Air Travel Etiquette

Business Air Travel.

Whether you work in IB, PE, HF, Sales, Real Estate Development or a F500 role, travelling for your job soon becomes one of the realities of life. Those of us who have done it extensively will know that travelling for business is a whole different animal than heading to the local airport a few times a year when you jet out for your regular vacation. Flying to Miami on your way out to your next Caribbean cruise or jetting off to Indianapolis to visit your family for the holidays is not without stress, especially with the debacle that airport security has become, but it is nothing like what regular business travelers experience. For many of us on this forum, waking up at 4:00 AM to catch the 6:00 AM flight to Chicago in order to make a 10:00 AM meeting with a client and then flying back that night (usually with plenty of follow-up work on your plate), is a regular occurrence and never much fun. All of the inconveniences and headaches know to leisure travelers are only magnified.

Most of the airlines, love them or hate them, have programs that cater to the regular business traveler and attempt to attract repeat business through small perks that help lessen the pain. Priority boarding, access to better seats and upgrades are the most familiar. That brings me to something that I have seen occur with more and more frequency over the last few years as airlines have begun to allocate 'choice' seats in Coach to those who are either willing to pay a little bit extra or have accumulated a certain status level in that particular carrier's frequent flier program. Although most firms only allow for senior partners, managing directors or C-suite executives to book business class travel for domestic flights less than a specific duration, they will often book coach travel in 'Economy Plus' or get you early boarding and the choice of a better seat.

The more I have travelled lately, the more I seem to repeat a particular encounter with other travelers. Twice over the past month, and at least a half-dozen times over the last year, I have been approached by another passenger asking me to switch seats. Not surprisingly, this passenger is always assigned a middle seat and is asking to switch into an aisle or an 'extra legroom' seat that requires additional expenditure or higher frequent flier status by the traveler. Last week, on a flight from Miami to Denver, the woman sitting in the middle asked to switch into my aisle seat because she "goes to the bathroom frequently." I had just left a meeting with one client in Florida that day and would arrive in Denver after midnight for an 8:00 AM meeting the next morning. She was a mid-20s hippie/artist coming back from some trip to South America that her folks probably paid for. A few weeks earlier a middle aged gentleman who appeared to be coming back from a vacation with his wife asked me to switch seats so he could sit next to her. He was sitting in the middle seat in the last row of the aircraft (the row where your seats do not recline) and I was 2 or 3 rows in front of him in the aisle. In both instances, I was shocked that someone would have the gall to ask someone to volunteer to switch into a less desirable seat just for their own personal comfort. This is especially true under the airlines' new program of having travelers pay for these more premium seats. In the cases where I have been stuck in the middle (last week on a 6 AM flight from LaGuardia to Chicago) I would never think of obsequiously requesting something like this from another traveler. To me, it is just one of those instances in life where you have to play the hand you are dealt. Sometimes you get a good seat and sometimes you don't, deal with it and move on.

If these were just one-off occurrences, I would just chalk it up to the lack of etiquette on behalf of a few isolated individuals. However, it has happened so frequently lately that it is becoming increasingly annoying. My impression is that this is another example of the entitlement society that many of us have mentioned in other posts on the site. People think that middle seats are for other people and they are 'special' for one reason or another and thus do not deserve things like anything but the most comfortable seats on airplanes.
Now, there are cases where passengers do deserve special treatment. For the elderly, disabled or mothers travelling with small children, it is our duty as members of a civil and polite society to accommodate people that are less fortunate than us. What I have encountered lately does not resemble anything like this. To me, it seems like a less egregious example of those parents who hire handicapped kids to get their families front-of-the-line privileges at Disney World.

Anyone else experienced this, lately? I would be interested in everyone's thoughts on the situation.

Comments (68)

Oct 21, 2013

tl;dr - you get asked too much to switch with a person sitting b*tch seat. Unfortunately, you don't tell us what you did in those situations :(

speed boost blaze

Oct 21, 2013

I told them to go f$&k themselves. Not in so many words, but I think my point came across....

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Best Response
Oct 21, 2013
FormerHornetDriver:

I told them to go f$&k themselves. Not in so many words, but I think my point came across....

