How to Fly Like a Gentleman

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 21, 2012 · 131 comments

in A Man's Life, On Etiquette

You stretch out your legs, take a look out the window to check the view at 31,000 feet, and then place the book you were reading on the empty seat next to you. An attractive, smiling stewardess leans over, lays down a cloth napkin and silverware, and asks which of the three available hot entrees you’d like for your meal. She quickly returns and sets down the dinnerware in front of you. As you dig into your delicious food, you can hear the sounds of music coming from the piano bar at the front of the plane…

….THUNK! With a kick to your seat from the toddler behind you, you awaken from your daydream to find yourself wedged between a large, unbathed man in a tank top and a teenager blasting music on his headphones so loud you can hear every word of the lyrics of his favorite heavy metal band. The flight attendant hands you a plastic cup of soda, along with a tiny bag of pretzels, and quickly moves on.

Air travel. It certainly isn’t the same as it was during its “golden age” several decades ago. It’s even gone downhill from how it was just 15 years ago, when flights weren’t always full, you didn’t have to pay to check a bag, and you could make a mad dash to the gate to finally confess your feelings for a lover right before she got on the plane. (Not as dramatic to confront them in the security line, is it?)

Sure, the Golden Age of Air Travel had its own drawbacks. Less flights, not as safe, and, a whole lot more expensive. The drop in ticket prices since the days when Pan Am ruled the skies has been a boon for the man of modest means who still wants to see the world (or, just his family a few states away for the holidays).

On the flip side, the democratization of flight has turned it into something that has to be endured, rather than enjoyed. When you’re being herded through security and made to wait an hour and a half on the tarmac, it’s easy to feel more like a head of cattle than a traveling gentleman.

But a gentleman always does what he must do, and regardless of the circumstances, makes things as pleasant and smooth as possible for those around him – friends and strangers alike. Through gestures big and small, he shows a respect for the needs of others and an awareness of how his behavior affects them. He knows his example encourages others to follow suit, and that the more individuals who choose to adopt common-sense manners, the more enjoyable life becomes for all. A small sacrifice in the present ends up benefitting not only other people, but himself as well.

This was true of the gentleman when he traveled by stagecoach and by train, and just as true, if not more so today, when he hops aboard a jet. Here’s how to take to the skies like a classic gent.

How to Fly Like a Gentleman

“To do nothing that can either annoy or offend the sensibilities of others, sums up the principal rules for conduct under all circumstances—whether staying at home or traveling.” Emily Post, Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home, 1922


Dress sharp. Now, there’s no need to don a three-piece suit, but do kindly leave the pajama pants and crocs at home. No matter how seemingly pedestrian it’s become, taking a trip is still a special thing. Dressing decently and with a little style can get you into that mindset and heighten your experience, as well as add a bit of the old charm back into travel for you, and for your fellow passengers as well. Putting on real pants that button will help your fellow travelers feel more like they’re getting away from it all, and less like they’re visiting a Walmart at midnight. For advice on dressing for travel with both practicality and style in mind, check out these tips from Antonio.

Be civil to the ticket agents and other airline employees. Despite their proximity to those automated kiosks, ticket agents are not machines. Just as you don’t berate a waiter for a poor-tasting dish, don’t take out your understandable frustrations on the ticket and gate agents for flight delays and other snafus they had no hand in or power over. Your own disgruntlements feel supremely important, but understand they’re burdened with dealing with the disgruntlements of hundreds of other folks just like you every single day; it’s not easy. So by all means, be firm in asking them to do all they possibly can to accommodate you when things go awry, but do your best to stay calm and cool, even friendly. It will surely be a sigh of relief to the agent to deal with a rational and perhaps even smiling traveler for once. And when an agent goes above and beyond the call of duty in helping you, be sure to tell them how much you appreciate it.

Get through the security check as quickly as possible. Have you ever been standing in a security line that snaked up and down, knowing your flight was going to take off in half an hour, and sweating whether you were going to get to the gate on time? Your blood pressure soars, every minute that passes is excruciating, and when you see folks at the front of the line moving very slowly and not following the clearly-marked instructions, your eyes fairly bulge out of your head.

Sure, some people are late because of their own dumb choices, but sometimes it’s because of something out of their control, and they just really, really want to catch their flight home to their family. So next time you’re in the security line, just imagine there’s a guy behind you on the verge of an aneurism. Plus, everybody, late or not, truly appreciates moving through the chute as quickly as possible.

Have your ID and ticket (or smartphone, nowadays) out and ready when you get to the first checkpoint. Then take off your shoes and remove your laptop from your bag while there are still a few people between you and the conveyer belt. When they say everything out of your pockets, they mean everything. And once it’s your turn, move quickly and efficiently to load up your stuff and walk through the scanner.

Don’t clip your nails while waiting in the gate area, and then leave your pile of clippings there. Yes, dear reader, I saw this happen.


Board the plane in an orderly fashion. Whenever boarding is announced, people tend to stampede to the door…and then creep forward in a giant line to get on the plane. Unless you’re flying Southwest, or are very concerned about finding overhead compartment space, there’s no rush. I personally don’t want to be sitting in that flying capsule for any longer than necessary, and tend to wait until the line has died down to get on. Even if you do want to board ASAP, wait until your “group” is called.

Try to avoid smacking people with your bag as you make your way down the aisle. Hold your carry-on in a controlled fashion in front of you. You don’t want to knock an old lady unconscious with your Saddleback briefcase.

Don’t try to avoid the fee for check-in bags by bringing a carry-on that’s too big. You know this guy – he holds up the line of people trying to get down the aisle of the plane as he struggles against all odds to cram a bag that’s never going to fit into the overhead compartment, and then finally has to give it to the flight attendant to check. Saving money by avoiding the checked-bag fee is great, and so is traveling light, but make sure your bag will fit before you haul it onto the plane; most ticket counters have a measuring box that will allow you to verify this before you check in.

Help people put their bags into the overhead compartment. If you see someone struggling to put their bag up, offer a helping hand.

Once you’ve put your belongings in the overhead compartment, sit down. Don’t stand there in the aisle rummaging through your bag to find your Jujubes. If you need something from your bag that you can’t grab easily, you should sit down, put the bag on your lap, and then return it to the overhead compartment once you’re through.

Let separated couples/friends/family sit together. If a couple gets put in different rows, and you’re a single gent who doesn’t care which seat he’s in, offer to move so they can sit together. It means a lot to folks.

On our first flight with Gus, Kate and I were pretty nervous about keeping him pacified, and were ready to team up to do it. So I was really disappointed to find out the airline, contrary to our reservations, had put Kate and Gus in a separate row right behind me — the very last row on the plane. It was one of those prop planes that had two seats on one side, and one seat on the other. The guy across from Kate offered to switch, but the guy sitting next to me refused, saying he didn’t want to sit in the back row because the chairs didn’t recline. At that exact moment, somewhere in the world, a chivalrous kitten was killed.

Take Off (and Landing)

Return your seat to the upright position and turn off your electronic device when the flight attendant asks. Don’t be the guy who tries to squeeze in a few more minutes on the phone after they make that announcement, and makes the flight attendant come by to give him a nudge.

In Flight

Honor the unofficial code of armrest dibs. Who gets which armrest? It’s always a little awkward, isn’t it? No need to wrangle over them and throw elbows. Here’s a sensible code of conduct: Each person gets at least one armrest. In a three-seat row, the middle person gets the armrest on each side of him, while the person in the aisle seat gets the outside one, and the person in the window seat gets the one next to the window; the thinking here is that the person in the aisle seat can lean into the aisle, the person in the window seat can lean into the window, but the man in the middle is stuck. In a row with five seats, the person in the very middle seat gets the two armrests around him, while the passengers to his left each take their left armrest, and the passengers on the right each claim the one on their right.

