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TravelHaven Tips — Air Travel Etiquette

A recent Reuters article by Ann Post asks: Who owns the middle seat arm rests on an airplane? How do you break away from the marathon talker beside you? And what do you do about that kid kicking the back of your seat?

Incivility and rudeness are often the product of stress, and there are few situations more primed for stress these days than air travel. Once glamorous, air travel is now a test of patience, and sometimes even endurance. Today’s travelers face the reality of rigorous security procedures on top of flight delays and cancellations, anxiety about security, cramped seating and reduced or no meal service.

How to cope? Patience, courtesy and flexibility, plus a sense of humor. While you have little or no control over those sources of stress, not to mention the cabin environment or your seatmate, you can control how you react to adversity.

Here are a few tips, defensive and offensive, to get you through your travels with less stress and more civility.

Arrive early
This may be obvious, but it’s often undervalued. As your stress level rises your capacity for tolerance and civility often decreases. Keep calm. If your gate agent gives you bad news. Losing your temper won’t get you there faster, and it may lose you the sympathy of the one person who could possibly assist you.

Prepare for security
Find out and abide by current screening procedures and airline policies for checked and carry-on luggage. There are still clueless passengers who pack large bottles of liquids in their carry-on; don’t be one of them. Wear shoes that are easy to take on and off. Keep items you may have to remove from your luggage for screening — such as laptops — readily accessible. If you’re a frequent traveler who knows the drill, be patient with those who are new at this-they may be nervous.

Create your own environment
Bring an eye shade for napping. Use headphones to listen to music or movies (in the terminal or on the plane). Earplugs can block out unwanted conversations and annoying music. If your seatmate won’t stop chatting with you, smile and say, “Well, it’s been nice speaking with you. I’m going to read for a bit now.”

Do your fellow travelers a favor and step away from others in the terminal to take cell phone calls. And keep calls brief while in security lines or taxi-ing to the gate after landing.

The middle seat arm rests are shared property, but it’s generous for the aisle and window seat holders to give the middle passenger a chance to claim them first

Traveling is tougher on children
Crying babies are part of the air travel package, so it’s a good idea to stash some earplugs in your carry on. However, if a child is kicking the back of your seat, it’s okay to speak to the parent. Smile and say, “I know it’s tough for kids, but would you mind asking him not to kick the seat? Thanks.” Keep it short and offer some understanding, and it’s likely the parent — and child — will comply

Bring your own amusements
Reading over someone’s shoulder is nosy and intrusive. Avoid the temptation and come prepared with books, magazines, or a laptop of your own. Privacy filters for computers and smart phones will bar others’ wandering eyes. If your neighbor is taking too much interest in your screen, meet his gaze briefly. This will jolt his awareness — the best medicine for rude behavior.

Pack some snacks
Have some candy or crackers in your carry-on. Avoid foods with strong odors that may bother your neighbors though, like tuna fish, egg salad, or a garlicky meatball sub. Due to concerns about nut allergies, it’s best to avoid these snacks altogether.

You can’t always choose your neighbors on the plane or in the boarding area, but you can take responsibility for your own comfort and come as prepared as possible.