Time to Review Airplane Etiquette

(Originally published in Main Line Life 2008)

With school vacation travel upon us, it’s time to review some guidelines for appropriate behavior on airplanes. I realize that we, as passengers, are often treated with disrespect, but in matters of safety I will always side with airline personnel.

First of all, I advise against trying to sneak items onto airplanes in your carry-on bags just to prove that you got past security with a corkscrew or a pair of tweezers. TSA employees do not listen to the following excuse under any circumstances. “I just had that (Swiss Army knife, manicure scissors, machete) in my bag to prove that your security system wasn’t working. I didn’t really intend to bring it on and do anything with it!” If you are compelled to try this, bring enough other items for an overnight stay in the nearest jail.

Once on the plane you should never make knife or swordplay gestures with cocktail stirrers or other implements. Flight attendants and other passengers don’t consider this humorous, and you should be immediately escorted off the airplane wrapped straightjacket-like in the itchiest, smelliest airplane blanket.

Never attempt to open windows or emergency exit doors to get fresh air circulating. If you require a breeze blowing through your hair while you travel, perhaps you should drive your own car or look into bus travel. Passengers who attempt to open any door or window on an aircraft should be booted out the nearest emergency exit door directly onto the tarmac.

Do not under any circumstances use the aircraft’s microphone system to lead a prayer for the safety of other passengers. Please be sensitive to the fact that other passengers might not share your religious views, nor do they necessarily wish to be reminded that they could be in any situation that might require prayer.

Do not make macho declarations about “kicking some butt” or “pummeling someone into the ground if they look at me funny.” All flight crews are ready to maintain their own in-flight security, and to do any pummeling or butt kicking on their own. They do not need to hear your specific methods of apprehension and take-down.

If you have even the slightest tendency toward belligerent or bizarre behavior after drinking alcohol, please refrain from taking advantage of cocktails on your flight, or before a flight in any of the airport bars. Your impressions of people of other cultures might seem wildly amusing at Fleming’s on a Friday night, but should be considered grounds for immediate removal from all aircraft. Yes, even while in the air.

It is advisable that you not argue with flight crew at any time before, during, or after your flight. They are not in the mood. As when responding to a police officer, the only proper method of response to a request by a flight attendant is, “Yes, sir or madam. Whatever you say!” No other response should be tolerated.

In the same vein, complaints, grumbling, or rolling of the eyes in a negative manner should also not be tolerated. If your “special meal” is not available, get over it. Do not threaten to sue because you have to eat vegetarian and there is only chicken.

Do not pass notes to the flight crew for any reason whatsoever. They do not need to get a note halfway through a flight that a passenger “objects” to their choice of flight path. Leave all flight-related decisions up to the airlines’ highly trained personnel. Save any correspondence regarding performance for when you are back safely home, which is where you’ll get much more quickly if you let flight personnel do their job.

If a flight attendant deems that you have been in a lavatory for too long, and then asks if you have been smoking in there (you know who you are) do not try to weasel out of it. Many flight attendants are parents, and have received extensive training sniffing out their own teenagers for cigarette smoke. Try this and you may be seated in the aisle seat of the last row next to the lavatory on all future flights.

Have a great vacation!

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