This weekend is the busiest travel weekend of the year with an estimated 50.9 million people traveling 50 miles or more from home. While the majority of travel will be by car, airline travel seems to be the most frustrating. I have a group of teenagers traveling this month for the first time and thought that it would be a great time to review some air travel etiquette.
Be prepared, just like the Boy Scout motto. The rules haven’t changed on what you can bring on the plane. If you are not checking your bag, have your liquid items out to scan easier. Have your boarding pass and ID in hand when going through the check point. Wear shoes that are easy to take off and easy to put back on. Stand to the side when doing the latter, letting people pass by.
Be patient. Airlines board passengers according to their seat or zone. There’s a reason that airlines assign boarding orders; it helps with the flow of people and it helps with maintaining order. Additionally, those boarding first may have paid for the privilege so it’s only fair to honor it. When you wait in the boarding area, don’t be a chair hog. Just because you got there early doesn’t entitle you to take up three seats with your stuff.
Be nice. When you do board the plane, be pleasant to your seatmate. A smile and a greeting goes a long way to making it a nice trip for everyone concerned. There’s always the question on who gets the arm rests. The answer is the middle seat. It’s the seat no one wants and the last to sell. The person getting stuck with that seat deserves something.
No one traveling with kids is happy. Parents are stressed worrying about them and you can make it easier by being nice. Offers of help to those parents are godsends and much appreciated. The flight attendants are busy and stressed, too, especially at the holidays. Treat people like you want to be treated.
Be thoughtful. One of the most heated debates of air travel is whether or not you should recline your seat when someone is behind you. While you have the right to do so, it can still invade the limited space of the person behind you, making their trip miserable. If you want to recline whether for sleep or comfort, give the person behind you fair warning. Let her know that you are going to recline so she will have time to move any items if needed, like a cup of water that could spill or a laptop that could get hit.
If you don’t check your bag, be sure to be able to move it yourself. It’s not fair to the stewardess to have to lift and store your luggage because you didn’t want to pay for baggage fees. Don’t depend on the kindness of strangers. If you bring it on board, be prepared to put it in the overhead compartment yourself.
Be courteous. You never know who will end up in the seat next to you, so it’s a good time to remain scent free. For some, strong scents can bring on headaches or migraines. While you might be tempted, don’t bring on food that has strong odors, either. Grab a bite between flights or hold on until you have reached your destination.
Remember most of all to be flexible. Traveling is always a time of great adventure. Don’t miss yours because you too busy or stressed to appreciate the trip.
Marci DeWitt owns a local travel agency, Anchor and Away Travel, a Dream Vacations franchise. She can be reached by email at mdewitt@DreamVacations.com.