As the holidays approach, so do the busiest travel days of the year. The International Air Transport Association just released a new September 2016 report, revealing that instances of “unruly passenger incidents” increased by 14% in 2015. In all, 10,854 cases of air rage were reported in 2015, a shocking increase from 2014, with 9,316 reported cases.
As crew members prepare for another 500 mph day at work, they want you to know how to avoid air rage at 30K feet with the best attitude at all altitudes:
1. Rear Seat Kickers
The top etiquette no-no on the list of onboard bad behaviors according to Expedia’s 2015 Airplane Etiquette Study. Even when legroom is tight, be cautious with your movements to avoid disrupting the passenger in front of you. If you accidentally bump their seat, offer a quiet apology and try to avoid a repeat offense.
2. Armrest Wranglers
The aircraft’s armrests are part of the chair, so play nicely and split the difference, especially with three or more seats in a row. The middle seat travelers have first go at those armrests because they don’t have a window to lean up against or an aisle for extra room. It’s mannerly if you have an aisle or window seat to give the armrest to the middle seat that doesn’t have as much space.
3. Seat Recliners
Aircraft space is shared space so ask before reclining your seat because with the average economy-class seat the pitch between seats is approximately 28-34 inches. When the passenger in front of you fully reclines their seat, it’s a tight fit. So don’t start a brawl by jamming the seat in front with a controversial device like the Knee Defender (frowned upon by the FAA). Consider spending extra for a premium economy seat with a little more legroom; request or reserve an exit row seat.
4. Overhead Bin Busters
Consider shipping your beautifully wrapped gifts well in advance, or ordering online because the space above your seat isn’t exclusively owned by you. Bin space is now truly at a premium with passengers carrying-on as many bags as permitted to avoid checked-luggage fees. Carry a soft-sided bag, smaller than the maximum size allowed, that fits under the seat in front of you, or check your bag.
5. Other People’s Kids (OPK)Accept that baby freak-outs happen. Invest in quality headphones that minimize baby fussiness and OPK noise. Don’t be surprised when you observe parents of infants pre-apologizing, while distributing ear-plugs to nearby passengers in anticipation of potential crying.
6. Fuddled Fliers
It’s no surprise that alcohol or drug intoxication were a major factor in 23% of air rage cases – most of the time consumed prior to boarding according to the IATA report. Avoid excessive drinking prior to boarding. Once on board, quaff some water, since high altitudes dehydrate your body. Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea which exacerbate the condition. After security, buy bottled water and increase fluid intake for hydration.
7. Entertainment at Altitude
Teach your children travel manners. Prepare a pre-packed bag of art supplies (washable), books, cards, downloaded games, coloring books, puzzles & games, small electronic games, surprises and extra battery chargers, adding fresh drinks and snacks last minute. Inflight let go of your stress and hope your calmness soothes your infant. Business or Millennial? Set up a Gogo Inflight account for wireless internet and entertainment options. Arrive with downloaded e-books, extra battery chargers, meditation coloring books, magazines and music to enjoy inflight and during downtime.
8. Minor Infraction or Serious Violation?
Yes, failure to comply with a crew member’s instructions is a federal crime. Offenses range from minor infractions, such as unbuckling a seat belt before the aircraft’s come to a complete stop, to serious violations like ringing for your ride on final approach.
When observing a rule violation, do you tattle or look the other way? If you’re both a witness and perpetrator consider letting go of the small little stuff. If adult images are playing on the smartphone of a passenger adjacent to a family, ask them privately to consider other options before you contemplate group shaming.
9. Safety & Heightened Security
With 11% of air rage incidents involving aggression toward flight crew, other passengers or damage to the aircraft, it’s important to remember all airport behavior is currently under heightened scrutiny in light of the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. Since our current Terror-Alert Status threat level is elevated at YELLOW, remember air travel is a privilege, not a constitutional right. Be a mannerly passenger because airline crew will deny boarding, turn the plane around, or divert the plane if you are aggressive. Hand handcuffs may greet you when deplaning.
10. Expect the Best, Plan for the Worst
Your travel day may include blue skies or stormy delays so avoid flying the same day as a business or social event, such as a wedding. Arrive the day before to settle in and settle down. Use apps like Hopper to research the best travel days and prices. When booking your flight, subscribe to flight notifications for departure and arrival segments. Enjoy the stress-relief of receiving an airline call, text or email with arrival gates, flight status and baggage claim.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.