Excellent - tbh I wouldn't have been as blunt as you...I would've been more polite since
I wanna be the very best
Like no one ever was
To catch them is my real test
To train them is my cause

I will travel across the land
Searching far and wide
Each Pokemon to understand
The power that's inside

Pokemon, it's you and me
I know it's my destiny
Pokemon, oh, you're my best friend
In a world we must defend
Pokemon, a heart so true
Our courage will pull us through

You teach me and I'll teach you
Pokemon, gotta catch 'em all

Every challenge along the way
With courage I will face
I will battle every day
To claim my rightful place

Come with me, the time is right
There's no better team
Arm in arm we'll win the fight
It's always been our dream!

speed boost blaze

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Oct 21, 2013

I've had this happen to me exactly once, and I used to fly a lot. The trick is to look unapproachable, board early and have headphones on or be engrossed in your ipad by the time the people who fly once a year get on the plane.

Oct 22, 2013
meabric:

I've had this happen to me exactly once, and I used to fly a lot. The trick is to look unapproachable, board early and have headphones on or be engrossed in your ipad by the time the people who fly once a year get on the plane.

+1 on the headphones. having resting asshole face also helps with this so much.

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Oct 21, 2013

Seat switching is a pet peeve of mine. I don't travel for work (or that much for that matter I guess), but am always irritated by people that try to switch. If I get a shitty seat and my gf is up three aisles, oh well, I deal with it. It's rude too because you know that if you say "No", you are the ass hole! Catch-22. Of course, there are exceptions as you pointed out.

Oct 21, 2013
Anihilist:

Seat switching is a pet peeve of mine. I don't travel for work (or that much for that matter I guess), but am always irritated by people that try to switch. If I get a shitty seat and my gf is up three aisles, oh well, I deal with it. It's rude too because you know that if you say "No", you are the ass hole! Catch-22. Of course, there are exceptions as you pointed out.

My feelings exactly. It's like they put you on the spot to try and make you feel bad if you say no. Totally taking advantage of someone's goodwill. I find it to be especially bad these days as good seats on an airplane in coach are almost all given out based on some type of organized system:

1. You pay for the good seat (or your company pays for it)
2. You have a higher frequent flier status
3. You call the airline a few days in advance to try and get a good seat assignment
3. You get to the airport early and check in before most other people (or check in online)

Oct 21, 2013

Don't have to worry about the plebes that fly commercial.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

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Oct 21, 2013

I don't have this problem with Southwest. This thread made me realize why I love them so much. Sit wherever you want, if you don't get a good seat, tough shit, you should have checked in online.

Oct 21, 2013
TeddyTheBear:

I don't have this problem with Southwest. This thread made me realize why I love them so much. Sit wherever you want, if you don't get a good seat, tough shit, you should have checked in online.

Let's be honest... SW is no longer about checking in on time. Its only remaining perks are no bag or change fees. By the time someone tries to check in, they are already in the mid-Bs unless you pay extra, which is no different than a Big 3 charging for economy plus/comfort.

Oct 21, 2013

Not sure what flights you are talking about. Most times I checked in I am usually in the As, although they may be towards the end, but still its good enough to grab a decent seat. I set my phone on reminder for 24 hours before the flight and click check in right on time. I always get a decent seat if I do it on time.

Oct 22, 2013
TeddyTheBear:

I don't have this problem with Southwest. This thread made me realize why I love them so much. Sit wherever you want, if you don't get a good seat, tough shit, you should have checked in online.

Yup. I have flown Southwest a few times recently and our policy is that they pay for 'Business Select' boarding, which means you get to board the plane right after the handicapped people and those traveling with small children. This whole seat issue almost never happens on SWA because everyone boards in order and picks their seats. I remember the days when flying on the major airlines was a nice experience and Southwest was the cattle car, redneck operation. Oh my, how times have changed. Southwest flights (at least those during the weekdays) are filled with business travelers in suits and ties. When you think about it, it makes sense. Because Southwest flies out of the smaller airports, it's a lot more convenient in just about every way.

Oct 22, 2013
FormerHornetDriver:
TeddyTheBear:

I don't have this problem with Southwest. This thread made me realize why I love them so much. Sit wherever you want, if you don't get a good seat, tough shit, you should have checked in online.

Yup. I have flown Southwest a few times recently and our policy is that they pay for 'Business Select' boarding, which means you get to board the plane right after the handicapped people and those traveling with small children. This whole seat issue almost never happens on SWA because everyone boards in order and picks their seats. I remember the days when flying on the major airlines was a nice experience and Southwest was the cattle car, redneck operation. Oh my, how times have changed. Southwest flights (at least those during the weekdays) are filled with business travelers in suits and ties. When you think about it, it makes sense. Because Southwest flies out of the smaller airports, it's a lot more convenient in just about every way.

