The remarkable feat of airports and airlines in moving millions of travellers around the globe relies on everyone playing by an unwritten set of rules.
For the most part, it runs smoothly – but frequent travellers know all too well the frustration that goes hand-in-hand with any form of disruption to this protocol. Cue the passenger who checks in luggage but somehow forgets to board; the person with a seat at the back of the plane who boards from the front; the heavy drinkers; the arm-rest hogs; the travellers who clog overhead lockers with excess hand-luggage. Sounding familiar?
So here are some of the key ways in which travellers can do their bit to make air travel a positive experience for everyone.
Be security smart: Airplane etiquette starts even before you leave the departure lounge. Before lining up for security, ensure you’re organised so you don’t hold others up in line. If travelling abroad, a clear plastic zip-lock bag for your toiletries (under 100ml of course) is as essential as your passport, and should be at the top of your bag ready to pull out for screening.
We also suggest that ahead of time you transfer the contents of your pockets into the carry-on bag that you’ll put through the x-ray machine, so that you don’t set it off as you walk through. Once you’ve gone through, collect your bags quickly and move away from the screening station to put your hat/coat/belt back on.
Don’t crowd the gate: If you’re a frequent flyer or business class passenger, then you’re not going to have to wait long to board. But for those travelling economy, why not keep to the comfort of your seat at least until your row has been called? You won’t miss the plane by relaxing a few extra moments, and you’ll spend less time shuffling your feet in a long queue.
Don’t over-do your over-head luggage: Having to pay for checked-in luggage and the desire by many business travellers to avoid waiting by the luggage carousel on arrival has seen carry-on sizes increase over time – meaning there’s not enough space for everyone. Over-sized carry-on luggage is a pain in the neck (literally) for those trying to cram it over our heads, while trying to find space for your bag when someone in your row has already stashed half of their worldly possessions eats up boarding time.
Arguments over space are common, and more and more airlines are clamping down on the size and number of carry-on items, meaning you may have to go through the bother of re-checking in your bags or paying a surcharge. Make it easy on yourself and others – travel light!
Stow your luggage seamlessly: When you do place your luggage in the over-head lockers, remember your Tetris skills and use the minimum amount of space. And if you see someone’s put their fedora on top of a bag, don’t crush it with your laptop. We also suggest you pre-pack a small case containing any essentials you need for the flight - have it ready to slip out before you stow your carry-on. Your row-mates will appreciate it.
Every-day courtesy: For some passengers, every day rules around politeness can go out of the window after take-off. The reclining-your-seat debate is fraught on both sides, but ultimately, if you do decide to recline – just warn the passenger behind you so they don’t spill their coffee on their tablet, and take their height into account so you don’t do damage to their knee-caps!
This form of courtesy is the basis of plane etiquette and extends to things such as not taking up more than your share of arm-rest space, doing your best not to kick the chair in front, avoiding talking loudly when others are trying to sleep, and behaving politely toward flight attendants.
The bathroom manoeuvre: There are no two ways about it, getting in and out of seats to use the bathroom or to exercise is an awkward but necessary venture. To travel with courtesy, be proactive in your timing. Firstly ensure that the food trolley isn’t approaching, and that your row mates don’t have meals on their trays. Secondly, make sure you have plenty of time to make your way to the bathroom, so that you're not knocking down the door when you find it occupied. Finally, double up on bathroom breaks and exercise – get both in before returning to your seat.
The carousel dance: Even after everyone’s off the plane, there are still aspects of airport etiquette which can make a difference – especially at the baggage carousel. To travel like a pro, stand with your trolley away from the front, and simply approach the carousel once you see your luggage travelling towards you.
Happy travels all!
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