Air travel used to be enjoyable – remember those days? The problem with air travel now is not just the airlines, over booked flights, long security lines and inspection, which is a given. The problem is passengers, who demand too much for too little. It seems that the comparatively low cost of air travel has created a new type of airline passenger who shows up in flip flops, cargo shorts, tee shirt and backpack at Boston Logan in February heading to Atlanta.
Air travel should be simple: take me from point A to B safely and on time; don’t lose my luggage (especially if I pay for the privilege); no need to feed me or quench my thirst; and no need to provide entertainment as I can either read a book or do work.
Being in the aviation business we travel frequently and outside of airline delays (and terrorists); there’s nothing worse than having to deal with a clueless traveler. You know the ones that cause huge delays in lines and make the flight just miserable. They are the ones you want to introduce to your alter ego, whoever that may be at the time.
So in an attempt to help make air travel a little easier to bear, here are some simple and common sense tips on how to be a better traveler and reduce your risk of someone tipping TSA off that you need a cavity search because you were muttering something about “bomb in my backpack.”
1. Packing: If you have to sit on your roller bag to close it you have too much stuff – leave something home. You are returning, and wherever you are going, I’d bet they have stores there. Overstuffed bags decrease the chance it will actually fit in the overhead (see below points on use of the overhead). Better yet check the bag – it’s free on Southwest and worth it to pay the fee on other air carriers. There is nothing worse than a swimmer on a single isle 737 trying to find empty overhead bin space. More on a swimmer later.
2. Airport Arrival: Get there EARLY. Wake up earlier. I did. You can too. Now, if you’re late because of a car accident or because your connection arrived late, that’s cool. If you’re late because you can’t plan – sorry the sympathy locker is closed. Here is a news flash – airports are more crowded and security checks are slower. Arrive earlier. Have a drink at the gate or something.
3. Security Part 1: GET YOUR ID AND BOARDING PASS OUT. 2nd news flash – TSA will ask for a government issued ID – no option. When you get up to the TSA agent after standing in line for 20 minutes and you take two minutes rooting through your bags/wallet for your ID, it makes my head explode and more importantly slows up the line. Doing this is the equivalent of standing in line at Burger Doodle for 20 minutes and when it’s your turn to order you begin reading the menu to figure out what you want. Be prepared with ID and boarding pass.
4. Security Part 2: THEY’RE METAL DETECTORS PEOPLE! Please don’t be the guy who goes through, sets it off, and then remembers he has 43 keys and a steel ball bearing in his pocket. Empty your pockets. This shouldn’t be a surprise. This guidance also applies to all your toiletries. The guidelines are simple. Follow them. Otherwise we get to stand there thinking of various ways to give you a Vulcan mind probe while you go cycle through the metal detector seven times.
5. Security Part 3: Once you’ve successfully navigated the x-ray and metal detector, it is not the time to repack your bag, tie your shoes or primp your clothes. While you’re repacking, stuff is piling up on the x-ray belt and we’re all waiting for you to get out of the way. Grab your stuff, move along, and commence repacking operations in the always-empty Mango juice lounge on the other side of security.
6. Boarding Part 1: Zone 4 means Zone 4, not “Zone 1 because no one can see the Zone 4 on your boarding pass.” Board when called. Simple concept – even Southwest figured out they had to give us cattle call numbers to maintain some semblance of a boarding process. It’s like grade school – no cut ahead, no do-over, stamped it to infinity plus one.
7. Boarding Part 2: If the overhead is closed, it’s probably full. Don’t open it to see if you can squeeze in your oversized bag. If it doesn’t fit check it! Oh by the way, don’t leave your bag in the aisle or elsewhere for the flight attendant to take care of it. If a flight attendant gets injured lifting your 75 lb bag, you are most likely not going anywhere until they find a replacement. Put your bag in the overhead bin over your seat. None of this “chuck” it in the first overhead you see then saunter back to your seat in row 25 stuff. If you’re in the back, bring your bag with you. They have overheads back there too. When you put it in the overhead in the front row, you create a chaotic process of bag shuffling, bag gate checking, and swimmers – which are passengers working their way back to their seat ‘upstream’ while others are still boarding.
8. Boarding Part 3: SIT DOWN. If you’re having trouble juggling your triple grande iced mocha decaf double whip half cream half milk latte, your 6 magazines, family-size bag of Doritos, liter of Pepsi and your iPad, maybe you need to rethink your carry-on strategy. Sit down. Let everyone else board so we can get seated. Related: 1 carry-on and 1 personal item mean just that. It doesn’t mean 1 oversized bag + 1 fanny pack + 1 souvenir too big to ship + 1 laptop case. I’ve stopped blaming the airlines in most cases for late departures and now lay the blame on the people who can’t get seated in a timely manner. Oh by the way, visit the rest room before you board – don’t go to the can during the boarding process.
9. Portable Devices: Despite what Bill Maher told Captain Sullenberg on HBO a couple weeks ago, Bill’s opinion about turning off portable electronic devices doesn’t matter. It’s a rule: no PEDS until advised – just comply period. Off with the smart phones, GPS, lap tops until we get to 10,000 ft – same thing applies on approach and on arrival.
10. Seat Backs and Tray Tables: Nothing worse than squeezing into a coach seat with 21″ seat pitch and having the guy in front of you recline his seat all the way back. Nothing better than getting your tray table and lap top jammed in your gut. Before you recline, look behind or better yet ask if it’s OK to recline your seat a little.
11. In Flight: If you strike up a conversation, good for you. If you are instead greeted with monosyllabic replies and furtive attempts by your seat partner to extricate their attention back into their book, take the hint. They don’t want to talk to you. And if you do find a chat partner, please keep it below 800 decibels. If you insist on bringing your own food aboard, please rethink the tuna sandwich with garlic and onions and the family-size bag of Doritos.
12. Deplaning: Wait your turn; exit by row. Nothing worse than the guy in the back of the bus rushing to get four rows ahead. If your bags are stowed four rows behind your seat, wait until the aisle clears. You are safely on the ground and they are not giving away your rental car.
Woody Allen said 80% of life is just showing up, but in the case of air travel that does not work. If you are better prepared when you travel and think about what is coming next, then the trip will be more enjoyable for all.Share this article: