Proper airport etiquette is a synthesis of common sense, paying attention to those around you, and following the many rules and regulations of flying. Since those rules are always changing, it’s a good idea to check with the airline you’re flying on to get accurate and up-to-date information, either by calling or checking their website.
Educating yourself about the number of bags you can check and/or carry on, the items that aren’t permitted in your carry-on and luggage, and any associated fees will save you valuable time and ensure that you don’t lose any of your personal possessions at security. It can also mean the difference between making and missing your flight.
These extra tips for airport travel and etiquette will help you save a lot of time and hassle too, in addition to showing respect to those around you.
Arrive Early: Airlines ask that you check in 90 minutes before your flight departs, so be sure you plan ahead to arrive inside the airport at the check-in line or kiosk about 90 minutes in advance. This means leaving time for traffic, weather, parking, and walking or taking the shuttle bus to the terminal. If you think 90 minutes is a lot of time to kill once you’re inside, you may be facing long check-in and security lines, a crowded airport, or a long walk to the terminal, which you should plan to reach about 30 minutes in advance for boarding.
Be Prepared: In addition to knowing what’s permitted in your carry-on and luggage and leaving plenty of time to get to the airport, be prepared with your picture ID, electronic ticket or boarding pass, and passport in hand before you reach the front of the check-in line. Keep these items handy for use at security and boarding. It’s also a good idea to know where you’re going to park before you arrive.
Wear the Right Shoes and Clothing: At security, you’ll have to remove your shoes, jacket or sweatshirt, and anything metal that’s on your person, in addition to removing your laptop and other electronics from their carrying cases. This process can take awhile. It’s wise to wear slip-on or other easily removable shoes (with socks), and to limit the number of clothing layers and pieces of metal you’re wearing, to avoid holding up the line at security.
Use Walkways Wisely: Moving walkways can help you move faster and take a load off if you’re tired or you have a long way to go. Proper walkway etiquette means walking or standing on the right side of the walkway and moving over to the left side to pass those who are moving more slowly than you are, just like on the highway.
Offer Your Seat to People with Special Needs: Airports can be very busy places with minimal seating and standing room once you reach the food court or terminal. It’s always a courteous gesture to offer your seat to someone who needs it more than you do, if you don’t have special needs yourself. Sometimes people are assigned seats apart from their family members and other traveling companions, so it’s also polite to offer to trade airplane seats with someone if you’re sitting next to their friend or relative.
Stay Quiet: Airports are loud places, full of intercoms, cell phones, and all the noisy electronics that people like to travel with. When talking on the phone, use an indoor voice and leave the area you’re in if it’s too loud, instead of raising your voice. Keep phone calls short and if you need to make a long one, keep moving or use an old pay phone cubicle so no one is forced to listen to your conversation.
Listen and Follow Directions: When you’re not being loud, it’s easier to listen and follow directions. When your flight begins to board, listen for the flight attendant to request your section, and be respectful of those around you who are trying to board at the same time. Even if you travel all the time and know the safety information and arrival routine, it’s always a respectful practice to give the flight attendants your attention when they’re reviewing important flight and safety information.
Mind your space: Airplane seats can be small, and you don’t always have the luxury of sharing a row with people you know. Be mindful of taking up space or doing things that might annoy others. For example, don’t take up the whole armrest, use all the floor space, and get too comfortable at another person’s expense. Enjoy whatever media you’re using quietly as well. If you have children, be sure they aren’t kicking or pushing the seat in front of them. On another note, mind your hygiene. Be sure you’ve bathed and are wearing clean clothes before a flight.
Upon arrival, listen for your luggage carousel number and don’t worry about rushing to be the first one off the plane if you have checked luggage to pick up. At the luggage carousel, wait patiently several feet away from the conveyor belt and only approach the carousel when you positively ID your luggage, leaving others ample room to see and grab theirs. Offer to help retrieve a heavy piece of luggage for someone if you are able and they need it.
Have a safe flight!