Interestingly, I have a buddy who works for SWA who mentioned that this policy has the added benefit of shortening board times.

Because everyone is hustling for a good seat, they rush onto the plane which lets them take off faster.

Oct 21, 2013

I don't see boarding early as a perk. I want to be on that plane for as few minutes as possible. If someone's in your seat, well you know...

Oct 21, 2013

False. You clearly don't fly very much then. Nowadays, everyone and their mother carries on, so the storage space fills up really quickly. I flew on a couple planes today and both times the last 15-20% of people boarding had to check their bags as we were boarding the plane. So basically you're saving 5-10 minutes of standing waiting with your bags before you get on the plane and then you're probably saving another 20 by not having to wait for your bag at baggage claim.

SPECIAL TIP for those of you who travel a lot but don't fly first class every time: Next time you travel first class, take a screen shot of your digital boarding pass and use the picture to get in the security fast lanes every time you travel from then on. Works like a charm.

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Oct 21, 2013
CorpFinanceGuy:

False. You clearly don't fly very much then. Nowadays, everyone and their mother carries on, so the storage space fills up really quickly. I flew on a couple planes today and both times the last 15-20% of people boarding had to check their bags as we were boarding the plane. So basically you're saving 5-10 minutes of standing waiting with your bags before you get on the plane and then you're probably saving another 20 by not having to wait for your bag at baggage claim.

SPECIAL TIP for those of you who travel a lot but don't fly first class every time: Next time you travel first class, take a screen shot of your digital boarding pass and use the picture to get in the security fast lanes every time you travel from then on. Works like a charm.

Money post.

Oct 21, 2013

Isn't that the beauty though? If you have carry on and the overhead is full, they seemingly have to check your bag for you for free. At least, every time that I've gone and the overhead was full, they'd give me a green tag and my shit would meet me at my destination... for free!

Oct 21, 2013

lol... you fly coach?

I forgot about the common folk.

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Oct 22, 2013

The special tip doesn't make much sense. If you travel enough to get upgraded once then you already have Premier Access/Sky Priority/Awesomeness and will have access to the shorter security lines anyhow. (I will say that in EWR the Premier lines are often longer than the regular lines lol)

Oct 21, 2013

This happened to me once and only once. What's worse is that if there is a kid involved, usually the flight attendant will do the dirty work. My standard answer: "I would like to help you, but I would prefer to stay here." Done. Don't try justify your choice or anything, you don't owe them anything. That said, if it was a comparable seat and I was in a good mood I might say...fuck it.

Please don't quote Patrick Bateman.

Oct 22, 2013

Didn't you jump off that plane?

Oct 21, 2013
FormerHornetDriver:

Last week, on a flight from Miami to Denver, the woman sitting in the middle asked to switch into my aisle seat because she "goes to the bathroom frequently."

Be a gentleman and hand her a bucket when you stand up to let her slide on in

Oct 21, 2013

It is amazing how time flies while one is reading or napping.

"He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man." -- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Oct 21, 2013

It's a domestic flight; who gives a fuck. I've never had anyone ask me to switch but I could live for the hour and a half.

But whatever, I'm just glad I fly first class international and have status.

Oct 21, 2013

OP,

It would be nice to have you on any plane. You know, just in case something happens to the pilots, you could take over right? I mean you probably landed F-18's on pitching decks, and could probably fly a commercial plane half-asleep.

Oct 21, 2013

I don't understand the question - there are no middle seats in first class. Are you flying on your own dime or something?

Oct 21, 2013

To the poster who mentioned not wanting to board until the last minute: Boarding first is a HUGE advantage for business travel. Few business travelers check luggage anymore so it is essential to secure an overhead space for your carry-on. You're also likely to be sitting towards the front of the plane and putting luggage in an overhead bin behind you makes life even more complicated.

I use to fly pretty much weekly back when I was employed. I've been asked to change my seat probably once in every 30-40 flights. Usually it is couples looking to sit next to each other and at least one of them has an aisle seat. I've never been asked to move to a middle seat. While it is obnoxious to expect someone to move, they don't have anything to lose by asking.

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Oct 22, 2013
CompBanker:

While it is obnoxious to expect someone to move, they don't have anything to lose by asking.

