Be Courteous to Everyone When You Are Flying

I do not fly often, but when I do, I try to be a good passenger. I will not recline my seat, for example, if the person behind me looks like a professional boxer. 

Actually, any type of boxer — professional or amateur — will keep me from reclining my seat. But common courtesy also dictates that I’m careful about reclining my chair if the person behind me has a drink on the tray table that might spill or a laptop that might tip over. But common courtesy is not as common as one would wish. That’s why a veteran flight attendant named Kristie Koerbel recently published an article in the New York Times entitled, “‘Never a Reason to Take Off Your Socks’: A Flight Attendant’s 12 Etiquette Rules.” 

Rather than share my own etiquette rules, I’ve decided to answer questions from frequent flyers. 

Question: My mother says that I should always take a shower before flying. But I usually take only one shower a week to conserve water. Do I really need to take a shower before flying? 

Answer: No, you do not need to take a shower before flying. You can take a bath instead. Just make sure you scrub yourself well with some soap. This will save your flight attendant the trouble of having to drop oxygen masks for the people sitting around you. 

Q: I have two kids, aged 3 and 4. On a recent flight to Europe, my kids were a little messy with their food. The flight attendant just handed me a few moist towels. Isn’t it their job to keep the plane clean? 

A: If you read the terms and conditions of your ticket purchase, you may be surprised to discover that your ticket price does not include maid service. It’s your responsibility to clean up after your kids. However, if you have a maid at home, you’re welcome to buy a ticket for them. 

Q: The worst part about flying is having to deal with noisy babies who cry off and on throughout the flight. I always feel like saying something to the parents, such as, “I’m trying to sleep over here. Can you give your baby an iPad or something?” Would that be rude? 

A: Yes, it would be rude. Do you remember what you were like when you were a baby? Just ask your mom. She’ll happily dig up one of your baby videos. The best thing you can do on a flight is wearing earphones or earplugs and try to be considerate. Don’t be a crybaby. 

Q: One of my pet peeves is people who are not using earphones while having conversations on FaceTime, WhatsApp or another platform. The other day, this young woman had her phone out while boarding the plane. “I’m looking for my seat now, Mom,” she said. And her mom responded: “Pick a good seat, dear  — not close to any single men. Don’t sit near married men either. You can’t trust them.” It was very awkward when she sat next to me and said, “It’s assigned seating, Mom. I have to sit next to this man. But he looks harmless. Aren’t you harmless?” I just nodded and waved at her mom. Why do people think we want to listen to their conversations? 

A: It can be annoying, but the best way to handle it is to have a conversation of your own: “Don’t worry, honey, the doctor says I’ll be fine once I’ve been treated. I just need to avoid contact with other people. That’s why I picked a window seat. Only one person is next to me. A nice young woman who … never mind, she has just moved to another seat.” 

Q: I like to be comfortable on transatlantic flights. I take my socks and shoes off and change into my pajamas. People sometimes look at me funny. Am I doing something wrong? 

A: It is generally frowned upon to change in front of strangers. You must go to the restroom (or lavatory) or change discreetly when everyone is asleep. It’s unwise to expose yourself in any way without alerting the flight crew. The pilot may need to make an announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, just want to let you know that the passenger in Seat D4 has decided to expose his smelly feet. The flight attendants will be coming around with cans of Febreze for anyone who needs one. Please do not spray it directly on his feet.” 

Q: Sometimes when I use the restroom on a plane, I am shocked to find that the person before me has not bothered to flush. What’s wrong with people? Do they think that I’ll be impressed with their output? 

A: Some people are Neanderthals. If they see a button or lever, they do not push it, just in case they’re sucked back to 50,000 BC. 

Q: I enjoy sitting in the window seat, but it irks me that the person in the middle seat always spreads out, taking both armrests. Is that fair? 

A: Of course it’s fair. If you’re stuck in the middle seat between two people, you have only three advantages to enjoy: (1) Getting both armrests; (2) watching three screens at once; and (3) having a choice of shoulders to rest your head on when you fall asleep. 

Image courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik

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