Keep your kid as calm and occupied as possible. Despite being separated on the aforementioned flight, we were fine because we had a Gus-pacification battle plan: lots of books, snacks, trinkets, and, God’s gift to traveling parents: the iPad. Cranky kids top the list of traveler pet peeves, so don’t bring a tyke along and expect him to spend his time browsing the SkyMall catalog. Sure, it’s the crying itself that’s annoying, but equally frustrating is a parent who ignores the meltdown while immersing herself in Fifty Shades of Grey. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to turn off a kid’s waterworks, but fellow passengers will be more understanding if you’re at least making an effort to walk ‘em back from the edge. If you want to win over your seatmates even more, these parents had a pretty ingenious idea: hand out goody bags of candy and earplugs to those seated around you!

Listen to your movies/music at a reasonable volume. Airlines really cram people together these days. People’s heads are only a few inches apart during flight. So don’t crank up the volume on your headphones, and treat your seatmate to the sound of every single explosion in The Expendables.

Initiate conversation only when welcome. It’s fine to chat with your fellow passengers a bit; it’s a little strange that we sit side-by-side with people and never acknowledge each other whatsoever. But if your seatmate doesn’t seem interested in engaging with you, don’t continue to prattle on.

If you end up next to an unwelcome chatterbox, follow Emily Post’s old advice to steamship passengers in the same scenario: “If you receive them with any degree of enthusiasm, your response may be translated into a willingness to talk. But if you answer in the merest monosyllables, it should be taken to mean that you prefer to be left to your own diversions.” If you really don’t want folks to talk to you, head off the possibility by slipping on some headphones; doesn’t matter if sound is being emitted or not – it’s an unofficial “do not disturb” sign.

Give those behind you a heads up when you’re going to recline your seat. The person seated behind you may have drinks or a laptop on their tray table, so don’t surprise them with a rapid recline of your seat. If you can, turn around and let them know your seatback is incoming. That’s easier to do in the aisle seat, and if you find giving the heads up awkward, at least recline very slowly.

Don’t get up to use the head when the flight attendants are serving food and drinks. There are plenty of good times to cram yourself into the plane’s tiny loo. During the beverage service is not one of them. Don’t create a game of chicken between you and the bev cart.


Exit in an orderly fashion. Get up row by row. Once it’s your turn, gather your things as quickly as possible and get going. If you’re seated towards the back of the plane, and worried about making a connection, instead of charging into the aisle and trying to bulldoze your way to the front, ask a flight attendant before landing if there’s an available seat near the front of the plane to which you can be moved. They’ll usually be happy to oblige.

Thank the flight attendants and pilots. They just safely hurtled a metal can eight miles above the earth’s surface, without crashing into the Andes and forcing you to become a cannibal. A tip of the hat is in order!

Baggage Claim

Stand a few feet away from the edge of the baggage claim conveyer belt. It may help you grab your bag 2.5 seconds faster, but standing with one’s shins up against the baggage claim conveyer belt blocks the view of others who are looking for their bag. Stand back a little. No need to bunch up right where the bag comes out, either; pick a different spot, wait 40 seconds, and the bag will come right to you.

Polish your monocle, sir. You’ve made it to your destination safe and sound, and got there like a gentleman.

All illustrations by Ted Slampyak

What are your tips on flying like a gentleman? Share them with us in the comments!

{ 131 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mybluemake November 21, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Bathe. Avoid too much cologne, or perfume. Try to wash up really well if you have smoked since bathing — you cannot smell it, but we can. Ask if person sitting in front of you, but against bulkhead needs help with the bag they cannot see or reach yet. Excuse yourself politely when you pass that same person who is still trying to make it out from underneath the overhead so they can stand up and pack their book, and whatever else they had out during the flight.

2 Dan T November 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

For the love of god, make sure you wear deodorant.

3 Ben November 21, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Great article. I would add, when you must stand up to use the restroom or retrieve an item from your bag overhead, do so without pulling on the chair in front of you. Yes, airline seats are often hard to wiggle out of, but nobody likes having their headrest yanked back by the person behind them who is trying to stand up.

4 Ryan November 21, 2012 at 9:51 pm

I’ll add a few:

If you’re in the situation of needing to switch seats to sit with a family member, first consider if you really need to. You can probably live with being apart for a few hours.

If you *need* to switch, like in the author’s situation with a small child, don’t just take the seat. I’ve had this happen to me more than once. If you need to sit next to your wife and toddler, fine, but *ask me first*. I’m not going to be very sympathetic if you steal my seat.

Also, offer up the better seat. Every time someone asks me to switch, I’m in an exit row aisle seat and they’re in a middle down the back somewhere. If there’s a small child involved, I’ll switch (and in that case, the flight attendants would force me to as children can’t sit apart from their guardians), but it’s always just someone who couldn’t get a seat next to his girlfriend. If one of you has a great seat and one of you is stuck down the back, offer up the great seat to someone in a bad seat.

I’m on four flights a week so I have the routine down and I’ve seen all sorts of weaseling and selfish behavior. Frequent fliers refer to bumbling infrequent fliers as “kettles” (after Ma and Pa Kettle). If you apply a modicum of common sense, you won’t be one.

5 Nate November 21, 2012 at 9:55 pm

I take exception to saying that flying 15 years ago was “not as safe”. Compare incidents and you will find that is not true. Let’s not assume that involving government is ever about safety, instead of control. Besides, Ben Franklin, who has been revered on this site, would never trade liberty for a little bit of security.

6 Brett McKay November 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm


I did not say that flying was less safe 15 years ago, I said it was less safe during its “golden age” in the 60s and 70s. This is a statistical fact:

“From 1964 to 1973, there was an average of seven fatal accidents a year on U.S. airlines. The fatal accident rate per departure in 1969 was 13 times higher than in 2009.”

7 Caleb November 21, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Reminds me why I always opt to drive. Unless it would be more than a 2 day drive.

8 Nicholas November 21, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Hi Brett and Kate,

I have been a silent reader of your your Art of Manliness blog. This is a really wonderful blog about the issue of being a gentleman, and you guys have done a great job.

I want to ask a question about giving up seats to the separated couples/families. In general, I won’t mind giving up seats if it were in a public bus or an MRT train, as we call it here, but for long distance journeys, it seems to be a different story. There have been a few occasions where I travel alone, and some people ask me to swap seats so that they can join their families/loved ones. So far I usually reject their requests (in an as polite manner as I can do), on the basis of two reasons. Firstly, if they travel in a group, shouldn’t they book side-by-side seats beforehand? This is what I always do when I book flights for my parents when they visit me (they live in my birthplace, and I live overseas). Indeed it costs a bit more, but it is more convenient and prevents us from troubling other passengers. Secondly, I have a fear that changing seats, unless told by the aircrews, may complicate matters should there be passenger identification in the case of accidents. Is this worry justified?

Thank you for your opinion!

9 PASunter November 21, 2012 at 10:22 pm

I would only add one thing, please be considerate of the guy with big shoulders who got stuck in the middle.

I wear a 46 jacket and 36 slacks, which means I fit in the seat, while my shoulders extend beyond the armrest. I’m sorry, I cannot magically shrink to the “ideal” size, so please don’t sigh when my shoulders hangover your seat.

10 Nate November 21, 2012 at 10:40 pm

@Brett – Thanks for the clarification. I think I took “Golden Age” and “15 years ago” and combined the two.

But more to the point, I wasn’t giving any thought to plane crashes. I am sure we are better off there today, and that article you cited seems to say so.

For whatever reason I was thinking you were talking about all the perceived dangers that made government think they need to make getting on a plane such a huge pain. The post-9/11 stuff. My reference to Franklin’s quote was in regards to that, and based on your interest in ol’ Ben, I figured you’d agree!

11 Scott Bedgood November 21, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Offer to help grab the bags off of the baggage carousel for women and the elderly that may have trouble with it. Just make sure it doesn’t look like you are stealing their bag

12 Brett McKay November 21, 2012 at 10:52 pm


Thanks for the kid words.

As to your questions, first, as I mentioned in the post, I did book side by side seats for my family before the trip. But when we checked in the day of the flight, the boarding passes we were given were for separate seats. This has happened to me before as well, and it is not terribly uncommon. (Sometimes it happens because the size/type of the plane changes after you book your ticket, and for other reasons). Booking beforehand is not a guarantee you’ll get the seats you requested, and airlines can, and do change seat assignments after you book. So if folks are separated, it may not be their fault at all.

I don’t know about the accident identification thing. I would imagine they would have to do more than check what seat you were in, because people often decide to sit in a different seat or switch seats from the one they are assigned.

Anyway, as Ryan mentioned above, switching seats with folks is polite, but not an iron-clad rule. If it’s a couple without kids, and a short flight, it’s not a big deal; they won’t miss each other too much. But on longer flights, especially when kids are involved, switching really is a nice thing to do that a family will appreciate.

13 John Mayson November 21, 2012 at 10:59 pm

I fly a lot. Nearly 100,000 miles, most of it international. These are excellent tips.

1. Dress well. I have noticed a difference in attitude and level of service when I’m business casual attire versus headed to the beach attire.

2. It’s the suits at headquarters who make your life as a passenger as miserable as possible. Don’t take it out on the customer facing employees. I’m 6′ 6″. The agent at the ticket counter wanted to charge me $50 for an exit row. I helped the gate agent with a passenger in a wheelchair and got the upgrade for free. I had a flight cancelled at Dulles. The yelling, screaming passengers got put on a flight 24 hours later. I “volunteered” to fly out of any area airport and was very calm and patient. 6 hours later we were flying out of Reagan National.

A passenger refused to switch seats that would have allowed a family to sit together. My son volunteered his seat. He got first class.

Believe me, a little kindness and cooperation goes a long, long way.

14 John Mayson November 21, 2012 at 11:02 pm

I forgot one thing. Please be prepared when you approach security. You know you have to have your shoes off, no metal on your person, your laptop out, etc. Just do it. The checkpoint is not the place to vent your frustration at TSA security theater. That’s what emailing your congressman is for. Something I have noticed. People who have their act together breeze through security, me included. People who act as if they’ve never been in an airport before are the ones who get the Full Monty.

15 Mike M. November 21, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Good points here, I’ll toss in a few of my own.

If you’re wearing a jacket, move everything out of your pants pockets into the jacket – then run the jacket through the X-ray machine.

Try to have the items you need during the flight out of the carry-on bag before you board.

Check your bag. Yes, the airlines are shooting themselves in both feet by charging. Pay anyway.

16 Wilson November 21, 2012 at 11:11 pm

I really enjoyed this post. I like to think that all these great tips from the article, as well as everyone’s tips in the comments, can all boil down to one thing: being considerate of others. If everyone wasn’t so oblivious to the fact that other people are around them, we would all dread long flights a lot less. Dan T’s comment about deodorant made me laugh haha.

I would also like to add one more thing too. That little tray table is just exactly that– LITTLE. Don’t spread out your text books, paperwork, and laptop all over your tray and seat, and impose on the space around you. It’s really rude.

17 Nathan November 21, 2012 at 11:20 pm

As a general note for AoM: Keep up the fight for men being men AND gentlemen. They are one in the same.

18 JHS November 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Even booking adjoining seats may not be sufficient to get parents and children together. Some airlines have blocked children from sections of the plane and others want to charge extra fees to get specific seats. I would not be surprised to find that, given the requirement to include birthdates with passenger reservations now, many airlines are intentionally moving young children to the back of the plane. I almost always fly Southwest where the open seating means my wife and I have never had a problem finding three seats together and the flight attendants have always been helpful in getting us situated. Usually the only question we get asked is whether our daughter is ticketed (if the plane is not full then a non-ticketed child can take up a seat). FWIW, i highly recommend buying a ticket for a child under 2. It is definitely worth it to have the extra seat for them.

19 Martin November 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Dressing sharp is key. It’s far too tempting to show up in shorts and a baggy shirt. What about cologne? Should you spray?

20 Dan T November 21, 2012 at 11:57 pm

@Wilson: I was on a 7 hour flight from PHL to Paris. The lady next to me decided that deodorant was not on her checklist that morning. Then the air circulation system wasn’t working right, making the back part of the plane 80 degrees F.

I’m not religious, but I’m pretty sure that’s purgatory.

21 Mojo89 November 22, 2012 at 12:01 am

Having experience as both a gate agent and a frequent traveler I can tell you that courtesy goes a long way. As the author mentioned the circumstances that lead to a delay are far beyond the gate agent’s control and they are left to deal with it. Although you are upset with the circumstances I always appreciated the guest that knew it was not my fault and acted as such. If you are rude and difficult it does not help. Believe me, I want to get you where you want to go as soon as possible. It is okay to vent but being a jerk will not get you very far.
When on the other side of the counter I have experienced that being the one customer that sympathizes with the agent and is polite and understanding will get you much further. More flies with honey than vinegar. Flying is unfortunately stressful at times but pack a sense of understanding, humor, and reasonability and you will be better off once you reach your destination. Happy Holidays to you all!

22 Nicholas November 22, 2012 at 12:17 am

@Brett McKay

Oops, I think I missed the “contrary to our reservations” part.

I just asked a friend about the security matter, and he said that the identification has more things to do with other documents (passport, national ID card?) and body features such as teeth. As my worry does not seem justified, now I feel guilty for not giving up seats months/years ago hahaha. Well I think I should consider doing it the next time such need arises.

23 Pasha November 22, 2012 at 12:22 am

I love the artwork in this post!

24 Bill November 22, 2012 at 1:39 am

First off, ‘havn’t flown in a while, but when I did i always carried all I needed in a simple carry bag and I always brought along my Parachute!! Yes, I am a “SKYDIVER!!” My “Rig” fit nicely under the seat in front of me and the other bag went in the above storage. ‘Was always cordial to everyone and I never needed to “Grab my rig and ‘GO!!’” But the thought was always on my mind!! Meanwhile, back at the ranch, just remember when yer’ flyin’ the Wild Blue the old “Boy Scout Motto” comes to view,”BE PREPARED!!”

25 The Dutch Dastard November 22, 2012 at 1:57 am

As for traveling with children, I asked my mother how they did it. We were living in Malaysia back then, ‘commuting’ to the Netherlands a couple of times a year.

She emphasized that mental preparation was key. We kids new we were going, and what to expect long in advance. Before going to the airport we new all about security checks, how we would have to wait really long, and how annoying a long flight is for yourself, but for the people around you too. Quickly it became obvious I had a problem with my ears, and my parents even taught me to expect the pain, and that it was okay to cry and try to crush the armrest, but that I would be a “real big boy” if I could do it as silently as possible.

The real big thing that I remember though was that my parents always tried to get us on the same model plane in the exact same seats in front of the pantry. The perk? There was a crawlspace between the backs of the seats and the bulkhead, where we kids could play, build a fort, and sleep on the ground. It was AWESOME!

26 Marcus W November 22, 2012 at 2:17 am

I probably shouldn’t comment since I haven’t been on a plane since 1992, when I was 11! I’m sure it will seem strange indeed the next time I fly. Though if you want to get even slightly close to the golden age of air travel shouldn’t you fly first class? You would be paying more for a better experience, since that is what you want ~ if it is even still possible to have a pleasant experience in first class in these most unpleasant days. I for one do not plan to fly in America while the unconstitutional TSA is in opperation. Except for my honeymoon and maybe an emergency. I have heard most of the world has not gone crazy with security, so air travel abroad may be somewhat pleasant–I hope. I was searched by officers of the law in quite unpleasant ways during my misspent youth. Not with latex gloves mind you, but one or two spent too much time in some areas that should not be named in polite company. They did stay on the correct side of the trousers. It is for the same reasons Mr. Franklin would cite that I will not fly much. Too think anyone would holiday with a celluar telephone, most dreadful times indeed! I am curious to know if it is permissible to board an areoplane these days in America with a walking cane. Any advice concerning this matter would be greatly appreciated. As an aside, those who would like a cheeky take on 19th century travel I would commend How to Make Friends and Oppress People Classic Travel Advice for the Gentleman Adventurer by Vic Darkwood. The sentiments above Mr. Darkwood’s book are serious. The vernacular is only for fun!

27 Mike November 22, 2012 at 2:21 am

I loved this article, even though I have only flown once. My favorite parts were the illustrations, I’d like to see this gentleman in more day-today situations again sometime. Great article.

28 Jesper November 22, 2012 at 2:56 am

Hi there,

I have made quite some miles in Europe as well, so when it comes to making a flight as nice as possible I’d like to share the following tipps:

First off, know your local etiquette. Taking your shoes off for x-ray in Europe is not encouraged and rather holding up the line. But pack your hand luggage, so you can reach your laptop/tablet and fluids, so you can get them out for separate scanning. Remember to adhere to the fluid restrictions and pack them in a see-through bag. Be nice to the security personell, it’s just a low-paying job and they are protecting you. If they take a swap test for drugs or explosives, let it go. In my case, I am a long-haired smart casually dressed man in his twenties, a little nervous because I was running late. I would have checked myself too, so just reflect and laugh about it.

Put a smile on your face. Sometimes it’s hard, I had to pay extra luggage fees, was running last minute had 3 jackets on (return flight from a long tim abroad) and it was 7am in the morning – I did sleep 4 hours. A smile on my face helped me get my laptop on board although you’re only allowed a single piece of hand luggage.

Be on time. I had a case, where a guy outside was calling his friend on the plane, who then tried to have the flight attendant to get his friend on the flight. She had to follow company policy and the flight left without him.

Don’t put your boarding card away. In London I had to show it 5 times before boarding, keep it in a place where you won’t lose it but where you can easily reach it.

Do you feel like sleeping on the plane? Offer you window seat to someone who might enjoy the view.

Now this might come off pretty bad, but that nervous muslim on your plane is probably just afraid of flying. Don’t be racist, a gentleman keeps an open mind and an open heart.

That’s all for now.

29 Zeke November 22, 2012 at 4:43 am

I’ll also add one that’s been helpful from personal experience: buy a small bag of chocolates or something similar for the flight crew to share and give it to one of the stewardesses upon entering the plane.

Flight attendants are used to dealing with awful people constantly, so a small gesture of gratitude will not go unnoticed, and will usually result in them being especially helpful if you have a problem, need something, etc, and sometimes even results in a free drink. And most importantly, as my sister – who was a flight attendant – pointed out, you’re probably making someone’s day!

30 miles November 22, 2012 at 5:16 am

Lovely article and illustrations!

31 John F. November 22, 2012 at 5:34 am

Great post… I think you’ve hit on pretty much everything. I apologize that I haven’t time to go through all the comments to see if this has been said, but I just want to add two extras, as someone who flies internationally often:

1) Yes, absolutely, keep children occupied and quiet and not kicking seats, etc. But please, please… don’t highlight that family that put the candy bags on everybody’s seat.

It was indeed a nice gesture, but if you have and travel with young children, you know that this sets a ridiculously high and unfair bar for new parents. Much as we want them to work with their children for our benefit, shouldn’t we also help them out too?

I say this as a parent of two young children who both logged over 250,000 air miles by the time they were each five years old. We have always done exactly as you recommend (focused on keeping them occupied) and have never had a complaint, not once. But please be clear, this constant tending — which we’re happy to do — is exhausting. We do it as an essential courtesy, but admit we’re appreciative of compassion in return, as are all young parents.

2) I’m 6’1″ and often work on planes, so I can attest to the agony of sudden seat-reclining. For that reason, I — as a gentlemanly gesture — DO NOT recline my seat at all when there’s someone behind me. As a rule and yes, even on long flights.

That might be extreme for some and the heads up is a reasonable alternative. But frankly, I know from my own situation that there just isn’t room enough even with the seats up. So it’s a “do unto others” thing for me.

32 Sam Thompson November 22, 2012 at 5:51 am

Just one suggestion to add to an excellent resource: I usually fly with a backpack and move all the small items into it before passing through the metal detectors. Wristwatch, keys, coins, cell phone, and so on. I take them out after clearing security. Much faster and more secure than the little bowls or the larger bins. Flying like a pro means I hardly ever get the SSSS treatment. For a full pat down – TSA used to print SSSS on your boarding pass.

33 Clement Tey November 22, 2012 at 5:52 am

“It was one of those prop planes that had two seats on one side, and one seat on the other. The guy across from Kate offered to switch, but the guy sitting next to me refused, saying he didn’t want to sit in the back row because the chairs didn’t recline.”

I simply cannot figure out how one of the persons not willing up his seat will affect anything. Can someone please help me to puzzle it out? I am assuming that you want to sit three abreast. So if Kate has the back row, and the guy across fom her switches with you, what’s the problem? Why involve the guy next to you?

34 Trip Johnson November 22, 2012 at 7:35 am

I would add that one should avoid being shocked when it’s time to disembark the plane. Take the time to collect your belongings *before* it’s your turn to walk down the aisle. Waiting until the person in front of you has stepped off and is moving towards sweet freedom is not the time to suddenly remember that you’ve got a bag in the overhead compartment. Be ready to move when it’s your turn.

35 Xenocles November 22, 2012 at 7:41 am

Regarding small children on planes: they’re just acting their age, and adults are advised to do the same. I assure you the parents traveling with them are not happy with the noise either. Yes, they should be making an effort to curb truly obnoxious behavior, but the stink-eye from other passengers at every little noise is as unhelpful as it is childish.

You’re a grown-up, so stiffen the spine and endure.

36 Justin November 22, 2012 at 8:13 am

Good morning, and happy thanksgiving; read this, after having just completed my recent marathon of Fall business meetings, and wanted to share what I think is the over-arching cardinal rule of flying: behave the way your mother would want you to!

I see more and more bad behavior from otherwise reasonable adults, who just get themselves going in a direction that they cannot change. They’re annoyed at the TSA agents, and at the parking shuttle driver, and at the gate agent, but primarily at each other.

I’ll admit, flying isn’t nearly as fun as it used to be. With the security checks now in place, and the time it now requires, traveling by air can be a test of ones patience. But just taking a deep breath, smiling at the people who are there to serve you, and acting like a civilized human being goes a long way. A little common courtesy, remembering that allowing the person across the aisle to exit the plane just in front of you, helping another passenger get their baggage stowed; these all get the blood pressure down and don’t add any meaningful time to our day.

37 Ryan Grimm November 22, 2012 at 8:27 am

OK, so now that I am getting older, I’ve started needing to use a cane if I’m going to be walking long distances, or standing for long periods of time.
It has a brass head, and a brass tip.
What should I do to ensure I can take it on board with me?

38 Eric R November 22, 2012 at 8:44 am

I think these tips are all very good.
Thank you, and here’s to winning the lottery so as to be able to afford to fly first class everywhere.
It is much nicer in first class.

39 Stephen November 22, 2012 at 9:25 am

Gentlemen don’t fly.

No self-respecting man of the 20th century would have submitted to the porno-scanners, groping and Nazi-like presence of TSA goons.

Most decent men of the past would have punched in the face anyone who tried what TSA does to us today. Our founding fathers would have shot them dead.


Gentlemen don’t obey like trained lap dogs. They don’t let strangers in stupid costumes peruse their luggage and look at their wives naked.

Gentlemen don’t stand by idly while the freedom their ancestors died for is trashed and destroyed.

Gentlemen don’t fly.

40 Dan November 22, 2012 at 9:36 am

Traveled all over this great country by all train, plane, and bus. All this info goes for all method of commercial travel. I do not know how many times I got bumped up to first class by being dressed business casual and by being polite and courteous to the ticket agents. I would take the bump on full flights and would almost always get more than what they promised on the voucher and get bumped up to first class.

