10 ways to be a competent airplane traveler


We have almost reached our much-needed spring break! If you’re traveling by air this spring break (or ever plan on flying in the future), I beg you: be a competent traveler. Please.  If Home Economics was still a class in high school, there should be a chapter on airport and plane etiquette. While I love flying (especially the people watching), it also makes me bitter by the time I actually make it to my destination. Here are a few tips to make your travels, and your fellow passengers’, a much more enjoyable experience:

1. Weigh your bags before you get to the airport.

Airlines use any opportunity to snag another buck from you, so you can save yourself the overweight luggage fee!

But also, if I’m trying to board my flight on time, and you’re opening your checked bag deciding what you’re going to shove into your carry on so you won’t be charged, you need to reevaluate your life. Generally, 50 pounds is the max weight. Don’t throw a tantrum with the poor attendant because you went a few pounds over. If you weighed it at home, you can decide what to remove and save the people behind you in line and the attendant the trouble.

2. Be efficient when going through TSA.

Quick rundown. Take out your laptop proactively. Start taking off your shoes before you get to the bins. Take out all liquids and aerosols. If you’ve already done this, you can whiz past TSA without holding up the line behind you.

3. Eat before you get on the plane.


Please don’t bring your terrible smelling food onboard. Not only do I have to hear you eating it, I have to smell it for the next four hours while listening to the baby wailing behind me. Other people get motion sickness, and I don’t want to hear someone puking while you down a bowl of lo mein. You should also be mindful of people with peanut allergies.

4. Don’t bring a checked bag sized carry on and then act surprised/upset when it doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment.

I have seen people trying to shove what looks like a duffel bag that could fit a human into the wee little overhead compartment, moving around everyone else’s belongings to accommodate them.

5. Unless you have a connecting flight departing within the next 10 minutes, do not get up out of your seat when the plane finishes taxiing.

The bell dings, and suddenly everyone takes off their seat belts and stand up. For one, there is hardly any leg room so everyone is hunched over quasi-standing. Also, where do you expect to go? The line isn’t close to moving. I am sure your legs can wait three minutes to wake them up. It also makes it harder for people who need to make a connecting flight get through everyone who is just standing up, taking up space. Sit down until the line starts moving.

6. Know what type of a seat person you are.

If you know you have to use the bathroom every five minutes, please do everyone in your row a favor and request an aisle seat. If you’re stuck by the window, please choose your bathroom breaks carefully. There’s nothing more annoying than being prodded awake by a stranger to let them out only and wait for them to return. If you’re in the middle seat, be careful not to fall asleep and drool on the people next to you. Unless, of course, you’re someone’s Lizzie and you casually fall asleep on Gordo’s shoulder.


7. Take into account other people on your airline.

If you’re a talkative person, you can be that person and strike up a conversation with your aisle mates. If you want to watch a movie, just be sure it’s visually appropriate for the children behind you. I was once in the middle of an episode of Girls and realized there was a family sitting directly behind me. Whoops.

8. Follow directions from your pilot and flight attendants.

Back when you couldn’t use your cell phone in airplane mode until the plane reached a certain altitude, I absolutely hated when someone kept their phone turned on. Look, we all want to get to the same place safely, I assume. Let’s all just work together to get this plane from Point A to Point B.

If the pilot advises to remain seated with your seatbelt fastened, just stay sitting until it’s okay for you to get up. Let’s all just follow the directions! It makes me nervous when people are blatantly disregarding the rules, especially 30,000 feet in the air.

Side note: I think airlines should administer a quiz if you’re seated in the emergency exit row. Right now, all you have to do is give a verbal “Yes” that you’re equipped to open the side door and facilitate an emergency exit. There should be some physical and mental/emotional test because I have seen people in that row that I wouldn’t trust with my life, let alone their own.

9. Stand right, walk left.

Stand or walk on the appropriate sides of escalators and moving sidewalks. Be mindful. If you’re not in a rush, just stand to the right and allow people to pass quickly on your left. There is never an excuse to stand in the middle.

10. Be respectful.

Though I might seem bitter, I still understand  I need to show some decency if I expect it in return. So, don’t grimace at the baby crying — they can’t help it. Take a deep breath before yelling at the flight attendant at the gate who just told you your flight was canceled. They can’t help it either. Help out the old man trying to shove his bag into the overhead compartment. We’re all trying to get to the same place, so let’s be friendly and competent travelers together.

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