Flying the Not-So Friendly Skies: Airplane Etiquette

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I don’t know anyone who enjoys flying. Let me be more specific, I don’t know anyone who enjoys flying COACH. Sure it’s a hell of a lot more convenient then traditional transportation, but it’s been a long time since people flew in their Sunday best and flight attendants actually served you food for free. I recently made the trip out West to LA and was reminded why I wish the States had more efficient train routes that could take you cross country. Normally I combat the experience with a pre-flight cocktail, headphones and a long nap, but there was nothing I could do to avoid another heinous flying experience. You’d think I was Miss Manners by the way I fire off these diatribes about public decency and behavior. And after living in New York I should be hardened and have very little expectations when it comes to the general public. But I haven’t given up on humanity completely. So until I throw in the towel and move to a goat farm in Vermont, I’ll continue to call out my fellow Americans on their not-so democratic behavior.

Crossing the Line of Small Talk

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I’m not a total Grinch when it comes to making idle small talk. There’s the usual where are you traveling to, blah, blah, blah. But when the conversation turns from the casual to the Maury style confessional, that’s when the headphones go on and I stop answering. On my most recent flight, I had a women ask me if I had any kids, I answered then she proceeded to tell about her entire life story complete with two alcoholic ex-husbands, her “accidental” pregnancy when she was 21 and how I just HAD to meet her son, who was a thespian in Queens. Apparently the whole trying to read wasn’t stopping her and she just kept going until I closed by eyes and compacted myself into a ball near the window. Maybe it was because she lived in the countryside and didn’t get her needed allotment of human interaction, but there were only so many “yeps” and “uh-huh’s” I could politely muster up. An airplane is not summer camp and we were not bunk-mates, so there is no need to try and become Besties with the person you share a seat with.


We’ve all been there. Just as you settle into your seat, the distinct sound of a high pitched tortured squeal is released and you know it’s going to be a very very long flight. While crying babies on the plane never fail to annoy everyone around them, my heart also goes out the parents who have to deal with angry stares and loud audible sighs from their fellow passengers. They don’t want the baby to cry and no matter what you do, if a baby wants to cry it’s going to ball its eyes out for as long as it wants. The people who are more deserving of  criticism are those who make nasty remarks to the parents or complain to the flight attendants. A friend of mine witnessed a younger man turn around in his seat and ask the mother of a cooing baby if she “had anything to put in that kid’s mouth to shut him up?” just as the flight was taking off.  God invented ear plugs for a reason, so I suggest traveling with them instead of berating sleep-deprived parents.

Luggage Assistance

Now that airline companies charge for practically everything except for oxygen masks, people are trying to cram in 3 weeks worth of luggage into the tiny overhead bins. Most of the time I have no problem hoisting all my stuff into those things but once in awhile my frail, hungover arms will give out and I’m left to struggle solo with my bag. It’s not that I’m traveling with Louis Vuitton steamer trunks, I just sometimes need some gentlemanly assistance which seems to be in short supply these days. I’m not saying that chivalry is dead, it just doesn’t exist on Delta anymore. I find it painful to watch others tireless try to lift more than their own body weight above their head so I always try to help out when I can. I can only hope that others will also feel pity when they watch me topple backwards and crush someone’s baby seated nearby.


Maybe I just have chronic bad luck, but there’s been a number of times where I’ve had people spill on me while I was sleeping. The most recent was when I woke up and there was cranberry juice in my shoe and all over my seat. I realize that accidents happen but it would be nice to tell me what butterfingers was up to while I snooze away. Another time I was the victim of a very powerful sneeze so when I woke up, I was the new owner of my seatmate’s chewed gum on my shoulder. I don’t think she didn’t notice, but was maybe too embarrassed to tell me. Let’s just say I sleep with one eye open from now on. And if you’re gonna get crazy with the beverage service, try and keep your neighbor dry in the process.

I know griping about air travel seems like the most annoyingly bourgeois thing to do, but I don’t think I’m asking too much. When I start to get dramatic about it, I just remember what comedian Louis C.K says,

” Flying is the worst one because people come back from flights and they tell you their story. And it’s like a horror story. They act like their flight was, like, a cattle car in the ’40s in Germany. That’s how bad they make it sound. Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going, “Oh my God! Wow!” You’re flying. You’re sitting in a chair in the sky. . . .”

Photos Courtesy of: FoundShit, Passport Magazine, The Social Net, Mizozo, Consumer Traveler

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Laura S - Spendthrift Scribe

Laura S - Spendthrift Scribe

Laura S, left the "sixth borough" three years ago to settle in Brooklyn. After working at some daily rags, she now does writing on the side but still eats more Ramen then necessary. When she's not moving residences every 6 months, eating her way through every neighborhood, and trying every microbrew known to man, she is unsuccessfully rediscovering home economics. With her binging days behind her, she's now exploring new projects and rediscovering the city that she loves (although is still prone to sliding on her knees during a Prince karaoke set).


  1. Andrew Dalton - Aggressive Panhandler
    June 16, 2010 at 8:00 am

    True story: I had a friend get hit in the head by a wayward bag that fell out of an overhead bin before takeoff. He ended up with a concussion and the EMTs that helped him off the plane said if he didn’t have such a big head his neck could’ve broken from the impact.

  2. June 16, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I always feel bad for the parents who are trying everything to calm their baby but there are some parents who give up and let the kid just run up and down the aisle. And I’ve worked in childcare so long that grabbing kids when they are about to do something dangerous is a reflex, then I get glared at for touching you kid when they were about to get rolled over by a cart. I’m sorry I didn’t want the child to die.