Travel can be stressful and that’s especially true when we fly. Busy airports, oversold planes and diminishing perks have made all of us cranky travelers. And I’m right there with everyone else, scowling behind my in-flight magazine and wishing the trip to be soon over. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Ultimately we control our travel experience and whether or not we have a good trip depends on us in most cases. Our attitudes dictate everything and even how others interact with us. If we’re mean and cranky then the world will be mean and cranky right back, so with all of this in mind I thought I’d provide some helpful suggestions on how to be a better flyer and in the process improve the travel experience for you and those around you.
We are to blame for some of the troubles we run into at the airport. Many people don’t fly very often and either don’t remember or don’t even know about the process to get in and out of airports quickly and efficiently. Security takes time and it’s incumbent on everyone to be prepared for that line. It’s simple really, remove the items from your bag in advance, be ready to go when it’s your turn and don’t use the X-Ray belt as your personal changing area. Instead once you’re finished, grab your things and move to the side so that others can process through behind you. This is ideally how the process should work, but this is rarely how it happens in practice. In the process you’re not only impacting your own travel experience, but everyone else’s too. Getting onto the aircraft requires some preparation as well. Don’t be gate lice, hanging around the gate before it’s your time to board. Every airline has a boarding process, acquaint yourself with the rules and then follow them. If you’re in Group 6 and they’re boarding Group 1, sit down. No one likes battling through a hoard of people just to get onboard the aircraft, so do your bit and follow the rules. Right before you board, take whatever it is you need out of your bag so that you can board, find your seat, stow your bag and then sit down quickly. Standing in the aisle hunting for your iPad is not a good use of anyone’s time and is just one more factor that creates crankiness for everyone else on your flight.
I feel like getting in and out of airports and even the flying process is a community effort. We’re all in this together, so why not help others make their process go more smoothly and in turn, yours as well. It’s simple human kindness really, if someone needs help with their bags, then help them. If someone is confused about security, politely give them the rules of the road. If everyone did this, then airports might actually be an enjoyable place to be. I remember once as I was boarding a 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 knows each other, but for several hours we have to depend on each other in order to get through the flight as painlessly as possible.
Putting a couple hundred people from all walks of life in a narrow metal tube and then flinging it thousands of miles through the air is not an inherently pleasant process. Add into the equation basic human emotions like stress, anxiety and fear and you have a recipe for disaster. That’s why now more than ever it’s imperative that we’re all as patient as possible. The guy in front of you WILL recline his seat all the way back for some reason and the person next to you will unfairly claim rights to your armrest. Rather than let this send you down a spiral of anger and frustration, just try to go with the flow or, if necessary, politely talk to the offenders. We’re all in this together, and if the time is spent getting angry at each other it’s not going to be an enjoyable process for anyone.
It shouldn’t shock me at this point and yet it does – most people are oblivious to the world around them when they travel. I don’t know what it is about airports and aircraft in particular, but the average traveler exists in their own little bubble of self-centered entitlement. I’m tall and for me the aisle seat is preferable. Within a few years though I’m sure I’ll have permanent shoulder injury from all the people who whack me with their bags as they board the plane. After years of this I now pay attention and try to dodge them, but at no point are they even aware that they’re maiming dozens of people as they board, much less actually apologize for the pain inflicted. This is just one example of how inconsiderate people are of others around them. A few things to keep in mind as you fly: keep your kids under control (crying babies are one thing, but 5 year olds climbing over my seat isn’t acceptable); don’t get drunk; don’t bring super smelly food onboard, don’t get drunk; do look behind you before reclining your seat and finally – don’t get drunk.
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.
What are some other ways people can be better flyers?