Airport Etiquette

Having flown extensively, all over the world, for business and pleasure, as a professional flight attendant, an eager spring breaker, and a harried mother traveling alone with two young children, I have developed a very definite opinion as to the most efficient way to navigate the bizarre social interaction that is The Airport. But, some people just don’t seem to get it. Whether you are (or know) a bad airporter you’ll be able to identify with my airport behavior “musts” list below.

1. Read the signs – The airport is full of instruction; watch constantly for new data sets, signs, and changes to your gate. When you’re having trouble finding your flight in Paris, it’s because they list them chronologically, not alphabetically. Check your gate first, then get dinner or hit the pub, but always make sure you’re in the right terminal before you relax, nap, or go grab a meal.

2. Eat, Sleep, and Pea Proactively – “Never run when you can walk, never walk when you can stand, never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lay, and never lay when you can sleep. Take advantage of every opportunity for comfort. You don’t know when travel fate will bust in and mess with your well-laid plans.

3. Build Allies – A friend of mine who travels extensively advocates for the “always say hello policy” in airports and foreign cities. He believes it brings positive travel Karma and makes it easy to make friends anywhere in the world. Here’s how it works: if you make eye contact with someone say hello. Not exactly groundbreakingly complex stuff, but something us introspective misanthropic types forget.

4. Follow the Rules – Flying is very stressful for some people, and it should be, there are a bjillion things that could go wrong AND KILL YOU. This whole, crazy in-flight endeavor requires that you peacefully listen to the bosses of the flight: TSA, Flight Attendants, bossy children demanding window seats. If everybody just follows the rules, quickly and without challenge we’ll all get where we’re going quickly … so stow that damn accordion!

5. The armrest belongs to the person in the middle seat – The armrest is the consolation prize for the person who gets stuck in the middle seat, it’s a declaration of independence from the window and the aisle.

6. Don’t put more than one item in the overhead bin – The overhead bin is designed to give each passenger one space (or fewer). You can’t stow a handbag, suitcase, and coat – pick one and the rest goes under your seat. Sorry, but they pack the planes that tight.

7. Pay attention to the person before you – Be ready to proceed, recede, or rebel when queued up for the never ending lines that come with travel, it gets people twitchy when you pause too long after the clerk says, “Next!”

8. This is not your bedroom- I struggle with this one because I’ve slept in airports, all over the world, a good Terminal 2 nap can be a lifesaver (Thank You Taiwan Airport). But, some people turn airport napping into something … Gross! My thoughts, don’t: bring a blankie any bigger than a light fleece, pull out a pillow any bigger than 12″ squared, wear pajamas, snuggle, or expect those around you to respect your nap space.

9. Don ‘t think your travel agenda is critical – I once stood in line at JFK in front of a flashy-trashy girl in six inch gold heels in line for a flight to Las Vegas. I was with my two young boys and we enjoyed this woman’s loud discussion about how angry she would be if she missed her flight and therefor her audition to work for the “Adult Dance Review”. My annoyance with this loud-mouthed girl was so great I was rooting against myself in a great desire to see her (Our! My!) flight delayed.

10. We’re all in this together – Don’t be the guy who delays the whole flight complaining about a space for your sombrero. Don’t ring the flight attendant call button to ask for water (she’ll bring it to all of us). Don’t bring a chili dog on the plane. Don’t chat with someone holding a book. Don’t get drunk, and don’t get demanding.

Nobody likes flying, but if people would follow my airport etiquette it would be much easier.

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