41 Matthew Herrmann November 22, 2012 at 9:42 am

Good article overall, but I have to disagree with the rationale behind rule #2 (Being civil to the staff).

When I receive a bad meal from a waiter, I don’t take my frustrations out on the waiter, but I don’t accept the meal as it stands: I send it back. And if needed I go and talk to the chef, hostess, manager, or restaurant owner. I maintain a sense of civility and respect throughout the entire confrontation but I will not accept things as they stand.

The problem with the airline industry is that the great “meal” is the rare exception, and the norm is to be treated like an idiot. The policies in place, carried out by the staff, are dehumanizing, greedy,insulting and wrong. This is more akin to a restaurant where the waiters are told to spit in your food before serving it, and then prevent you from sending back the dish. The counter employees are tacit participants in the whole greedy fiasco that is contemporary flying.

We all complain about flying. However, being a gentleman, means more than just exemplifying good behavior; it also means confront the systemic wrongs that prevent all of us from enjoying life. If I have to ruffle a few feathers at the counter to start the ball rolling so that no one else has to have a terrible experience, then so be it. If it saves the next ten people from a similar experience, then it was worth it.

42 Robert November 22, 2012 at 9:53 am

The cost of being a gentleman in an era of Walmart shoppers is high. The unwashed masses are so far from understanding the merits of baseline decency, let alone an award-winning display of courtesy, that each act is a spit in the ocean, if not something to be viewed with a degree of ridicule from others who have banded under one of many shared cultures of sad, self-centered, misguided values. The personal satisfaction of knowing that gentlemen can rise above the fray is almost Sisyphean and the acts themselves are as much for personal satisfaction as anything else. Early in my business career I was in a meeting where I was debating with the CEO and CFO of a company over a point of business ethics. A VP who was quietly sitting next to me tapped me on the arms and whispered “Rise above it.” It was one of the three the best pieces of business advice that I ever got. And so we must rise above it and set an example, understanding that others are not perceptive enough to appreciate it and hoping that something we do impresses a youngster who will assume the mantle.
As for alleviating the pains of air travel, thank goodness for executive lounges and upgrades. And please, if you are traveling with children who have even the smallest possibility of throwing a tantrum, accept the burden of a trip in coach. Chances are, you can get preferred seating. First class is a haven. Your burden shall pass.

43 Peter November 22, 2012 at 10:00 am

Wonderful post. I too fly A LOT (UA 1K and AA Gold at the same time). Because of the values I was raised with, I intuitively and routinely do 98% of the suggestions here, as all these things do come up often. It certainly does make the experience better. Sadly though it doesn’t overcome poor public behaviors from lack common sense or divergent civic values. I only hope setting an example influences someone else out there.

On giving up seats – okay to request a change but moving should never be demanded or expected of someone else. Agree that an equivalent or better seat should be offered to the person being asked to move. I hand pick my seats – researching them on, which rates every seat on every plane on every airline (check it out if you’ve never heard of this). No way I was giving up my hand picked aisle seat for the middle seat of a 22 y.o. girl who said “I have a major problem with vertigo on long flights and I’ll throw up if I can’t sit next to my boyfriend; do you want to be responsible for me throwing up?”. There are limits, even for a gentleman.

44 Marcus November 22, 2012 at 10:31 am

B&K–an excellent article. Practical and well thought through.

As someone who travels quite a bit … I’d love to see this article adopted and reproduced by all the major airlines and available as travelers’ information. ‘

45 joe November 22, 2012 at 11:42 am

I also make a rule of never reclining my seat when there is someone behind me. People are packed tighly enough on a plane without having a seat in their face. The slight advantage to the person reclining his seat does not justify the great discomfort to the person behind him. Given the trend of full planes, I don’t think airlines should install reclining seats any longer. They’re a vestige of more comfortable days.

46 Ted November 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm


Excellent post, I always enjoy your articles. If I may argue one aspect of your post- giving notice when you recline your chair. As a guy who is 6″ I’m not humongous or ever going to be called up to the Harlem Globe Trotters but when my fellow passenger in front of me reclines it’s my kneecaps that stop their decent not their seat. We’re all in the same tight quarters, extending your own small space at the sake the person behind you hardly seems the gentleman’s action.

47 Rachel November 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I read AoM daily, but out of respect for the fact this is a men’s site, I never comment – but I had to add something today.

I fly multiple times a year (because I’m a student) and I’d like to add a few things:

1. Just because you can recline, doesn’t mean you should – ever. I don’t care how tired you are, everyone is aware of how cramped space is on a plane, and reclining is a jerk move, ALWAYS.

2. If somebody in the aisle seat, on the row behind you has nothing in the overhead bins, let them go in front of you. It is infuriating when somebody who has brought too much luggage and has it spread out all over the plane in various overhead bins refuses to let those without baggage deplane before they go in search of their bags. Airlines should really seat people in this fashion – no carry-ons? First row. Nothing stored in overheads? Second row. Everyone else with their steamer trunks – back of the plane.

3. Have you things ready to go. Once your aisle is ready to deplane is not the time to finally figure out that you should gather your magazines, go through your purse, and pack up your half eaten snacks. If the pilot says “we’re landing in 20 minutes” start tidying up your area. While taxiing, make sure you have your jacket on, your book put away and that you have your connecting flight ticket ready to go.

48 Ken November 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Great article. I follow 90% of the ‘rules’ suggested & have had only one ‘hassle’, & that was when I did get a bit bloody minded.! I flew during ‘the Golden years’ & survived a number of ‘incidents’. As I live in Canada I have the ability to NOT fly in the U.S. most of the time, so life is a little easier at the airport & on the aircraft. The newer aircraft take us non-stop to most places, thus avoiding U.S. stops.
Here’s to a safe & less stressful holiday period, Happy Thanksgiving, America.

49 Mark November 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm

These tips are super, but apparently you’ve never traveled anywhere in Europe or Asia on low cost airlines. Lines? Waiting your turn to get off the flight?

Yeah, right.

50 Joe November 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Here’s a BIG gripe of mine! When getting out of your seat, is it necessary to shove your crotch or your backside into the face of your fellow traveller?

51 Ken Roberts November 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm

These are truisms for all time. I’m old enought to remember when the silverware, fine dining aspect were the watch word, but good manners are always appreciated! Even if you have been drinking, consider others! What if people were inconsiderate to YOU?

This is a wonderful piece, Boors have no place in today’s society! Let’s hope that we all subscribe to these theorems. Help make the world a better place.

52 RobCH November 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Gentlemen lift the seat, and aim with care.

53 Omar November 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm

@ Ryan,

That term must be used domestically because I fly out internationally constantly and have never heard the term “kettle.” Also I have not seen all of the “weaseling” you mention, and have never seen anyone flat up steal a seat. Again that may be a domestic flight issue.

Also @ Nicholas

The whole sense of seat entitlement is a very American mentality and you need to flush that out. Especially if you fly solo, you should be considerate towards others. No one is that careless when traveling in groups, especially constant travelers that they would not think to have all the seats together. (you aren’t the world’s first thinker there) In the days of the travel agent (for those who no longer use one) it was a little easier to manage the affair because the ticketing process was more intricate.

@ Any one who is scared or concerned of flying.

You have no reason to be. I am “randomly selected” if it’s ever necessary because of my name. I have been flying since the 80′s and have yet to find a reason why not to fly. If you are going to die, you are going to die. And there is no avoiding it, no matter what you think. Whether it be due to a plane crash or a mosquito giving you west-nile virus. Statistically speaking you have a less change of coming into any problem in the air than driving or being driven in a car/bus/van etc.

Finally to the Gentlemen out there. This is an article for tips on flying like Gentlemen. Be a nice guy, don’t be a douche, help others, because you will need the help right back sooner than you know. The best bit of advice, the “cherry on-top,” if you will, to this excellent article; REMEMBER, you AREN’T in first class, so don’t look down to your fellow coach riders as if you are.

