The 10 Commandments of Courteous Air Travel

Two tablets (one iPad, one Android) will be scribed with the rules of the air.

 In the age of Knee Defender-wielding, self-righteous travelers ready for a street fight—and not one but two scuffles on planes over reclining seats that required diversions and the presence of police (read what one passenger said for himself after twice interfering with another passenger's ability to recline)—I’m reminded that there really should be a common courtesy guide for air travel, just as there is a passenger’s bill of rights. And were the Great Pilot in the Sky to swoop down in his Boeing and scribe two tablets (one Android, one iPad) with the 10 commandments of courteous flying, this is what I think he would say:

  1. Thou shalt not use all the overhead space. That space underneath the seat in front of you will easily fit purses, reasonably sized laptop bags and camera bags. Just because you boarded in Zone 1 does not mean you have rights to all the bins.
  2. Thou shalt yield armrest space. Those good people in the middle seats have it rough, so offer them the armrest. It’s just the right thing to do. Plus, the little fights between seatmates over the armrest are ridiculous, just ridiculous.
  3. Thou shalt visit the restroom before boarding. Especially if you’re against the window or in the middle seat.
  4. Thou shalt keep thy shoes on. Interpretation: If your feet swell at altitude, loosen the laces, but don’t remove the shoes. Olfactory receptors everywhere (even those back in 35F) will appreciate you.
  5. Thou shalt recline with impunity. Seats recline for a reason. That’s so the economy cattle-herding of today’s budget-conscious airlines feels a little less like a cross-country, overnight bus ride in an impoverished country. No, the legroom isn’t what it once was, but reclining seats are a nod to a finer time in airline travel, so whatever you do, don’t use a Knee Defender. And while we’re on this topic, don’t passive-aggressively continue to knee the seat in front of you just because they reclined.
  6. Thou shalt recline slowly. As a follow up to the previous commandment, be gentle and recline slowly; there might be a cup of coffee or laptop on the folding tray behind you that needs to be safely repositioned before you are fully reclined.
  7. Thou shalt remember that planes are public spaces, that everyone is listening, and that if you are on your phone, thou shalt use thy inside voice.
  8. Thou shalt shut the window screen on early-morning flights. Your fellow passengers arose at 3:30 am to make a 6 am flight. Be a good sport and provide them some darkness so they can try to recoup that sleep.
  9. Thou shalt “queue politely.” There’s no need to rush to get off the plane if you don’t have a connection in 10 minutes. Give respect and everyone can leave in an orderly fashion, as if we are departing toward an area of civility, not barbarity. The same goes for boarding.
  10. Thou shalt invest in headphones. First, you won’t have to buy a cheap set of airline headphones to watch a marginal in-flight movie, but more importantly, when you’re playing games on an iPad, your seatmate doesn’t need to hear the sound effects. Whether you like Beats by Dre or Bose’s sound-canceling muffs or just any old pair of earbuds, please bring them aboard.

So, yes, that’s what we think the tablets would read, if we could check. Unfortunately I just put my tablet in airplane mode, and I won’t know until they activate the Gogo Inflight Internet. In the meantime, perhaps it's just better to forget about the actual traveling, and dream about a travel destination. How about Maui?

Vintage airline advertisement

Geoff Kohl
About the author

Geoff Kohl previously served as the chief travel editor for Where and Read Geoff's full bio