I recently returned from an overseas vacation. The very full return flight was jammed with families with small children, business-types with laptops and a group of retirees returning from a group adventure trip. In short it was a typical cross section of people you’d likely to find on any flight. A particularly cranky toddler was testing the limits of the single mom he was travelling with. Two solid hours of wailing had managed to upset each of the child’s seatmates and others in the vicinity, including I’m sorry to say, me. It seemed there was nothing the mother could do to console him and try as she might to comfort him, his discomfort, amplified for all to hear, and seemed only to get worse.
A lanky, perfectly buttoned down businessman observing the couple’s trial offered some assistance. He switched on the personalized seat back television monitor in front of the child (common on many overseas flights) punched up an on demand cartoon feature, took the headphones he had purchased for himself and placed them on the toddler. Voila, smiling, content and most notably, quiet youngster for the remainder of the trip.
The incident made an impression on me as it helped me realize that even for a brief period of time we are a community in flight. We might not think of ourselves as a mini-neighborhood in an airplane where our actions can contribute directly to other’s comfort or discomfort, but in many ways that is precisely what we are. I admit to being a bit sheepish as I watched the incident described above unfold. I allowed myself to get worked up by the constant crying of the child and did not for a moment think of his discomfort or the difficulties the single mom was facing in traveling across continents with her child.
It never occurred to me to offer assistance or even consider how I might have been able to help. When I personally thanked the assisting gentleman as we deplaned in Charlotte several hours later he simply smiled and said that trick worked with his children so he thought he’d try it.
With most flights at or near capacity and the holiday peak travel period approaching, air travelers coming in and out of Charlotte can expect crowded flights and relatively close quarters with their in-flight neighbors. Let’s face it even in the best circumstances air travel can be often uncomfortable, stress producing and physically challenging. Here are five tips you can employ that will make travel more comfortable for you and your fellow airline passengers.
1. Adjust Your Expectations
Perhaps the single most significant action you can take when you travel is simply to alter your travel-day mindset. Acknowledge most every aspect of the “getting there” component of your trip is outside your control and assume an attitude that understands delays and minor travel indignities are part of the territory. You will be amazed when you simply smile at others, particularly those trying to help you. Airline personnel field a tremendous amount of abuse from harried travelers. They are people just like us trying to do a job; a smile along with a thank you will go a long way. A smile and a kind word may even yield a nice time diverting conversation or even a new friend.
2. Be Reasonable With Carry-Ons
Checked luggage surcharges have taxed the patience and judgment of even the most seasoned traveler. Face it however, you are not the only one on the plane and your three oversized pieces plus giant shopping bag just won’t cut it. Use the sized guides at every ticket counter and determine, before you get on the plane if your bag will fit overhead. By the way, wheels go in first.
3. Avoid The Impulse To Herd
Funny thing is the people in the back of the plane get to their destination exactly the same time as those in front. There is really no advantage to “herding” when they begin seating or after the plane lands (OK overhead bin hogs, I’m talking to you here). Most airlines have instituted boarding by zone or seat row numbers. They do this for a reason. It speeds boarding. Help them out and wait till your row is called. The same principle applies when exiting. Grabbing your stuff from the overhead before you can move just makes for more crowded space and can conk people on the head. If you’ll wait just a few moments, you’ll be able to move more freely. Honest.
4. Offer To Help
If you are able, offering assistance with a small kindness like helping stow a carry on or pulling a piece of luggage off a baggage carousel can really mean a great deal for a fellow passenger. The rule here is if someone appears to be having difficulty, offer first, wait for acknowledgement and then provide assistance if requested.
5. Be Considerate Of Others
This seems like a golden-rule no brainer but is perhaps the most frequently ignored tenet of air travel. It starts by acknowledging there are other people in very close proximity to you. Most people don’t want to listen in on your cell phone conversation or listen to the audio overflow from your ear-buds – yes we can hear them! Need to change your infant, please use the lavatory, not the seat next to you (seriously this happened on my overseas flight – yech!). Simply paying a bit of attention to your seatmate just might earn you some good in-flight karma.