54 Brett McKay November 22, 2012 at 6:53 pm


You are right! In trying to remember the story when writing this article, I had a really hard time — I could remember that it hinged on that guy saying he wouldn’t switch because he wanted a seat that reclined, but I couldn’t remember exactly what the configuration was that made that so. I thought I came up with how it went down, but you’re right it didn’t make sense! After I saw your comment, Kate and I spent an hour scratching our heads about it this morning — it was driving us nuts! Had to even scribble out a diagram to figure it out. And then we finally remembered what had actually happened…the guy in the seat across from Kate actually didn’t want to switch, but the guy sitting in the seat across from me was willing to switch. So Kate and Gus were going to move up to the second to last row, my row…if the guy right next to me agreed to move to the last row. But he didn’t. Hopefully that makes sense. Thanks for the catch.

As far as whether you should ever recline your seat at all, people debate that. I don’t do it myself, but I think it’s part of what you pay for and don’t mind if others do it to me….

55 Susie November 22, 2012 at 7:33 pm


In regards to cologne- please for the love of all that is holy, no! If you spray yourself liberally with your favorite scent, you might smell grand and manly, but you might get seated next to me. First my eyes will swell shut, my nose will leak, my lungs may or may not go into revolt and I will start sneezing uncontrollably. Not only will Miss Allergy Pants 2012 be miserable, but so will everyone around her- including you. Nobody wants to be in close quarters with a sneezing fit for the duration of the flight. A clean, well-scrubbed gentleman smells perfectly nice without additives.

56 John November 22, 2012 at 7:54 pm

One of the best bits of advice I ever recieved came a few months after Sept. 11… Whenever I fly, I always wear a sportcoat and trousers. While waiting in line at the security checkpoint, I place all articles (i.e. cell phone, keys, change, watch) into the pockets of the jacket. I simply lay the jacket flat in a bin and walk right through. There is no need to stand in line endlessly emptying all my pockets. After I go through security, I simply put the jacket back on and proceed down the concourse to my gate. Once at my gate, I can place al of my items back into the correct pockets.

57 novembertwentyeleven November 22, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Put your carry-on in the overhead compartment on the other side from your seat – you can keep an eye on it.

Wear comfortable and wrinkle-free clothes, comfortable shoes and bring your own socks.

Bring a long thick doubled cotton sheet on board. You can use it as a blanket, to cover your knees and legs, fold it up into a pillow for your head or back. And you can use it later as a sleeping bag, pillow sheet, laundry bag, and so on.

Pace yourself: maybe 1 hour for a nap, 1 hour for a read, 1/2 hour to stand and stretch yourself, 1 hour to watch the tv, and so on.

Hope they help.

58 beta_plus November 22, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Buy noise cancellation earphones: you not only can listen to your music at a lower volume and not annoy your neighbors, you’ll feel better when you arrive.

59 Thomas November 22, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Southwest is great for flexibility with seating, and not paying a fee to check a bag is a plus!

60 AJ November 22, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Regarding armrest etiquette:
The middle person gets both armrests. However, one of those armrests has my radio and movie volume. What do you do in this case? It is fair for them to have both armrests. But it’s awkward to ask them to move so you can plug in earphones or occasionally change the channel/volume.

61 DJ November 23, 2012 at 12:13 am

Love the pictures! Like a true gentlemen!

62 Nick Healy November 23, 2012 at 1:53 am

I wish more people would dress better during flying. You don’t need to go back as far as the golden days either. I remember flying as a kid in the early-80s that people would wash and wear their best clothes when flying. Its funny, but back then the men would all go to the front of the plane to smoke and I swear the plane still smelled better than they do now.

My other travel pet peeves have to do with carryon bags. You mentioned this in your article. I’ve seen people somehow carryon more baggage than I had checked-in. Furthermore, I find people who do this know what hassle they are causing since they always somehow get on first and manage to fill the overhead compartments, forcing the rest of us to put our laptops and coats under the seat in front of us.

I’ve given up my seat a few times for families and maybe its flight karma but I’ve always been rewarded (either getting a bump up to first class or having the row I move to become empty because the person who is suppose to sit next to me never turns up. That said, for the guy who just wants to sit with his girlfriend, I agree with the other poster who said the couple should give up the better seat. No one wants the middle.

63 Nick Healy November 23, 2012 at 2:05 am

You make a good point about how hard it is to travel with kids. I don’t have any myself but I do try to remember how challenging I was as a kid for other passengers. I was hyper so God help whoever was put in the seat in front of me. My mother told me that on one of my first flights I had to checkout all the safety gear (life jacket, barf bag, etc) to ensure it was all there. I guess I noticed that the man next to us didn’t have a life jacket under his seat and told my mom. She said he went crazy complaining to the stewardess about it.

Point is. People suffered my wrath. And that was with parents who cared and tried their best to handle me. I don’t think its too much for me to extend the same courtesy to other parents as they try and subdue their own little terrors.

64 jarcar November 23, 2012 at 8:52 am

Just don’t recline. Legroom is already cramped enough, so don’t ruin the trip for the person behind you by taking up what little space they have by reclining your seat.

65 Oddball November 23, 2012 at 9:23 am

I spend most of my flying time going to and from unpronounceable third world countries, so a lot of the above unfortunately doesn’t count.

Most of it is wedged between the great unwashed and stinking, the loudly snoring fat-bodies, the screaming and feral kids, the punchups at check in, the drunk aircrew, the hostile immigration Nazis, the passengers packing huge boxes of crap. The lot.

66 Trevor November 23, 2012 at 10:41 am

I just flew a few days ago and man… people, if you don’t have headphones turn your sound off. It’s very hard to read or sleep when you’ve forgotten headphones and the guy two seats down is playing angry birds with the sound all the way up. For two hours.

67 Gregory November 23, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Great post, Brett and Kate!

I adopted the practice of wearing a sport coat when flying after witnessing people in pajamas and filthy gym clothes milling about the airport — a slovenly and distasteful lack of self-respect for sure. At minimum, I’d say a man should have a button up shirt.

Being 6′ 7″ tall I have had my knees physically hurt by people not only reclining their seat but by getting a running start to slam the seat back without warning — not to mention one bent laptop screen that caught on the tray table latch. Grrr! So if I recline, I ask if the person behind me if he or she minds — usually they don’t — then I gently recline the seat only as far as necessary.

Also, if I sit on the aisle seat, or block anyone against the window for that matter, I always break the ice then tell them at the beginning of the flight that I am more than happy to stand up if they need or want to get out of their seat. It makes them feel less imposing for asking and it gives me more opportunities to stand and stretch.

68 rom November 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I fly like a classy ghetto person! I fly first class/business class and bring a backpacking backpack. People give me weird looks but I dont care!

69 Bailey S. November 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm

It’s not just electronics that can drive your fellow passengers crazy. The last flight I was on a lady a short distance away shuffled a deck of cards, loudly, for three hours straight while playing solitaire.

Also, if you have trouble sitting still for whatever reason, try to get a seat at the front, or at least don’t kick the seat in front of you throughout the entirety of a redeye flight. Or get snippy when the poor sucker in front of you asks you nicely to stop.

70 Mark W November 23, 2012 at 10:39 pm

A couple things I have learned-

Always take a carry on, regardless of why not.

In it, you should carry:
A. Toiletries, undergarments, any bathroom necessities should the unthinkable happen, and your flight is bumped. If you have the misfortune of spending the night, at least you don’t have to add insult to injury by flying the next day without being “fresh”.

B. A power strip. Notice how few extra outlets there are in the airports from the “pre-data using cell phone” era. Turn the fight for an outlet into a crowd pleaser by not only asking to share the already used outlet, but also allowing/offering others to plug their devices in as well.

C. Light snack foods. Nuts, raisins, etc. No sense paying $7.99 for a $1.99 bag of trail mix from the airport. Plus, with it in your carry on, it’s already with you on your peanut less flight.

