Yellow Check In Sign

A brief guide to smooth flying

Etiquette and other tips to avoid air turbulence

Written by Professor Gary Martin FAIM
4 minute read
Yellow Check In Sign

With the country’s domestic and international borders open again, our travel plans are no longer up in the air – rather, many of us are making firm plans to take to the skies.

Whether you are jetting off to an exotic location halfway around the globe or taking an interstate "bleisure" flight (that is business and leisure combined), it is likely you have forgotten some of the ins and outs of air travel.

In the interests of a smooth take off, this brief guide should help you glide effortlessly rather than waft with turbulence through the air.

Firstly, remember that plane tickets must be booked in advance and the closer you book to your departure date, the more the ticket is likely to cost.

On arrival at the airport and after offloading your suitcase through what seems like a hole in the wall, you must pass through security. This area of the airport is lined with guards and resembles an international border checkpoint.

Your aim is to successfully pass from one side of the terminal border to the other, even if it requires you to empty your pockets and take off your shoes and various other items of clothing before experiencing a full-body X-ray and maybe even a pat down.

Once past security, you will see signs pointing you to the airline lounges.

These locations offer free food and beverages to those with royal blood in their veins. You will most likely not meet the entry requirements.

The alternative is to join the queue of fellow passenger peasants who treat themselves to packaged sandwiches and bottled water at double the regular price.

It is important to locate your departure gate because this is where you will board your flight once it is ready to depart. For the avoidance of doubt, a flight’s departure time is not the same as its boarding time and confusing the two can have drastic consequences.

You will get a clue that your flight is getting ready to board when gate lice start congregating around the departure gate. These are the poor souls who are under the false impression that pushing other passengers out of the way to be first on board to hijack the overhead lockers with their over-sized carry-on luggage will somehow mean they will get to their destination faster.

Once aboard the plane, do your best to find a place to stow your hand luggage. In the cabin it is acceptable to move a stranger’s luggage around to make way for yours.

Make sure you take the seat number shown on your boarding pass. If travelling in economy, you will quickly remember why some describe it as “cattle class”.

You will not be able to fully extend your legs for the duration of the flight and, if you have a middle seat, you might not be able to claim one of the armrests to yourself.

After take off you will recall that the tight seating arrangements are the least of your problems. Who you are sitting with – or nearby – will ultimately make or break your trip.

There are the seat sprawlers who manage to slump into your personal space, odoriferous passengers who pass wind on the sly and neighbours who chat relentlessly or slosh their drinks all over the place – including over your new shirt.

Chances are you might encounter a passenger sitting behind you who never stops kicking the back of your seat, an audio-insensitive seat mate who laughs uncontrollably at scenes from their favourite comedy show or an inattentive parent who lets their toddler run riot.

Throughout the flight, it is in your interest to remember the number one unwritten rule of aircraft etiquette: use the seat recline function only when completely necessary and even then just a fraction to avoid pinioning the person behind with their own tray table.

There is a second unwritten rule worth remembering, too. If nature calls and you are not seated in an aisle seat, “hang on” during meal times rather than attempting to climb over fellow passengers.

And when it is time to disembark, you will remember that on any aircraft those sitting behind you will suffer temporary memory loss and fail to recall the concept of the queue.

Yes, airline travel is back with a vengeance and so are all the things we love to hate about it.

Despite our complaints about flights that are uncomfortable, frustrating and mind numbing, our love of air travel has not departed and might have actually got stronger.

It is one of the safest forms of transport available to us, often comes with a stunning a view from up high, you can meet interesting people and, if you can overcome your frustrations, you can switch off and relax.

So next time you feel harassed when asked to remove your shoes, watch, hat, jacket and belt, empty your pockets and open your hand luggage for inspection, take a deep breath and remember how much you missed travelling through the clouds when the borders were closed.