Airlines and the TSA lay out explicit rules for travelers while flying: No liquids over 3.4 ounces, only two carry-on bags allowed, take your shoes off and laptop out of your bag before screening. Though there are many rules that can be researched online, any frequent flyer can tell you there is another set of rules not found in the FAQ section of your airline's website.
These are the unwritten rules of flying, the rules that are essential for you and your fellow travelers to have a pleasant experience while 30,000 feet in the air. Traveling can be stressful, but remember these commandments to make your experience as easy as possible.
Board in Your Zone
Boarding an airplane isn't as easy as it used to be. Besides having an assigned seat, you are now given an assigned boarding zone or number. Boarding at a later zone never used to be an issue, but now with limited overhead bin space, travelers are more anxious than ever to be the first one seated. Following your correct boarding zone is an airplane rule, but when families get different zone numbers things can get fuzzy. Here's the rule you should follow: If you and your buddy have two different boarding zones, either board separately or board together during the later zone call time.
Get Out of the Way
Boarding in your proper zone is an important part of the process, but it's not the only rule to remember while waiting at your gate. For everybody's sake, don't crowd the gate entrance. Wait until your zone is called, then go up to get your ticket scanned. Nothing is worse than waiting behind a group of people only to find out that the people in front of you are just hovering until their turn. You will miss your opportunity to board with your zone or have to wade through a mess of people and roller bags to get your ticket scanned. Enough with the hovering.
A Win for the Middle Seat
There are few perks that come with getting a middle seat. In fact, I've been on flights where a person flat out refused to sit down because of the tight quarters and lack of personal space. Here's the good news--the middle seat does have one perk that most flyers abide by. The person in the middle seat gets the arms rests, both of them. If you are one of those people who feel entitled to both armrests when you are on an end seat, just remember that there will be a time when you will be stuck in the middle. Hopefully, your seatmates will be nicer than you.
Just like the middle seat gets the arm rests and the aisle gets more legroom, the window seat gets control of the window. That's right, the person who is seated next to the window should decide whether or not the window is open or closed. In general, most people are willing to accommodate everyone in the group's needs. I once had a man on the aisle ask to keep the window open for the entirety of a flight because he was scared of flying. I was glad to help, but he should have picked the window.
You Can't Sit with Us
In most cases flyers are able to work with the airlines to sit next to their significant other or family, but there are times when the stars don't align and you are separated. Your last Hail Mary is to see if someone, anyone will switch seats. This last move is appropriate, but do not ask someone in an economy plus seat or exit row to switch. They paid for those seats and there are plenty of travelers who did not pay the extra money who may be able to move. It's uncomfortable for everyone as no one wants to keep a family apart.
An Eye for an Eye
Per the previous rule, asking one of your fellow travelers to trade seats is perfectly fine. People understand and are usually compliant. That being said, the rule is you should only trade for your seat type i.e. a window seat for a window seat or middle for a middle. There are not a lot of people who are willing to trade their cushy aisle seat for a middle seat next. Be aware and ask the right questions. Of course, when families and children are involved there can be exceptions.
It's a Private Show
It's now common practice for flyers to load up their laptops and tablets with movies, magazines, books and TV shows to pass the time. It may be tempting, but do not watch a movie or read the paper over someone's shoulder. We are forced to be close together, but everyone is trying to have their own experience and their own space. Knowing that someone is creeping in on your personal time is about as comfortable as being seated next to the bathroom.
Music to my Ears
Listening to movies or music on the plane is relaxing and can make a five-hour flight feel like five minutes, but not everyone feels that way. Use headphones when you are using your electronic devices at all times. Some people may be sleeping, while others are focused on reading. Be aware of what is happening around you. On that note, just because you have headphones on doesn't always mean your music is silent to others. Many times one person's headphones can ruin a flight for the people in the nearby seats. Ask your neighbor, "can you hear what I'm listening to?" He will be happy to let you know if your music is interrupting his book and that you care about his experience.
Look for the Signs
There are a lot of exciting parts of air travel. One of them is getting to know new people and hearing fascinating stories. There is nothing better than clicking with your seatmate and making a new friend. This is the best-case scenario. There is a good chance you will either get a neighbor who doesn't want to talk to you or that you don't want to talk to. How will you know? If your neighbor is reading a book or using headphones, refrain from engaging in conversation. Headphones are the universal sign for "I don't want to be rude, but please don't talk to me."
You've finally landed from your five-hour flight from LAX to JFK. You're dehydrated and somehow tired even though you slept the entire flight. There is nothing more appealing than standing up, stretching your legs and getting the hell out of there. Stop. As hard as it is to do, be on the look out for people with connecting flights. Airlines, like United, sometimes have connecting flights with very short layovers. You may be done with your flight, but the woman behind you may have to sprint to another terminal in JFK to make her next five-hour flight. Let her go first and anyone else with a similar tale. There will be a time when you will be grateful for the folks that let you through.