Holiday Air Travel Rules

Tis the season to be traveling around to visit family for whatever your holiday of choice is.  There’s a good chance you’ll be taking a plane ride, and, as I will be flying to Kentucky, I thought this might be a good time to review the rules of etiquette…especially if you’re going to be on my flight.

1. No seat yank-backs

See…there’s a pretty good chance that I’ve got my laptop open, maybe a drink on the tray seatback-pax-quentintable. So when you yank your seat back, you’re actually impinging on my space, endangering my computer and upsetting my drink. Now, you can tilt the seat back an inch or two…but that’s it, unless you specifically turn around and ask.

2. You don’t own the window shade.

I usually request the window seat because I like looking out the window, especially as I’m departing and arriving somewhere. But these days it’s a real crap shoot as to where you’re going to be placed. I was surprised on recent daytime trips where I was in the middle or aisle seats and the window passenger immediately pulled down the shade, not only cutting off my view but also cutting off light from my reading material. (The overhead lights weren’t working.) When you get the window seat, I reckon you are renting the seat, the area under the seat and the tray table…but how about asking first if you want the shade down? (I recognize that there is some debate about this among frequent fliers, but I’m afraid I’m going to have put my, er…foot down.)

3. No smelly carry-on food

These days, airljv-gas-mask-quentinines are cutting back on all sorts of amenities, particularly food. So I usually pack some innocuous snacks. However, an otherwise very nice couple next to me unpacked a veritable smell-orgy of foods they apparently had been cooking for the past few days in their shoes.


4. No rushing past people in the aisle waiting to deplane

Here’s a true story from several years ago. I was traveling through Pittsburgh on my way to Phoenix and the usual crowd was queued up in the back part of the plane. A stylish, yuppie’ish couple behind me were politely but earnestly asking folks if they could get through because they were in danger of missing their connecting flight. We all cooperated as the couple squeezed their way through. I didn’t mind at all. My companion and I had some extra time before our own connecting flight so we stopped in the airport bookstore to browse. And who should we see but the time-crunched couple casually picking out some magazines. And this is still true: I sidled up next to them, anonymously, and overhead the guy telling his wife/girlfriend, “Hey, that really worked well! What a great way to get off the airplane without waiting in that horrible line.”

I guess I’d still let someone squeeze past, especially if I knew that our flight had a delayed takeoff. But I better not see you in the airport bookstore.

Oh, and by the way, what’s with everyone in the rows behind me feeling the urgent need to rush out of their rows to get into the aisle so they can just stand and wait?


Update from reader S. Vogt in Kentucky. She takes a bit of umbrage at the implied annoyance of the looming mob behind my row. She says “I like to do that because it’s a way to stretch after having been sitting for awhile. Plus, It takes me a little time to get my suitcase down, attach my computer case, etc. so I will be ready to move as soon as my turn comes.” I’m now wondering if umbrage can come in bits.

Author in gas mask photo (c) 2011, Jim Veihdeffer

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