The Don’ts of Airline Travel

Since I’ve flown four times in the last week, I feel highly qualified to comment on the do’s (or more specifically, the don’ts) of airline travel.


No, I’m not an accredited globetrotter, but I’ve spent enough time in close quarters with people whose true character shines through in these situations that I think I can compile a solid list of tips to make everyone’s travel a little less hemorrhoidal and a little more enjoyable.


Don’t arrive late.  You know when your flight is.  Flights don’t leave early.  Therefore, unless a disaster strikes, there is no excuse for being late.  Slept in?  Really?  On the day you knew you were traveling by plane?  Traffic?  Really?  You didn’t realize roughly how long it takes to get to the airport, and you didn’t calculate that you couldn’t just be beamed into the airport from your living room?



Don’t be the last one to get on by choice.  I’ve witnessed this a number of times.  People are there, waiting in the gate area, along with all the other cattle waiting to board the plane.  I always try to sit near the front of the plane, and so I don’t board until later on.  But there are people who actively choose not to board until the final boarding call.  Why?  I have no idea.  Things are getting closed up, shut down, and everyone is in the final stages of preparing the plane for departure.  They continue to call these people’s names, and nobody gets on board.  In the last minute, they casually saunter onto the plane, completely oblivious to the burning stares of a hundred or so people that have been held up – and for no reason.  But they sure think they’re chock full-of-awesome.  Don’t do that.  Your awesomeness ebbs away with every passing boarding call.



Simmer down in the aisle when getting on the plane.  If it takes the person in front if you 20 seconds to load up their bag in the overhead bin, take a breather. What’s your hurry?  Heaving enormous sighs or rolling your eyes at other passengers won’t help get things moving.  With that said, don’t take a retarded amount of time to get your stuff up and out of the way. And don’t continue to stand in the aisle to rearrange your carry-on bag’s entire contents while others are still waiting to get to their seats.


Don’t brag loudly about the benefits of flying first class.  This is not cool.  The days of luxurious travel are over for most mortals, and we are gathered like bleating sheep in the back of this plane.  Let’s say you’re one of those fortunate few in First Class – spread out in massive La-Z-Boys at the front, being offered champagne and orange juice BEFORE the flight, enjoying your hot towel service to mop your weary, manicured and spray-tanned brow, and slicing into your hot meal.  It’s painful enough that they leave the curtain open now, so we can see how happy life is up there.  We certainly don’t need to hear about it.  There is no need for the airline equivalent of rubbing it in, and let me remind you First Classers of one certainty – if this plane crashes into a mountain, and the passengers are stuck fending for themselves in the wilderness, who do you think they’ll eat first?


Don’t drink multiple gallons of anything before (or during) the flight.  I’m not sure what part of “water in, water out” people seem to forget on plane trips.  But the answer is not to drink too much.  Then you don’t have to pee too much.  Makes sense, no?  Look, one bathroom trip is acceptable, and often downright necessary.  2 trips might be tolerable but are going to test the patience of those folks whose feet you are stepping on to get out, and who have to undo their seatbelts and get up to accommodate your bladder.  3 or more bathroom trips will be cause for parachute deployment testing.  And guess who will be our lucky volunteer today?  It’s YOU, the Captain Pee-Pee, and urine for a real treat.


Don’t fart.  Now, you’d think this would be a common sense item.  But having been seated beside an elderly gentleman who just wouldn’t stop dropping “peals of wisdom” throughout the flight, I feel I have to say something.
People fall into two categories.  There are those that take immense pleasure in passing gas and think it’s very funny, and there are those who are just plain weird.  I’m a normal guy, and so I fall headfirst into the first set of people, which I certainly hope makes up the majority of the rest of you.  However, in the air, just as when we’re stuck to the ground, there are rules.  There are social norms we try to abide by, and one of them is that you don’t do a trouser cough when you’re in close proximity to strangers.  You just don’t.  Same with elevators, buses, etc.  Right?  So if you are overcome with the need to unleash a cushion creeper, at least walk up and down the aisle and do some crop dusting, so it dissipates.  It’s the right thing to do.



Don’t eat garlic, unless you have gum.  Similar to the bathroom thing – this is highly preventable.  Just don’t eat horrifyingly garlicky foods before the flight.  I’ve been stuck beside someone whose breath smelled like an old lady farted through an onion, and it’s just not a nice way to spend a few hours.  That’s downright unfair to those around you.  At very least, chew on a sprig of parsley before you get on the plane.



Don’t play your music at insane volume levels where I can make out the words through your headphones.  Actually this rule goes for everywhere you are.  You are going deaf, and we are going crazy.  Stop the madness!  If Helen Keller could tell what you’re listening to, you should turn it down. You don’t need your tunes that loud.  Nobody does.



Give parents with screaming kids a break. They aren’t enjoying this misfortune any more than you are.  Right now, while you are treating the poor mom or dad to a chiding, self-righteous shake of the head or a “pfffftttt” coupled with a highly dramatic eye-roll, that poor parent is not having any fun.
The irony is that you’ve either been one of those parents before, and know exactly how it feels when your kid comes unglued, or you may well be one of those parents before you know it.  I was on a flight to Vancouver once, and I am not exaggerating when I say that flight could easily have been the best, and most effective, birth control commercial of all time.  Yet we all made it through, including all the passengers who were soooo upset at the screaming kids and their parents.


Armrests are joint-custody real estate.  There’s only one between you, which means only one of you is getting it at any one time.  I strongly recommend discussing visitation rights with your neighbor before you have to do the elbow creep move.  Especially if you’re sitting next to Rita McNeil.  Just talk about it, people.  Can’t we just get along?



Don’t expect the flight attendants to be in a perfect mood every single time, for every second of every flight. You don’t know what happened to that person before this flight – let them be human instead of expecting the world.  Yes, until Superstore starts a no-frills airline, we will always pay a lot for flights.  Yes, we should be able to expect a high standard of service on those expensive flights.  But these are people, and just like you and I, they are allowed to have days where absolutely everything wasn’t sunshine, roses, unicorns and rainbows.  You expect a bit of slack some days too, I imagine, and you should be willing to dole it out as well.



If your feet stink, don’t take off your shoes.  Actually, even if you don’t think your feet stink, don’t take off your shoes. And don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that keeping them under your seat is going to contain the fragrance.  Dr. Scholl doesn’t have the cure for all of you, let me assure you!



Don’t panic.  The best advice I can give to those nervous flyers out there is look around you.  You’re likely surrounded by more experienced flyers, and the most experienced are the flight attendants.  If they’re not running up and down the aisle screaming, you’re very likely going to be OK, regardless of what worst-case scenario you’re playing through in your mind’s eye.



Try to relax.  There is nothing natural about dozens of humans flying through the air, and nothing feels natural when your plane hits some turbulence, or your ears start to pop, or the engines start whining at a different pitch level, making you question when this bird is headed to the ground in a downward spiral.  So just remember that everyone else on that bird is in the same boat – don’t get upset at the little things, don’t worry too much about the big things (because at this point, it’s all out of your hands anyway), and you’ll make it through.  You’re more likely to be
struck by lightning than not making it through your flight.



OK, so you made it.  The plane landed.  It didn’t burst into flames.  Don’t stand up the second the plane comes to a stop.  Where do you think you’re going?



I hope this will help make the world a better place.  I’m sure I’ve missed a million things that could make your (and my) airline travel better, so please don’t hesitate to comment with your tips as well.


Safe travels, my friends.

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