Let’s face it, flying really isn’t that glamorous. Unless you can afford first class every flight, you are bound to be crammed into a plane with other fliers like sardines and at least one thing will probably go wrong that will just rile you up.
Space comes at a premium on a plane and, if you are stuck in economy, someone is bound to violate your personal space. I’m not a full-time traveler but I’ve had my fair share of annoying situations happen. Just the other day, on the way back from Washington DC, an older lady decided to prop herself up on my armrest. In situations like this, most people would just sit in frustrated resignation.
I actually confronted the woman and asked her to please remove her arm as it she was violating my personal space. This won’t always work but in this case it did. She took her arm off my armrest and the rest of the flight was fantastic.
We can avoid these awkward situations if people would simply remember the unwritten rules of flying. These are norms and rules which are not part of any airline canonical law but most people understand and respect. These unwritten rules help keep order and calm in a very uncomfortable and sometimes disorderly situation on a plane.
Of course, there are more rules but these are the most important in my book.
1) Be ready at check-in and security.
Seriously guys and gals, you are headed to the airport and you know security is extremely uptight these days with the threat of terrorism and such…especially in the US. Make sure your liquids are the right volume and all together in a bag. Make sure you take your shoes, belts, coats, etc off ahead of time in the line. Don’t place your computer in the same bin as anything else.Also, the baggage check line is not the place to repack. Just don’t do it. Some would say avoid the baggage line by packing everything into one carry on. No thanks, I like having choices and prefer to pay the extra fee for a checked bag. Pooey to that! Generally, just be ready!
2) Board in your zone.
The airline loads the plane in zones. People who need more time to load go first, then the people who paid for more comfortable seats/have a higher flight status go next, and then everyone else gets load onto the plane. If you want to board sooner then pay for it. The most important part of this rule is to stay out of the way. Don’t crowd the entrance so that other people trying to board have to fight there way through. Just move…you’ll board when it’s your turn and not before.
3) Only you should be able to hear your music.
Once you’re on the plane, it’s common to listen to music, a book, or watch a movie. It’s great entertainment…to you. No one else really wants to hear your entertainment. Keep you volume high enough for your own pleasure but low enough to not disturb those around you. Some people are reading…others are sleeping. In the end, no one else wants to hear what you are watching so mind the volume.
4) Middle seat owns the two center armrests.
The middle seat doesn’t have much going for it. It’s probably the most cramped seat on the place as you have a person on either side of you. It can feel like you are trapped and constrained. The only perk of the middle seat is having two arm rests. Yup, the person in the middle seat should always have the two center armrests to themselves. The outer seat has more leg room…the inner seat has control of the window. So respect these unwritten rule and keep the peace in your row.
5) Be kind to the steward/ess.
Back in the day, a flight attendant’s job was considered glamorous. Not anymore. Airlines don’t pay flight attendants exuberantly well yet they have to work all day (sometimes on multiple flights) and deal with many frustrated passengers. Remember to always treat your flight attendant with respect and they will most likely also treat you with respect.
6) Your space is your seat.
This should be a given. You pay for a ticket and that ticket covers passage to your destination in your seat. That doesn’t mean you should stretch your legs into someone else’s space or hang over the armrest at the discomfort of others. It also doesn’t mean you should reach across someone to close the window or turn off another person’s reading light. Stay in your space and everyone will be happy. I’ve been known to put someone in their place for crossing this boundary. Bonus: Use the aisles for walking to the toilet and disembarking from the plane…not for stretching etc.
7) Keep Your Knees off the seat back.
Occasionally, in such tight quarters, it is reasonable to feel someone’s knee in the back of your seat. But consistent kneeing of the backseat is probably going to lead to a very hot head at some point. This also goes for hands on the headrest. There is no need for anyone to use the headrest as leverage when standing up. Don’t do it! If you have children, keep them entertain and don’t allow them to do these things. Kids aren’t exempt from murderous stares.
Airline seats don’t recline very well and there is a reason for this. All airline seats are lined up in rows and reclining can be very uncomfortable to others behind you. If the person behind you is super tall then they will be very uncomfortable by your reclining. So the general rule is that reclining should be kept at a minimum for flights two hours or less in length. If it is a longer, international flight then (most likely) everyone will be reclining so no harm, no foul. Also, try to avoid reclining during meal times altogether.