The stress of flying doesn't end when you make it to your seat. Two middle aged travelers learned that the hard way when, on Monday, they were kicked off their flight after fighting over a reclined seat. According to the Associated Press, a man on board refused to put away his Knee Defender, an ingenious but prohibited device that... defends your knees. The woman in front of him, the would be seat recliner, responded by throwing a cup of water in his face (#IceBucketChallenge). The flight was diverted and both passengers were left behind.
But flying doesn't have to be a traumatic, violent experience. Below we've compiled a brief guide on how to be a conscientious flier. Follow our tips and we're almost positive no one will throw a complimentary cup of Evian in your face.
Ask Before Reclining Your Seat
In the scenario described by the Associated Press, the woman who wanted to recline her seat is obviously at fault. Seat recliners are the equivalent of men who spread their legs on the subway.
You might argue that if seat reclining is so bad, airlines wouldn't give you the option. (Some airlines, like Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines, already have.) That's flawed logic. Short and petite people won't understand this, but there are few in-flight experiences worse than when an inconsiderate person decides to recline their seat onto your knees. This is especially true in the Economy seat section, where every inch counts.
The solution, of course, is to just ask. Here's a sample dialogue you might have:
You: Hey there. Would you mind if I reclined my seat? I've got lower back problems* and it helps with the pain.
Person Behind You: As a 6'4 large, muscular man, normally I would say no, but since you asked so nicely I won't passive aggressively push my knees into your back.
You: Thanks a lot! Have a great flight.
Alternatively, if PBY says "I do mind, please don't crush my knees," then don't crush his knees. (*Lying about chronic back pain is optional, and may increase the odds of passive aggressive knee activity.) — AJ
Don't Keep Prodding Your In-Flight Entertainment Touchscreen
In-flight entertainment deserves credit for being quite comprehensive these days, with its catalogue of popular shows and films instead of the drivel usually shown on flights without the option ("The in-flight movie tonight will be Fun with Dick and Jane" struck fear into my heart a long time ago). But these touchscreens aren't perfect—if you're not careful, you're poking and prodding away at the screen just to make the pages change. And that screen happens to be the back of someone else's head. So choose wisely, choose quickly, and use the buttons below the screen to fiddle with the volume instead. — SL
Don't Take the Window Seat if You Know You'll Have to Pee
There are three types of people on an airplane: responsible people who use the restroom before take off; people who have multiple bowel movements during short flights, possibly because they ate something bad on the way to the airport; and normal people. Depending on who you are, here's where you should sit:
Responsible: You won't make anyone get up halfway through the flight, so you're safe to take the window seat. At the end of the flight everyone will appreciate how little you bothered them, and be glad to have given you the honor.
Normal: Take the middle seat. You might have to pee, you might not.
Weak bladder/Upset Stomach: Sit in the aisle seat. Even if you booked the middle or window seat, take the aisle seat. After your second trip to the restroom they'll give it to you anyway. — AJ
Stay Put During Takeoff and Landing
I know, I know: There's something thrilling about being up in the air and walking around even when the pilot has the seatbelt light on. You daredevil! No light will stop you! Walk those aisles!
But hold on there, Evel Knievel. Getting up while already at 30,000 feet is one thing — constantly shifting in your seat and ignoring orders when the plane isn't cruising yet is another. Takeoff and landing are sacred moments in the journey of a plane, and you're not just annoying flight attendants if you're not sitting in the right position; you're also annoying passengers around you who would very much like to rest easy while that giant aluminum tube rises and descends through the air.
Here's a handy guide to knowing when it's okay to get up:
If the plane is at the gate: Yes, as long as boarding's over, so you're not in the way.
If the plane is taxiing: No, you're about to take off, what are you doing?
If the plane was taxiing and is now in line to take off but for some reason or other (weather, traffic, you're in a bizarro North by Northwest where Cary Grant is running toward you): Yes, but only if you're sure you're not about to take off and you have a legitimate emergency (bathroom needs, health issues, huge Cary Grant fan).
If the plane is taking off or descending: NO. Sit down. Buckle up. — SL
Be Nice to Middle Seat People
The middle seat is the worst. As discussed before, the window seat is for people with strong bladders, and the aisle seat allows people to come and go as they please. The middle seat is most likely to have both arm rests stolen. The middle seat has to pass the complimentary beverage over to the window seat. It's not a seat most people would willingly choose. That being the case, be nice to the middle seat person. At the very least, make sure she or he has an armrest. — AJ
Don't You Dare Put Your Feet Up
Imagine this: You're in your seat, content with, say, your episode of Parks and Recreation, when you notice a tickling at your elbow. Is it the seat? Is it your outfit? Is it a bug? No, it's worse: A foot, possibly clad in a sock or (*gulp*) completely bare, with the ankle poised on your armchair and toes pointed up. Sure, the foot's owner is probably just an oblivious passenger looking to stretch out during a long flight and get a bit more comfortable and hey, who knows, maybe he or she has had a long da—NO. DO NOT DO THIS. Feet on the armrests of the passengers in front of you?! Have you no shame? — SL
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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