71 Hunter November 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Get a travel blazer with multiple pockets. You can put everything you need in the pockets, and what you can’t put in the pockets, you put in the carryon. Instead of emptying your pockets and making sure nothing is in there, you just have to slip off the coat and then slip it back on. It is very nice. I got mine from LL Bean and it can be worn in fairly worn temperatures, it is wrinkle free, and is at a very reasonable price. Also wear slip on shoes like Chelsey boots.

72 Tate November 24, 2012 at 1:23 am

I think @Stephen said it best (comment 39).

Gentlemen don’t put up with TSA security theater. Just look at the character in the cartoon: having to take off his shoes makes him look like a chump.

@Marcus W

I just got back from Thailand, flying through Bangkok and Seoul. There, one is not forced to take off his shoes or belt (however, Korean security took my nail clipper, which the Thai didn’t). I was embarrassed upon getting back to the States and seeing how visitors were treated by Customs and TSA after my friend and I were treated so hospitably by the Thai and Koreans. A TSA agent actually called a small Asian boy “retard.” Maybe it was petty of me, but I was very happy to hear that TSA agent say that this job made him want to beat his head against the wall. I can only hope that all the people who choose to take a job that dehumanizes his fellow man will not find it to be pleasant.

73 Kevin November 24, 2012 at 2:03 am

I’ve lurked here for a while, but I have to add my $0.02 to this (good) article.

Luckily, I’m blessed. I conk out pretty instantly on airplanes, before we leave the gate, no drugs required (maybe a copy of Skymall, sometimes). I wake up for takeoff, meal service and landing — doesn’t matter how long the flight is – LAX to SYD or ATL to MEM – which class I’m in or how many babies, seat kickers, seat spillers or recliners I get.

But some general suggestions (most based off of personal experience):

1. Don’t bring smelly/greasy (or loud) food on the plane. Nobody wants to smell concentrated McDonalds or Panda Express at 30k feet.

2. Don’t perfume yourself. You’re in a metal tube and the only way people want to smell you is “not at all”.

3. You can’t “democratize” the window and vote that it be open/closed – it doesn’t work that way. Person on the aisle gets easy access to the aisle. Person on the window gets control of the window. Person in the middle gets the armests.

4. Never recline your seat, ever.

5. Like others (John Mayson) have mentioned, the people who go through security the easiest are people who have their act together and act like seasoned travelers. Don’t have anything in your pockets (put it all in your carry on or coat) and take off your shoes. Don’t respond to the TSA people unless asked a question or given an order. Take a tray for your computer and a tray for your coat and shoes. If you have the time/feel like it, opt for the pat down. Or don’t. Let them run the conveyor back and forth, let them make sure your liquids are in a clear 1 quart bag (don’t bring any beverages/full size anything!), surrender your coffee or whatever if asked, let them swab your soft drink in the terminal, etc. Try not to feel bad that someone with mall cop qualifications is determining the safety of air travelers.

There are times to be strong and times to yield. If all you do is resist during your trip, you’re going to enter into an endless cycle of pissing yourself off, become one of those people who “hate flying” (in a dramatic voice) and may come out sounding like Stephen/gents don’t fly.

74 Jeff Williams November 24, 2012 at 7:56 am

I’ll add a couple of points.

1. If you’ve got electronics (cell phone, laptop, etc), make sure they are charged sufficiently so that you can turn them on for the security folks – some places want to see your electronics work.

2. Always carry a pen, particularly on international flights where you will likely have to fill out paperwork for customs.

3. Note that reclining seats need not recline the whole way. I have a bad back. Reclining my seat a few centimeters makes a huge difference to me but generally won’t make a huge difference to the person behind me.

75 Ken November 24, 2012 at 8:37 am

Pleeeeeease, If you have a flatulance problem take a train or a ship .I just spent 14 hrs from Asia to JFK, on a plane where the guy in front of me farted continuosly for the ENTIRE flight. Even the Flight attendants were gagging !..

76 Chris D. November 24, 2012 at 12:33 pm

If you are the one traveling with very small children, this site has some great tips and tricks. Scroll to the bottom for previous posts on the subject.

77 Joanna November 24, 2012 at 9:56 pm

There are some caveats for swapping seats with members of separated couples/families. These days some seats cost more than others, even though they’re all in economy class. Also, my husband has often been asked to give up his seat in these circumstances, but at 6′ 5″, he really cannot sit in the middle or window seats. He actually books around aisle or emergency exit row availability for that reason.

78 Ben A. November 24, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I travel by air about 80% of the year and think the following items are incredibly important…

1) Wear socks…Holy Jaaaysus (via Frank McCourt) wear socks.
2) Keep your toiletry bag in your carry-on for flights with one or more layovers…It keeps you going to freshen up a bit between flights and your seat mates will appreciate the effort.
3) ALWAYS bring a bottle of cold water (if you are on a budget carry an empty bottle through security and fill at the fountain) and a pack of gum. I suffer from terrible motion sickness but this really helps me be productive on flights.

79 Mike November 25, 2012 at 12:20 am

If you must use a seat belt extender, book early enough to get an aisle seat or buy an extra ticket. There is also the much healthier alternative of use that as motivation to get in shape.

80 Nebuly November 25, 2012 at 10:34 am

Good advice about standing back at the baggage carousel. Not only do you (and everyone else) get a better view of the bags as they come round, you stand less chance of getting kneecapped by someone as they grab their bag and swing it sideways to heave it over the lip.

Also, if you’re not reading/working, please turn your overhead light off, particularly on night flights where the cabin lights have been dimmed.

81 Horace November 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I am a recovering Process Engineer. What I don’t understand is why we passengers don’t order ourselves before we board. It would be a simple matter for us to look at our seat assignments in the waiting area, and sit at appropriate distances from the plane; back rows closest to the gate, front rows furthest. That way, each row enters in order and nobody has to wait to get by someone sitting forward of them. There is really no reason to hurry onto the plane. We’ll all take off at the same time.

82 Andrew November 26, 2012 at 8:11 am

I fly usually two times a year and learned that my “programmers slouch” was working against my comfort on a flight. I’ve since made a concerted effort to keep my head against the headrest, which has made people reclining seats in front of me a lot more bearable.

Also, certain airlines seem to cater to the “Wal Mart Passengers” more than others. I’m not going to call out which ones, but that “Wal Mart” airline has constantly had rude passengers and staff to go along with the delays I’ve experienced with them and the discomfort of less legroom (and I’m not tall). I guess sometimes flying like a gentleman can include booking a ticket with an airline that isn’t the “Wal Mart of the Skies”.

83 Adam R November 26, 2012 at 9:40 am

Although it is briefly touched on with the “Be Civil” segment, I think another key part of flying is Expect Trouble. It is very rare when a trip to the airport runs perfectly. There always seems to be delays or another sort of inconvenience. Smiling and being friendly really does make a huge difference. It is not the gate agent that canceled the flight or booked you on the wrong flight. Learning to roll with the punches really does work! Just last week I booked a flight home on the wrong day, ruining my Thanksgiving travel day. Instead of being a jerk or complaining, I joked at my misfortune and mistake and received a free ticket change (a $150 value) along with a credit because the new flight was cheaper than the original.

84 KambizAmini November 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Great article! It should be read by many more people. The most important issue with it comes to flying is comfortability in all respects. For example not buying the cheapest ticket just for saving money: You get what you pay for.

85 Michael M. November 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Yes, it certainly pays to dress well, have a cool and friendly attitude, and respect everyone at the airport. I’ve flown without a proper govt issued ID without hangup, at least partially because I had the right attitude with security. More recently, I accidentally left a pistol magazine loaded with seven .45 caliber bullets in my carry-on, which was quickly spotted by security. I was pulled aside and had to speak with law enforcement, but I was polite and well dressed and was only delayed for maybe 10 minutes.

