The summer travel season is officially here, and with airports and airplanes packed to capacity, flying isn’t always the most pleasant way to go. Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach and a former flight attendant, offers these 10 tips to have a more enjoyable flight:
Check in online and arrive early. Most airlines allow you to check in online within 24 hours of departure. This will save time at the airport. Give yourself plenty of extra time in case you encounter airport parking difficulties, long lines at security checkpoints, or an oversold flight situation. Arrive at the gate at least 30 minutes prior to departure to avoid getting bumped. Prior planning helps relieve stress.
Book your travel during off-peak times. You’ll avoid the crowds and save money if you travel during late night or early morning hours. You may have to give up an extra hour or two of sleep, but you can always rest on the plane.
Don’t pack more than you can lift. The number one pet peeve of flight attendants is passengers who bring carry-on luggage too heavy for them to lift. Don’t expect the flight attendant to lift your bag into the overhead bin. If you pack it, you stack it. Or flight attendants will be happy to check it for you. Be mindful that some airlines also charge for checked luggage.
Check before you recline. Airline seats recline to allow passengers to sleep and relax, but it may cause discomfort for the person behind you. If you intend to recline your seat, do it gently or better yet, turn around and make sure you don’t inconvenience the person behind you. Raise your seat during mealtime so the person behind you can enjoy his or her meal.
Be respectful of those around you. Airplane seating is tight and interaction with your seatmates is inevitable. Keep the volume of your headphones at an appropriate level and lower the light on your electronic devices so you don’t disturb or distract the person next to you.
Bring your own food. Don’t depend on the airline to offer food for sale. Many don’t offer more than peanuts or pretzels. Bring some snacks from home or buy something in the airport to hold you over until you reach your destination. Stay hydrated with plenty of bottled water. Steer clear of packing pungent foods that contain garlic and onions.
Pack the Pepto. To be on the safe side, tuck some Pepto-Bismol into your suitcase, especially when you travel overseas. Foreign food and water may cause an upset stomach, which can ruin a holiday.
Allow those in front of you to disembark first. Rather than grab your luggage and make a run for the door, follow protocol. If you need to make a connection or know you’ll be in a rush, try to arrange to be seated near the front of the plane.
Hold your tongue. If you have a complaint about another passenger, don’t take matters into your own hands and don’t demand that the plane land at the nearest airport. Alert the flight attendant.
Parents, be prepared. When babies cry uncontrollably in flight it’s probably because their ears hurt from the air pressure. It’s a good idea for parents to be prepared with a bottle or a pacifier or something to make their children swallow and relieve ear pressure. And remember: smell travels. Parents should not wait until the plane takes off to change their baby’s diaper. Change your child’s diaper in the lavatory – not on the seat beside you.