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Etiquette Tips for 21st Century Airline Travel

April 14, 2010

Back in the day when I worked for Pan American Airlines flying was thought of as glamorous and cosmopolitan.  These days you need patience, endurance, stamina, miles and still-manners.  

Today’s travelers face the reality of rigorous security procedures, record flight delays and cancellations, anxiety about the safety of flying, cramped seating, reduced or no meal service and oh yeah you will have to pay for each bag and maybe even use of the overhead!.  

Incivility and rudeness are often the product of stress, and there are few situations more primed for stress these days than air travel. While you may have little or no control over long security lines, weather delays, the cabin environment or your choice of seatmate, you can control how you react to adversity. A good place to start would be general pleasantries: “Please,” “Thank you,” “Excuse me,” “You’re welcome.” Sometimes when rushing from one gate to another we forget these simple courtesies.


1. Arrive early. This may be obvious, but it’s often undervalued. As your stress level rises, your capacity for tolerance and civility often decreases.

2. Stay calm if your gate agent gives you bad news. Losing your temper won’t get you there any faster, and it may lose you the sympathy of the one person who could possibly pull some strings.

3. Dress and pack with security in mind. Be familiar with current screening procedures and airline policies for checked and carry-on luggage. There are still clueless passengers who pack large bottles of liquids in their carry-on luggage-a nuisance to everyone behind them. 
4. Wear shoes that are easy to take on and off, and keep items you may have to remove from your luggage for screening, such as laptops, readily accessible.This keeps the line moving, which keeps tempers calm. If you’re a frequent traveler who knows the drill, be patient with those who are new at this, they may be nervous.

5. Board quickly-don’t linger in the entryway, you hold up the line, and takeoff time.

6. If you can’t choose your environment, create your own.Bring an eyeshade for napping, and use headphones to listen to music or movies (whether in the terminal or on the plane), or earplugs to block out unwanted conversations. If your seatmate won’t stop chatting with you, smile and say, “Well, it’s been nice speaking with you. I’m going to read for a bit now.”

7. Traveling is trying for adults, and even more so for children. Crying babies are part of the air travel package, so it’s a good idea to stash some earplugs in your carry on. However, if a child is kicking the back of your seat, it’s okay to ask their parent to have them stop. Smile and say, “I know it’s tough for kids, but would you mind asking him not to kick the seat?Thanks.” Keep it short and offer some understanding, and it’s likely the parent and child will comply

8. The middle seat arm rests are shared property. With that being said, it’s generous for the aisle and window seat holders to give the middle passenger a chance to claim them first.

Use these tips to get you through your travels with less stress and more civility.  Let us know how they work for you. Please add to this list if you have your own top 10 by facebooking us at:

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 14, 2010 9:07 PM

    I feel like so many people need to remember these tips for day-to-day life. Especially saying “please and thank you”. Also, I would add – get off the cellphone when you know a customer service agent is trying to speak to you!

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