This is about my reaction as well, just say "no dude, I'm already comfortable". I was expecting a list of things like "Don't clip your nails in your seat" or "Don't drool on me while taking a nap in the seat next to me" kind of stuff. TLDR, don't be the douche who tries to weasel into a better seat for that 1.5 hours.

Actually, come to think of it, this post is ideal for reddit, posting it here is basically preaching to the choir.

Oct 21, 2013

Flying commercial is so bad. We need some next generation transportation to come out soon.

I do like flying Virgin though (most likely because I only fly with them for pleasure trips)

Oct 21, 2013

I hate flying precisely because of this...spot on sir. Jumpjet....an interesting article. http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/2013/...

Oct 22, 2013

People in europe used to clap after landing...that was ridiculous, but they don't do it anymore.

ooof marone !

Oct 22, 2013

People still clap when landing to/from Miami. I always find it strange.

Oct 22, 2013

Probably a bunch of hillbilies flying into their first vacation that they saved up for for twenty years haha

ooof marone !

Oct 22, 2013
DickFuld:

People still clap when landing to/from Miami. I always find it strange.

This happened to me in Spain too. It was also the loudest flight I had ever been on. I think they just like making noise.

Re: OP.
I was flying weekly for several consecutive months but fortunately I never was asked to change seats.

Oct 22, 2013

I don't get asked often to switch seats & I've only done it once. Big mistake. I was flying from NY to Sao Paulo in coach, had an aisle seat, although a bit back in the plane. A few minutes before takeoff, a "nice" gentleman sitting next to me asks for me to switch seats with his wife so they can sit together. Her seat & my seat were the exact same spot, except hers was 15 rows or so up front - closer to the exit, sounds good, right? Turns out some big muscle dude with huge arms was in the adjacent seat next to her. By the time I wanted to run back & throw her out of my old seat, it was too late, the plane was already starting to move. 9 hours of sitting next to Brutus Beefcake & no chance at getting any sleep. FML
When I fly on business trips, I will avoid eye contact with last minute stragglers & have my headphones on. If someone asks me for a switch, too fu**ing bad.

Oct 22, 2013

If I wanna sit next to my girlfriend on a flight (hint: I really don't) then I fork over the $20 each and get the preferred seats or whatever they are called. If we didn't do that and had to sit separate I would feign disappointment and then enjoy my nap on the flight while she whiteknuckled it having a panic attack. Winner winner.

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Oct 22, 2013
Cruncharoo:

If I wanna sit next to my girlfriend on a flight (hint: I really don't) then I fork over the $20 each and get the preferred seats or whatever they are called. If we didn't do that and had to sit separate I would feign disappointment and then enjoy my nap on the flight while she whiteknuckled it having a panic attack. Winner winner.

^^ haha spot on, my gf loves to talk and show me every little thing she finds in a magazine and i just like to read so i've convinced her we both need isle seats next to each other and then tell her it's rude to talk across the isle

Oct 22, 2013
HFFBALLfan123:
Cruncharoo:

If I wanna sit next to my girlfriend on a flight (hint: I really don't) then I fork over the $20 each and get the preferred seats or whatever they are called. If we didn't do that and had to sit separate I would feign disappointment and then enjoy my nap on the flight while she whiteknuckled it having a panic attack. Winner winner.

^^ haha spot on, my gf loves to talk and show me every little thing she finds in a magazine and i just like to read so i've convinced her we both need isle seats next to each other and then tell her it's rude to talk across the isle

Hah! Me too! I absolutely hate sitting next to my wife on an airplane. All I want to do is read and she will just not shut up.

Oct 22, 2013

@bonks

For me, flights in/out of Hong Kong with mostly their natives on board are LOUD. They just run their mouths the entire flight.

Oct 22, 2013

I thought it was commonly accepted practice to only ask to switch seats if the seat you were offering up was better than the one you were asking to switch into. I've never had people ask me to switch out of an aisle and into a middle or something like that, although maybe I've just been lucky.

Also if that girl actually has bladder problems, why did she not mention that to the person at the front desk? That's a more legitimate reason than most to officially get assigned an aisle seat in the first place.

Oct 22, 2013

I put my headphones in before I board. No one talks to you. Done. Simple shit.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Oct 22, 2013

I fly a decent amount and I absolutely fucking hate it. Babies are the worst. If you can't shut your damn kid up I will hate you. I second bringing the headphones. Best for me is headphones + window seat. That way you can just pass out and have your head lean on something. Nobody bothers you that way and you aren't inconvenienced by anyone waking you up to go to the bathroom or something.

