When it comes to traveling, navigation is key. It’s the crucial process that ensures you get where you need to go in an orderly time and fashion (or not, depending on your travel style! Here’s to you, rugged nomads!). Navigation is also crucial when it comes to being at the airport. Knowing how to navigate the etiquette of air travel can help make your travels so much easier and more enjoyable! While each destination may be different, the essentials of airport rituals and behaviors stay pretty constant. Here’s how you can ensure your airport etiquette stays in check:
The Earlier, The Better – The standard for airport arrival is two hours early (for departures). This ensures you have enough time to park, check in, physically navigate the airport, get through security, and find your gate. Never assume that an airport will be dead at a certain time of day, or that things will always go smoothly. There’s always the chance that there are two hundred people going through security and only two metal detectors in the security line are up and working (this was actually a thing once…). So always give yourself plenty of time to eliminate any possible stresses about not making your flight!
Be Prepared For Security – For seasoned travelers, the routine is second nature. For newer travelers or those traveling perhaps with small children, going through security is something to truly prepare for. Passports (or ID) and boarding passes should always be out and ready (there’s nothing like a family of five holding up a whole line because someone put the boarding passes in someone’s bag and can’t figure out which one…). Trash any beverages you may have brought into the airport with you, lest you feel the wrath of the TSA agents (and they can be pretty wrath-y). And perhaps the biggest piece of etiquette advice while going through security is to be ready to dump your belongings onto the belt and make your way through the metal detector. This means taking your shoes/belt/scarf/coat/etc. off BEFORE getting up to the conveyor belt (lest you feel the wrath of all other persons behind you, who can also be pretty wrath-y, as it turns out). This ensures a quick fly-through in security. Laptops always need to be taken out of bags and placed in THEIR OWN bin. If you happen to be wearing something like a fitness tracking device, take this off, too, as sometimes it’ll set the detector off and you’ll get pulled aside for a minute. When you get through onto the other side, grab your bags off the belt first to clear room and then grab any items you need to put back on. Move aside to make room for others, if necessary.
Be Polite To Staff and Fellow Travelers – This goes mostly for when going through security and speaking with any gate agents. Everyone is traveling. Everyone wants to get where they’re going. Everyone wants things to go their way. And sometimes these things can’t or don’t always happen the way people want them to. Being polite is perhaps by far one of the most notable points of airport etiquette, and it can really benefit you. Smiling at a TSA agent or gate agent keeps your encounters with them positive (even if they may not be as polite back to you). Yelling at a flight attendant won’t help you and being rude to a fellow passenger doesn’t benefit anyone. Remember the “golden rule” and, well, you’ll be golden.
Wait Your Turn – Airports have this process down to a science, but it doesn’t mean people don’t try to circumvent it. Waiting your turn means that things remain going as smoothly as possible. If in line at security, wait until you’re called forward to present your documents and/or go through the screening process. When boarding, wait until your seating area is called to move toward the gate agent – crowding just holds everyone up. When exiting the plane, just remember that the plane empties from front to back (usually) and so jumping up to claim your belongings and an aisle spot as soon as the plane lands when there are twenty-five rows in front of you just means you’ll be standing for awhile (if you have a tight connection, POLITELY ask if others will let you exit before them – never yell or be rude to get your way! It often backfires!).
Never Leave Your Belongings – Most people are pretty conscious of this, but it still serves as a point to make note of. Never at any time leave your luggage or belongings in a different location than yourself. Whether going through security or waiting at your departure gate, always make sure your items are with you! Even if you’re just sitting at your gate waiting to board and want to make a quick dash to the restroom fifty feet away before getting onto the plane, don’t leave your bags. It’s technically against airport security protocol (and could land you in a spot of trouble if a security agent decides to call you out!).
Be Conscious of Others – This ties in directly with everything else and is generally common sense. Be mindful of people who need extra assistance, who need to catch a tight connecting flight, or who may just look like they’re not having the greatest day. Airports are full of all sorts of people and so simply being aware of them and what’s going on can make a difference in both your experience and theirs.
No matter where you may be headed in the world, keep these simple “rules of etiquette” in mind next time you’re at the airport and your experience may go a bit smoother!