Q: You must get lots of etiquette questions about flying. What would you say are the top three issues, and can you give us a cheat sheet for each?
A: Children on planes, reclining seats and, if I can lump a whole bunch of things together, the wide variety of annoying and/or gross things people have seen other passengers doing on planes.
• Kids on planes: Oblivious parents are, I think, the real problem. If you're flying with your child, you are on duty for the entire flight. If your kid starts annoying someone, it's your job to try to do something about it. That means not playing Candy Crush for four hours while your toddler is kicking the stuffing out of the seat in front of him. Now, if you're the passenger who's being annoyed by a child, give the parent(s) the chance to get the kid settled down. Don't turn around and yell the very first time the kid jostles your seat. If there's a persistent problem, you can calmly and politely ask the parent if the child could stop kicking your seat. Everyone needs to cut parents with infants some slack, though. Babies cry, and sometimes no matter what the parents do, they can't calm down. Don't glare at the baby or the parents. Put some headphones on and deal with it.
• Reclining seats: Don't do it unless you have to. I know the button's there, and some people just can't help but push a button if it's there, but if you're not significantly more comfortable with the seat reclined, be kind to the person behind you and sit up. If you do need to recline, always, always warn the person behind you before you lean back so she can finish her drink or move her laptop.
• Annoying and/or gross things on planes: People really hate bad smells on a plane, whether they come from food (gross) or someone's Birkenstock-clad feet (grosser). Ergo, make sure nothing you take on the plane, including yourself, stinks. Personal grooming (clipping nails, plucking eyebrows, etc.) needs to be done in the bathroom, although I don't know why this can't wait until after you've landed. (Tweezers near eyes + turbulence = stuff of nightmares.)
In general, keep your voice down. If you and your seatmate want to talk, that's fine, but the people three rows up from you don't need to hear you. Don't drum your fingernails on your tray table.
And finally, I hear a lot about inappropriate clothes. T-shirts with profanity, revealing clothing, pajamas on adults and very dirty clothing (which also might fall into the bad-smells category) are all extremely uncool.
No one's expecting you to wear a suit when you fly to Orlando with your kids, but you have to show some respect for fellow passengers.
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