“Jetiquette:” Manners for the Refined Flyer.

A few years back, I was flying a charter from Acapulco to DFW. On board were 130-some passengers who had just disembarked from a cruise ship there in the Acapulco harbor. On climb out, I had the passenger address system audio feed in my headset mix just low enough to hear it, but high enough to understand what was going on in back. And I was so shocked I had to take a look for myself.

“I want all of the hitting, pushing and name calling stopped right now,” a flight attendant said firmly, as if talking to a kindergarten class on a field trip. But I saw it with my own eyes: 130 senior citizens, cranky and bickering about god-knows-what. Which proves my main point.

That is, the main hassle for air travelers is other air travelers. Seriously.

And the most important thing for you to remember about your own air travel is that for other air travelers–you are the other air traveler.

Still with me? That was a roundabout way to say that if everyone on board worried about their own behavior, everyone on board would have a better travel experience.  What I’m talking about is “Jetiquette,” or proper manners on a jet. This it would seem is a lost art, but we can resurrect the basics and thereby rescue air travel from the cattle car experience it has devolved into.

Let’s start simple. Here is your on-board world.

Now looking at the spatial dimensions of this area designed for three butts, if you have one of these

don’t even ask, “Do you mind if I put the armrest up?” The answer is “Yes, I mind–I do not want your buttocks flowing over me like hail-damaged Naugahyde for the entire flight.”

Now, continuing with basic Jetiquette, how do you politely get out of your seat? Please tell me you use one or both of those armrests you see there. Because if you’re using the seatback in front of you to hoist your carcass out of your seat, you’re that rude guy on the plane.

The seat in front of you is not your handhold–somebody’s sitting in it and you disturb them rudely if you mess with their seat. Get it? Push yourself up using any part of your seat, don’t pull yourself up using someone else’s. It’s really not that hard–you just have to think about someone else for a change.


Face it, there isn’t much space but what little there is doesn’t all belong to you. So here’s a thought that seemingly doesn’t occur to many folks on-board the jet:


So basically, keep all of your clothing on–including your shoes. Nothing gets the galley mafia pissed off faster than seeing some slob with his or her feet up against the bulkhead. You will be “that guy,” the one they view with silent but distinct disgust, the one who will only get attention as a revolting example of poor public manners. And while we’re on the subject of bare or stocking feet:

Why do you suppose this guy is wearing layers of protective clothing? It’s because he’s servicing the lavatory where for some unknown reason, supposedly rational people are walking around without shoes. Now, we don’t mind you mopping up the lav floor for us, but it gags everyone on the crew to know you’re doing it.

Would you walk around barefoot here?

That’s pretty much what you’re doing in an airline lav in flight. So don’t.

Finally, let’s talk about personal space. Well, there isn’t any in coach. So Jetiquette demands that you at least keep your bodily smells–especially your breath–either inside at all times, or at least wash before you board and not incidentally, brush your teeth. Those seated next to you will appreciate your basic hygiene–or especially, the lack thereof.

Okay, that’s the basics of Jetiquette and if you’re planning to be aboard for any flight, you need to consider at least this much of the fundamentals.  If we all remember our manners, we can bring back the good old days of air travel that never really were–but the fable gives us all something to gripe about now.

And when all else fails:

20 Responses to ““Jetiquette:” Manners for the Refined Flyer.”

  1. Thanks for reminding me why I hate to fly. It use to be fun.

    • Where’s your sense of adventure, Brian? It still is fun in a retro sense–like the Mayflower: heaving, vomiting huddled masses crammed in steerage, giving birth, dying–all at once.

       Chris

      Sent from my iPhone, so please pardon the typos.

  2. blackwatertown Says:

    Who was it said hell is other people?
    I realise I’ve been lucky with my seat mates – no huge lardarses so far.

  3. Amen, bro. Amen! Brian got it right, +1. Only one experience with a serious lard-ass. To her great displeasure, the arm rest remained on the DOWN position. I may have only 324 square inches for my normal-sized butt, but I paid for every one of them and I intend to use all of them. OUT, I say! OUT of my purchased space. Slice it off or buy two seats, in some other row. (No, honey, that is not a disability. You just eat too much.) Grr.

