All travellers know what it’s like to experience the scrum once your gate has opened, or what it’s like to board a plane – only to realise you’re seated next to a dreaded armrest hog. Here are Skyscanner Australia‘s travel etiquette dos and don’ts for handling those less-than-desirable travel dilemmas.
Ten steps to good travel etiquette:
1. Walk in the fast lane
2. Board when told to
3. Have your travel documents ready
4. Be mindful of luggage sizes
5. Give the middle seats the arm rests
6. Respect personal space
7. Be polite to cabin crew
8. Learn about where you’re going
10. Be positive
Airport travel etiquette
Despite what being at an airport means – normally that you’re about to go on holiday or you’ve just had a great time away – a quick look at the faces around you shows that you’re not in a happy place. An airport is one of those awful waiting places, full of queues, delays and discomfort. When you’re in an airport, the best tip is to stay aware of your surroundings and be ready to move so that you don’t add to the frustration of others.
Walk in the fast lane
In bigger airports, you’ll find travelators and escalators around the terminal. Like in train stations, there’s a fast lane for those in a hurry. Blocking a moving walkway or staircase is a surefire way to annoy someone in a rush to board their plane. Ideally, you should always keep moving until you get to a food court or your gate, and be sure that if you are taking things slowly that you don’t block the way with your luggage.
Board when told to
While some low-cost carriers don’t give allocated seats, almost every airline you fly with will give you a designated spot. Passengers are invited to board in intervals at the airport, and for a very good reason. Respect this system and wait until your rows are boarded otherwise you’ll disrupt the flow.
As a general rule, families with children and passengers requiring assistance will be called first, so if you aren’t in either category simply sit and continue to read until your row is called.
Have your travel documents ready
Everyone boarding the flight knows that they will need to show their passport and boarding pass at some point during the boarding process, whether it’s at check-in, security or at the gate. Be prepared and have them ready while you’re queuing. There’s no excuse for fumbling around and wasting others’ time, especially when you’re at the front of the queue (or you’ve skipped the step ahead because you’re so desperate to get on the plane).
Flight travel etiquette
Etiquette on a plane is generally about being kind and courteous. It’s unlikely that the flight will be the highlight of your trip – although you may get some great views if you have a window seat – and trying to sleep in an uncomfortable seat or work out what exactly is in your meal can put some people in a foul mood. Try not to add extra reasons for people to get air rage by thinking about those around you.
Be mindful of luggage sizes
Airlines have restrictions on the size of cabin luggage and the reason is simple: it’s what fits in their overhead lockers. Be mindful of this when you pack so that you can quickly put your bag away and get seated to ease the boarding flow.
If you see someone struggling with their luggage, don’t tut or scowl, it may be their first time flying and everyone makes mistakes. You can offer to help either by giving them a hand to lift their bag or by pointing out a locker that has more space. This simple act can make a huge difference to someone struggling with their luggage.
Middle seats get the arm rests
No traveller chooses the middle seat as their first preference. The window has the advantage of views but the disadvantage of having to climb over others to get to the toilet. In the aisle, you can stretch out but your sleep or film watching may be disrupted by someone looking to stretch their legs. In the middle, you get neither of these advantages but all of the disadvantages. To make up for this imbalance, it’s common courtesy to at least give the middle seat use of both arm rests so they’re not as crammed in.
Respect personal space
Personal space is limited on a plane (at least in economy class) so be respectful of those around you. Don’t stretch out into your neighbour’s leg or arm space, ask the person behind you before you recline and while some people are happy to chat on a flight, be mindful that others are not. As in the office, if someone has headphones on it’s a sign that they don’t want to be disturbed.
Be polite to cabin crew
There are a lot of grouchy people on planes and most of them take their frustrations out on the cabin crew, regardless of the situation. As a reminder, the cabin crew did not design the seats and they are not responsible for delays.
International travel etiquette
One of the greatest things about travelling is discovering foreign cultures and finding out how other people live. While much of your education will happen on the ground, it’s important to do a bit of research before you go so that you can make a good first impression and avoid making faux pas.
Learn basics of where you’re going
Travel etiquette is different around the world – what’s true of Bali may not be the same in Europe or America. Before you fly, make sure you brush up on a few common courtesies. Despite the heat, in temples in Indonesia it’s important to dress respectfully. In Thailand, it’s rude to point at things with your feet and in Korea it’s polite to use both hands then passing or receiving an object from someone.
Travel photo etiquette is a consideration too. Always ask permission when taking a photo of someone you don’t know and show the subject the photo after it’s been taken. Be mindful of religious aspects – generally , it’s a no-no to take photos of people praying or attending worship.
Language is another big thing. For a short holiday, it’s not expected that you’ll quickly get to conversational level, but learning a few words like ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ is a nice touch that will be appreciated the world over.
Tipping is a grey area for Australians, preferring as we do to pay our workers a liveable wage. However, travel etiquette in different countries is to tip like the locals do, not as you would at home.
The obvious country for tipping is the USA, where 15-20% is expected in restaurants (likewise in Canada). In Europe, 10-15% is normal when you’re pleased with service, but it’s not as enforced as it is in the States. However, in some countries, such as China and Japan, it’s actually rude and insulting to offer a tip.
Travel is a glorious privilege and something that we in Australia are lucky to embark on. With our high wages and generous annual leave, Aussies can travel more than most.
While some aspects of your trip might not be up to expectations, no one wants to put up with the tourist who complains all the time. Yes, things aren’t like they were 20 years ago, they’re not the same as they are back home and it’s unlikely they’ll look like they do in the brochures, but travel is about the experience and expanding your horizons, so take the good with the bad and save your complaints for the serious issues.