Really… this post should be entitled, “How not to be an a-hole in a plane.”
The more you travel, the more you will start to notice the “idiosyncrasies” of your fellow human beings (I’m being polite). After a recent flight, I was inspired to write this post and list some traveling points that I think are very important. They’re basic reminders of things you should know when you’re traveling and how to practice small forms of common courtesy that actually make a big difference. My hope is that even if a small percentage of people adopt some of these habits, it’ll make for a much nicer traveling experience for us all.
There’s likely to always be some people who won’t care, maybe they were raised differently / have different views of common courtesy, or are simply jerks, but that doesn’t mean you have to be one of them. With this post, I’m going to focus on travel etiquette inside of an airplane.
First and foremost, and the thing I want all people to remember more than anything else is this simple statement: A plane is not your personal living room.
It may sound silly to say out loud but I am honestly far too often surprised at how many people don’t actually understand that.
That idea is the key to a great deal of shared travel happiness. Inside of an airplane, you usually share that space with at least a hundred or two hundred other people. Yes, all of you have paid to be there. However, this does not entitle you to treat the space as if it’s your own, because it’s actually not. You don’t actually own that seat. You are technically paying to rent it, and the few square feet around it, for a matter of hours so that you can be transported with incredible efficiency (something most people take for granted) from one place to another.
Without that airplane, that journey would easily take at least ten times as long, and in some cases, quite a bit more. You get the privilege of making that trip at great speed, safely, relatively comfortably, they even give you free drinks and some pretzels, and welcome you to bring your own food on board if you want to. In some cases, they even feed you meals.
Some additional perspective is also in order, so check this out:
If you were to fly non-stop from New York to London, it would take approximately eight hours. Since we don’t have Star Trek transporter technology yet, people really do forget that the only, and I mean ONLY other way to get from New York to London is by boat. You could try to swim, but that’s not going to go your way.
So how long would that take by boat? If you were to take your own boat and you knew what you were doing, and you didn’t encounter any major storms, and you caught good winds all the way there or miraculously had enough fuel… that journey is almost 4,000 nautical miles and that would take two and a half weeks. However, it’s fraught with dangers of such a high order of magnitude that most expert boaters will tell you not to even try it unless you’re suicidal.
In a plane, you make that same journey in only one-third of one day.
How about a day trip example? How long does it take to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco? On average, 6 hours with stops for food, gas, etc. How long to fly? An hour and twenty minutes. It’s five times faster to fly, you don’t have to worry about falling asleep at the wheel, stopping for breaks, wear and tear on your vehicle, etc.
One more example for fun. How about a longer trip? Let’s say Los Angeles to Yellowstone National Park for a vacation. It’s a thousand miles. To drive would take almost 15 hours and if you’re smart, you’d split that over two days and enjoy the scenery, which means a hotel or airbnb and overnight costs as well.
To fly? Two hours.
I share these perspectives with you because I really do believe that people have lost sight of what a privilege modern air travel is. I’m not in denial of the inconveniences, but I think it’s important to remember how unbelievably awesome it actually is. So let’s talk about the things you can do not to annoy everyone around you and be a cool passenger. These are in no particular order.
- When you are given snacks by the flight attendants, or you bring your own, take all of the food out of the packaging first, then eat. Please don’t sit there and eat the food slowly out of the packaging. The crinkling noises are quite annoying.
- Please wear headphones when listening to any kind of music, watching t.v., movies, playing a video game, etc. I am always surprised how many people think it’s okay to play a game or watch something on their mobile device with the speakers on. Again… a plane is not your living room.
- Please have your children also wear headphones. No, it is 100% not okay for them to play their loud game on their iPad with the speakers on.
- Please keep your headphone volume at a reasonable level, or get noise-canceling headphones (they’re cheap now on amazon for a nice pair like these). It’s rude to crank your hard rock music so loudly that the five people sitting around you can hear it and they can’t rest or sleep. Also, in case you care, you’re actually damaging your ears and that’s going to come back to haunt you when you get older.
- Don’t man-spread your legs into your neighbor’s seat space. Yes, some of you are taller or bigger, or both, and it can be tight quarters. Unfortunately, that doesn’t give you the right to open up your thighs and push your body against someone else without their permission, especially if you’re actually in their space. They did pay to rent their space, and you only paid for yours, so please stick to it.
- Please, PLEASE, do not wear any perfume, cologne or scents when traveling. Not everyone likes your scent, and forcing people in a confined space to smell your preferences simply isn’t kind. Which brings us to one of my personal pet peeves…
- PLEASE wear deodorant and practice basic human hygiene. I don’t care what your reasons are for not doing so, please don’t get into a plane with body odor, or having your teeth unbrushed. We all have to share that recycled air for hours. Do your part, be a good person, and clean yourself.
- Don’t bring smelly meals on a flight. It’s great that you like salmon roasted in garlic with limburger cheese, however, it’s quite rude to force such a pungent dish on everyone else. We live in a world with a PLETHORA of food choices, most of which smell good. Please choose one of them, and leave the stinky stuff at home.
- Parents, please teach your children about “inside voices,” so that they aren’t yelling in a plane. When you’re talking to your children, please do so quietly. Again, this is not your living room. I am in awe how many times I hear parents yelling at their kids at full volume in a plane.
- I know things happen, but if you’re experiencing stomach or indigestion problems, please go and try to poop before you get on board so you don’t fart your way through the entire flight and nauseate those around you. Again, we’re all sharing the same air.
What this list comes down to is simple respect for other people and the practice of common courtesy. If we all did that, flying would be a much more pleasant experience. I know not everyone is going to practice common courtesy. However, if the majority of us do, perhaps that leading by example and exemplifying kindness will show other people that there’s a better way.