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A Guide to Flying Etiquette

Ulla Puggaard

Photo: Ulla Puggaard

As a preemptive strike, Baskas recommends carrying a book and wearing headphones. "If you don't want to listen to music, plug in the headphones but turn down the volume," she says. Resolute indifference works, too. "If you are sitting for hour after hour doing nothing, your neighbor might address a few remarks to you," Emily Post wrote of steamship passengers. "If you receive them with any degree of enthusiasm, your response may be translated into a willingness to talk. But if you answer in the merest monosyllables, it should be taken to mean that you prefer to be left to your own diversions."

The Fortress of Solitude approach can have its drawbacks, however. "Sometimes you spend a transcontinental flight ignoring someone," Baskas says, "and it's only when you come in to land that you start talking, and realize that he was really interesting."

At last! The plane touches down, the seat belt lights go off, everyone jumps up. And rudeness has one last shining moment, as high-strung overachievers shove their way down the aisle, forcing aside more considerate passengers.

It's tempting to have a word with such boors, or maybe even throw a discreet hip check. But we should resist the urge, says the Skyrage Foundation's director Mike Sheffer. "If people are obviously trying to push to the front, getting in their way isn't worth it. Why ruin your day?"

If you're the one who needs to get off quickly—say, you need to make a tight connection—simply inform a flight attendant before the plane begins its final descent. He or she will generally try to find you a seat closer to the door.

In any event, playing linebacker won't do you any good, and will only add to the frustration that can turn an otherwise normal travel experience into the stuff of long therapy sessions. "People should learn to view their air journey not as some unpleasant chore that frames their trip, but as part of the trip itself," says Hasbrouck.

So be thoughtful, calm, and considerate. And always comply with FAA regulations.

Hankering for a bender with tiny booze bottles?Better hurry. In July, California senator Dianne Feinstein proposed legislation that would cut domestic-route passengers off after two alcoholic drinks. That, she hopes, will decrease the number of air rage incidents in the United States—currently 5,000 a year.

"Evidence suggests a majority of these incidents involve alcohol," Feinstein said. You might think the folks over at the Skyrage Foundation, which was founded to combat violent in-flight behavior, would be pretty pleased with the idea. But Mike Sheffer, the group's director, doubts a two-drink limit would be very effective in and of itself. "A lot of these people get on board the aircraft already drunk," he points out.

Effective or not, Feinstein's idea isn't new. Forty years ago, many airlines cut passengers off at two drinks, or limited service to a drink an hour. "Once deregulation kicked in," Sheffer says, "things got more competitive, and the alcohol started flowing."


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