During a recent trip to Chicago, my sister and I were in the TSA Precheck security line (get on that if you haven't already, people!) and were about to retrieve our bags from the conveyor belt, except we couldn't. A nice and seemingly well-meaning couple were standing right in front of the area where our bags came out, blocking people from accessing their luggage. This wasn't done intentionally, of course, but in their effort to get their bags, which were coming out piecemeal, they were hogging up the space. They were also gathering their bags and organizing themselves in that same spot.
"Excuse us," we said. "We need to get to our bags."
"Which one is yours," the woman asked while still standing there, as bags continued to back up against one another.
Which one is mine? The one I'm trying to get to!
"It's right behind you. If I could just get around you and grab my stuff" I said while trying to circle around this couple with their bags spread out all over the conveyor belt.
Finally, the couple shifted forward and those of us who were waiting to grab our bags snatched them up and walked away quickly. One guy, clearly a business traveler, had an exasperated look on his face as he speed walked to his gate.
Though the encounter didn't last too long and was truly not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, it felt like something that could have been easily avoided. The reason there are benches and seats by the conveyor belt area is so that people can put on their shoes and organize themselves without getting in other people's way. Also, TSA Precheck means you don't even have to put on your shoes because you do not have to take them off to begin with (most of the time)! In fact, it usually means a very seamless transition through security. Usually. And I realize it's a nit picky thing to talk about, but it's one of those unspoken rules that make traveling just a tiny bit easier.
The situation got me thinking about some other unspoken rules of flying, from the moment you arrive at the airport to the moment you pick up your bags in baggage claim. And while some of these may be more specific to my flying experiences, I'm going to just consider them universal for the sake of this blog post.
Here are 10 unspoken rules of flying. Follow them if you care about your fellow travelers:
1. Do not unnecessarily hold up the security line – Please be prepared when going through the security line. Do not choose this time to search through your bags and throw out jugs of water while loading your luggage onto the conveyor belt. Don't go through the metal detector looking like Mr. T with 50 chains around your neck. Your fellow travelers beg you to anticipate what needs to be done and be ready so that everyone can get through the security line seamlessly. Please and thank you.
2. Do not spread out all your stuff across multiple chairs at the gate or put your feet where they don't belong – If you are at the gate early or it's an empty flight so there are plenty of seats available, it's not a crime to spread out a bit. But please remember this isn't your living room, especially when the gate is packed with people. I've seen a number of folks with their stuff sitting on 3-4 different chairs and, occasionally, the let-me-prop-my-bare-feet-up-on-my-suitcase person. Don't be that person.
3. If your group boarding number has not been called yet, do not block the entrance to boarding – I know you're eager to board and you would rather not wait until the end when all of the overheard luggage space is gone and you're forced to check your carry-on bag, but please do not stand in front of the gate if you're not boarding yet. It blocks up the area, tends to cause confusion and doesn't really benefit anyone when that happens.
4. Do not spend 10 minutes trying to get your bag to fit in the overhead compartment while everyone else is waiting behind you – This one is tricky because you want to make sure your bag fits but you also should be mindful of when your efforts are causing a severe traffic jam. Try to make putting your bag into the overhead compartment quick, and if you find that you can't, step aside temporarily to let people pass while you keep trying. If it looks like there's no possible way your bag is going to fit, you will just need to check it.
5. Beware of hogging the armrests – I think I notice this most often because I'm not a tall person but am often sitting next to someone taller and bigger than me who spills over into my seat. An elbow juts into my side or a hand dangles over the armrest into my space. It's not intentional, I don't think, it's just a lack of awareness of body size in relation to the shrinking space of airline seats. I know it's uncomfortable, for some more than others, but it's just something to be aware of during your next flight.
6. Refrain from wearing excessive perfume or cologne on your flight – Sorry, Rico Suave, but now is not the time to load up on Contradiction by Calvin Klein, or whatever it is you like to spray on yourself. It may be okay when you're out and about in an open space but in a contained space like an airplane (or train or car), the smell becomes much more intense and affects those around you. I say save the excessive perfume or cologne for after you disembark from your flight.
7. Don't be loud on a red-eye flight – When the chances are that 99% of the people on a flight are sleeping, do not be that loud 1%. For starters, it makes you look like a douchebag and a loon, but also, would you want to be that person laughing or talking loudly throughout a red-eye flight when everyone else is trying to catch some Zs? Obviously babies and little kids are a different territory that I'm not going to get into, but if you're a fully grown and fully aware adult, you should know better.
8. Don't drink too much before or during the flight and become that person – You know what I mean by that person, and if you don't know, watch Bridesmaids. Sure it's funny as a movie but in real life, being the drunk and/or aggressive person on the flight is only entertaining to you. The poor flight attendants have to deal with you and your fellow passengers have to watch you make a nuisance of yourself. It's not cool; never been cool.
9. When departing the plane, allow the people in front of you to grab their things and walk out first – Unless you're trying to catch a connecting flight, what's the rush? We're all going to get off. Be patient, let those in front of you get their stuff first and don't hastily grab your bag from the overhead compartment in your hurry to get off quickly; I've seen this happen and, as a result, some poor woman got smacked in the head.
10. Don't stand in front of someone in baggage claim – We all want to get our bags, but it doesn't mean your bag is more important than someone else's. If someone is standing by the baggage claim waiting to get their bag, do not stand in front of that person or crowd him or her. Would you want someone to do that to you? I doubt it. So just keep in mind the general rule to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
If you follow these unspoken rules, you'll help to create a pleasant flying experience for everyone.
What are some other unspoken rules for flying?