I consider myself a savvy traveler. After all, I run a big travel company. While I know there are bigger issues affecting global air travel today, with communicable diseases and terrorism in the back of many people's minds, there are some things all of us road warriors can do to significantly enhance the flying experience for all. In particular, the cultural trend of people taking up more than their fair share (literally and figuratively) on flights, spreading out into aisles or even giving themselves pedicures on cross-country flights, is a huge pet peeve of mine.
Before "passenger-shaming" became a popular Facebook page, I was aware of the increase in outrageous acts on airplanes. While I haven't seen many bare feet on flights personally (other than my own, by the way--I've since learned my lesson on that practice and am never caught sockless or shoeless on airplanes), many of the road warriors my company represents have been sending up emergency flares and asking us for help as they face uncomfortable and inappropriate scenarios on countless flights.
On behalf of these road warriors, I'm here to say that things need to change. Below, I'll illustrate my recommendations with a simple list of plane etiquette tips that everyone can and should follow:
1. Fly it forward.
What if we carried the concept of "pay it forward" 30,000 feet into the air and adopted a mentality of "fly it forward" or "do unto your neighbor as you would have your neighbor do unto you"? If you are not interested in flying next to someone's bare feet, then don't prop your bare feet on someone's head rest on your next trip. Don't want to sit next to someone painting his or her nails in a small cabin with limited air circulation? Then don't give yourself a pedicure on your JFK to LAX flight.
2. Wear socks.
Wearing socks is beneficial to everyone on flights. For you, it prevents stepping on anything in the aisles or in the bathroom that, well, you might not want to step on. For others, it keeps personal hygiene choices at bay, if you get my "drift."
3. Stay in the box.
We encourage everyone to "think outside the box" at the workplace. When it comes to flying, though, I encourage everyone to "stay inside the box." That means you shouldn't take up more room than anyone else and that you should stay in the physical confines of the seat you've paid for.
4. Remember: What's mine is yours.
In terms of this piece of advice, I'm referring to the overhead bins. Sure, luggage fees can be a pain, but I might argue that clogging an overhead bin with a questionably sized carry-on and delaying the on-boarding process negatively affects everyone. Every passenger has a right to store items in the overhead bin. If your bag is going to take up more than your share of the space, check your bag. Everyone on your flight--and I mean everyone--will thank you.
5. Silence is golden.
A confined airplane cabin, cruising at 35,000 feet, isn't the place to have loud conversations. It's also not a place where you can easily ignore children's crying fits. A successful flight is one that affords all of its passengers a little bit of quiet, either for personal relaxation or work purposes. If you're planning a long flight with friends or colleagues, remember that the "funny" (read: loud) conversations you're engaging in can wait until you get off the plane or, at the very least, be brought down a few decibels. And if you're traveling with children (and believe me--I'm a parent, so I get it), don't ignore their screams and cries. Instead, try bringing along some toys and games to keep underage passengers occupied or even some gum or candies to help them soothe uncomfortable ear pressure. If you're extra generous, you might even consider sharing some tasty goodies with your fellow passengers.
6. Stay hydrated (and sober).
By this I mean don't get drunk on your flight. Sure, a bloody mary up in the air has its novelty. But a passenger who's stumbling through the aisles and spilling drinks on neighbors doesn't have any appeal. Trust me. Rather than sipping alcohol, try sipping water. It's a lot cleaner than alcohol and will serve you better when you're back on the ground.
7. Clean up after yourself.
I know I'm not your mom, but trash in the seat pocket, water (and who knows what else) on the floor of the lavatory, and crumpled up papers and receipts in the aisle are just gross. If most people leave their homes in the condition they leave airplanes, I really hope they don't invite me over for dinner.
Like most people, I was tickled by the passenger-shaming page on Facebook. I was so intrigued, in fact, that I'm proposing something to anyone who reads this. While it's great to sit on top of a soapbox and critique what people should and shouldn't do, I'm challenging you to put your money where my mouth is. Using the hashtag #flyitforward, share stories of how you're attempting to restore civility on Twitter or on Ovation's Facebook page. While funny pictures of bare feet on airplanes provide a good distraction, I think it might be beneficial if all of our newsfeeds showed stories of people being decent and trying to make their environments a better place. And who knows? There just may be something in it for you.