Modern travel is not how it was once envisioned. In the oft-ballyhooed “golden age” of flight, passengers dressed up in their finest clothes, were met with kind and courteous stewardesses and enjoyed everything from steaks to martinis while in flight. Fast forward to 2011 when people travel in little more than their pajamas and a row of people would sell their first born for another can of Diet Coke. But even in this cramped, metal tube in which many of us find ourselves being propelled at dizzying speeds, there is still a certain sense of etiquette and consideration.
I’m writing this in seat 18H, on Delta flight 2524, a direct flight from Honolulu to Atlanta. The flight westward took ten hours, but this one will last a scant 8 hours. While it is amazing that a person can travel more than four thousand miles in eight hours, it is not an easy flight to endure.
As I sit here though, I’ve observed some interesting behavior amongst my fellow passengers. I’ve noticed that long, uncomfortable flights seem to draw out the best in some people, while in other people the opposite happens. Based on these observations, there are some key do’s and don’ts everyone should follow.
DO be helpful. No one wants to spend ten hours in coach class, confined to a tiny allotment of space and engaging in a never-ending battle over the armrest. But in these tense and unpleasant times, this is when you should step up and help your fellow man. As I was boarding the plane, there was an elderly couple a few rows ahead of me in line. As we boarded, they struggled to get their bags into the overhead compartment, but the person behind them did nothing expect huff and puff, seemingly oblivious to the plight of the people a few inches away. I stepped in, asked if I could help and got them situated easily and quickly. Rather than be obnoxious about the time the couple were taking in boarding, the guy in front of me could have sped things up by being helpful and offering to aid people in obvious need. None of us know each other, but for several hours we have to depend on each other in order to get through the flight as painlessly as possible.
DON’T be oblivious. I’m sure it would be great to forego commercial aviation and instead take a private plane to my next destination. But for 99.9% of us, such a luxury is far beyond our reach. So while we are all awaiting our first $100 million paycheck, we have to enter into a social contract with our fellow passengers whenever we fly. One of the key tenets of this contract is to not pretend that you are the only person on board the plane. I touched upon this in my post, How to Annoy Everyone on Your Next Flight, but being self-aware when flying is an essential quality to possess. Be cognizant of the fact that there are people behind you. Don’t suddenly move your seat if the person behind you is eating, or has something that can spill. A friend of mine told me a story that when flying from China, he had a bowl of hot noodles on his tray when the lady in front decided to fling the seat back as far as it would go. The end result is obvious, and painful. I wish I didn’t feel the need to advise people to practice even a low level of consideration towards their fellow man, but I see poor behavior so often while traveling that it is unfortunately a tip worth repeating.
DO enjoy yourself. I don’t know many people who look forward to spending more than a few hours locked in a plane with a couple hundred strangers. But if you go into it with a bad attitude, then you will always have a miserable experience. Thanks to modern technology, there are myriad ways in which we can amuse ourselves while en route, as well as ways to make ourselves as comfortable as possible. More importantly, you are traveling! Whether you are on your way to a new destination, or returning home, there is always excitement to be found. Rather than complain and moan about the flight, enjoy the fact that we can be almost anywhere on the planet in a matter of hours and not days, as was the case just a generation or so ago.
Unless you get an upgrade, long haul flights can be an uncomfortable experience. Remember though, that you are not alone on your journey and that if we all practice these simple do’s and don’ts, the entire experience will at least be more pleasant.