  4. Charlie Jones Says:

    Many thanks for your comments on manners. I’m in the oil business and travel everywhere from Minot,ND to Sydney, AUS. I’ve watched coach service gravitate from steak/lobster/basket of mini wines to the present pay for substandard sandwiches (credit card required). And I still love flying commercially. As a society, we have been so jaded by IPads, etc. that we have forgotten the MIRACLE of modern air travel.

    As to good manners amoung the UNWASHED hordes, I feel the worst offenders are the “let me see how big a bag I can sneak on and into the overheads”. You know, the folks dressed in the chic three piece wool suits, with a cell phone glued to their ear.

    People may think me crazy, but give me a seatmate thats a grandma coming back home from seeing her grandchildren, full of stories about how cute the 2 yo was at her birthday party.

  5. Hahahahaha, very true yet so funny. So many people out there who find it hard to behave in a place shared with others. I very well remember a couple in front of me on a 737 flight to Kos (Greece) back in 2008… rude/harsh folks, messy and super loud. First thing the man did when he sat down was setting the seat in the very aft position which made it smash into my knees. I kindly asked if he could just raise it a bit and he just said it was fine like this. They made so much trouble during the flight that they eventually had to leave during our stop to pick up more passengers…some folks…


    • When I was a DC-10 engineer on a long transatlantic flight, I remember F/As coming to the cockpit which was like the crew lounge with 2 jumpseats, one saying, “Pretty sure 30 E&F are going to go.” The other said, “Great, let’s go.” I asked “What are you talking about?” They explained that this couple who didn’t know each other till they sat down had been drinking for hours and were climbing all over each other. The blankets were about to come out and Greco-Roman wrestling ensue right there in their row, clothes missing and all. The F/As had become adept at predicting this within an hour of take-off. I went back too; we watched from one row over and back, and they did “go.” This happened frequently on the dark leg of a flight overnight somewhere far away where drinking was involved. This particular couple just went their separate ways afterward. People on planes . . . .


  6. I have one more thing: STFU. Seems to be an American thing to have to tell one’s story to half the airplane beating even my trusty old Sennheisers. I can deal with this for half an hour or so, but an entire transcon?

    Meanwhile, over here, Norwegian has just started to promote in flight phone calls. God help us all.

    • I think… I agree. I don’t want to hear (or smell) your troubles. If it is a short flight, shut up and endure. For a very long (coach) flight, as in 8 to even 14 hours, please contol yourself. When safe to do so, get up and have a walkabout. Please curb the comments and history as I truly do NOT care. I’ll be eating, sleeping, walking or reading – (IFE is a joke, but then I do not own a TV.) Enjoy you flight is you must, but keep it to yourself. Most of all, please sir, please try your very best to board the airplane in a clean, washed state. P l e a s e…

  7. AA Retired Says:

    This one should be printed on the seat back emergency briefing cards, or maybe put on posters in the jet bridge. Ignorance of
    jettiquette is no excuse.

  8. Perfect, specially the seat in front of you is not a handhold. This is what bothers me the most. Since we’re at it, I have a question: Daytime flight, you’re on a windows seat and dude on the other side of the aisle ask you to shut the shades so he can sleep. What’s the protocol? For me, it is “sucks to be you” unless it’s a night flight and the sun is coming up soon.

  9. Calamity Lulu Says:

    Bless you, sir!

    I’m both a frequent traveler and someone who was raised to have a basic awareness that the world does not revolve around me with fascinated appreciation of its privilege, and the horror stories I could tell… Most recently, the family with four children under the age of 5 (!) on a flight from LHR to SFO, who clambered all over me, stuck their bare, sweaty feet in my food, and finished by riotously puking the many sweets the mother had crammed down their gullets in an attempt to placate them all over the plane.

    And at risk of being crucified, I think AirFrance has it right when it comes to obese patrons–if you take up two seats, you are charged for two seats. I’m sorry if people are touchy about their weight, but it isn’t a moral judgement on obese people–anyone with half a brain can see the fairness of charging proportionate to consumption, and that it isn’t fair that two people should pay the same amount in order to have one sit on top of the other poor sod.

    • Thank you, Calimity Lulu! As with many others, you got it right! The treatment of FAT people in not about politics or judgment, but rather inches and pounds – ans Stay the [insert as necessary] out of My Purchsed Space. As for the kids on that Loooong AF leg to SFO, I think you should have raised some (polite) hell with the cabin crew. Screaming (dirty, ill-behaved etc.) kids for one hour – is one thing. For a 12-13 hour leg, you should have raised holy hell, but politely. Shame on AF! -C.

