Do we need to establish airline etiquette? And, will you follow it?
As the airlines squeeze more and more people into less and less space, airline etiquette is more important than ever. Airline passengers need to think about those around them and adjust their actions accordingly. In other words, since the airlines aren’t doing it, passengers should. It’s time to show more consideration of your fellow flyers by following reasonable airline etiquette from boarding, to flying, to gathering luggage.
Boarding the plane
While I like to have an assigned seat on the plane, I have to say that Southwest’s method of having people board the plane in a designated order to find a seat is actually the most civilized that I’ve experienced. Other airlines have people gathering all around the gate to be able to be the first in their group to board, even if they end up blocking or forcing those of higher levels or zones to push through them just to be able to board. It isn’t pretty.
And then, once passengers get on the plane, many stand in the aisle and slow boarding for everyone else as they dig through their carryon for the book or ear phones or whatever that they should have gotten out before boarding.
My personal pet peeve is passengers who wear their backpack as they board. On my last flight, I was sitting in my aisle seat when a man with a huge backpack slammed me in the face with his backpack as he turned back to talk to his wife (and he didn’t even apologize). And that was certainly not the only time that I was hit by a backpack either getting on or getting off a plane. Can’t people just take backpacks off and carry them? They seem to have no awareness of what kind of a weapon they are wielding on their back.
Before and during the flight
To recline or not to recline? That shouldn’t be a question any more as the answer should be “slightly.” if at all, due to the decreased airline seat pitch. Again, on a recent flight, the person sitting in front of me reclined her seat to the fullest, putting the top of her seat practically in my face. Maybe it’s up to the airlines to alter the seats to not recline as much to align better with the current seat pitch, which has reduced from 36 inches to about 31 for coach passengers and some even as low as 28 inches. In the meantime, think about the person behind you.
There’s also the question of who gets the arm rest between passengers. Probably the person who has to sit in a middle seat should get the arm rests. However, often it boils down to the biggest person gets them because, along with less seat pitch, the airlines have shrunk the width of seats. Bigger people have nowhere else to go except spill over the armrests. On a flight back from Hawaii recently, I swear the guy in the middle seat beside me was a Sumo wrestler, or at least as large as one, who really tried not to hog all the space, but he just couldn’t help it.
Another pet peeve are the people behind you who grab hold of your seat back to help them get in and out of their seat. How many times have I been awakened out of a sound sleep (not easy to get on a plane) by this rude jerk on my seat. My advice: try lifting the aisle arm rest and then turn to get out or use your own arm rests to push yourself up. Thanks!
Also, have you ever been in the position of being between a couple who have the aisle and window seats and then proceed to talk across you the entire flight? And they won’t exchange their seat to sit next to each other. Makes it really hard to read or sleep.
Deplaning and collecting baggage
This is when many passengers appear to go crazy. As soon as the plane comes to halt, they jump out of their seats, grab their luggage out of the overhead bin and proceed to hog the aisle while looming over those blocked into their seats. Since it often takes 10-15 minutes for the airline to get everything ready for people to disembark, there must be a better way to do this.
Yes, I appreciate those kinder, taller, stronger people who help those less endowed get their luggage down from the overhead bins, and once people start moving, there does seem to be a general rule that those in seats in front of you get to go first (not always but most of the time).
Then there is the baggage carousel. With planes full and, after traveling a long distance, chances are that more people have checked luggage and a mad desire to get out of the airport overtakes passengers.
As soon as the carousel starts moving, passengers waiting for their checked luggage start pushing, thinking nothing of shoving people out of the way if they think the nondescript black bag going by just might be theirs. Thoughtless carousel hogs, often an entire family, will crowd right up to the carousel and lean over the belt so that it becomes impossible to spot your own bag. Oh yes, next trip we vow to just have a carry-on to avoid this craziness.
Yet, despite all this hassle of flying in a relatively small tube with often inconsiderate fellow humans for hours at a time, I still want to go to special places around the world. I vow to try my best to be the best airline passenger that I can be. I hope you do, too.
After several decades working in a variety of jobs as a newspaper writer, event publicist, communications specialist, and marketing director, Karen Cummings is now “retired” and working on Travelers United’s social media and newsletters in addition to occasionally contributing a travel-related article to TU’s blog. She lives close to her family in Fryeburg, Maine, and travels as often as she can.