Top 5 – Airport Etiquette

Please Note: This post is an oldie but a goodie that we’ve brought back for your conversational enjoyment!


Holiday travel is in full effect and after traveling through 15 airports this fall for the GovUp tour I was obligated to face my traveling pet peeves. In every airport it amazed me how impatient we have become.

Here are 5 tips to happy traveling:

1) Board with patience. The plane is not going to leave without you (if you are standing there waiting to board). It’s inappropriate to roll over toes or cut people off in effort to get to your seat first.

2) Deplane with courtesy. Everyone is going to get off the plane, do it with courtesy. Allow the row in front of you to deplane first. Plowing past them is not only frustrating but rude. If they decline to deplane after you offered that is ok.

3) Help someone out. If you see someone struggling to hoist their luggage into the overhead compartment, provide a helping hand. Some bags are heavy, some people are too short and many are just not strong enough…be kind and help.

4) Security Line Kindness. Nobody enjoys the process, but it is for our safety…we all have to do it. Patience is a virtue and it is appreciated during this process. People travel with computers, liquids, shoes and this time of year coats…allow the people in front of you the space and time to properly get through security.

5) Enhance relationships. If you are traveling alone and someone wants your seat to sit with their spouse or child, let them. Most of the time you end up in a better seating situation (karma).

There are a million other tips to happy airport traveling. I found the power of foursquare to be very useful during my travels. Not only do you get the jetsetter badge after 5 airport check-ins but you can find great places to eat, quick security lines, free wifi areas and neat airport trivia by reading the tips once you have “checked-in”.

What are some other airport etiquette tips or suggestions?

Hope you have safe travels!

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Lauren Modeen

Nice post! It’s amazing how people go into crazy offensive or defensive mode at the airport. It brings the worst out in many…

As for the “rolling over toes.” Hahaha. This happened to me last weekend. I was wearing flats. No apology. Sheesh! Good reminder that we all need to chill out, and when behave well, it goes a long, long way.

George Danilovics

Figured I would share a post my friend did on Facebook as some travel tips… the one that’s probably most valuable I think is knowing what alternate flights & airports that you can suggest to agents doing your rebooking.

Chris Splet’s Holiday Travel Tips
.by Chris Splet on Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 7:02pm.Having just come off a whirlwind tour of multiple flights on multiple airlines, I offer these travel tips that could help your Holiday air travel go just a little bit smoother should something go wrong:

1) Know your options: Whenever you fly, and particularly if you have a connection, it is always good to have a backup plan (or two) should something go wrong. Knowing what your alternatives are ahead of time and being able to present those to the agent can make your re-booking process much easier. While most legacy airlines can rebook you on another carrier, Southwest will not and many other low-cost carriers have limited inter-airline agreements. Check flightstats.com and seatcounter.com to find out who is flying where and if there are seats available.

2) Be Flexible: Your flight to National is canceled and there are no seats available for the rest of the day? Suggest BWI or Dulles. You’d be surprised how many agents don’t realize how close these airports are to each other, and won’t instinctively check those options.

3) Have your airline’s reservations number handy: This is a really simple but important tip. Many airlines’ reservations agents can rebook you over the phone. While the 150 other people on your canceled flight are waiting in the customer service line you may be able to call and rebook over the phone, snagging that last available seat that you wouldn’t have gotten if you had to wait 45 mins in line.

4) Sign up for your airline’s mobile flight notifications or check flight status in advance: Knowing in advance of impending trouble can save you lots of headache down the road. In some cases, airlines know of delays or cancellations well in advance (though not always). When you get that notification, call reservations and rebook over the phone. If you wait until you get to the airport, the seat you need may already be gone.

5) When in doubt, hang up and try again: The airlines collectively employ hundreds of thousands of people. Because of this, you are bound to encounter people with varying degrees of skill, professionalism and enthusiasm. If you are talking to someone that you think is being less than helpful, or that gives you an answer you don’t think is correct, hang up and try someone else (or at the airport, find another agent). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by one person “sorry, that’s not possible” only to call back and get someone else that says “of course, let me help you with that.” If you get the same answer two or three times, then they are probably correct.

6) Don’t check a bag: I know for a lot of people this is sacrilege and that there are cases where you don’t have a choice. But if you’re on the fence and can avoid it, or if the weather looks iffy along your planned route, try not to check a bag. There are many instances where agents are far more willing to rebook you if they don’t have to deal with trying to locate your luggage among the hundreds of other bags on the delayed flight.

7) Lastly and most importantly, BE NICE: Irregular operations can test anyone’s patience and agents have to deal with all kinds of angry travelers that like to take out their frustrations on the employee. You will get SO MUCH FURTHER with kindness and a warm smile than anger and attitude. Instead of a gruff “my flights been canceled, you need to get me home.” Try “Hi, my flights been canceled and I’m hoping you can help me get home today.”

With these tips, consider these two scenarios of a person flying Omaha-Chicago-DC/National this coming Sunday, whose Chicago-DCA flight has been canceled while en route from Omaha:

Scenario 1 – Uninformed Traveler: Arrives at Chicago O’Hare (ORD) walks off the plane and heads to the gate of their next flight. Once there, they see that the flight has been canceled and the gate agent is directing everyone to customer service. They arrive at customer service to find the line snaking down the terminal. They wait, and finally reach the counter after 45 mins. The conversation:

Traveler: My flight to National has been canceled and I need to get home

Agent: Ok …[tap tap tap]…The next available seat to DCA is at 730 tomorrow morning.

Traveler: There’s nothing sooner?

