We all love traveling. Or rather, we all love arriving at our destination. The actual physical act of traveling, however, can be the worst part. Long lines, waits, security, being confined to a tiny space for hours—all uncomfortable things that we have to do.
But, we can try to be a little better by having some solid airplane etiquette, so on your next trip, be sure you’re not doing breaking any of the following rules.
How to Properly Get Through Security
Most of us have all passed through security dozens of times so we should be professionals. But just in case, we’ll refresh your memory. Depending on which line you’re at (TSA Pre-Check or old school) you’ll have a couple different rules, but the basics are the same.
In the normal security line, you have to take your shoes off, take your laptop out of the bag, and you may have a longer-than-normal line, so that’s even more reason to plan ahead. Some pro tips from experience travelers:
Don’t forget to check your bag for any last minute hold-ups like liquids, lighters, or nail clippers.
Have your shoes ready to literally slide off the moment your bag lays on that cold metal slab of a table. Everyone shares the pet peeve of waiting for you while you first unlace your shoes, ultimately holding up the line.
If you’re wearing jewelry, immediately it in the bin with your belt.
Keep your eyes and ears focused on the security agents, and if you’re with kids, keep your kids focused.
Lastly, when collecting your items, feel free to grab them and move to a nearby bench so it doesn’t force everyone to cram behind you while you hastily pack up your belongings.
This should mostly be a five-to-ten minute window from table to screening and if you hold us up anymore, we will hate you. If you fly more often than normal, just get the TSA Pre-Check. It’ll save you and your fellow travelers even more time.
How to Use the Overhead Bins
For the last few years airlines have been charging customers for checking bags, (we love you Southwest!), so if you’re trying to save money and cram a duffle bags worth of items into an overhead bin bag, test it before.
We can’t think of a worse moment than finally making it onto the plane—after our day of Uber, security, hurry-up-and-wait moments, then finally going through that claustrophobic hallway onto the plane—only to be stuck waiting in the aisle for five minutes while you cram a too-large bag into an overhead bin.
For those who are prepared, don’t screw it up now by putting your bag sideways; you should know the drill: long way in, wheels forward. Another pro tip? You can usually gate check a bag for free—but we all hate checking bags because then you have to wait 30 minutes to collect them.
Stick with carry-on luggage; if you see an empty spot in the overhead bin while you’re boarding, but the seats are all filled under them, throw your bag in it. It’ll guarantee a space for bag, plus you won’t have to carry it through the aisle to the back of the plane.
Where to Use Your Phones
We all know the drill—turn your phone on airplane mode to prepare for takeoff. But when we’re on the plane waiting for take off, and it’s hot, crowded, and we are trying to find our inner zen to mentally accept the next few hours of being in a flying tube of metal, the last thing we want to do is listen to your phone conversation.
We don’t care if it’s your mom, wife, or business partner. You should not be having a phone conversation out loud once you board the aircraft. That is what texting and email is for.
This rule also applies when we land and are waiting to get off the flight. Getting picked up and want to let the person know you’ve landed? Send a text. Work left you a voicemail or email? Wait until you are not stuck with 300 people all able to hear your obnoxious conversation about the status reports for Mr. Lumbergh. (Office Space anyone?)
Hearing a long phone conversation from one side, from a stranger nonetheless is incredibly irritating and it ruins the chill vibe most people are desperately trying to hold onto. And like they say, “B, don’t kill my vibe.”
When to Hold a Conversation
This literally just happened to me because, no joke, I am writing this as I am on an airplane flying from Los Angeles to St. Louis. I was up at 6 a.m, in an Uber by 7, at the airport by 8, and, miraculously, on my flight at 9 a.m. I am the furthest thing from a morning person so all I wanted to do was sit down and close my eyes. But as soon as I sat in my window seat (so I was trapped), my fellow traveler on the aisle turns and begins asking me questions.
Now, I’m sure he is a nice fellow who was also traveling alone and just making small talk, but, that’s the point. Small talk is hard enough, but to force it upon someone who can’t escape is a violation of human rights.
Thankfully, my one-word answers got the point across and he left me alone. So as a lesson to all you small-talkers, take the hints. Headphones in, one-word answers, and slight chuckles that seem forced—these are all things that say, “Please leave me alone.”
It’s nothing personal, but it’s safe to assume your fellow passengers probably aren’t in the mood. Approach with caution.
The Rules of Armrests
Space is an extreme luxury when on an airplane. Year after year, the seats get smaller and smaller. It is common courtesy to understand the laws that govern the use of armrests.
The window seat gets the armrest closest to the window, and the aisle seat gets the rest closest to the aisle. This leaves the two middle ones for the middle passenger. We all need to take a little pity on the pour soul that is stuck sandwiched in between two strangers for the duration of the flight.
It’s the right thing to do to give this middle seater some comfort. Ideally, that would also mean watching your elbows. While it may not be all the way on the armrest, we’ve all experienced instances of elbow poking, or that awkward touching where one person kind of just places their arm next to yours on the armrest.
It’s like in sixth grade when you’re at the movies with your crush and your hand is touching theirs, but just barely. Except this is an airplane with a stranger, not your crush as you watched Titanic.
What Food You Can Safely Eat
This rule could be one of the most important because it affects so many people. If you are going to be on an airplane for a few hours, it really is in your best nature to plan accordingly with your meals.
Try to eat beforehand at the airport, or save it for when you land. If you do want to bring some snacks, stick to things like nuts, granola bars, fruit, or some chips.
Do not, under any circumstances, bring a tuna fish sandwich. Do not bring garlic bread, hard-boiled eggs, or anything else that has a strong, pungent smell. Just like body odor, you may not be able to smell your own, but everyone else can.
Be mindful of this because you never know what could make someone a little queasy, and we’re already playing with fire here, as it’s not like we can just open a window at 40,000 feet. If you must bring your McDonald’s onto the plane, at least buy some nuggets for your fellow seatmates.
Understand You Just Might End Up on @PassengerShaming
If you don’t know what we are talking about, then do a quick Google search. Ultimately this is a social media account where airplane passengers take photos of all the things other passengers are doing wrong.
Consider it the instructional guide of things not to do while traveling. It’s a comprehensive list of photos showing people doing all the things we listed in this document so far, and then many more.
The account was listed at No. 20 in Rolling Stone’s list of “100 Best Instagram Accounts,” and has over 480,000 followers. You’ll see everything from people eating a BBQ picnic including ribs and corn on the cob, to people doing yoga while in the middle seat.
As their slogan mentions, you don’t want to end up on there. Stick to our rules and you won’t.