I frequently travel for work as a regular part of my position. Whether I am leading pre-conversion training for a new client, conducting an Operational Audit to help streamline a client’s operations or leading workshops, I often find myself in airports. When you fly on a regular basis, you see the good, the bad and the ugly of airline travel…and not all of it is the fault of the airlines themselves. After some things I experienced on a recent trip to the west coast, and inspired by a recent episode of the Speaking In Tech podcast where the podcasters shared horror stories and strategies for dealing with fellow passengers on flights, I feel like contributing to the unwritten Airline Travel Commandments. Many of these are taken care of if you are abiding by the “Don’t be a jerk” rule of life, but refreshers never hurt.
Thou Shall Dress Appropriately for TSA Screening – Really this comes down to your choice of footware. Wear something easy to take on and off for the TSA screening. This means ditch the knee-high gladiator-style, lace-up high heel boots that take a day and a half to undo and put back on. You are walking around an airport terminal, not a Parisian runway.
Thou Shall Comply With Crew Instructions – This is something they remind you of on every flight during the safety training session, but apparently some travelers need another reminder. If the crew ask you to do something, within reason, do it. Real life example from a flight I was on last year: If someone on the plane is having medical issues, and the pilot has asked everyone to stay in their seats upon landing so an EMS crew can get to the passenger, don’t be the self-important jerk who starts getting his stuff out of the overhead bin and gets mad when the EMS crew tries to get around him in the aisle. The self-important jerk in question is lucky I was able to hold back the Ginger Snap. What is The Ginger Snap? It’s the moment right before a red head loses her cool and unleashes the full on Red Head Rage, something no one wants to see. Trust me on this one.
Thou Shall Ask Before Lowering Seat Backs – I get it…flying is uncomfortable. We are all stuck in a metal can hurling through the air at hundreds of miles per hour. In the crazed pursuit of profit, airlines have added more seats to the planes, resulting in you being close enough to neighbors on all sides that you can’t so much as shift your weight without hitting them. And if you are more than 5’5″, your knees will connect with the seat back and you will have to sit at an angle to avoid your head hitting the bottom of the overhead bins. But if you intend to lower your seat back, have the courtesy to at least notify the person behind you, or better yet ask them first.
Thou Shalt Not Bring Pungent Food Onto Planes – I’m all for bringing your meal onto a plane, especially since many of the flights no longer provide food of any substance. But again, as a courtesy to those around you and everyone in the vicinity forced to breathe the same recycled air, try not to make those foods strongly aromatic. On a recent trip one couple brought a salad covered in onions for her and something involving pickled cabbage for him, resulting in the rear third of the plane smelling very much like an onion canning factory.
Thou Shall Shut Overhead Bins When Not In Use – The same couple responsible for the pungent food violation were also frequent users of their carry-on bags, which were stored in the overhead bins. It’s fine to get up and get into your bags to get your book or your e-reader or your tablet, but when you are done shut the bins! On multiple occasions I watched the man get into the bin, retrieve an item, and then return to his seat without even a thought of closing the bin door. All the side-eye from the flight attendants who came to shut the bin door didn’t seem to phase him.
Thou Shall Attempt to Keep Thy Cool – Travel is stressful, especially when things don’t go as planned. I have more than once been tempted go to the Red Head Rage Cage while traveling. But emotions are contagious, particularly anger and stress. Giving in to them does nothing to fix the situation, and merely serves to ratchet up the temperature of those around you who witness the reaction. You are far more likely to get what you want if you are calm and decent about your request, rather than a demanding jerk. Trust me, if I can hold the Ginger Snap in check, anyone can do it.
Thou Shall Know Thy Flying Rights…And When They Apply – The second part of this commandment is the key. It’s always good to know your rights when it comes to flying; see the incident on United Airlines Express Flight for more on that. But on a recent flight myself I experienced the other side of this. After our plane was boarded and suffered mechanical issues, we taxied back to the gate and de-planed. The airline was engaged in the logistics battle of trying to find another plane for all of us when one passenger within earshot got on the phone with a poor Customer Service Rep for the airline and proceeded to ask for the following: Checked luggage off the plane and brought into the terminal, free upgrade to first class for him and his family, free dinner for them all and free suite in a nearby hotel. And he wanted it immediately, because “He knew his rights”. When the airline didn’t give him what he wanted, he proceeded to become that loud, obnoxious jerk that causes everyone around him to give pitying looks to his family. Had the flight been cancelled, he would have been entitled to a new flight and dinner/hotel room since it was past 10:00 at night and the odds were slim a new flight would be found that night. But here is the key: The flight had not been cancelled. Unless and until it was, his “rights” to those things he wanted did not apply. They found another plane and we were able to get underway, so his tantrum proved futile.
What travel commandments would you add to the list? Leave a comment and share!