      • LMAO.

         Chris

        Sent from my iPhone, so please pardon the typos.

      • Calamity Lulu Says:

        Cedarglen: re: LHR-SFO:

        Actually, that one was Virgin! I figured the crew had enough on their plates aready (the gaily-coloured puke, and everything), and there isn’t all that much the poor things can do after getting into the air other than scold–and I imagine one gets awful tired of doing that as a FA.

        Also: xanax. I refuse to travel without it for any flight over 3 hours!

  10. I’m a frequent flyer that still enjoys flying (mostly) despite the sorry state it has devolved into. As a kid I was fascinated with jets and still get a little giddy when I experience Newton’s Second Law on every takeoff.

    That said, here are a couple more ways we could improve the experience…

    It’s the sense of entitlement that I can’t understand and it seems to start way before people get on airplanes. Sadly, many of the great abusers of jetiquette also happen to be frequent flyers who feel they’re owed something.

    Last I checked, the gate agent didn’t control the weather, flight schedules, maintenance schedules, crew schedules or the many other factors that cause a flight to be delayed or even cancelled. If you’re flying (as I do frequently) out of LGA, EWR, ORD, PHL, CLT….you’re going to get delayed. Often. Get over it. Being rude and berating the gate agent for not doing anything about YOUR situation does nothing but make you look like an ***hole. I have rarely had a reasonable request turned down when I’ve kept my composure and treated the gate agents as human beings who simply trying to do their jobs in a sea of ***holes.

    The boarding process, which should be a semi-orderly affair, usually turns into some sort of Wal-Mart Black Friday stampede. There’s a reason people needing assistance and families with small children are asked to board first. Having them run the gauntlet through the 50 people already lined up doesn’t speed up YOUR boarding experience. NOw, I do enjoy priority boarding and take advantage of it every flight for the reason mentioned next but I try to stay OUT OF THE WAY until I’m actually called to board.

    So now you’re about to step onto the aircraft. Smile and address the FAs. This is not only polite but may also help them relax if they’re coming off a particularly crappy inbound. AS you’re walking down the aisle, remember that it is not 10 feet wide. Once at your seat, you know which seat is yours right, try to get planted as soon as possible. A good plan is to have all the things you’ll need out already (headphones, ipad, book: check, check, check). Now as you’re approaching your seat, look up. See that space above YOUR row? That’s where your (appropriately sized) carry-on goes. Not 20 rows up from where you are acutally seated. If you’re seated in the aisle seat, look towards the window on your side of the aircraft. Are those seats empty? If so, be prepared to efficiently get out of the way to let your neighbours in. If not, carry on.

    Now that we’re off the ground, we behave as mentioned in the original post and comments and we all have a wonderful flight. Also, unless you’re seated in a row that prevents it, we all paid for a reclining seat. I’m sorry if you’re laptop is too big for you to comfortably work while my seat is reclined (as mine is). Complain to Lenovo or you IT department. Doing your best John Bonham impression on the back of my seat in the hopes that I will move it is likely not in your best interest.

    Getting off the airplane is also pretty straightforward. The aircraft is designed to empty from the front first. Rows are ment to empty from the aisle first. If some jerk put his bag in your overhead space and you had to put your bag 10 rows back, sit and wait. You are not a salmon, the aisle in not your stream. If I’m sitting in the row in front of you and look like I’m ready to exit my row and move into the aisle in the appropriate sequence, that’s propbably a good time to stow your sense of self-importance and let me through. The sliver of an opening you saw in between me and my fellow row-mate, is not a vacuum that needs to be filled on penalty of the universe falling apart. If you have a really tight connection and the extra 5 seconds you’ll save by going ahead of me will make a difference, ask politely and I will let you go by without a fuss.

    As with entering the aircraft, politeness is never unappreciated upon exit. Smile, thank your FAs, high-five your pilots and move up the jet bridge as if you were being followed by Snooki asking for your phone number. If you gate checked your bag, line up like a good little grade-schooler and wait your turn. We don’t need the jet bridge turning into the 405 at rush hour.

    Oh and just because you’re sitting in business class doesn’t mean these rules don’t apply to you. As a matter of fact, you should set the example.

    We all have bad days and I’ve admittedly been guilty of breaking some of my own rules but I always try to do it better the next time.

    Good flying!


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