When navigating airports and planes these days — especially in the age of overpacked flights, and post-9/11 security screenings — it's easy to differentiate the amateurs from the professionals. And no matter how often you travel, acting like a newbie will only enrage the undulating sea of fast-moving passengers around you — so don't do it. Here's what to avoid:
1. Arriving and checking in
Being prepared for your trip starts before you even get to the airport. Airport check-in lines are long and getting longer, so save a ton of time so get ready before you get to the facility. “Failing to check-in for your flight [is an amateur move],” says international etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer. Failing to download your boarding pass in your smartphone the day prior to travel is an efficiency miss, too. And to access it without difficulty, make sure your phone battery is charged.
Trying to travel with banned items is as big an amateur move as you can make. “Being unprepared is the major flying faux pas that causes the largest disruption,” says Schweitzer. Using TSA’s "Can I bring my…" app can greatly assist travels from neophyte to jet setter. Use it to find answers to unique questions including what types of liquids are banned, and even random stuff like if you can bring a cake on the plane.
If a conflict arises: Arguing with TSA awill expose you as an amateur. But that’s not all. Schweitzer says "loud cell phone ring tones in the security line or at TSA or in airport or [embarrassing] cell phone ring [tones], or speaking loudly on a cell phone" all bring your streamlined, savvy status down a peg among others around you.
In general, courteous travelers always win out in the Darwinian system of airport and airplane etiquette. Failing to pass an x-ray container to the next traveler or asking to cut into the security line because you’re late and may miss a flight is an amateur move, as is ferreting around haphazardly for your travel documentation.
If you have TSA Pre-check or Global Entry... well, you instantly look like (and are) a instant pro.
3. Dress for success
Sure, it may seem like a good idea to board that flight in glorified PJs, but it's not. “You never know if your fight will be delayed and there won’t be enough time to change for your meeting,” says Schweitzer. On the opposite end of the spectrum is those who are just way overdressed for the occasion. “While you may be Instagram ready, your fellow flyers don’t appreciate waiting for you to remove the 12 buckles on your shoes,” says Schweitzer — no matter how cute those shoes may be.
While considering clothes, don’t wear anything that will slow you down and hold the line up. What does this include? “Failing to remove pocket change, jewelry, belts, and shoes, multiple buckles on shoes, wearing multiple layers that need to be removed, heavy jewelry, or laced shoes," she says.
Packing mistakes can also brand you as an amateur flyer. “Packing the laptop where you need to hunt it down (like at the bottom of your weekender bag) is a poor [choice] and a time vampire since you need to pop it out at TSA,” says Schweitzer. Fellow passengers and TSA will observe as your belongings fall to the floor during your scrambled attempt to retrieve it — not a good look.
As an example, search the #CarryonShame tag on Instagram: The lineup of passengers with overpacked suitcases or too many carry-on bags will shame you into packing smart, and abiding airlines' dimension and weight guidelines.
In the boarding area, you'll likely spot three newbies: the over-payer, the complainer, and the non-listener.
“The over-payer is usually found purchasing overpriced drinks to replace what they tossed going through security. The complainer wants to let you know how much they spent on their flight, baggage check, and other hidden fees. The non-listener is too busy listening to music or watching a show to hear their flight zone being called, and the requests of the flight crew,” says Schweitzer.
Trying to cut ahead of your boarding zone or being in the way when your zone isn’t called yet is another amateur move that will really annoy your fellow passengers. So is holding up the line on the plane by trying to squeeze your carry-on bag in a tight overhead bin space just because it’s near your seat, or using up another chair in gate or tables for your belongings when people are standing.
6. In flight
On the plane, a survey reveals the most hated people are seat kickers, who edge out parents who appear to have no control of their unruly children.
“The seat-toucher needs to touch every seat while boarding or visiting restroom and the seat-yanker randomly pulls at the seat in front of them during the flight — and there’s always the notorious seat kicker [to round out the novices] in flight,” says Schweitzer.
But there’s other really bad moves, such as bringing fragrant food on board, aggressively reclining your seat, hogging the armrest, constantly getting up to walk, stretch, or use the restroom when you have the window seat — or being drunk on the flight.
Basically, just avoid fitting into any of the most-hated categories of people on planes and you should be OK.
Standing as soon as the plane lands is the final clue you’ve got no travel chill. “If you have an aisle seat and are immediately standing when it lands, reaching over passengers to retrieve your bag and bumping, jostling, or hurting them,” says Schweitzer. It’s also a bad move to not offer to help other passengers retrieve their bags, or to fail to allow passengers with close connections to disembark first, before you.
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