Inflight Etiquette: How Not To Get Busted.

Certainly, manners are an essential part of airline flying, right?

Well actually, the usual standard in flight is a free-for-all of bad manners and ill tempers, mainly due to the circumstances of air travel today that includes delays, crowding, extremes of temperature and declining on-board amenities.

In fact, that may be the standard of twenty-first century life.

So let’s hearken back to better days and find the important standards of travel conduct that originally made the jet age a wonder of good manners, and refined behavior.

Certainly, though the traditions of dressing up and reserved behavior have nearly vanished, the realities of air travel that affected even the well-dressed, finely-mannered early jet age travelers remain today:

Aircraft pressurization controls.

That’s right–the aircraft changes the pressurization in the cabin in order to maintain a safe differential between inside and outside of the structure. That is, as an aircraft climbs, so will the cabin. Same on descent: slowly, the pressurization system will bring the cabin altitude back down to match the landing field elevation.

What does that mean for you?

On ascent, whatever gas is in your body will expand as the cabin pressure is mechanically lowered.

Which translates to that “balloon animal” feeling often encountered in flight. Of course, that’s predictable and a normal side effect of a pressurization cycle–plus the nasty junk you’ve been eating while traveling, especially at the airport.

The close quarters on an aircraft, particularly in the Coach cabin, add to the problem in that there’s really no room to move around or reposition oneself. Nonetheless, the gas pressure must eventually be relieved, right?

In a crowded airliner cabin, this can be a problem of both safety and etiquette. But don’t worry–there is a time tested technique that will allow you to handle the problem discretely. First, think etiquette: there are those around you trying to breathe what is a limited amount of air on board. It’s not like they won’t notice or be directly affected.

Miss Manners demonstrates: here’s the dilemma.

Although you can’t do anything about the effect on others, they key is in distribution. Flight crews at the beginning of the jet age developed an effective solution beyond the usual sea-level techniques.

While this might work in a social situation on the ground, there’s a better technique for in flight:

Crop Dusting: This involves a short walk in the cabin, but it must be done properly. Specifically, front to back (see Fig 1)

Fig. 1: Always crop dust front to back.

ALWAYS move from the front of the aircraft to the rear. That way, when the olfactory impact is sensed by your fellow passengers, there will be no one in sight on whom to fix the blame: since everyone’s facing forward and you’re already out of sight by the time the stench hits them.

Oh my God, who had nachos for lunch?!

Your mission is to appear uninvolved. This technique has been used successfully by flight attendants for years.

"I sure feel less bloated."

Fortunately, the ambient noise level in flight will drown out all but perhaps the most vigorous excisions of gas, so simply try to meter the outward pressure and the jet noise should take care of the rest.

The piano was added to the exceptionally quiet 747 upper deck simply to mask the noise of First Class passengers depressurizing.

Of course, you could handle the matter even more discretely in the lav, but I don’t recommend that for a couple of reasons. First, as soon as the lav door opens, the olfactory remnants will have you completely busted by the next passenger in line.

Truly, the lav smelled bad before you entered, but add a few cubic feet of your body gas (had to have the large fries, didn’t you?) and the next person will not only blame you for that, but probably also whatever crop dusting is experienced in the cabin–and call you on it: “Hey, this is the one that just skanked out the lav.” Not good.

Second, consider the adventure of flight: why not go all out and crop dust as a part of the experience? Where’s your sense of adventure?

Finally, if the seatbelt sign’s on and you can’t move about the cabin (front to back, remember?) to accomplish this vital bodily function? Your only hope, and it’s slim, is this:

Yeah, not likely. Your best bet is to feign innocence or if you can act at least halfway credibly, immediately express your disgust by glaring at those around you. Be the first–the one who seems uninvolved is going to get the blame.

Me? I’ll stay uninvolved. Best of luck to you in the back.

Finally, if anyone next to you complains, just point out to them that things could be much worse, then get this out of the seatback pocket in front of you:

Kind of makes them put things into perspective. Have a good flight!

10 Responses to “Inflight Etiquette: How Not To Get Busted.”

  1. Hilarious and very well written – I love the “crop dusting”! Brilliant, will remember for future flights.

  2. Tom Seagraves Says:

    Probably the most practical air traveling advice I’ve ever read. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

  3. Richard Biase Says:

    While the post was both informative and instructional the video was the best part!!

  4. Dennis Magnusson Says:

    Thank you for your excellent treatise on the serious problem of flight flatulence. Great photos and graphics illustrated the dynamics and methodology. Would have been improved only by Smell-O-Vision.
    BTW, I thought I had you with “hearken” instead of “harken” but in looking them up, I ended up more confused.

  5. blackwatertown Says:

    You really do deal with every aspect of flying. So that explains the enigmatic smiles on the faces of the cabin crew as they crop dust along the cabin aisle.

  6. How do I file an FAA flight plan?

  7. I don’t know how serious this post was but it sure had me laughing……



  8. Classy…

  9. jose jimenez perez de la hoya Says:

    Bueno! Mi gusto el farto grande!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: