Some helpful information for student travelers, some not so helpful. Still, plenty of good advice for all travelers. **DB
Our new etiquette series tackles those nagging questions that have always plagued you while traveling. This week, we take on manners in the air. Our expert? Erik Torkells—author of the Smart Traveler’s Passport, former editor in chief of Budget Travel, and all-around travel guru—who’s here to tell us right from wrong. And we’re happy to discover that good manners aren’t dead.
Help! The person in the seat next to mine is watching something dirty on his iPad. Can I ask him to stop?
Erik: I assume you mean sexy-dirty and not a new TV show about people who clean pig pens for a living. The short answer is—no, and mind your own business. The long answer involves whether the sound is on (in which case, you may ask that he mute it), whether he is enjoying it too much, whether any minors can see it, whether the content is limited to consenting adults (human adults), and whether you recognize yourself from a misguided fling with an amateur cinematographer. For most of those cases, your best bet is to ask that he angle the screen away from you. Or ask the flight attendants if there’s another seat available. For any of the other scenarios mentioned, you should alert the authorities.
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The guy behind me at airport security got annoyed when I waited to make sure my carry-on was in the X-ray machine. He said he’d push my bag in for me. For all I know he was a thief—which is what I told him (and which annoyed him even more). Should I have handled it differently?
Erik: I’ve never understood the need to personally see one’s bin into the machine (crime is nearly nonexistent at airports). And while I’m sympathetic to the gentleman’s urgency, if he didn’t offer in a polite, helpful way, then I’m entirely on your side. Etiquette is all about changing other people’s behavior without getting them upset. That said, just because he was schmucky—something we’re all prone to encounter at airport security—doesn’t mean you can’t take it as an opportunity to home your own etiquette skills. Assuming you weren’t running late, you might have called his bluff: “Oh, are you late for your plane? Why don’t you go ahead of me?” Or you could have replied, “How kind of you! Really, I don’t mind waiting,” and then turned back around, as if you didn’t even notice his pushiness. Sometimes the smartest response is to act a little ignorant.
The people boarding ahead of me put their bags in the space above my seat, even though their seats were several aisles further down. I thought that space was mine.
Erik: Years ago, it was. These days, there isn’t enough overhead space for all the carry-on bags, because (a) flights are generally packed, and (b) fewer people want to check bags, what with all the fees, hassle, and wait. As you walk down the aisle, you should be looking ahead to your seat to see if there’s space above it; if there is, your bag should go there. If not, use the space directly across from your seat. If there’s no room there, stuff it anywhere you can find—and remind anyone who complains about the early bird getting the worm. . . . .”