January 12, 2010

Airport Don'ts

Getting through an airport is stressful at the best of times, and for crew members it can be no different. By the time we arrive at work (or are dropped off by the crew van) we literally have minutes to get to the gate, not to mention manage the maze that is airport security.

As a crewmember who is often in a rush, I've been able to observe some airport behaviours "Don'ts" which I thought I'd share with you. If you're guilty of any of these airport 'sins', then now is the time for change and to become a better citizen of the concourse :)

Ok, we get it, you want to stay with your group. But there's no need to take up the whole concourse, blocking the way for anyone else who might want (or need) to pass by quickly. The biggest offenders of this particular 'Airport Ettiquette Infraction" seem to be families. Have a 'buddy system' if need be, so no one gets lost, but walking 6-abreast in a crowded departures hall is not good airport citizen behaviour. Walking in pairs in a large group is better than everyone walking side-by-side like a chorus line!

So there's a million things to distract you when you're in the airport- finding the right gate, making sure everyone you're travelling with made it through security, and so forth. But not paying attention to your surroundings can lead to disharmony in Departures. Hearing high heels coming up behind you at a fast pace? Probably a crewmember on a fast transit- make sure you keep to the side to allow them to pass. In an unfamiliar airport? Take time to know your gate number and check an airport map to see where you want to go. Another thing- watch what you're doing with your wheeled bags- I've seen many flight attendants have their shins taken out by inattentive people on the concourse and believe me, it's PAINFUL to work a 10-hour flight after being bashed in the legs or run over by a ten-ton carryon that someone is carelessly dragging behind them.

Think of the airport concourse like the road: if you're moving more slowly then everyone else, stick to one side so they can pass. Don't come to a dead stop suddenly without giving any warning- you're likely to cause a pile-up. If you're facing a conflict from on-coming people, the rule is: people without bags should give way to people WITH bags. It's harder to move quickly when you're pulling a bag, so if you are not dragging a bag, give way. In the case of two "baggaged" persons conflicting, the rule is generally larger has right of way. For example, the businessman with one light rollaboard gives way to the lady with 10 cases on a baggage cart.

As for the concourse, so for moving walkways, stairways and narrow areas. Stick to one side. Don't be the oblivious idiot blocking the escalator with a hundred fuming, late passengers and crew behind you. Observe where people stand on the moving walkway- most countries it will usually be the same as the way they drive. In Australia, it's the left, and faster-moving people overtake on the right. When passing, move aside as soon as you have passed if you're standing still, to allow those in a hurry to pass by you as well. In the UK, people generally stand on the right, even though they drive on the left (due to history of escalator development). Be sure to observe signs on moving walkways and don't take items on them that are prohibited.

Use only the seats that you need in the gate area. If it's crowded, don't take 4 seats so you can sleep, but leave others standing. That's just rude, and they might be the person who puts their seat back in your face for 12 hours if you make them mad. If you must sleep, find an out of the way place. An acceptable time to use seats for sleeping is when you're delayed, and everyone is doing it- but be sure to check you're not depriving someone who needs a seat more than you, like the elderly or disabled. Remember, children are more adaptable and can sit on the floor. Children ideally should not deprive adults of seats, particularly adults carrying items or wanting to do work on computers. I was brought up this way, and I can assure you good travel karma will result. There's nothing to be gained by making your potential seatmates mad before the flight has even started!

Watch your video, listen to your music, play that video game by all means. But for the love of all that is holy, please, PLEASE use earphones. All of Gate 22D does NOT necessarily want to know what songs are on your 'Making Out' list, and bear in mind just because it's YOUR laptop or iPod, not all movies are suitable for watching in public places. (Tip: Leave these at home, because the FAs WILL tell you off if you try watch them on the plane) The earphone rule also applies for parents letting kiddies watch portable DVD players. 4 hours of Dora the Explorer is enough to make any crewmember consider cracking that exit open... ;)

There's toilets in almost every departure lounge. Use them. The last thing crew want is to have you do the mother of all dumps right before takeoff, thus gassing them out for a minimum of twenty minutes when the lavatory onboard is located next to the crew seats. When you're waiting four hours, it is not acceptable to ask the crew if you can pee during boarding- that's what airport toilets are for. Queue in an orderly manner. Be sure not to queue across other gates, walkways or the fronts of shops. If you must, join the queue at a right angle to encourage others to queue behind you, avoiding blocking access past the queue to others. Don't be gate lice (or as I like to call them, "seagulls") Just because there's an agent at the gate, doesn't mean boarding is starting. There might be preboard passengers or a technical issue, so jumping up as soon as a door opens and crowding right in there isn't going to help you. You've got 10 hours to enjoy that tiny aircraft seat; use the time to go buy a magazine- or better yet- a last restroom stop before boarding :)

Above all, treat others as you would like to be treated yourself! Consideration goes a long way in the airport, and believe me, airline staff notice and your behaviour might just be the difference between Middle-Seat Hell and Upgrade Heaven!

Hope these tips have been useful to you and will help you navigate the airport a little better next time. Have a great trip!


  1. i want to add something. i dont know about over there, but in america all jackets must be removed. this includes suit jackets. theres so many people who forget to take them off before entering security and then hold up the line becuase they have to go back out to remove it. also dont try and hide those liquids and aresols in your bag. just becuase the eye cant see them doesnt mean the machines wont. oh, and please dont wear lace up boots!!

    i agree with sticking to one side when walking slow in the terminal. this is annoying to everyone.

    i dont think we will ever know the reason why people like to use the lavs when boarding.maybe its mental?

  2. AH! I love the second last one on the toilets!! That is so right! they're waiting for so long at the boarding gate I just don't get it why they can't pee then or poo or change their baby or whatever it may be!
    And some crew let them use it on boarding but i never do. In fact I lock the lavs when we give the ok to board. They can hold it in. I just tell them it can't be used whilst we're on ground :P

  3. How about NOT taking up several seats in the lounge or at the gate for your hand luggage and carry on bags. That wheeled bag can sit on the floor, it does not need it's own personal seat when other passengers are having to stand.

  4. Thanks.
    Though about the toilets some of us older folks have balder issues :(

  5. Tray, I found something you might be interested in. On a German newspaper you can vote for the FA uniform you like best. It seems New Zealand is planning some pretty awful ones for 2011.

  6. I hate it when people next to you don't share the arm rest properly. I used to be pleasant about it, now I just force their arm off it and refuse to let them use it for the rest of the trip.

  7. Isaiah, getting through security is a WHOOOOOLE other post! :P

    SHB, some airlines actually don't allow use of toilets because of refuelling, either.

    Jayne, I totally agree. That was something I had meant to mention. Thanks for reminding us!

    Larry, I'm not talking about people with bladder issues, I'm talking about the 99% of the population who are healthy and can hold it but don't.

    Thanks Dorrie, I'll check it out! Love me a uniform debate!

    L, armrest wars are becoming increasingly common, especially on low cost airlines. Might blog about that too in the future...

  8. When reaching the top of the escalator, (Airport or mall) don't just get off there and stand looking around, where you need to go next...There are thousands coming up behind you!!

    SHB, about the toilets I think it would be unfair to lock all of them. Some really do need to go, especially the older folks.

  9. Love your blog! Great info!

  10. It is great blog having nice information. In my point of authorities should take such steps which are also customer friendly & people should also cooperate with the authorities as well.


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