As far as I am concerned, the TSA should be abolished but I don’t allow my belief to lead me to being disrespectful.

As for looking like a chump going through security, what you must focus on is staying dignified and graceful during a rather awkward scenario. When it comes time to take off my shoes, I do it calmly and I deliberately wear boots that lace up high. I step aside and allow people to go in front of me as I unlace, and then I calmly enter the scanning machine and assume the Hands Up position. After the scan is complete, I smile at the screener and wish them a good day. A gentleman is a gentleman even towards his political opponents.

86 Ben C November 26, 2012 at 3:07 pm

This is a great article, Brett and Kate! One thing that I would like to add (and I believe it was mentioned earlier in the comments), while the airlines have started charging for checked baggage, more people are trying to carry everything on. If you’re one of those people, and are forced to place your luggage in the overhead containers that are located further in the back of the plane, when departing the plane after the flight, WAIT for everyone to get off the plane before you have to backtrack to hunt down your luggage. On my most recent flight a couple weeks ago, a couple plowed their way to the back of the plane to retrieve their luggage, and back again. If it is only a couple of rows back, feel free to ask someone behind you if they’d pass it up, but please don’t inconvenience everyone on the plane (and before anyone asks, this was a final destination, last flight of the evening, they weren’t making a connecting flight).

87 MJ November 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Great article and great comments! I’d like to add a few things I’ve noticed, as well.
1. Fly Asian. Seriously, any airline based out of Eastern Asia has a high standard of service and also more leg room. (The added leg room means I don’t feel guilty reclining during a 9+ hr redeye flight.) The flight attendants are multi-lingual, and all announcements are in English and the language of the country of origin and/or destination. I was frankly horrified, after flying Asian airlines, to find myself aboard an American-run flight from Seoul to S.F. where the non-Korean-speaking flight attendants tried to communicate in English with the non-English-speaking Koreans by speaking LOUDLY and S-L-O-W-L-Y. *shudders*

2. On a number of aircraft, the sides of the back of the headrest fold in, creating a way to rest your head comfortably (I think that even neck pillows give me cricks in my neck, and these headrests keep my neck unbent.)

88 007 November 27, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Here’s a tip, buy first class.

89 Joe November 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Having not flown for over a decade, and taking my first from a poorly marked municipal airport, there was not much guidance as to what was required for by the TSA. Not that the TSA agent would know this, but there was still no excuse for his attitude when I didn’t put each and everything in its own little bucket.

That being said, on my return flight, the fellow I was seated next to was one of those that rush the gate when boarding is started. Even with my not flying much recently, I knew how to find my seat and that it would be there. However, when I got to it, the portly fellow I was sitting next to had made himself quite comfortable. I’d estimate he weighed about as much as I do, but being shorter had more girth. One of the ways he had to make himself comfortable was to raise the armrest between the seats and spill over onto mine. Yes, they are smallish seats that neither of us fit into fairly well, but I thought it a bit rude of him to gain more space by invading mine.

As soon as the beverage service started, and he bolted for the lavatory, I put it back down. He was a bit dismayed when he returned and saw it, but that didn’t stop him from trying to slide under it when he sat back down.

90 TurboKnickers November 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Be wealthy enough to fly at least, Business Class, then you don’t have to have anything to do with those awful, working-class plebs!

91 John November 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

What’s the consensus on etiquette for overweight flyers? Should they purchase two seats if they can’t fit in one? I have had to sit next to some gigantic people who are insistent that I raise my armrest to allow them extra room. I refused on all three occasions, as I paid for my seat and I have wide shoulders myself. Is it gentlemanly to stand up for yourself in this position?

92 Chris November 28, 2012 at 10:59 am

I highly recommend that everyone look into credit cards with flight benefits. I personally have an AMEX that not only gives me points, but when I use my associated frequent flier number gives me not only priority boarding so that I dont have to fight the pack to seat but also a free checked bag for each person on my itinerary. Its so much easier to go through security when you only have to worry about a jacket and a laptop bag.

93 Paul November 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm

It must be considered good manners to remove papers and other rubbish when disembarking the plane. Walking off the plane you often see a trail of destruction where passengers left blankets, papers, magazines all over the floor. Very inconsiderate to the cleaning crew in my opinion.

94 john November 30, 2012 at 12:55 am

I agree, there is not room for any reclining in economy class seats, very humerous when they say “sit back and relax”! Most airlines encourage at the gate baggage check in, no overhead baggage and no extra cost.

95 Gil November 30, 2012 at 4:16 pm

“Believe me, a little kindness and cooperation goes a long, long way.”

Best sentence in this entire post. That goes from the minute you enter the airport until the time you leave the airport of your destination. Things are going to go wrong. Being a jerk towards those who can make your trip pleasant or miserable will NOT help.

96 Rory November 30, 2012 at 10:20 pm

I can’t blame the guy who wouldn’t swap to the non-reclining rear seat Brett. I’d be happy to swap to any seat to put a couple together except the rear row…

To the people in the comments saying people shouldn’t recline, apply a little logic: if you lose space when the person in front reclines, you get it back again when you recline your own seat. The only loser is the very last row in the plane (and yes, I’ve been that loser).

I ALWAYS recline my seat for every allowable minute, and would NEVER consider keeping it upright. The difference in comfort is absolutely massive; like night and day.
Just recline yours and stop complaining.

97 Brad December 2, 2012 at 10:11 am

If you’re trying to find a seat with your small children, and there are no other options, I will consider changing seats with you. But if it is just because you want to sit with your wife, I am likely not going to move. Sorry, but adults can be separated for a few hours and there is a reason I picked my seat. Either book two seats together or, if you’re flying Southwest, get online early enough to both be in the A section. I hate it when someone who has a C boarding pass thinks the rest of us are going to move so he can sit with his wife for two hours.

Finally, turn your damn electronic devices off. Don’t just turn them around so the screen is not visible. I sat next to a young man (late teens/early 20′s) one time who both at landing and takeoff apparently heard “turn off all electronic devices” as “take out your iPad and start playing a game until the flight attendant taps you on the shoulder”… idiot.

Finally, be nice to the airline staff, TSA agents, and other passengers. It’s amazing how going in with a positive attitude affects your overall enjoyment of the flight.

98 Moeregaard December 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm

1. Bathe, use deodorant and dress nicely. As your mother once said, “You might meet someone.”
2. Arrive early. Dealing with the ticket agent and security people is a lot easier if you’re not in a hurry, and it makes their jobs easier.
3. Pack a spare shirt, socks and underwear in your briefcase or backpack. The trick is to carry on only those items you’ll need to get through the next 24 hours, should your checked bag get lost. I’ve even used my camera bag for this purpose. Think bug-out bag minus the weapons.
4. Be nice to the TSA folks. Their purpose is to keep some jihadist from turning 300 people into a bunch of DNA-flavored marmalade at the bottom of a smoking crater–not make your life miserable. I’ve checked firearms and these people were extremely helpful when I did everything possible to make their jobs easier. They even taped all the latches on my gun cases at my request.
5. Relax.

99 Sebastian December 3, 2012 at 2:24 am

I disagree with helping people with their luggage – there’s a reason why flight attendants don’t do it – people pack their bags with too much heavy junk. I’m not going to risk my back or my joints just because you decided to take your entire collection of lead ingots in your carry-on. You pack it, you stack it.

100 Halvard December 3, 2012 at 8:39 am

I don’t work in an airport, but I do work in service, and the first thing about being polite to the workers is so important..I mean hate to spoil this, but if we like you we do a LOT more to help you, make you happy, etc. than if you’re an ass to us. Same applies to really any customer side service.
Short Version: Service personel are there to serve you, not be your personal slaves for the duration of the flight. This is where we work, do you want me to come into your office, treat you like crap, and leave wrappers everywhere?
(And before you say ‘but it’s your job to clean up after us’ your office again, do you leave garbage on the floor because it’s the Janitor’s job to clean up after you?)

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