5 things frequent fliers wish you knew (but are afraid to tell you)

By | January 18th, 2016

Experienced business travelers are the road warriors of the sky, and with so many miles under their belts, there are a few lessons they’ve picked up along the way. And there are some things they really, really, wish casual leisure travelers knew.

1. The person in the middle gets the armrest.

Sitting in the middle is not fun for anyone. The unspoken rule of the sky is that whoever has to sit in the middle should have priority access to the armrests. The folks in the aisle and the window seats have their own armrests to use on the other side. If you are in an aisle or window seat and you’re hogging the middle armrests, the person in the middle really, really, hates you. It’s just rude.

2. If you find yourself in the TSA PreCheck line, do not take off your shoes or belt, and do not remove your liquids or your laptop.

TSA supposedly ended the managed inclusion program, but every time I fly I find newbies in the PreCheck line holding up what is supposed to be a faster, hassle-free process by trying to take their shoes off or remove their bag of liquids. Then the TSA agents waste more time explaining the rules. Please, please, read up on current security rules before you embark for the airport. Bonus tip: even the regular security process is a bit different in Europe.

3. If you’re sitting in the first row in economy, both of your carry-on bags have to go in an overhead bin.

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If you’re sitting in the first row of the economy section, you may notice that there is no “seat in front of you” under which to put your smaller carry-on. If my experience is any indication, most people try to put their bags on their lap. Yes, I know you probably planned to access your bag in-flight. Yes, I know it’s inconvenient to put it up top. Yes, you have to anyway. Don’t wait for the flight attendant to ask if you really have to put it up there. Put that bag up top. You can get it once the plane reaches cruising altitude and the captain turns off the seat belt sign.

4. Under no circumstances should you place your bag in an overhead bin towards the front of the plane if you are seated in the back. And there’s a proper way to put your bag in.

Overhead bin space is precious real estate. Believe me, I know. That doesn’t give you an excuse to stick your bag in the first open bin you see while on your way to your seat in row 35. It forces people towards the front of the plane to have to store their bags in the back of the plane where yours should be — and that means they have to wait for everyone to deplane after the flight in order to get to their bag. That’s rude. Furthermore, check first if your bags go in wheels first to maximize the number of bags in the bin. It doesn’t go in sideways. Be courteous and conscientious of how much space your bag is taking up. If it doesn’t fit, check it.

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5. Some people really don’t want to chit chat. Know your audience.

Have you ever heard the expression “read the room”? This couldn’t be more important than on a plane. Sure, the temptation is high to commiserate with your seat mates if you’ve had a few delays and a few more cocktails. Or maybe you just like to get to know new people. Maybe your seat mate wants to chat, too, and you’ll become lifelong friends. Or, more likely, your seat mate just wants some peace and quiet. Read your audience — is the person trying to put in headphones? Are they leaning away? Closing their eyes? Giving one-word answers to your questions? Not reciprocating questions? Then they don’t want to talk. This is especially true for business travelers. Give them the courtesy of a quiet flight.

Frequent travelers — what else do you wish less experienced travelers knew? What tips can you share to convert them to seasoned pros and make the flying experience better for everyone?

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