10 Ways to Not Be a Jerk on an Airplane

Are you guilty of any of these flying faux pas?
Guest Writer

With more than 2 million miles under my wing, I have learned a thing or two about business travel. Flying between upwards of 60 times a year, I have witnessed amazing things out my window, and horrible things in the seat next to me. And so I'm here now to impart my collected wisdom to make your next flight more pleasant for you, and more importantly, for me if we ever happen to be sitting in the same row.

Here are my rules for not being a first-class jerk on an airplane, helpfully broken down into 10 categories:

1. The seat

Your seat is the one you're sitting in. Not the one in front of yours, that one is mine, so that means:

  • When you get up and down, stop pulling on my seat. Stop it.
  • Same thing for the tray table and seat-back pocket. Take it easy there, tiger. Those are basically running up my spine.
  • Feet on the seat/armrest? Kicking my seat? Were you raised in a barn?

2. The bathroom

There are plenty at the airport. In your house. Your hotel has a few. Make it a habit of using one before the flight, just like your parents made you do before road trips when you were 6. If you’re in a window seat, and you make us all get up so you can pee during a one-and-a-half-hour flight means you either suck at planning or have a bladder infection. Also, if you do use the bathroom, clean up after yourself. Again: think about your mom and her rules when you were 6.

Related: 3 Ways to Bootstrap Your Startup's Business Travel Budget

3. Flight attendants

They’re not working for tips, and only smile to keep from slapping your face off. Be polite. If you really need something, of course, ask, but they are not on board to fetch you extra ice or ketchup for the food you brought on board (yes, people ask for utensils and condiments all the time … totally mental).

4. Speaking of food you brought on board...

How about don't? Especially for short flights. If you must bring your own chow, don't make it anything stinky or messy or soupy. Gumbo? BBQ with all the fixins? Curry? Have you no shame? Just because they sell it on the concourse, doesn’t mean it’s supposed to be eaten in a sealed metal tube full of strangers. Have some courtesy and common sense.

5. First-class passengers

You are not more important than anyone else on the plane. If you were so important you’d be flying private. First class means you have a few more dollars or you upgraded with miles. You’re not the king of anything except maybe Douchelandia.

Related: Check Out This Year's Business Travel Award Winners

6. Your cell phone

Talking on the phone while sitting on the ground? Fine, but keep it to a dull roar. Mobile phones are incredible at picking up your voice -- you can actually whisper and the person on the other end will hear everything! Manners. And no speakphone. Honestly.

7. Reclining your seat

The proper way to do that is slowly and look over your shoulder first. A little notice never hurt. See if the person behind you is using a laptop, or has a bunch of drinks on their table before you slam back your seat.

8. Waiting to board

If you’re in first class, have a disability, status or a little kid, you’re boarding early. If not, wait your turn. Seriously. I will call you out if you cut in front of me. If I miss it, I hope the gate agent makes you wait until zone 27 boards when you cut in front. 

Related: This Road Warrior Shares Business-Travel Productivity Tools

9. In-flight internet

If it works, awesome -- we live in a magical time. If not, then after you’ve tried absolutely everything, you can ask the flight attendant if there are others having troubles. If so, they might reset it, but other than that, you’re on your own. They’re flight attendants, not technical support. Learn how to use your device and how to connect.

10. Drinking on board

If you're older than 22, you should keep drinking to a minimum even if the booze is free. Short of a smelly seatmate, there is nothing worse than a drunk on a plane.

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