As a general rule though I would say let the person in the middle have priority on the armrests.

Oct 22, 2013

Babies are definitely the worst, and there is a special place in hell for the inconsiderate parents who make absolutely zero effort to shut their kid up, and instead, decide to let them 'cry it out'.

Noise-cancelling headphones + copious amounts of booze are the only way I can get through a long haul flight.

Oct 22, 2013

When you see teenagers/early 20 somethings in the more desirable seats in many cases you can get them to switch for a $20 if you're so inclined.

Oct 22, 2013

This whole thread reads like a script for an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Please don't quote Patrick Bateman.

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Oct 22, 2013

I'm going to ask them to show me their seat next time, and if it sucks, I'm going to ask for cash or just flat say no

Oct 22, 2013

Babies, 100% flying hell. Honestly, how on earth do people travel with them. Like the day my life ends and the devils curse catches up with me and i have a kid I am done traveling. Zero chance I subject myself or society to traveling with a child.

And as much as I am anti-baby, those fuckers don't know what's happening. They can't pop their ear drums or deal with shit. Unless you HAVE to take them, like world is ending and a terrorist demands it, stay home or leave them home.

I'd 100% pay extra to fly in a no baby zone.

Oct 23, 2013
TNA:

Babies, 100% flying hell. Honestly, how on earth do people travel with them. Like the day my life ends and the devils curse catches up with me and i have a kid I am done traveling. Zero chance I subject myself or society to traveling with a child.

And as much as I am anti-baby, those fuckers don't know what's happening. They can't pop their ear drums or deal with shit. Unless you HAVE to take them, like world is ending and a terrorist demands it, stay home or leave them home.

I'd 100% pay extra to fly in a no baby zone.

The worst is crying babies on a red eye flight. Has happened to me a few times, and no amount of Bose noise-cancelling wizardry can save me from that crime against humanity.

Oct 23, 2013
Otter.:
TNA:

Babies, 100% flying hell. Honestly, how on earth do people travel with them. Like the day my life ends and the devils curse catches up with me and i have a kid I am done traveling. Zero chance I subject myself or society to traveling with a child.

And as much as I am anti-baby, those fuckers don't know what's happening. They can't pop their ear drums or deal with shit. Unless you HAVE to take them, like world is ending and a terrorist demands it, stay home or leave them home.

I'd 100% pay extra to fly in a no baby zone.

The worst is crying babies on a red eye flight. Has happened to me a few times, and no amount of Bose noise-cancelling wizardry can save me from that crime against humanity.

Moms are obsessed about bringing their offspring across the country to show off to their family members. They will endure almost unbearable pain to do this.

The thing that pisses me off about crying kids on airplanes is that the parents do not know that all you have to do is give them a bottle or sippy cup during the ascent and descent and the sucking/swallowing will equalize the pressure in their ears and generally get them to shut up and go to sleep.

Swallowing liquids has the same effect as the valsalva maneuver, and is actually less of a danger to damaging your eardrums. Don't believe me? Swallow right now at your desk and feel the pressure on your ears. That's all you need to do.......

Oct 22, 2013

http://www.hlntv.com/article/2012/09/04/polite-par...

this warmed my blackened dead heart just a little.

Oct 23, 2013

Haha, they need one of those glassed in rooms like in the back of a church.

Virgin needs to come out with adult only flights.

Oct 23, 2013

I used to always talk shit with my sister about people who take their crying babies everywhere when it's not necessary.

Then she goes and has a kid and now there's a crying kid any time we're at the same place.
Kid has a dad at home. She just wants to show her baby off.

Oct 25, 2013
bic:

I used to always talk shit with my sister about people who take their crying babies everywhere when it's not necessary.

Then she goes and has a kid and now there's a crying kid any time we're at the same place.

Kid has a dad at home. She just wants to show her baby off.

I just realized that so many problems in this world would be solved if these moms didn't want to show off their stupid babies. This revelation makes me angry.

Oct 25, 2013

I love the wife subthread. I try too hard to be next to her on flights haha.

Also, I do travel with my kids. Suck my balls. I can get them to behave doing basically the stuff FormerHornetDriver noted (and drugging them), but if you pansies have to listen to five minutes of crying while I calm 'em, turn up the Bieber on your headphones and suck it up.

I have to smell some of you and the food you bring on planes. It's worse.

Oct 25, 2013
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Oct 26, 2013