12 Tips for Flying with Self-Respect
Just about any business these days, whether a five person start up or a billion dollar multinational company, can be a global business. Thank you very much, technology. In order to maintain that global business, and to grow in regions that are further away than 100 miles from your home town, you’re likely going to have to visit an airport.
The great thing about airports is that they bring together just about every type of human being on the planet into one, often crowded space. It’s just about the only place you’ll see retirees carefully reading check-in screens and making sure they know exactly how to get to their terminal; sales people in suits, shouting on cell phones and making their self-importance clear to everyone around them; families carefully guiding their children; military personnel; you get the idea…
The bad thing about airports is that they can be loud, have long lines at limited restaurant options, and present some of the worst customer service known to man (outside of just about any store in Brazil, that is).
Here are the DD’s Dignified Dozen do’s and don’ts for the business traveler to traverse the jungle that is the airport, and to come out with the same dignity you had when you entered:
1. Do: Wear a suit while traveling. There’s a school of thought that traveling (particularly by plane), can be a stressful, uncomfortable affair and so therefore one must wear relaxing clothes to most enjoy the journey. Don’t do this. The level of treatment you receive is unquestionably and remarkably better if you travel while wearing a well-tailored suit. This includes free upgrades to first class (if your company is stingy on the tickets), improved respect from airline staff, and generally all around better treatment. Note that wearing a suit does not allow you to be a pompous asshole that screams into cell phones while heading down crowded walkways (see point #5, below).
2. Do: Pack luggage that fits into the plane’s carry-on space. This is simply for your own well-being. You do not want to check a bag for several reasons: 1) You’re a man and every other man around you should and will make fun of you for packing more than fits onto a plane; 2) You save a significant amount of time boarding the plane and leaving the airport when you arrive at your destination; and 3) You save money as many airlines charge for checked bags. Note that this rule applies even when traveling abroad.
3. Don’t: Wear mismatched socks or socks with holes in them while traveling through the U.S. This is just for your own dignity. You’re going to have to take your shoes off at security, remember that.
4. Do: Be aware of your surroundings. This isn’t for security, it’s so that you don’t come across as a prick. A lot of people at airports, whether because of the stress of travel or nerves from flying, don’t seem to be aware of their surroundings. They bump into you, spill coffee on you, and so on. No dignified man would ever do that to another person, and the more aware you are of your surroundings, the more you can avoid an inconsiderate asshole from ramming into you.
5. Don’t: Talk loudly on your cell phone while walking through the airport. Despite the number of people in an airport on any given day, there is ALWAYS a quiet spot available to hold your conference call or chat with your kids. If there’s not a truly private spot in your terminal, then at least make the impression that you are attempting to avoid sharing your conversation with the travelers around you by heading to the least occupied space you can find.
6. Don’t: Interact with airline staff any more than is absolutely (Read: ABSOLUTELY) necessary. Sorry to further encourage a stereotype, but airline employees truly deliver some of the worst customer service of any industry. And that goes double for anyone traveling through Houston.
7. Do: Own and bring an iPad. This is far more useful while on the plane than a laptop. The battery life is longer than most laptops (and only a handful of airlines actually have electrical sockets on each seat), it’s less clumsy and fits easily into the magazine pouch in front of you, you don’t have to remove it from a bag when going through security, and it’s easier to access games and movies without bumping your elbows into the passengers on either side of you.
8. Don’t: Snore on the plane. If you are of an age that you are showing your own ticket to the airline attendant at the check in counter, then you know whether or not you snore. If you snore, don’t sleep on the airplane. Crying babies cannot control themselves. Snoring adults can.
9. Do: Travel as much as you can on the same airline or alliance of airlines. Airline points are worth it. You’re wasting free money if you travel on airlines chosen at random. If you need a recommendation, go with airlines on the Star Alliance networks. It has a good cross section of U.S. domestic flights (US Airways and United), and international (Singapore Airlines, for the price of MUCH less expensive competitors when using points). If it just had British Airways, it would probably put every non-Star Alliance airline out of business.
10. Don’t: Take excessive amounts of time to leave the plane once the seatbelt sign has been turned off. This means preparing immigration forms, packing your iPad (read point #6 above), etc PRIOR to beginning the descent of the plane. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting on a 4 – 16 hour plane ride and waiting for someone who somehow didn’t have enough time to finish everything he or she needed to do before disembarking.
11. Don’t: Take up the entire jetway when leaving the plane and heading out to the airport. This has got to be one of the most frustrating things that a passenger can do to their fellow travelers. The jetway, for those that aren’t familiar, is the tunnel that connects the plane with the airport. Way too often does someone walk right down the middle of the jetway at an infuriating slow speed, blocking every other passenger from getting to where they need to go at the speed they want to get there. Infuriating.
12. Do: Take a licensed cab to your hotel or meeting location. Every airport in the world has unlicensed cab drivers that will shout for your business (how is it that unlicensed drivers can find the first space newly arrived travelers get to, but taxi stands somehow take complicated maps to find?). They are inevitably going to screw you over. Find the taxi stand and take a licensed taxi.