Friday, December 23, 2011

The Common Courtesies of Air Travel...Things We Can All Do to Fly in Harmony

       For those business warriors or leisure travelers who choose the air over the road, one does not have to look far to find a familiar reality:  On most days, respect and common courtesy, one person to the next, must have deplaned on some other jet bridge, in some other airport. 

     It doesn’t matter if you are one who occasionally books an e-ticket, or keeps your corporate travel agent busy making arrangements from week to week.  What once seemed to be an enjoyable privilege, has now become an ever so challenging necessity. 

     “Are you having fun yet?” Depending on the ebbs and flows of your journey at the time you are asked, the answer to this question can vary greatly; not only from traveler to traveler, but from circumstance to circumstance as well.  The common courtesies of modern day air travel…wow how things have changed.

     Air travel today is often associated with weather delays, mechanical problems, cancellations, lost luggage and just plain old travel fatigue.  As frustrating and inconvenient as these situations can be, there is even a more annoying condition that can stretch the most relaxed traveler to the maximum limit—a one-on-one bout with someone else’s rude behavior.  

     From the Northeast to the Southwest and from sea to shining sea I have seen it first-hand, as passengers arrive and depart from airports of all sizes.  Anger and disrespectful behaviors abound; not only now and then, but more often than not. 

     Having the opportunity to travel quite frequently, I’ve often accepted the fact that this is just how it is these days as we make our way from place to place.  However, I have found myself a little more frustrated and disenchanted lately and catch myself wondering if John Madden has the right idea.  So, instead of continuing to focus on those who seem to test the patience of all, I decided to take a positive view and send out a heartfelt expression of gratitude to those who still know how to treat others with kindness and respect.  If you find yourself falling under this category, then this is for you.

     A debt of gratitude is owed to the individual who not only helps someone else safely secure their luggage on the rack before the shuttle proceeds, but to that one gentleman who still believes in the act of giving up his seat to a lady.  Thank you for being such a class act.

     Now that most airlines encourage self check-in at the kiosk, isn’t it nice when you find that one couple standing in line behind you not breathing down your neck.  For those who allow you to finish your check-in process without rushing or rattling you—making you feel as though you are a total inconvenience to them—this sincere thanks is for you.

     It is no different when checking in with an airline representative.  Allowing the person in front of you to not only exit after completing the process, but also moving out of the way of both them and their luggage; makes for a much better day.

     A tip of the hat goes to those who approach the entire security process with a tolerant attitude toward the many around them.  Some passengers will always have a little more to pull out of a brief case and stuff back in; while others might just need to bypass you for one more gray bin.  Whatever the circumstances, isn’t it nice when fellow travelers allow you space; don’t cut their eyes at you if you accidentally sent your boarding pass through the x-ray machine; and smile, rather than mumble derogatory comments, if it takes a few extra minutes to collect your personal items and get redressed.

     Whichever line you help to make up (i.e., at the security check-in, ticketing, boarding or Burger King® in Terminal A) a huge shout of appreciation goes out to those travelers who choose not to cut in front of others and proceed to stand there like they didn’t mean to in the first place.  Eventually, every line comes to an end—someone is first and someone is last.  Nonetheless, everyone is grateful to those who accept their place in line, wherever it may be.  There is one critical exception though.

     When boarding the plane in groups or all rows, if you see an elderly person or someone who seems to be experiencing “one of those days” (if you know what I mean) let them step in front of you.  Not only will you put a smile on their face, they really will appreciate your genuine kindness.

     After finally being seated, I would like to offer a standing ovation to that individual who graciously offers help to another passenger who is struggling to lift their bag into the overhead compartment.

     For the traveler seated in the center or window seat who needs to go to the restroom and kindly asks the person next to them to allow clearance into the aisle—thank you for your politeness.

     To the person who turns around to see what the passenger is doing directly behind them before pushing the small silver button to recline, you are first class.  No one likes coffee or soda spilled in their lap; not to mention, you never know when someone’s laptop screen or keyboard might suffer the consequences.

     It is quite difficult not to notice those who immediately leap up from their seats and pass right by you before the airplane door has even been opened.  I applaud those passengers who wait patiently to exit in an orderly fashion.  After hours on a plane, no one enjoys trying to stand and get out of their seat while someone from behind charges past them, instead of waiting their turn.  Odds are their connecting flight will still be waiting at the gate anyway.

     After arriving at your final destination, one of the toughest tests of endurance is waiting for your bags.  A big gold star goes to that traveler who is quick to say the words “excuse me” when trying to remove luggage from the baggage carousel, while someone is blocking their path.  Isn’t it nice when you hear those words!  Common courtesy at baggage claim is greatly appreciated by all.

     “So, are you having fun yet?”  I know, I know…it all depends on the dynamics of your travels.  Nonetheless, flying these days does not have to be a major pain in the neck if you, I and our fellow cohorts in the air extend a little respect to one another.  Never under estimate the power of social graces such as saying:  Thank you; You may have my seat; Oh, let me help you with your bag; Pardon my interruption; I apologize for bumping into you.

     These and many other tokens of thoughtfulness can go a long way in the journey toward establishing harmony both in the skies above and in our passage between stops on the ground.

     Remember, you never know when the shoe might be on the other foot.  When you are having “one of those days,” you will definitely appreciate that one soul who extends common courtesy, a kind word and a warm smile.  What has become a necessity can once again be enjoyable as we each bring our own personal instrument of harmony to the infinite skies above.