As much as I envy all of those lucky passengers in first and business class, I unfortunately must fly economy on all my international flights for just plain economic reasons. I always seem to be at the cusp of those enticing international upgrades available from the airlines frequent flyer programs, but hélas, I never quite make it.
With that in mind, I’ve had to embrace the tiny square footage that is inherent to flying economy class. There are a few key facts to keep in mind:
- The food will be awful
- You will be uncomfortable
- Sleep will be difficult at best
But all is not lost! With a just a good attitude and gracious behavior, all can be overcome.
To make it easier on yourself and your fellow seatmates, here are my best 10 airplane etiquette tips for travel novices:
- Greet your seatmates upon arrival. After all, you will be spending the next several hours in their company; it might as well be pleasant. Don’t immediately stick your nose in a book and pretend the others don’t exist – you will most likely need their goodwill over the course of your plane ride so get started on the right foot from the start.
- Don’t invade your seatmate’s space with either your stuff or your person. That means be vigilant that your purse isn’t overflowing into the others space; everything should be neatly stowed under the seat in front of you in case someone needs to get up. You really don’t want anyone to trip and fall in your lap!
- If you are in the aisle or window seat, keep in mind that both armrests go to the poor soul in the middle seat (it’s the only slight compensation they get for having the worst seat on the plane). No territorial wars about this one please…
- Don’t grab the extra pillow and blanket (or the extra space) from the empty middle seat without first talking to your seatmate. You will most likely both want these things, so a little negotiation and compromise is in order. Remember, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar…not that you really wanted to catch a fly.
- Don’t bring stinky food on board, or food that will leave a trail of crumbs everywhere. The food is terrible and I do recommend that you bring your own, but please make choices that will not invade the plane (let alone your breath) with stinky garlicky smells for the next several hours. Forget the garlic pizza and get the vegetarian version instead.
- Keep the volume of your music or movie down to a low murmur. Not only is it better for you but your seatmates will appreciate it. Very few headsets are as quiet from the outside as you might think. Maybe your seatmates don’t really want to listen to Ozzy Osbourne for hours on end…
- Make sure you are aware of how the sun is hitting your neighbors; you don’t want to inadvertently be blinding your seatmates. When all the lights go out, try to lower your window shade along with everyone else. It’s a good idea to try to sleep if you can (but please try not to snore!). If there is some reason you prefer not to have the shade closed, talk to your seat mates about it. It will smooth the way and a compromise can certainly be found.
- Try to time your bathroom sessions to when others are also getting up, within reason of course (don’t get a stomach ache from holding it too long – it’s unhealthy). No one wants to be bothered every few minutes for you to get up, so just be conscious. If you know you must get up frequently, make sure you get an aisle seat.
- Don’t even consider putting your feet on the back of the seat, the arm rest, or anywhere else – it’s just rude. If you do take your socks off, make double sure they smell fresh (unlikely when traveling) or bring a clean pair with you. And, absolutely DO NOT take your socks off. No one wants to see your bare feet (ok, maybe except for those few out there with a foot fetish, but that is all the more reason to keep those socks on). By the way, and this is a no brainer, wear deodorant! Keep the natural crystal stuff for other less confined times.
- And lastly, please don’t complain. Be gracious… No one likes to be around negative energy and we are all equally miserable. It’s only for a few short hours after all…and you should be grateful to be flying at all – it’s a privilege whether for business or pleasure. You definitely want to be more mature and better behaved than that three year old up the aisle!
All of these tips were harvested from my own personal experience. I can guarantee that if you follow these tips you will be blessed with at least a tolerable trip, or with an extremely pleasant and interesting flight leaving your seatmate on friendly terms with good wishes.
Have you experienced someone with bad etiquette while flying? How did that make you feel? Hmmm… Why not print out this article and sneak it into your nightmarish seatmate’s carryon when they’re not looking???
-Girl Gone Gallic
PS – Download “Confessions of a Traveller” for a humoristic look at this very subject.