Travel Etiquette: Quick Thoughts on How to Not Be a Jerk
July 19, 2012
By John Miller

We love to travel, but getting there can be hell. Air travel in 2012 is typically inconvenient, but as wise folks often say, it is what it is.

But compounding the inconvenient reality of flying to an exciting new destination is a seeming explosion of rudeness that plagues much of our travel these days. Many people are just less considerate of their fellow travelers.

The Travel Leaders Group recently conducted a survey on how travelers interact with their fellow passengers, and most of the responses fall in line with what you can see on just about any flight. The bulk of the questions regarded “defending your turf”– if a child was kicking your seat on the airplane, would you turn around and say something to the tyke’s parents? (62.8 percent said they would).

Navigating social interactions with the person next to you can be difficult – even for presidential candidates. But not impossible! Here are some tips and considerations:

  • Wait your turn. Whether the pre-boarding announcement has just been made, or you’ve arrived at the gate and it’s time to deplane, wait your turn. Jumping to the front of the line – or trying to – really just slows things down. And even though it seems like forever when you’re half-standing on the plane waiting for the people in front of you to deplane, it’s just a couple of minutes. If you have a tightc connection to make, let the flight attendant know when you’re in flight, and they’ll usually give you special consideration.
  • Be gentle in the overhead bin. We’ve all been here… the overhead bins are stuffed and there’s nowhere nearby to put your bag. The answer is not to just jam it in there. The answer is to seek out the flight attendant for assistance. He or she will help you find a solution.
  • The middle seat gets the elbow rests. Period. Yes, both of them.
  • Understand conversation signals. Nose buried in a magazine? Headphones in and iPad on? That person isn’t up for an in-depth conversation. Most people are friendly enough and will engage in some light banter. Just don’t force it; people tend to have their guard up on a flight because there’s obviously no way for them to walk away.
  • Be courteous with all social interactions. Just because you’re on a plane or in an airport, doesn’t mean you are suddenly empowered to be an inconsiderate lout. Just being polite to people and minding your manners can make a difference. And that extends to your children – if your little Billy is kicking the seat in front of him, it’s on you to make him stop; don’t put the “kickee” in the awkward position of having to turn around and say something.
  • Navigating the airport’s moving walkway. This is simple. They’re designed to be walked on. If you don’t want to walk, move to the right. The left side of the conveyer is most definitely for walkers.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll also take a look at etiquette when dining in different countries, as well as body language and other social interactions.

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