Flying anywhere these days can be a stressful experience. But as someone who has traveled more than two million miles over the course of my career, I have come up with some overlooked travel etiquette tips that everyone can benefit from.
In a prior article, I wrote about how you can make life easier and simpler for yourself - and your fellow travelers - when it comes to getting through the security line efficiently. In this piece, I'll share eight secrets that, if every traveler heeded them, would make traveling far more enjoyable for everyone involved.
1. Don't Congregate.
Every major airline these days uses a numbered or zone system to help with their boarding process. Zone 1 boards before Zone 2, etc. And yet, as soon as the announcement is made that boarding is beginning, people from all zones bunch together in front of the jet bridge. That means that everyone in the first boarding zones has to weave through everyone in Zone 7, which just unnecessarily slows everything down. If you're patient, step aside and wait your turn, you'll actually get on the plane faster. Don't worry - they won't leave without you.
2. Bring The Right Sized Bags.
Nobody likes to check bags, me included. Not only is there an extra cost associated with checking your luggage, there is also the wasted time standing around the carousel waiting for your plane to be unloaded - that is, if your bag wasn't somehow left behind. But because no one wants to check bags, that doesn't mean you should jam everything you possibly can into a carry-on that then won't fit in the overhead bins on the plane. No one wants to wait behind your in the aisle as you try and employ brute force trying to cram your bag in. If your bag is a little over-sized, then use this trick: before you get on the plane, go up to the gate agent and ask her to gate check the bag for you. Not only is this free, many times they will unload your bag plane side after your flight lands.
3. Sit Quickly
When you do get on the plane, make your way to your seat, pop your carry-on in the bin or under your seat (or both) and then take a seat. Ideally, you have already grabbed what you wanted with you on the flight before you got on the plane so that you aren't that person who is blocking traffic in the aisle trying to pull our your computer or magazines. Another pro tip is that as soon as you board, start scanning the bins near where your seat is to see if there is room for your bag above where you're sitting. If not, try and find a spot along the way. That way, you can pick it up as you're unloading from the plane. The only caveat is that you should never put your bag in the bin above the first row of a plan or any that face a bulkhead because that will force those passengers to go find a place for their bags behind them - which becomes a major hassle for them and slows everyone down. Be kind and don't be that person.
4. Be Ready to Stand
If you happen to prefer sitting in an aisle seat, you know you're going to have people sitting inside you either in a window or middle seat. If you're the first to get to your row, pay attention to see when your seat-mates approach. When they do, politely stand up and take a step back to allow them to enter and get in their seats. Don't be rude by standing in front of the row or, worse, keep sitting and force the person to squeeze around you.
5. Watch Your Diet
The times that anyone raves about the food on an airplane are few and far between. So it's understandable that people like to bring their own food on the plane with them. But think about the people sitting next to you when you make your choice. I have had the extremely unpleasant experience of sitting next to someone who brought their greasy cheeseburger topped with onions with a side of garlic fries on the plane with them. Boy did that reek. While we are at it - keep the cologne and perfume to a minimum - it's kind of tough in tight quarters. Don't be that person.
6. Watch Your Tongue
It's important to be respectful of your seat-mates when it comes to whether you can talk their ear off or not on a plane. Watch for the clues to give you a sense of whether someone wants to strike up a conversation. Some times I use my plane time to recover from a few hard days on the road or to prepare for an upcoming meeting and I have no interest in chatting. Other times I'm all for killing the time with a good conversation. It just depends. So you can always say hello to your seat-mate, but if they then close their eyes or pull out a book, be respectful and give them some space.
7. Keep Your Arms and LegsTo Yourself.
Nothing is worse than sitting in the middle seat. So be kind to that poor person by giving them full access to their two arms rests. The two outside armrests belong to the window and aisle seat. But the person in the middle deserves their own space, so watch your elbows and arms so that you're not forcing them to jockey for position. If you can squeeze in without disturbing them, fine - but they have priority. If you have the middle, you space ends at the edge of the armrest, no poking your seat mates in the sides with your elbows. The same goes for your legs, no crossing the line between the seats - we don't care if you have a wide stance.
8. Don't be Surprised You Landed
Unloading a plan should be the easiest thing in the world. It starts with everyone in front and works backwards from there. But it's never that simple. There is always someone who seems surprised when it's time for their row to get and leave. It's pretty clear when the plane lands - you shouldn't be surprised it's time to get off . Watch watch's happening around you. As soon as the plane parks, and you hear the ding in the cabin, get your stuff together unbuckle your belt, and get ready to grab your bag and go. Even better: if you are sitting on the aisle, stand up to give your seat-mates some extra room to get ready. Then keep standing slightly behind the row until they get up and leave as a way to block the more aggressive people behind you who might try to squeeze ahead of your row. You know whom I'm talking about. While everyone will respect the person who is late for a connecting flight, just ask and we'll let you go ahead. We're all in the same boat, or plane as it was.
If everyone would heed these eight simple etiquette tips, all of your flights would load faster, deplane faster, and we'd all find the experience of flying that much less stressful. So try and keep these tips in mind the next trip you take and we can begin to make this kind of behavior the norm rather than the exception.
Jim is the author of the best-selling book, "Great CEOs Are Lazy" - grab your copy to today on Amazon!