Something about scanning that boarding pass and stepping into an aluminum tube for a few hours turns some of us into miscreants.
Last year at this time, I resolved to get out of expense-report jail. I’m happy to report my release. I filed my final 2023 expense report just three days after a reporting trip to Florida and made a tight column deadline to boot.
This year, I’ve got resolutions for all of us. We should all aim to get back to basics and make some collective promises as fliers.
1. Don’t abuse preboarding privileges.
You don’t get to bring everyone in the family along with you. On Southwest Airlines, you risk side-eye and ire from fellow passengers, since seating is first come, first served.
2. Do keep your fancy airline status to yourself.
The perks of being a road warrior (or prolific credit-card spender) are enviable. But don’t broadcast your precious gem—be it silver, gold, platinum or diamond status—as you shove your way to the front of the priority-boarding line when you’re running late or griping about flight troubles. We’re all trying to get to the same place. That seat upgrade will still be there.
3. Don’t bonk other passengers with your backpack.
Be mindful of smacking others as you trudge down the aisle to your seat. Diane Zeligman, who lives in Toronto, says she’s tired of being whacked every time people wearing them turn around on a flight. “Many have no awareness of people behind them,” she says.
4. Do stow your bags in the right section.
Airlines are making a mint on those pricey extra-legroom seats. One perk they promise is dedicated overhead bin space. It isn’t always well-marked, especially when other bags are already up there, but if you see a sticker that says reserved for Comfort Plus or Main Cabin Extra or Economy Plus, be courteous and move on. (I started to put my bag in a bin on a Delta flight and stopped when I realized it was above a Comfort Plus seat.)
5. Don’t be a bin hog.
Heed those flight-attendant announcements about only putting your bigger carry-ons in the overhead bins so there’s enough room for everyone’s bags. You don’t want your carry-on checked at the last minute. If there’s room after everyone has boarded, go ahead and throw those backpacks, coats, scarves, umbrellas and souvenirs in there.
6. Do sit down as quickly as possible.
No one wants to stand behind you as you pull your electronics, headphones, book, snacks, wipes and other stuff out of your backpack. You can reorganize your stuff before or after takeoff.
7. Do think twice before asking another passenger to switch seats.
Many of us are understanding when airlines ask for last-minute help accommodating families. But to simply sit next to your spouse or partner or best friend? That’s asking a lot in this era of airline fees to reserve regular old aisle and window seats.
8. Don’t watch in-flight movies, TV or play videogames without headphones. Ever.
Your seatmates don’t need a play-by-play of the Vikings-Bears game. This applies to the kids in your group, too. Your toddlers may love YouTube sensation Ms. Rachel, but the rest of us don’t need to listen to “Wheels on the Bus.” And think about your neighbors before you decide on something extra saucy or scary to watch on your laptop. Save that “Saw” sequel for your destination.
9. Do warn people when you are about to recline your seat.
Whether you are on Team Recline or not, it’s the polite thing to do. Wendy MacKinnon, who lives on Prince Edward Island, says she almost broke her wrist in October when the passenger in front of her abruptly reclined her seat. “My hand just happened to be in the wrong place,” she says.
10. Don’t backtrack to get your bag.
Wait in your seat until deplaning is done or there’s an unexpected break in the action. “If there’s someone in the aisle and your bag is five rows behind you, why hold up the whole plane?” says Michael Mayer. The management consultant from outside Philadelphia says he’s seen too many cases of passengers “swimming from the bulkhead to the back” of the plane. And whatever you do, don’t ask someone in 32C to pass your carry-on bag over other passengers’ heads.
11. Do wait your turn to get off the plane.
Unless a flight attendant makes an announcement to let passengers with super-tight connections off, deplaning etiquette dictates an orderly, row-by-row exit from the plane. On a nonstop from Boston to Phoenix last week, a hulking passenger plowed ahead of me and others when the plane landed. He didn’t care that others, including me, suggested it wasn’t his turn. Leave your impatience and entitlement at home.
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Write to Dawn Gilbertson at firstname.lastname@example.org