Airline Etiquette Tips for Business Travellers

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For people who don’t do a lot of travelling for work, the idea of business travel is totally different to the reality of it. Waking up at the crack of dawn to catch the red eye so that you can make it to a breakfast meeting on the other side of the country or long flights to far-flung destinations that, unlike the imagined world of business travel, involve travelling between your hotel and important meetings, not sightseeing and taking in the local culture.

Travelling for business is a business in itself. Whether you are on a long flight or are just flying between Johannesburg and Cape Town, for many seasoned business flyers the idea of air travel is more daunting than the huge presentation or shareholders meeting that lies ahead at the other end. And not because of a fear of flying. No, for many well travelled business men and women it is the OTHER passengers that cause sweaty palms, dry mouth and anxiety levels to shoot through the roof.

Being up in the air doesn’t mean that the same rules of decency and etiquette don’t apply. Plane etiquette boils down to is good manners, respect and consideration for those around you.

You can have the best travel consultant in the world who books you the best seat on the plane but you might not escape chatty Cathy next to you. So what do you do?

We have compiled a list of ten golden rules that will make you a model passenger.

  1. If you look around an airport departure lounge today you are likely to be affronted by a slew of saggy tracksuits, holey t-shirts and general slobbery. While it is important to be comfortable, particularly on long haul flights, it is also important not to look like you have just been rescued from a homeless shelter. If you are a business traveller you need to look the part, after all, this is a work trip so you need to dress accordingly.
  2. If you have ever been on a flight and had to sit next to someone who clearly didn’t get the memo about the invention of deodorant you’ll know how important it is to maintain good personal hygiene. Other people’s smells can be quite off putting. By the same token, don’t douse yourself in perfume or aftershave as the overwhelmingly strong smell of any scent (no matter how expensive it is) can be just as nauseating as bad body odor.
  3. Hand luggage can be very contentious. With limited space in the overhead lockers, it is important to remember that there are OTHER passengers on the flight. Be considerate about how you pack your hand luggage into the overhead bins and if you see someone else being less than thoughtful about the space they are taking up then perhaps suggest packing the locker differently so that other people can also make use of it. This gentle hint will make the passengers around you aware of the passengers around them. If you are using the space under the seat in front of you for hand luggage be mindful of the fact that fellow passengers might need to get past.
  4. Interacting with other passengers is a minefield. Do you engage? Don’t you? Well, at the very least you should greet the people sitting next to you. This is very basic manners 101. That being said, you don’t need to share your life story with them. If you are sat next to a talker, it can be quite difficult to extricate yourself from their verbal memoirs. Try not to be rude, but make it clear that you are not the chatty sort – say hi then open your book, put your headphones on or turn on your laptop to prepare for the big presentation.
  5. The armrests are a bit like no man’s land – no one is quite sure whose territory they are. If you are in a row of three then the middle armrests go to the poor soul who sits in that middle seat. There has to be some silver lining to drawing the short straw.
  6. The flight has departed, the seat belt sign is off and you need to get up to use the lavatory. But the drinks trolley is doing the rounds. While it is very hard to control the call of nature if you are going to disturb your fellow flyers at least try to make sure it is not in the middle of the meal.
  7. There is a limited number of loos on a plane. It is important to leave them in the state you would like to find them in.
  8. Drinking too much on a plane is unacceptable! Not only do you feel terrible when you land at your destination, on many airlines it will land you in restraints for the remainder of the flight, not to mention what will happen when you are finally allowed to disembark.
  9. Airline seats are designed to recline. That being said, the seating on planes today is very close. On some airlines when you recline your seat you are almost sitting on the lap of the person behind you. Have a look behind you, let the person know you are going to recline your seat and do it slowly. There’s no need to kneecap your neighbour with your seat. Also be aware of meal times and put your seat back up.
  10. There is something about planes that induces sleep, even on short flights. If you are likely to fall asleep pack a neck pillow. There is nothing worse than having the passenger next to you nod off and use your shoulder as a headrest or the person in the middle seat who uses their tray table as a head rest so you can’t get past them if you need to.

They say that “manners maketh man”, well manners also maketh good airline passengers. Hopefully your excellent plane etiquette will also rub off on your fellow passengers. After all, it takes one small stone to cause a huge ripple.

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