Agent: Sorry, nope.

Traveler: Ok [takes tickets for tomorrow and walks off]

Scenario 2 – Informed Traveler: Lands at ORD and as the plane exits the runway turns on their cell phone; they get a text saying their next flight is canceled. As the plane taxies in, they call reservations. The conversation:

Traveler: Hi, I’m currently en-route from Omaha to DCA via Chicago, but my 430 flight to DCA’s been canceled and I’m hoping you can help rebook me.

Agent: Ok …[tap tap tap]…The next available seat to DCA is at 730 tomorrow morning.

Traveler: Hmm…are there any seats on the 515 to Dulles?

Agent: Nope, sorry.

Traveler: What about the 520 to Baltimore?

Agent: Yes, there’s a seat available, you want to do that instead? You understand that you’ll be on your own to get to DC?

Traveler: That’s fine, I’ll take BWI.

Agent: You’re all set; see the agent at B14 for your new boarding pass.

Traveler: Thanks, I’ll head there as soon as I get off the plane [gets home only marginally later than planned].

Megan Price

@George thanks for sharing. It’s been a while since I’ve been bumped so in due time these tips will be very helpful! Main point: Stay calm and respectful – the airline employees are not to blame for the plane delay or cancellation they are there to help you get to your destination 🙂

Stephen Peteritas

Watch what you say when you talk to people… have some tack. Remember it’s close quarters and people really can’t get away from you or not hear you if they don’t want to so don’t talk about things that are inappropriate or could be taken as offensive.

Marco Morales

If you’re sitting in a pre-boarding waiting area and enjoying a snack/drink, ensure you dispose of it properly. Many people just tend to leave their food wrappers on seats or leave their drinks half consumed at bottom of seats leaving them open for others to hit with their shoe tips and spill on the carpeting. Newspapers also tend to accumulate quite a bit. Have some consideration for others…

Patt Franc

Great tips everyone! I find that a little humor goes a long way. No sense worrying about things you cannot control or change, so do be so serious and do enjoy the trip! On a recent round of trips, I had a piece of luggage that was very close to the 50# limit when I left home so I feared it was over on the return. Setting out a big smile and $5 dollar bill on the curbside check in counter with my photo ID seemed to do the trick. Luggage tagged, not weighed! WIN WIN situation for me and the curbside attendant!

Paul Lemieux

Great suggestions, and kindness goes a long way. But we shouldn’t have to tolerate rudeness from other folks. Traveling is stressful. There should be some others as well including:

– don’t wear perfume or strong cologne
– realize that there are a lot of people behind you so don’t waste their time. get your stuff onto the conveyor belt quickly. have your boarding pass and id ready. take your laptop out of the case.
– when you get on the plane put your stuff away and sit down
– when you are in line put your cell phone and blackberry away. they are causes of traffic jams on the road and in the airport.
– this is America. we drive on the right side of the road. do the same thing when you are walking down a crowded airport concourse. don’t stop abruptly while walking.
– in the gate area make your children sit down and shut up. traveling is stressful enough without your brood running amok in our vicinity. we find them neither cute nor entertaining.
– i am a person. i have more of a right to sit in that chair in the gate area than your coat and/or suitcase.

Victoria A. Runkle

When putting your luggage in overhead think about the people around you. I don’t need to be hit in the head or worse. Don’t worry you are going to get it in.

Kathleen Schafer

Great ideas–not only do I travel tens of thousands of miles a year, I too believe that the way to change the world is through our own actions. Gone are the days of racing up to the gate at the last possible moment–my current view is to arrive for my flight with plenty of time for security and boarding snafus. With technology being what it is, I have can get a bit of work done before boarding with my “extra” time and then I can enjoy being unplugged for a few hours!!

Carol Davison

Bring a book, granola bar and bottle of water for each passenger. Use the restroom when you see it. You don’t know when you will next have access.

Airplane cabin pressure hurts babies’ ears which makes they cry. Help their parents out by holding, feeding, playing with the baby. I’m pretty sure you used to be a baby too.

Have a great holiday everyone!

Jaime Gracia

When you go through the security line, please take your bins and get out of the line. Really frustrating when bins get backed up because people are putting their shoes and belts back on, in the line, then leaving their bins. My bins with my items gets stuck and I can’t reach it. Take your things, and get out of the line people.

When finished, bring the bins back. Don’t leave them all over the security line. I have given up my seat several times, but common courtesy dictates a “thank you.” I just did something considerate for you, and you can’t even say “thank you?”

Interesting timing of this point, as I encountered instances of people breaking all 5 “reminders” two days ago. Safe travels all, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Tom Melancon

If your flight gets cancelled and you need to reschedule a flight, treat the people at the airline ticket counter with dignity and respect. They did not cause the problem, and they are usually under extreme pressure to rebook passengers on other flights. I have been upgraded to First Class a couple of times simply becuase I smiled at the ticket agent and showed them common courtesy.

Megan Price

I agree Tom, I was upgraded on my return trip from Ireland for being patient and nice. They are doing all they can to help you out — they did order up the bad weather or mechanical implications.

Also, if you find yourself in this position…let them know if you are willing to fly out of a nearby airport (in DC area we have 3) — they can get you to your destination if you are flexible and or desperate. Side story…though it was a pain…because I stayed calm and kind, I made it to Dublin the day all flights were not going anywhere and things were looking gloomy. I took a journey from DCA to LaGuardia then cabbed it over to JFK to grab a plane to Dublin — all in all it worked out great as the Air Lingus planes are far more cozy than the US Airways planes.