Three Principles to Fly By

Because we fly a lot, my husband Greg and I are sensitive to airplane etiquette. Recently, we were disturbed by a man who was clipping his fingernails two rows ahead of us on a plane. Now I know that clippers have advanced to the point that some can trap wayward debris in carefully designed, built-in cavities. I also know, firsthand, that they don’t work perfectly. Odds and ends always get away. It’s bad enough to have to brush off a seat full of cookie crumbs left by a previous passenger. But fingernails…really?

Dear Friends, let’s take a look at some of the ways we can be a little more courteous to our fellow passengers.

1. Take care of personal grooming in privacy.

As you prepare for travel, there are many things to consider. You may have to temporarily stop delivery of your mail or ask a neighbor to collect it while you are away. If you have pets or plants, you need to make arrangements for someone to care for them. Checking the weather forecast will help you determine the type of clothes to pack.

Before adding toiletries to your luggage, take a couple of minutes and put your nail clippers to use. If you just can’t squeeze in the time before your trip, place the coveted clippers next to its dreadful cousin—the nose hair trimmer—in your suitcase, where the two can keep each other company until arrival at your final destination. No one wants to see or hear either of those in action.


People are watching.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve never witnessed anyone onboard pulling out a razor to tend to a few missed spots. Personally, I have been tempted to paint my nails while en route, but I abide by the unspoken, yet commonly understood, rule that certain finishing touches aren’t spectator sports.

2. Pay attention to your boarding status.

Unfortunately, we are not all treated equally in the caste system of airline travel. At least that’s the case with Delta Airlines, upon which Greg and I frequently rely. Dare I say: polite discrimination is necessary in the boarding process?

On your boarding pass is the heading, Zone. Look beneath it to find a poorly disguised indication of your affluence. This is what determines when you may embark. Unseasoned travelers, or anti-establishment rebels, typically rise too soon from their seats, crowd together, and block the path of First Class and Premium passengers—the upper crust of airplane society who board before most everyone else. For the majority of us in other designated Zones, I suggest we step to the side and allow High Society to go more easily on their way. Additionally, let’s bow, ever so slightly, as they pass by. They have, after all, impressed us with the status they have achieved by either paying big bucks for their cushy seats or by manipulating airline miles and credit card spending to earn upgrades into the royal realm. They deserve our silent admiration, if only for a moment. Take solace in knowing that even they must yield to people needing assistance or to those traveling with children under two, with strollers or car seats.

Next to board are various levels of the working/middle class. These are my people. We own the Sky…Zone. We achieve higher and higher status—Silver to Gold to Platinum to Diamond Medallion—as we accrue more and more miles through air travel or as we rack up exorbitant credit card balances. We are frequent flyers, good spenders, and oftentimes, both.

The extent of snobbery in Sky Zone most recently cost me $19 extra to upgrade from basic, main cabin seating to Delta Comfort+. It was well worth a bite size Twix and mini banana, wine, extra leg room, and free SHOWTIME episodes of Penny Dreadful, Season 2. Is it not obvious that Sky Zone people are on our way towards magnificence and, like those who went before us, deserve a clear path to our assigned seats?

Zones 1, 2, and 3 are reserved for the have-nots. Because of their lowly position in the pecking order, they are last to be summoned forward and, once onboard, may struggle to find room in the overhead bins. Do not fret if you are assigned to one of these final categories. You are still classier than the other people waiting to board who sit in front of charging stations and don’t intend to share the extremely limited power. They roll their eyes and begrudgingly lean an inch to one side when someone approaches and asks to plug-in. If it were up to me, I would strip the classless of their coffee or tea, water or juice, peanuts, pretzels, or crumbly cookies. Make way! For cryin’ out loud.

Ahem. Air travel affords the perfect opportunity to practice getting along with other people.

3. Once on board, stow your belongings, sit back, relax, and control yourself.

• Kick the seat or tap too hard on the personal entertainment system in front of you.
• Monopolize the armrests or invade your seat-mate’s allotted space.
• Recline your own seat too quickly.
• Speak softly when carrying on conversations.
• Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
• Say please and thank you to the stewards.

We can’t rely on rocket science alone to make airline travel more enjoyable. Let’s remember our manners.

(Farting is fine as long as you deliver silent ones. No one can really tell where those come from anyway.)


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    • Barbara Pattee on May 22, 2016 at 8:56 pm
    • Reply

    Kelly, your blog is funny. My husband and I recently returned from a plane trip where I wish I could have posted your rules for the rude people to read. Most passengers were polite, but the child kicking the seat behind us was the worst.

      • Kelly Bixby on May 27, 2016 at 1:33 pm
      • Reply

      Oh, Barbara! Were you not dying to say something? I’m so curious as to how you handled the situation. No matter what, I bet you were considerate.

        • Barbara Pattee on May 28, 2016 at 9:37 pm
        • Reply

        Yes, I wanted to say something, but I knew my husband would prefer to handle it himself. He quietly asked the child’s mother to tell the child to stop kicking the seat. His stern look helped.

    • Sue Remisiewicz on May 1, 2016 at 4:16 pm
    • Reply

    Very funny, Kelly! Nice post!

      • Kelly Bixby on May 2, 2016 at 7:30 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you, Sue! Public places are full of great material.

    • Anonymous on April 20, 2016 at 7:42 pm
    • Reply

    Is this the reason your mom does not fly who really knows

      • Kelly Bixby on April 21, 2016 at 9:39 am
      • Reply

      We’ll go with that assumption. 🙂

    • Anonymous on April 20, 2016 at 7:39 pm
    • Reply

    Is this the reason your mom does not fly who knows

    • Anonymous on April 19, 2016 at 1:55 pm
    • Reply

    Kelly I usually get next to the people who want to party the entire flight. Then the steward asks me if I think the passenger has a drinking problem? Really ? Someone ordering 2 Boiler Makers at 6:30 a.m. wasn’t a big enough clue?
    Kim DiGennaro

      • Kelly Bixby on April 19, 2016 at 2:05 pm
      • Reply

      Too funny, Kim! And a bit sad. They could at least wait until noon. 🙂

        • Cathy Lambert on April 19, 2016 at 2:21 pm
        • Reply

        You know it is always 5:00 somewhere

          • Kelly Bixby on April 19, 2016 at 4:28 pm
          • Reply

          Well said, Cathy! I need to remember that. ☺️

  1. So fun to read Kelly! I think you hit on every aspect that annoys me to no end. I cannot even believe the nail clipping incident. Yuck! I laughed a lot through this one.

      • Kelly Bixby on April 17, 2016 at 2:57 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks, Wendi! I couldn’t resist making light of the situation.

  2. Nice article, Kelly. It reminds me of why I like to drive. 🙂

      • Kelly Bixby on April 16, 2016 at 4:28 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks. I can understand that, Phil.

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