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How Not to Behave on an Airplane: Etiquette for Frequent Flyers
Airplane travel can be extremely stressful for many reasons, but it's infinitely more stressful when you're sitting near somebody who doesn't know or understand the basic etiquette of airplane flight. And it's awfully embarrassing to do something on a plane and have somebody turn to you and explain that what you're doing is inappropriate because you don't know proper etiquette. Of course, usually people don't come out and say anything about etiquette, they just give you the stink eye.
Being in an enclosed space with hundreds of other people requires adherence to basic rules of etiquette if everyone is to have a good flight. Believe it or not, there are actual etiquette rules, perhaps unwritten, when one flies. Here are some things you want to avoid when riding on an airplane.
- Use phones or MP3 players during take-off and landings - I've flown with so many people who seem to ignore this rule. They hide their phone or MP3 player in their pocket or whatever and pull it out after the flight personnel walk by. Believe it or not, the electronic signals emitted by such devices do pose a risk to the safe take-off and landing of aircraft. If your personal listening and/or playing and/or watching enjoyment is more important than your life, then go ahead and keep using those devices. Honestly, what's most annoying about people who disobey this etiquette rule is that they seem to think the rules don't apply to them and they simply don't have the patience to put their devices away for the ten minutes that it takes to follow the rule.
- Fart (a lot) - Farting uncontrollably in an airplane is not nice, although we all know that a favorite activity of flight crews is to walk down the aisle and let loose. It's known as "crop dusting". However, decorum suggests that if you need to fart, you head to the restroom and do it there. If that's not possible, get up and walk around and try to fart as close to the restroom as possible. Obviously, there are times when the seat belt sign is on and you can't get up and go to the restroom. Is there an etiquette rule for that? I guess not. Maybe just let 'er rip and point to the guy across the aisle.
- Listen to whatever you're listening to really loudly - This isn't just annoying on an airplane, it's annoying everywhere. If you're going to play your music so loud that everyone can hear it, why even bother with the headphones? And just for the record, for those of you who do this, you're not going to be able to hear anything when you're older.
- Recline your seat without asking the person behind you - I have a tall brother and his knees basically push right up against the seat in front of him if he sits in coach. If the person in front of him reclines his or her seat and he's not ready for it, he gets to go in for knee surgery. Seriously, it's common courtesy to turn around and ask the person behind you if it's okay to recline your seat. Just turn around and ask. It's good manners. It's nice. Decent human beings do these things.
What's Your Least Favorite Airplane Behavior?
- Let your children torture others - This goes for airplanes as well as movie theaters and, really, just about anywhere. Part of the responsibility of becoming a parent means that you don't let your children torture people around you. It's common courtesy. If you think that being in a public place with a lot of people means that your children can run around unsupervised, somebody needs to slap you upside the head and maybe take your children away. I once sat next to a dad who seemed to be oblivious to the fact that it was highly likely his kid's limbs were flailing about and would like kick his drink right off his tray. That's exactly what happened. Fortunately, it hit the guy on the other side of me.
- Be mean to the stewards - People who are obnoxious to service people in public are generally obnoxious people to begin with. There's really no reason to be rude to the stewards. There are a tremendous number of rules they must follow, so if they ask you to do something, it's likely because they have to. Treating them shabbily because they asked you to turn off your phone is just a crappy thing to do. Treating them badly because you don't like the food really just means you're a bad person. Get a clue.
- Watch porn on your personal computer - Look, I understand that pornography is kind of a fact of life these days, but it's still not mainstream in the sense that watching it in a public place is accepted, and certainly not on an airplane. It's not that you can't watch it somewhat privately, but there's always a chance that some 3-year-old is going to look over your shoulder and then turn to mommy and ask what's going on. It's indecent. Save it for the privacy of your own home or hotel room.
- Kicking the back of the seat in front of you - Okay, we all get it. The seating room in most airplanes is terrible these days. That doesn't mean you have a free pass to continually kick the seat in front of you out of protest. Sit still.
- Getting up when the fasten seat belt sign is on - This is another one of those "the rules don't apply to me" sort of behaviors. The sign is on for a reason. Sure, it's possible that you have to go to the bathroom and can't hold it or you have a child who is going to throw up all over the place, but you don't break the rules just because you need to grab your Kindle out of your carry-on luggage. Sit down until the sign goes off. Follow the rules. If you can't, call a steward.
- Have sex in the bathroom - Oh, sure, everyone wants to be a member of the mile high club, but people actually have to go potty. If you really want to have sex in an airplane bathroom, make absolutely sure nobody has to use the bathroom for what it was meant. And if you're going to do the nasty, be fast.
- Throwing a fit because your carry-on luggage doesn't fit - It's becoming increasingly common that the overhead compartments get full before everyone has taken their seat and boarded with their luggage. If this happens to you, you just have to be patient and let the steward take your bag and have it put with the other luggage. Throwing a fit isn't going to change the fact that there's no room for your bag.
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