. If you happen to be flying in first class and know someone who is in coach, you are morally obligated to steal and bring them as many snacks as you can get away with. Morally obligated.
4. Take a quick second. Are you and your seatmate basically the only two people talking right now? Then Shhhhhhhhh…
5. Here’s a courteous rule of thumb: talking is perfectly fine during the first and final 30 minutes of the flight. The rest is more or less quiet time.
6. Here’s another rule: Ask yourself, “Who is making more noise, me or the babies on the flight?” If the answer to that question is you, then pause and reflect.
7. There is no reason to yell at anyone who works at an airport. None of these people can do anything for you anyway (not to mention how you look in that moment). Just call customer service and calmly explain whatever the problem is. You’ll get better results. And you’ll feel better.
8. And by the way, you can’t get mad at another human being over the weather. It’s preposterous. (That being said: My theory is that 80% of the anger would go away if these employees just communicated regularly and honestly with the passengers instead of treating us like idiots who can’t do math)
9. Gate anxiety is a real but silly thing. Understand it, don’t let it stress you out.
10. No matter how mad you get or how frustrating your trip is, remind yourself of Louis C.K.’s line: “Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going ‘Oh my God! Wow!’ You’re flying! You’re sitting in a chair, in the sky!”
11. If you’re checking a bag, you’ve probably packed too much stuff (some exceptions: you’re moving, you’re bringing camera/golf/ski equipment, you’re traveling with a whole family etc). A backpack and small suitcase should be enough (here’s what I carry).
12. If you need to use one of those carts, well, you probably need to reevaluate your life.
13. Ahh, thank you for bringing a smelly, disgusting meal with you onto the flight. How nice of you to eat Popeyes Chicken, Panda Express, Burger King or a tuna fish sandwich in a tiny sealed tube packed with other people (and let’s not pretend this doesn’t tie into the bathroom rule below).
14. Walk in a straight line. This should not need to be said, but here I am having to say it. Don’t text while walking either.
15. Not going to get into a whole thing about it, but don’t recline your seat. All your excuses for doing this are selfish and illogical. Just stop.
16. By the way, if you do want another inch of space that doesn’t come at the expense of anyone else just grab all those ridiculous magazines stuffed in the seatback pocket and put them in the overhead compartment.
17. You know that screen on the seat you’re playing a touchscreen game on? Right behind it is somebody’s head. Are you stupid? Use the remote. Or better, do something useful with your time.
18. People complain they don’t have enough time to read. Then they get on a plane and watch crappy movies for 6 hours.
19. Quick question: Do you notice many other people bringing a full bed pillow with them? Probably not, because that’s ridiculous.
20. Ok, when the plane is disembarking. Everyone in the aisle seats should get up and get their bag down. You can even help the other people in your row if their bags are small. If it comes time for your row to go and you’re just now standing up and opening the overhead compartment, you’ve been selfish and rude (some exceptions apply for tiny planes). You needlessly held up the rest of the plane.
21. Bring an empty water bottle with you. Then you won’t feel ripped off paying $4 for a 16 oz bottle…oh and you won’t be dehydrated and exhausted either.
22. Try to remember: You have no idea how long this person has been traveling. You have no idea how many delays or bad experiences they’ve had in the last few days.
23. This whole ‘I sat next to a fat person’ pity routine is really old. I fly all the time and this hardly ever happens. More important, it’s not any ruder than any of the other things we’re talking about here and we’re all guilty of them at one point or another.
24. The only real problem is the flight attendants (and people) who can’t maneuver down the aisle and ram into sleeping or eating passengers.
25. If you can afford it, buy Global Entry and Pre-Check. They’re amazing.
26. The middle seat gets both armrests (if they decide to share, good for them but it’s optional.) Not only because the aisle and window seats each of their own benefits but there is no other equitable way for it to work. Otherwise, aisle and window would each get one and a half total armrests while the middle seat would only get one cumulative armrest.
27. As Ben Casnocha pointed out, taking a photo of your complimentary champagne in first class and posting it on Instagram is incredibly lame.
28. What’s the difference between first class and coach? The chair, the food and the service are slightly better. That’s it. It says nothing about you as a person.
29. Be courteous and considerate when opening the window on a dark plane.
30. If you’re spending serious time in an airplane bathroom, it’s time for you to make some diet and lifestyle changes. Good lord.
31. Keep your shoes on. This is not your living room.
32. Oh yeah, and keep your feet off the armrest in front of you. C’mon.
33. When you get to the security checkpoint, have your ticket and ID out already. Don’t make everyone wait for you to do now what you could have done in line.
34. Personally, I print my boarding pass at check in. The stupid barcode thing never works, the flight attendants always have try moving the phone around like 5 times. If everyone did that, the plane would take forever to board.
35. Sitting next to people is not that important. You and your husband have been together for 30 years and you have the audacity to ask a total stranger to give up their aisle seat so you’re not apart for 90 minutes? Are you kidding?
36. However, if you decide to ask for a trade, the trade must be a net positive for the person you’re asking. Otherwise, you’re putting them on the spot and that’s not fair.
37. So you’ve been delayed. You can rant and rave or you can say: Ok, here’s what I am going to do with this extra time. Which one do you think will feel better?
38. When the gate attendant asks guests to volunteer to check their bags and people immediately do it, I always think: Man, I hope these people don’t have a job that involves any negotiating or risk management. Hold on to your bag and see, they have no idea whether they’ll all fit or not.
39. When you are forced to gate check, waiting to pick up your bags is not an excuse to hover around. Everyone just needs to stand up against the same wall of the jetway and wait until their bag is brought up.
40. Airplanes are a private sound zone. That means no playing games with the sound on, no watching YouTube videos without headphones, no blaring the music so loud that it bleeds through the earbuds. It’s up to you to inform your kids of this rule too.
41. You know what’s almost as bad as rude kids? Parents who are shitty to their kids. You’re an adult. You’re in public. Be kind. Get a handle on yourself.
42. Oh and relax. It’s going to be OK!
We’re all stuck in the same metal tube together. We all wish this was over faster so we could get on with our lives (or enjoy our vacation or honeymoon or get to the funeral we’re traveling to). So try to take an extra minute to actually think about what you’re doing. Try to handle yourself.
But if the rules above are too hard to remember, then just use this one simple question: Ask what would it be like if everyone did this?
Let that guide your travel etiquette.