There are three cardinal rules of plane travel:
1. Keep clean.
2. Speak when necessary.
3. Be considerate.
To build upon these pillars of airplane etiquette, here are my five commandments for plane travel:
1. Thou shalt not engulf the entire cabin with the smell of perfume.
I know that perfume over-sprayers usually come from a good place. They want to smell like lavender at the end of a 10-hour flight.
But the art of perfume application lies in its subtlety, and as much as I love citrus undertones and their mingling with musk, travelling in a cabin that smells like the perfume store in a mall is the shortest route to a migraine.
There is a reason the often-preferred expression while discussing fragrances is, “A whiff of one’s perfume.” A whiff.
What it’s not supposed to be is an assault on your senses. And I say this with medical backing: Fragrance allergies are real, and migraines and altitudes aren’t the thickest of friends.
Also, people without headaches are far nicer. So tone it down, my friend.
2. Thou shalt not play games loudly on thy gadget.
People who listen to music without earphones are true royals of Douchebag-ville and have gotten enough bad rap. But for reasons I’m yet to comprehend, loud game-players have somehow been spared this vitriol.
I understand that it is imperative to get the guy across the bridge with as many gold coins as possible. I understand the obsession over fruit slicing and the addiction of stacking same-colored gems.
But what’s unnecessary is having the volume turned all the way up. Don’t get me wrong, I love gadgets and the comfort they bring to our lives, but the constant sound effects make me feel like I’m an eight-bit video game character bobbing through space.
And while we are on the topic of innovations, there is another masterful creation that allows YOU to be the sole benefactor of your music: earphones. They’re truly wonderful.
3. Thou shalt not stick thy elbows/body parts into another’s personal space.
I know economy seats are cramped, uncomfortable, and non-conducive to one’s bottom. They are torture devices created to make normal humans feel like giants on Lilliput Island.
To make it clear – that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m referring to those folks, the ones whose areas of personal space are defined like an instructional aerobics video – to the front, to the back, to the side, and repeat! Their personal space is not an imaginary square – it’s a pentagon, the size of the Pentagon. If given a chance, this person would probably claim the wing of the plane as his “territory.”
Sticking your elbows out like the chicken dance is both inconsiderate and obtrusive. Once on a long-haul flight, while watching a particularly creepy scene from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I suddenly felt the caress of bare flesh on my exposed arm. My neighbor was eating his yoghurt, unaware that with every spoonful he was feeling up the side of my arm. I spent the rest of my flight stuck to the window like a squished spider on a windshield.
The rule of personal space is so simple, yet so easily flouted: If it isn’t your body part, don’t touch it.
4. Thou shall gauge thy co-passenger’s interest in mid-air interaction before babbling about thy family tree.
I’m all for mid-air camaraderie. It’s nice to have someone to exchange wry glances with as the drunken guy makes a fool of himself. I was deeply moved when a co-passenger once offered me her copy of Vogue.
But to extend conversation beyond the usual courtesies is probably a bad idea – unless your co-passenger exhibits interest.
Most people starve themselves of sleep before a flight, so once they settle in, it’s all cows over the moon. As adorable as your grandkids may be or as amazing as your trip was, all the person next to you wants to do is become best friends with Xanax. Let them be.
5. Thou shalt not piss off the airline crew.
Being an accommodating human being is always a good idea. But, as a rule of thumb, always remember, “If they have the power to spit into your food/drink, be extra nice.”
Some people seem to believe that stewards and stewardesses are genies of high altitude. You rub that plastic cup, and they’ll make sure your every wish comes true.
If you are the kind of person who seems to have his/her finger surgically attached to the call button or demands that he/she gets the extra blanket immediately (since you’ve been suddenly teleported to the Arctic tundra), you probably aren’t raking in the Brownie points.
Imagine being in charge of the safety of all passengers (even the ones you don’t like), prepping meals, and maintaining order. It’s an incredibly hard job, and a little consideration goes a long way.
And in case of an emergency water landing, whom would you rather have on your side – your blanket or the stewardess?