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What is it about air travel that can turn even the most reasonable people into creatures of supreme self-interest? This was best expressed in an image that went viral last week of a woman lounging with her sneaker-clad feet resting on the headrest of the seat in front of her.
Of course, lack of space, proximity to others, and the frustration of a delayed arrival or departure are a challenge to civilized behavior. But are there red lines we still shouldn’t cross?
1. DON’T BARE FEET
It’s bad enough putting dirty shoes on the seat. “But an equal no-no is taking off your socks and shoes even when your feet remain where they should be: on the floor,” says Jo Bryant, an etiquette consultant, author and former Debrett tutor.
After all, who wants to look at ugly, gnarled little hands? Even if you keep your podiatrist on speed dial, it’s still the height of rudeness to sit or walk around the booth with your bare feet.
An image that went viral last week shows a woman resting with her sneaker-clad feet resting on the headrest of the front seat during a Delta flight.
For added comfort, pack a pair of slippers or flight socks in your carry-on, “and never use the armrest as a footrest between the seats in front of you, with your toes sticking out,” Bryant says.
2. DON’T FIGHT OVER THE ARMREST
Consider it more of a divider than a battlefield. The polite response is to let middle seat passengers use the armrests, since their fellow passengers hold them.
“Otherwise, inch forward by placing just your elbow on it, which will allow your neighbor to do the same,” says author and etiquette expert William Hanson.
3. DON’T PACK SPICY SNACKS
The cottage is not the place for sulfurous egg sandwiches, zesty citrus or spicy curry salads. Opt for soft options like chocolate, crackers or berries. To fill your stomach in an easy and packable way, protein bars are also a good option.
4. STAY IN YOUR LANE
Never invade the areas designated by your travel companions. Do not lie with your feet stretched out under the seat of the person in front or throw sweaters on the back seat. Keep the area around you (small bags, magazines, and all your other in-flight necessities) as tidy as possible, too.
‘If the person next to you falls asleep and you want to get up or is down, hit them gently. Under no circumstances should you attempt to climb over them; you’ll wake them up and you’ll be straddling them in an embarrassing position,” says Hanson.
5. THERE IS NO PERSONAL CLEANING
Traveling by plane means that other passengers are a captive audience of your personal habits. But keep your body grooming strictly to yourself.
“This is not the place to clip your nails, pluck your eyebrows, spray yourself with deodorant or do anything else approaching self-care,” Bryant says. If you have to attend to any grooming and pruning, do it in the bathroom.
6. LET THE FLIGHT ATTENDANTS CONTINUE WITH THEIR JOB
Unless you need to respond to a call of nature, stay in your seat whenever the cabin crew is busy with onboard service. And be unwaveringly charming. As the saying goes ‘more wars are won with honey’.
So, Bryant says, “be patient if things go slower than you’d like.” Smile, say hello warmly, take a seat and let them do their job.’ As you leave, take the time to thank them as well.
Even young children may have difficulty negotiating their food when the seat in front of them is tilted back, so try not to recline until the food has been served.
7. DO NOT RECLINE YOUR SEAT WHEN EATING
Even small children can have difficulty negotiating their food when the seat in front of them is tilted back. ‘Be aware of those behind you and do not lean back minutes after takeoff. Wait until after meal service, if possible, and lie down completely only if truly necessary.’
Remember that it is your prerogative to recline, so a quick glance with a half-open smile to check that the tray table is not behind you is a courteous gesture.
8. WAIT YOUR TURN BEFORE DISEMBARKING
Hitting the tarmac is not a signal to get up immediately or jump over the heads of other equally tired, bored and impatient passengers. This is not the school bell. The doors aren’t even open yet. All you’re doing is pushing your butt in front of others who are sensibly sitting still.
‘Allow others to take things down from lockers and filter the plane row by row. And always help those who can’t easily get to the ticket booths,” says Hanson. “If you’re so desperate for a quick exit, pay for a seat near the front.”
‘Allow others to take things down from lockers and filter the plane row by row. And always help those who cannot easily reach the ticket offices,” says William Hanson.
The advice is: Don’t rearrange other passengers’ bags to make room for yours.
9. DO NOT OVERLOAD UPPER CABINETS
Avoid unnecessarily distributing your duty free reservation in the overhead cabin space. And don’t rearrange other passengers’ suitcases to make room for your own.
The polite thing to do is to place your hand luggage sensibly, making the most of the overhead space, and place any other superfluous items (and whatever you need during the flight) under the seat in front of you.
10. TO CHANGE OR NOT TO CHANGE SEATS
You have bought and paid for your seat because you love watching the world go by outside the airplane window. So should you exchange with someone who has been separated from their child or partner? Frankly, it is a matter of choice and not obligation.
Just as you should think twice before asking another passenger to change seats. “And if you do, make sure it’s a fair trade—for example, one aisle seat for another,” Hanson says.
11. CUT THE TALK
Some people like to talk to complete strangers during a flight. If you don’t want to chat, bury your head in a book, put on headphones (even if they’re not on), close your eyes, or respond in monosyllables but politely when asked a question. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I’m so sorry for being antisocial, but I’m going to close my eyes or catch up on this book or movie,'” Hanson suggests.
…and this is what really bothers cabin crew – by a former British Airways flight attendant
FOLDING your coat, place it in an empty upper closet, and then close it. Trust me. This space will be necessary for other passengers’ suitcases.
SAYING: “You must love Venice/Dubrovnik/Barcelona”, or wherever we go. Most days we don’t get off the plane before taking a new group of passengers home. So don’t rub it.
WAIT until we get to you before asking the undecided children: ‘What do you want to drink?’ Parents who ask beforehand, tell us clearly, and then allow us to move quickly to the altar are our favorites.
ORDERS from the onboard menu and then realizing your wallet or purse is in the overhead locker. It is a race to serve everyone as it is. Please don’t stop us.
ASKING: ‘Will I make my connecting flight?’ Most days we can barely remember where we were flying, let alone what time we should land.
GET angry if we wake you up on a night flight because we can’t see your seat belt. It is a legal requirement to check turbulence. The ads say to put seat belts on top of the blankets for a reason.
ASKING looking at something from the depths of the Duty Free cart. Then don’t buy it.
MOANING about meals. It really wasn’t us who made the salad so small. Or she picked up those microscopic packages of pretzels.
STANDING before the fasten seat belt sign goes off. We hate going on the public address system and telling everyone to stay seated, but we can get fired if we don’t.
SARCASTIC comments about delays getting off the plane. Believe me, we want to get home or to our hotel as much as you do.