How to Behave at the Airport
Lizzie Post, the great-great granddaughter of Emily Post, author, and co-host of The Awesome Etiquette Podcast, has agreed to weigh in on a few travel etiquette questions from a politesse perspective. She’s covered airplane seat backs, to recline or not to recline, arm rests and kids on flights. Here, she weighs in on general airport manners.
If you check your bag at the curb, should you tip?
“Yes. [We suggest] $2 for the first bag and one dollar for each additional bag—a little more if the bag is heavy. The idea is that these people are helping you, and they’re getting your bags to where they need to be. … This is one of those places where we tend to say “thank you” when someone is handling our luggage.”
You wouldn’t tip while checking your bag at the ticket counter, though?
“Right…that’s just the absurdity of American tipping. I would love to say you don’t tip either, or you tip both, but…”
Say you’re in a super-long line before getting to your gate. Advice?
What if you’re about to miss a flight because of the line? Is asking to cut an option?
"It’s not an option. … If you politely ask every person in line if you can go ahead of them because your flight is about to leave, [fine], but for the most part … it just doesn’t matter. You really need to get into your head that every single person in line could potentially have the story you have. Security doesn’t care; it’s not because they’re heartless people. But literally every other person in line is in the same situation. Security deals with so much of this that it’s not gonna happen. You can always make the attempt, but understand that nobody is obligated to entertain that request."
How prepared should one get in the security line?
“I wait until after they’ve checked my ticket and ID. When you’re standing in line to go through the scanner, I think it’s fine to be as prepared as you want to be. I wouldn’t be watching something on my phone, and oblivious. I make sure my liquids bag is out and ready to go, or computer and liquids bag, I’ve usually got my coat draped over my arm. Sometimes I’ve taken off my shoes. Whatever it is, be as prepared as possible, so you’re ready.”
What if you think security is roughly handling your things during a bag search?
"It’s always fine to ask for someone to be careful when handling your things, but you need to ask gently, and you need to not order someone to be gentle with your things. And you need to recognize that their job of safety is something that needs to be respected and understood; they are not trying to break your items, and they are not trying to be difficult."
Is it OK to buy smelly food to bring on the plane?
"No. Apparently bananas are an offensive odor to a lot of people, and I had no idea—they sell bananas everywhere in the airport. My mind was blown. I think you need to be conscious of the food you bring. Avoid sushi, avoid strong-smelling meats. Be aware of the fact that smells can really have an impact on people and you are essentially trapping them with that smell."
Is it OK to put your things on chairs in crowded waiting rooms?
"In crowded waiting rooms, no. If you see that there are people who are standing, and your suitcase or extra bag is sitting on a chair, you should offer someone a seat."
Any tips for parents with kids waiting at the gate?
"Kids running around—it’s an interesting conundrum. In some ways, I would really rather have that child running around in the gate area and getting energy out before boarding. I think it’s healthy, I think it’s good, but when their running around starts to be overwhelming to the people around them, I think parents need to keep them in check. I think they need to be careful and aware of the people around them. If you’re seeing a lot of scowls or your kid steps on someone’s foot or steps on someone’s bag, you need to bring them in and remind them that there are other people present. You need to take the temperature of the atmosphere around you; is it good for this kid to be releasing this energy?"
Lots of people like to queue up early to board; when should you get in line?
"When they call you. When they call your group or boarding number, that is when you get up and get in line. Even if everybody’s doing it correctly, there are people who want to stand. [That’s fine.] What I don’t love is when they all stand up and are trying to group around and people who are in that boarding group are trying to get through. Those people need clear access to the jetway. If you’re going to stand, stand back."