by Emyr Thomas
In our first instalment of airplane etiquette, we discussed the importance of proper decorum at the airport, boarding a plane and taking a seat.
Here is the genteel continuation of key social graces for airplane travel:
We are all acutely aware that airplane food is far from haute cuisine, but we are all in the same boat, so to speak, and complaining about it excessively won’t help. It might be worth buying food that is easy to transport at the airport, which you can then enjoy during the flight, but please refrain from strong odours and flavours.
If you are travelling alone, it can be quite a lonely experience and it might seem natural to engage your neighbour in conversation. Sporadic small talk is fine, but don’t regale countless stories, especially if your neighbour does not reciprocate, as most people prefer to travel in silence with a good book or movie. A large percentage of travellers would probably say that a little small talk is fine, but that they prefer to keep to themselves for most of the flight.
We seem to forget that we are in public when flying, but it’s important to remember that, even when flying during the night, we’re not in our own homes and, as such, we should behave appropriately. A fumble under the covers might be a regular treat at home and it may seem a great idea with the free champagne fuelling the adrenaline of being at 35,000 feet, but on a plane, and later in the courts, it is considered public indecency. Just ask the couple from Dallas who were charged with outraging public decency and subsequently fined after getting amorous in their seats on a flight to Manchester in 1999.
With wifi becoming a real possibility on future flights, it introduces the awkward issue of controlling what people access, with one person’s idea of inappropriate being different from the next. 45% of respondents said that they would not complain if their neighbour visited inappropriate websites, but I’m sure this may change if the type of website contributed to increasing occurrences of the aforementioned amorous activities.
One of the most contentious issues most of us face when flying concerns children. Nobody wants to endure a crying baby for the whole flight, least of all the parents, therefore a certain amount of leeway should be given, but parents should always enforce enough discipline to ensure that children don’t run wildly around the plane or kick the seat of the passengers in front of them. Children are easily distracted at the best of times, therefore make sure you bring ample sources of amusement such as colouring books or DVDs. 77% of those questioned in TripAdvisor’s 2009 travel trends survey thought that families should have their own section in a plane, while 46% would pay extra to be seated in a specific quiet section.
Personal hygiene is a big issue when in such a confined space, therefore always make sure that you are considerate to those around you. A good tip is to shower before travelling to the airport, visit the bathroom to freshen up during the flight and please keep your shoes and socks on! 68% of the survey respondents were concerned by germs and viruses when travelling, with 26% now carrying antibacterial hand creams.
One of the most troubling issues about being on a plane is that, not only are we in such a confined space, but we must remain in it until the end of the journey, where we have little control over the behaviour of others. In the year to March 2009, the Department of Transport reported that there were almost 3,500 incidents of disruptive behaviour on UK flights, 44 of which were deemed to be serious, with alcohol being cited as the main cause in 37% of these cases. Director Kevin Smith was recently left with a case of air rage after being asked to leave a plane for being too fat. He won’t be too happy to learn that 74% of US plane passengers think that large passengers should have to buy two seats to accommodate their size.
Having landed safely, the allure of the beach or the sunset cocktails can be too much for some and the disembarking process can become a big tussle, with the aisles becoming blocked with a mass of people and luggage. There’s no need to jump up as soon as the plane lands as the mere minutes that could possibly be saved does not justify the inconvenience and lack of consideration for others.
It’s true that flying can often be a trying experience, but it can also be a great opportunity to relax, watch a movie, catch up on the week’s news and enjoy a drink, all in the safe knowledge that you are being transported to an idyllic beach setting or to visit a much loved friend or relative.
Everyone onboard needs to play their part to try to ensure a pleasant flying experience, and with a little bit of care, consideration and politeness we can make flying more enjoyable for us all, and maybe throw a splash of glamour in as well.
Emyr Thomas is the founder of Bon Vivant, a concierge and lifestyle management company in London.