I’ve been thinking about writing this post for years now, having had my share of good, bad and frankly unbearable airline journeys. In general, I take the view that travel is adventure and if some discomfort is involved then so be it. However, after a flight last year in which I almost broke my neck, tripping over someone’s child in the aisle of a Boeing 747, I reconsidered.
In an age where - in real terms - it’s never been cheaper to fly, we’re all spending more time than ever at altitude. For most of us, unfortunately, this means being crammed like sardines into steerage (sorry, 'world traveller') for hours on end. So shouldn’t there be some basic standard of etiquette we can all follow, so as to avoid the meltdowns and bust-ups that constitute ‘air rage?’ Here are my 10 commandments of air travel. Ignore them at your peril.
1. Thou shalt not cut in on another in the check-in line
This is a foolproof way of putting your fellow passengers in a filthy mood, even before you’ve gone through Passport Control. How many of us have had to swallow our ire after being cut-up in the check-in line we’ve been waiting in patiently, just because some lazy sod has arrived late at the airport and is in danger of missing his flight.
Be on time!
2. Thou shalt switch seat to aid a woman with a baby, a sick person or a senior citizen
Whilst we’re all loathe to give up a coveted window or aisle seat (or, god forbid, one with extra leg room) there are times when it’s only fair to switch…to accommodate young families, the elderly or someone who looks a little unwell. In any other circumstance, don’t feel obliged. I was once asked by an air stewardess to switch seat to accommodate an ultra-orthodox Jewish man who refused to sit next to me on the grounds that I was a woman. I won’t tell you what kind of argument ensued…
3. Thou shalt give the person in the middle seat the arm rest
Middle seat gets the arm rest. Don’t even think about asking for a share.
Enjoy your aisle privileges or view out the window. Stealing the armrest is not on.
4. Thou shalt not stick thy feet out into the aisle
Yes, I know economy is cramped but tripping over a stray foot and being sent flying down a narrow aisle is an experience none of us wants to go through. Keep your feet tucked nicely away.
5. Thou shalt not recline thy seat
This is a serious transgression. When you recline your seat, to gain a minuscule amount of extra room, you’re setting off a chain reaction of misery - forcing every person seated behind you to follow suit and cause hundreds of other flyers hours of discomfort and anger.
There’s nothing more likely to cause an an ’air rage’ incident than someone reclining their seat and inadvertently spilling coffee/breaking a laptop lid/squashing someone unbearably, one row back.
Don’t do it, Just don’t do it
6. Thou shalt keep thy children well behaved
Now crying babies, however distressing their sounds are to all of us, cannot help themselves, and wails on an aircraft are an unfortunate fact of life. But parents who don’t keep their toddlers and kids under control? I’d take them out at dawn and shoot them.
It is more than acceptable to chasten (or even scream at) the little darlings, if their parents refuse to do so.
7. Thou shalt not talk to thy neighbour if they have no interest in being disturbed.
Yes, I know it’s an 11 hour flight from Paris to San Francisco, and there’s only so many movies even the most die-hard movie fanatic can watch, but do not bother the person sitting next to you if they’ve made it clear they wish to be left alone.
No striking up a friendly conversation, no casual chit chat, no offering them the desert you don’t fancy. Leave them be!
8. Thou shalt not stand for hours in the aisle, chatting with a friend who is seated elsewhere
Plane aisles are notoriously narrow, and that’s before the food and drinks trolley has begun passing through, not to mention the inevitable calls of nature that needed to be attended to at the rear of the plane. Don’t block the gangway, chatting to a friend who’s been seated apart from you. You’ll be reunited soon enough.
9. Thou shalt exercise patience when alighting from the aircraft.
Ah, that blessed moment the seat belt sign finally goes off…and your neighbour knocks you over in her haste to get her overhead bag out of the locker and charge to the front of the plane. This is bad manners of the worst sort.
Wait your turn and exit in an orderly manner. Chances are you’ll arrive at baggage reclaim before your belongings do. Which leads me onto number 10…
10. Thou shalt not hog space at the baggage reclaim
It’s been a long flight, everyone’s tired, jet-lagged and fractious. But there’s still the suitcases to collect. Etiquette demands that a certain amount of space shall be left between each passenger, so as to ensure they can swoop in and claim their beloved Samsonite. Don’t hog their space!
Yes, indeed…the joy of air travel. So where's your next trip?