Civility on Planes: Tips to Make Air Travel Less Stressful

Attention passengers and airline personnel: Your rudeness is showing. And sometimes, much more.

Take the case of Robert Sayegh who was booted from his Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight last month for cursing. In fact, according to news reports, the man admitted to using the "f-word" twice, explaining, "I grew up in Brooklyn where we curse as adjectives." One can only hope he refrains from such language in his work – Mr. Sayegh is a children's book author.

Passengers Behaving Badly

Then there was Iberia passenger who took off all his clothes during a June flight to Frankfurt – the pilot turned back and the gentlemen was hauled away by police in Madrid. No reason was given for the impromptu strip show but one wit suggested he should have tried it earlier as it would have made the ordeal of airport security a breeze.

Finally, Virgin Atlantic was the scene of what was called a "brawl at 30,000 feet" when some passengers got into a fight. It's not quite clear what the problem was, but at least one of the passengers was ultimately banned from the airline for life. He was described as a 76-year-old pensioner.

Airlines Behaving Badly

It's not just the passengers. People who work for the airlines have been known make etiquette errors, or worse such as the Southwest pilot who angrily ranted about co-workers, not realizing his mike was on. He was ultimately punished with a suspension.

No punishment for the crack marketing team at Spirit who devise the airline's eyebrow-raising ads. On the contrary, these double- and triple-entendre website sales pitches often play off current events, like the recent congressional scandal ("Have you seen our Weiner?").

Or how about the pilot on the US Airways flight who had a young man who happened to be a quadriplegic removed from his plane because of safety issues (much to the dismay of his fellow passengers)?

Then there was the CEO of Malaysia Airlines who merrily tweeted confirmation that, yes, babies will be banned in first class. Now this can be good news or bad news, depending if you are the parent, or the one stuck in the seat next to a screaming child.

One more: the airlines can be so arbitrary in deciding who can fly – for example, one man was allegedly not allowed to fly because he was decked out in saggy pants while another man was allowed on a plane wearing women's bikini panties.

For many people, the worst examples of incivility in today's air travel experience comes at the airport while negotiating TSA security checkpoints. Everyone seems to have a favorite TSA horror story, but in case you don't, look for plenty of examples in Outrageous TSA Incidents.

What can you do about any of this? For one thing, we should all take a deep breath.

Make no mistake, air travel is stressful these days. There are more and more fees, more onerous security measures, and more and more time spent at the airport. There are a few things you can do to make your trip less stressful.

Tips to Make Air Travel Less Stressful

A lot of anxiety and stress is caused by simple fear of the unknown, and the best way to combat that is "know before you go." Take a minute to be sure you have your boarding pass and that your cell phone is charged (and that you have your charger on your person in case you get stuck in the airport).  Then, check out these other tips:

  • Be prepared: This means learning what you can and cannot take through security. Don't make the experience longer or more stressful than it has to be.
  • Know the Fees: Don't get blindsided by hefty bag fees or overweight charges. Best advice: travel with a carryon which is free on most domestic airlines.
  • Make Contingency Plans: Know what to do if your flight is canceled or delayed. The better prepared you are in advance, the better chance you have of getting on the next flight out.

A final thought: we're all in this together, and air travel is one of those situations which cries out for liberal use of the "golden rule." Treat people as you'd like to be treated – the results may surprise you.

Anne McDermott
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