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Sticky Situation: 12 Guidelines for Inflight Civility

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Sticky Situation:

Travelling by airplane used to be exotic, at times fun and sometimes sexy...

Nowadays, with the increasing number of passengers, the lengthy security procedures, narrowing seats, shrinking leg space and the Knee Defenders, it can be very stressful.

Travelling by aircraft, to get to the conference, to visit a loved one or to explore a remote part of the world could result in verbal abuse, a physical confrontation, and seeing disruptive passengers, generally nice Canadians going to vacation in Cuba, escorted out by the police.

Rude behaviour in the clouds is on the rise. Incivility is in the air!


Here are the 12 modern guidelines plus solutions to the most common inflight sticky situations to keep calm, at 35,000 feet and beyond.

1. In the boarding waiting area, be careful of the sounds, the smells and the sights that you project.

Converse at a lower than usual volume and move to a more remote area for lengthy cell phone conversations.

Choose neutral smelling snacks. This is not the time to pack a tuna or egg salad sandwich.

Maintain proper posture while sitting.

2. As you board the aircraft, place your luggage low and in front of you while walking.

No backpacks left on your back.

3. Another traveller is in your seat.

Solicit the help of a flight attendant or politely show our ticket.

4. A passenger wishes to make a seat change. You do have a choice.
"No problem, I will gladly change seats so you may be seated next to your son."
"I'm sorry, but I would like to maintain my reserved seat."

5. Don't use the backs of the other passengers' seats to stand up or sit down.

Maintain your balance while walking by holding on to the bottom of the overhead carry on bins as opposed to the chair of another passenger.

6. A child is kicking the back of your seat.

Speak directly to the parent.

7. Don't push the middle person out of an armrest.

Since the aisle person gets to stretch their legs and the window person gets to lean in the window, it is only fair that the person in the middle gets both.

8. Once seated, maintain discretion with smells, sights and sounds.

This includes keeping your socks on your feet. Use perfumes and cologne sparingly. Don't apply nail polish.

Even if you have headphones on, keep the volume at a reasonable level.

When seated next to children, be careful of watching non G-rated movies or television shows.

9. Your neighbour wishes to chat and you are not in the mood.

"I have reading to do, please excuse me while I immerse myself in my book."
"I am sorry if I appear grumpy but I really need this quiet time."
Or, you could put on your headset as a conversation blocker.

10. Since the airlines have not yet banned seat reclining, you can do it, but do so a little at a time.

The person behind you could be nursing their child, reaching head down in their bag under your seat or working on their laptop.

The "recliner" goes all the way down in one shot and you are uncomfortable.

"I am quite uncomfortable, could you please reduce the angle of your seat."
If the "recliner" does not comply, solicit the support of a flight attendant.

11. Don't put your chewing gum in the airsickness bag.

Think of the next person that will have your seat. The poor soul could be about to be sick and will have to struggle to open the bag. It could have secondary effects on his neighbours and leave a lasting scent for the entire flight.

12. Don't discard your used tissue, or food you don't like, in the seat pocket.

Once again, think of the next traveller. He could have to put his hand down there to search for his lost earphones...Yuck!

Unlike the birds flying under the aircraft, you may not have wings but you can certainly earn them by being a considerate and courteous flyer.

You have a sticky situation at work or home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Go to Facebook, Twitter or order your autographed copy of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities. With Julie's help gone will be awkwardness, embarrassment and faux-pas.


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