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Aircraft Etiquette Conundrums

One thing less-talked about in the travel blogging circles (here we go again, I hear you say) is the actual “process” of travel. When I look at other blogs, I so often see inspirational, incredible journeys and tales of mingling with locals – but we all somehow have to get there first, and that’s not so cool to discuss, so I guess we largely don’t. I still love air travel and as I mentioned in a recent interview, I still maintain that our lives as we know them just simply wouldn’t exist otherwise without air travel.


All Aboard!Having said that, it somehow, in the modern day, seems to bring out a very strange mix of qualities in all of us. As another blogger I read recently wrote, where else for example, can you get away with wearing pyjamas (in first class) and eating warm cookies while sitting amongst an otherwise large room of adults? More oddly, and something I always wonder about, where else in day to day life would you see an otherwise supposedly mature group of people leap from their seats and stand in a line when they know for example, on arrival that the door hasn’t even been opened yet and there’s not really much time saving taking place.


Low-cost flying has only recently reached a mass acceptance and usage here in Asia – and so when people express the very worst of manners, I still tend to let them away with it reasoning that they haven’t had as many decades to hone their manners as we in theory have had back in Europe. Then again, when we landed last year into Frankfurt on our run back to KL from Dublin, everyone was on their feet and nearly knocking the heads off each other immediately to get their luggage out of the overhead bins only to…be stuck at the bottom of the steps queuing for the bus to the terminal. How stupid!


Here’s my stance on playing the aircraft etiquette conundrum (by the way, I’m not even getting into the more disgusting things I’ve come across because no, nobody should ever be picking their toenails – which I have genuinely witnessed – or reaching over to just take someone else’s roll on the assumption they don’t want it; thank you lady going to Damascus, you’re right, that onion roll wasn’t really for me).

Boarding - Start of trouble!


Brings out the very worst in people and somehow the entitlement brigade mentality. I don’t really mind airlines genuinely enforcing a sensible policy – but so many are either not enforced at all and a huge scrum develops encompassing the entire 180 degrees in front and around the boarding gates, or are so ridiculously complex and long that nobody can be bothered. Airlines with multi-stage loyalty club boarding processes, followed by families and those with kids, followed by… – No, seriously, who has the attention span for that? One of the beauties – and I rarely say this – of Ryanair in the pre-allocated seating era was that the scrum was actually just known and encouraged, no fancy pre-tense. Legacy airlines though, more often than not, have a boarding process (that’s not enforced) so complicated, mathematicians must have worked at it for years. Back in the day I tended to join in and still do if overhead luggage space is at a premium. Otherwise, hang back, chill out and have a laugh as you watch grown adults fight over queue space to get into a metal box that still won’t go anywhere until you also get on!


Hand Luggage!On-Board

I have the gift of a pathetically un-muscly frame, which in armrest battles permits me to squeeze my elbows in behind the armrest hijacker and over the course of 20 minutes or so, keep pushing until they get the message. Yet, it still shocks me how many people bring an obscene amount of hand luggage and then look genuinely shocked when it either no longer fits anywhere or where – which for some reason doesn’t seem to be considered an option – it has to be placed under the seat. Again, I used to also be a demon at bringing a full-size backpack tucked with half my life essential and then trying to rugby tackle it into an overhead bin. Lately, I’ve started using a very small, non-expandable (so you can’t just keep piling things in) messenger sack – which can actually only fit in the essentials, and fits neatly under all seats without fail and still leaves a bit of legroom either side. Perfect!


I’m also super shocked by the abundance of folks – this one seems to be particularly bad in Asia, or else regionally there’s a huge bladder problem – who have a sudden and aggressive need for the toilet the instant the plane is off the ground and the seatbelt light goes off. Do we know there’s toilets in airports usually before departing? Or is it just nicer to be confined in a space so tight, the men among us have to adopt a Neanderthal position just to relieve oneself?!



This one is probably the most popular and most irritating. You know the drill; you’ve just landed and the plane is slowing down very quickly and you can even see the terminal building. The plane suddenly comes to a halt and in the brief moment between the plane stopping and the sound of the engines actually being Let's go!turned off, you look around to see a more passionate and hurried movement of people than if the plane was actually on fire. All around you, hundreds of people are on their feet carelessly rifling through the overhead bins in search of their belongings; passengers ruthlessly stuck in a middle seat can’t get out and are left hunched over halfway between the aisle and their seat, being careful not to knock themselves out on the overhead panels. The door opens and only then does it become apparent how stupid this all was as people trickle out one by one – in many cases, just to go down steps to a bus which will only leave anyway when at least half the plane is on it, squashed with faces pressed up against the windows.


Except for the handful of times I was genuinely in a desperate rush (and by desperate rush, I mean examples like the time my grandfather was critically unwell and time was vitally of the essence – not something that I wanted to catch the 2pm bus) and in those cases explained my situation and tried to get a front row seat, I’ve always stayed well away from this, instead getting up and sauntering off when the line had more than cleared my seat. Oddly in Asia, compared with Europe/US (who are the worst for this jumping up behaviour), when the line has cleared at your seat, those behind still try hard not to let you out?!


But still – what other options do we have?! What airplane etiquette or lack thereof nearly commits you to air rage; or worse, what bad habits do you take part in on-board?!

Reformed backpacker & former ultra-cheap traveller, Andy now atones for his past by overspending on premium travel experiences and failing at making the most of the miles & points game. Former expat now returned to Ireland, he is a product manager by day, and travel aficionado by evening and weekend.

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