Nasty, Brutish and Long – Do’s and Don’ts of Modern Plane Travel

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.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

7 thoughts on “Nasty, Brutish and Long – Do’s and Don’ts of Modern Plane Travel”

  1. Being nice to flight attendants is another key one! A simple smile, taking out your headphones and saying “thankyou” when receiving your meal obviously goes down a lot better than the guy next to you simply barking “pork” “beer” and then stuffing his face. Be nice to the flight attendants, and they’ll be nicer to you.

    Especially if like me you take full advantage of the freebies on the nicer airlines and are raising your hand every 60 minutes or so since you can’t sleep from the free coca cola caffeine buzz.

  2. Perfect timing for this article. Going to be flying to Frankfurt on the A380 on Monday, I’m sure I’ll probably see some “strange” behavior … well hopefully I won’t. I’d like to enjoy it. But yea, I agree that airline passengers should help each other, even if they aren’t obligated. Like you said, everyone wants to get to the destination on time, and to help streamline it, is to help each other out.

  3. Good post, it’s amazing to even need to remind people of these things. General courtesy to those around you, and particularly the comment re. Flight Attendants.

    On my last flight from Budapest, two guys completely held up the flight with over-sized baggage for the compartments. Annoying and causing delays is not a way to win fans on board a plane!!

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