07 May 2015 19:15 IST

Flying high with good manners

Whether in a crowded airport or in the close confines of an aircraft, one should show consideration for fellow travellers..

Making ourselves classy co travelers, is a matter of a few things to keep in mind. Whether in a crowded airport or in the close confines of an aircraft, one should show consideration for fellow travellers.

Today flying has become affordable to a much larger section of the travelling public in the country. Recently, I happened to spend a lot of my time at airports and kept myself occupied by watching people.

I saw a woman seated on the floor in Frankfurt airport, another in a sari had taken off her slippers and had put up her feet on the sofa, showing her soles. I was sorry to see yet another lady struggle with six pieces of carry-on luggage in Luxembourg. A man in a bright red shirt and brown trousers was studiously ignored in Zurich, and another stopped in his tracks as two women kissed deeply at an airport in Boston.

As I watched, I realised that airports and aircraft call for a special variety of etiquette. So many business students will join multinational corporations and will travel around the world for work.

So here goes

Airports are large and can seem confusing and intimidating at first. But they are also well signposted. Monitors and signs provide details of and directions to all the facilities. All we have to do is keep our eyes open, read the signs and guide ourselves. We Indians don’t read signs very well, do we? When a door says pull, we end up pushing it as we just don’t read signs. Make it a habit to read signs at airports.

When checking in, we have to be quick and efficient. Being ready with tickets and passports saves time and shows us in good light. Hand luggage is X-rayed and sometimes physically checked, so be ready for it. Unlike in Indian airports where they ask for a baggage tag for all carryon baggage, this is not required in any other country in the world. So don’t waste time looking for it. Stripping away all metallic objects on your person, including keys in pockets and heavy jewellery, before passing through the X-ray machines helps avoid embarrassing beeps as we Indians always seem to wear too much metal.

Remember: Airport toilets are very clean and well maintained. Self cleaning toilets are now available in the West.

It's possible to use the phone with a credit card at airports

Duty-free shopping is available after check-in. We need to show our passports and boarding passes while making payments. The boarding pass is a must and needs to be kept handy. Perfumes, chocolates, liquor and gifts are reasonably priced, although the liquids have to be packed in see-through pouches for security.

There's plenty to look at in airports, but don't dawdle before a flight. It could take several minutes to get to the aircraft, negotiating escalators and long terminals. Walkways are usually present in long corridors between terminals. Luggage carts are not allowed on these walkways. I've learnt from experience it's best to stay on the right, as the left is for people in a hurry. Boarding passes are collected at the airport gate. The courtesy of observing lines and thanking airport crew gets us treated well.

Things to remember

Carry only one piece of hand luggage.

Relax but don't assume a posture that makes you stick out in an international airport, like the woman with outstretched legs. Stretching ones legs is comfortable, no doubt, but it literally sticks out, as no one removes footwear in a Western airport.

Don't leave luggage carts unattended while you shop; they can get lost and also be considered a terrorist hazard.

Don't stare at public displays of affection at airports.

Once in the aircraft, find your seat quickly, looking at the row and chair number marked above the seats. Be sure not to block the aisle. If you find someone obstructing your way, say “Excuse me” and make your way forward. Store hand luggage in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.

The table in front of you should be kept closed except at mealtimes. Use the glass holder for drinks. Usually, drinks are served after the aircraft takes off. Alcohol is very dehydrating and increases jet lag. So avoid it on flights as far as possible. Fruit juices and water are better.

It's easy to say “Please” and “Thank you” and it gets you great results. A passenger on one of my recent trips pressed the light for the in-flight attendant and barked “coffee”, which was served without a smile. Here's a better way: Wait for an attendant to pass by, and say “When you have a moment, could I have a cup of coffee please?” The coffee will be served with a smile and a chocolate too!

Also, I've noticed that people get treated depending on the way they dress, and that sober dressing is preferred.

Living on air

As seasoned travellers will know, long-haul flights are tiring no matter how comfortable the seats. Of course, there's no question of taking that brisk walk in the park that you're so used to, but how about some discreet airplane yoga and stretches and shoulder, arm and leg rotations instead? Personally, they work wonders for me.

Asian vegetarian meals have to be pre-booked on flights.

The toilet inside the aircraft is small. Be as quick as possible and leave it dry and clean. Feel free to use the mouth freshener or lotions.

Ah! Now we're almost there…

Make sure to fill in immigration forms fully while on the plane. The officer who tells us to do so is only doing his job.

If your destination is the US, stay in the non-US citizen queue behind the yellow line and wait for your turn. When you face the officer, be honest and pleasant. Remember, US agricultural laws don't permit meat, fruit and vegetables to be taken in.

Even if you are travelling only within India, following some of these tips makes you a pleasant co-traveller.

In a nutshell, simply watching people has taught me that class can be cultivated by doing the simple things.