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Friendly Skies Etiquette- JetSetiquette

Nov 12, 2007
Remember the movie Airplane? The mixed bag of personalities and antics that occurred on that flight was outrageous, wasn't it? And yet, not so far from the hilarity (or horror) that can ensue when you're flying in real life. In such cramped quarters, it's not as if you can maintain your distance from the crazy guy who smells like soup or the old woman who confuses your shoulder for a pillow. But there are ways to keep the excitement to a dull roar. Here are a few airplane etiquette tips for passing the time and "not contributing" to any unpleasantness.

Conversational Dos and Don'ts

Sometimes you meet kind and interesting people while flying; you want to tell them your story and really create a bond while soaring across the sky together. Remember though, that you don't want to offer up information that could potentially over-excite people or conjure up emotional responses. Are you heading off to a family reunion? Keep the fact that your Aunt Lois had an affair with the mailman on the down low. Is your destination a dull business meeting? Avoid dishing the dirt on your coworkers (you never know who might be sitting in the row behind you!). Resist the urge to share the gory details, no matter how badly you need to "vent." Stick to benign topics that your flight-mates can relate to. You've noticed that your fellow passenger doesn't have much to contribute to the conversation? Take that as a sign to whip out your crossword puzzle.

Volume Control

For the most part, passengers just want to reach their destination without any major mishaps or altercations. However, there's always that one character, isn't there? He's pointing, he's hollering, he's flagging down the nearest attendant for "another round for the entire row!!" He's reading the "jokes" section of Playboy to the people around him and making little children cry. (Okay, so we're exaggerating here but you get the point, right? Don't be that guy!) Since you're in such a tight space, remember to use your inside voice. Stifle the urge to shout and flail about, instead saving up your energy for a future game of Jenga! played in the comfort of your living room. Keep your tones light and don't invade the personal ear space of those around you.

Cell Mates

We've all seen those people who seem to have a cell phone surgically attached to their face. It's not so much that their "accessory" offends your fashion sensibilities; it's more likely that they're talking too long and too loudly! We can all help keep "noise pollution" to a minimum by limiting our cell phone use. Of course, if you have to make a few last-minute phone calls to tidy up loose ends, by all means take care of your personal business. But try to avoid veering off on side tangents such as what you packed for your trip, or droning on about your favorite brand of coffee for twenty minutes. You can always give your best friend the realtime update while waiting at the gate or making the trek to baggage claim. Peace and quiet helps everyone think straight and reach their destination without any major distractions or detours!

Tray Table Manners

Mealtime is often the high point of any passenger's journey during flight. You've seen that comedian who goes on about how exciting it is to receive the miniature bag of peanuts, right? (And to think, you didn't even like peanuts until about five minutes ago!) No matter how euphoric that plastic cup of chilled tomato juice makes you feel, try to think of the people around you when ingesting food on an airplane. Think fondly of Mom and heed her sage advice from childhood, "Chew with your mouth closed!" Avoid lip-smacking, groans of ecstasy, and of course keep your tray and the general area free of crumbs, food wrappers and crumpled napkins. If you're a fan of chewing gum, refrain from popping bubbles and do stifle the urge to make that clever snapping sound that can be so much fun.

Natural Instincts

Of course, the callings of Mother Nature can't be helped. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to use proper lavatory etiquette when maneuvering about the cabin on your way to the facilities. Try not to jostle or bump people when passing. Be polite to your neighbors and let seniors go first, assuming it's not a bladder emergency. If you know that you're one of those people who frequently need to visit the bathroom, request an aisle seat so you won't disrupt the passengers seated in your row. Limit your beverages, avoid alcoholic drinks if they cause a problem for you -- and if you happen to be flying over Niagara Falls, try not to look out of the window!

These are just a few tips and tricks to keep the atmosphere amicable on your flight. Remember the Golden Rule from your grammar school days? You can be the model passenger and purveyor of peace -- if you follow some simple personal guidelines and practice common sense.
About the Author
Gailen David is a Motivational Speaker, Customer Service Expert, and the Ambassador of Travel Civility. He has also been a Purser for a major airline for over 20 years. Take Off Now
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