JUDITH MARTIN, a.k.a. “Miss Manners”, weighed in this week on a topic close to Gulliver’s heart: bad manners in the airport and on the plane. It seems the only thing needed to pitch normally civilised people into barbarism is a trip to the airport, where people begin jumping queues, pushing and shoving, and generally behaving in all sorts of nasty ways. In any case, witness the righteousness of Miss Manners’s fury:Miss Manners would not have thought that sitting next to one’s travelling companions, reclining, being able to lower one’s tray, storing hand luggage, dozing and going to the bathroom were outrageous expectations. But since aeroplanes have been refitting the interiors to make these things difficult, and selling marginal improvements, the passengers are at one another’s mercy.
A pleasant travelling experience depends on the kindness and good manners of everyone involved. When you’re on a 747, that can be quite a lot of people. Obviously airline staff can try to enforce social norms, but there’s only so much they can do short of kicking a passenger off a plane. That means it’s up to us. Here are a few suggestions that I’m sure nobody will follow:
- Only stand up and wait to board the plane once your zone number is called. This will prevent the usual chaos at the boarding line.
- Know the size of your suitcase and don’t put it in the overhead bin sideways when it can go in wheels- or handle-first.
- Step out of the aisle as quickly as possible to expedite boarding and let other people through.
- On full flights, don’t put your coat, jacket, or small suitcase in the overhead bin until everyone has boarded. If you don’t follow this rule, you’re going to end up delaying the whole plane while the flight attendants roam the aisle looking for extra space for rolling bags—and you’ll probably end up with your jacket in your lap anyway.
- If you’re not going to lean on the window or someone you know while you sleep, lean forward onto the tray table. Don’t fall asleep in a position where you risk ending up in your neighbour’s lap.
- Please don’t push and shove.
- Don’t shout or speak loudly—but don’t stare at or shame the parents who can’t keep their baby quiet. It’s hard work. Bring headphones or earplugs.
- Treat flight attendants and other airline employees with respect. They’ve had long days, too.
This is all basic stuff, but too often it gets neglected. In fact there’s scope for Miss Manners to write about aeroplane etiquette every week.
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