The rules of the sky

With the summer travel season upon us, it is appropriate to share an open letter to those with whom we will be sharing the skies.

An open letter to my fellow airline passengers

You and I flew more than 100,000 miles together last year. On the whole we’re a pretty civilized bunch, mostly concerned with getting from here to there with as little fuss and bother as possible. But there are those among us who seem to have forgotten the manners their mothers taught them. Others obviously haven’t flown much since the airlines retired the DC-3 and it appears they need to be schooled in how things have changed since then. It is for these travelers that I am taking the liberty of jotting down some Rules of the Sky.

Rule #1: Follow the rules. For example, the size limits for carry-on luggage. I have watched a couple stuff into the overhead bin two backpacks that would put Sir Edmund Hillary to shame. No one likes waiting at the baggage carousel at the end of a long flight, but the size of carry-ons is limited. Respect those limits and leave a little more bin space for your fellow passengers.

Another pet peeve of mine has to do with pets. If you bring yours into the cabin, leave it in its cage. Don't take it out during the flight. That's against the rules.

#2: Wait your turn. If you’re assigned Boarding Group 3 and they’ve just called Group 1, don’t try to board the plane anyway. You risk either pissing off some of your fellow passengers, having the gate attendant embarrass you publicly by pointing our your inability to tell a “1” from a “3” and making you step aside while others board, or both.

#3: Don’t dilly-dally. When you’re finally aboard and you find your seat, stow your carry-on quickly, then sit down; there are others waiting behind you! If you can slip into your row while you finish arranging your things, that's even better.

#4: Keep your things in front of you. If the overhead bins over your seat row are getting full, try to stow your bag in front of the row where you’re sitting, not behind you. That way, you’ll be able to grab your bag as you head toward the open door on the way out and not have to impersonate a salmon swimming upstream to retrieve you bag from a bin behind you.

Those "things" include your feet; don't tuck them under your seat because the space under your seat belongs to the passenger behind you. That’s where their carry-on and their feet go. Your things – including your feet – go in front of you.

Children are the exception to the “Keep things in front of you” rule. If your kids are big enough to have seats in their own row, put them behind you. That way, the little darlings will kick your seat, not mine, and you can turn around and tell them to cut it out.

#5: Think ahead. If you have things you’re going to need during the flight, put those in the carry-on you’ll be stashing under the seat in front of you. Trust me; that passenger seated on the aisle does not appreciate you thrusting your belly in his face as you retrieve, then later replace, some little trinket from the bag you stowed in the overhead. Unless, of course, you’re really hot or cute. And honestly most of us aren’t, are we?

#6: Keep your hands to yourself. Use the armrests when you settle into or climb out of your seat, not the back of the seat in front of you. Airline seat backs aren’t designed to be grab-bars, and more than once the person behind me has nearly caused me to spill my hot coffee when s/he pulled on my seat back for help getting out of his/her seat.

#7 & #8: Think of the other passengers and Be considerate. As I wrote this, seated in Seat 16F of one of my many flights, the passenger in Seat 17F kicked and bumped my seat several times, apparently not realizing that any time s/he did something to my seat – whether that’s kick it, pull on it, use it to pull yourself up, or jam a magazine back into the seat pocket – I feel it. I’m not suggesting that we should sit still and do nothing for the duration of the flight; I’m simply recommending that we all think of the other person and be considerate.

Common courtesy, common sense.

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