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Etiquette column: When flying, carry on best behavior

Respect goes a long way, whether it’s sharing an armrest or packing food.

Friday, September 28, 2012 - 12:01 am

Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at news-sentinel.com.

Q. Karen, I got stuck in the middle seat on a recent flight and felt edged out by the people on either side of me. Who gets the arm rest in that situation?

A. Air travel used to be fun, but today, it seems the fun has gone out of it and we just have to suffer through it to get to where we want to go. It can be tiring and stressful — a perfect recipe for incivility to brew.

I know the airlines should enroll some of their employees in a customer relations course, but they may be responding to stresses that are out of their control, too. Mutual respect on all sides can go a long way in diffusing potentially explosive situations.

Here are a few tips to make everyone's flight more pleasant.

•Arrive at the airport in plenty of time. Why create more stress for yourself?

•Know and obey the regulations for packing and carry-on baggage.

•Between long hauls, remember others are sharing your departure lounge. Sprawling over four seats or leaving shoes in the path of others is inconsiderate.

•Seat No. 32A joining the boarding line for seats 50-80 does not make it go faster.

•There is only so much room in the overhead bins. If you have more than one piece of carry-on, then expect it to be stowed under the seat ahead of your feet.

•The middle seat gets the armrest — at least one of the armrests.

•When taking your own food on a flight, be considerate of odors. Forget about the raw onion sandwich.

•Recline seats with care. Preventing the seat ahead from reclining is just rude.

•Don't even think about changing baby diapers on the seat.

•If your seat partner appears engrossed in a book (even if it is upside down), it means he or she doesn't want to chat.

•Don't kick the back of the seat in front. Don't let your child do it either. Please.

•The instructions of the flight attendants trump all. If they say it isn't safe to be out of your seat – sit down.

Happy travels!


I'd like to share a comment I received to last week's column on hospital visitation etiquette.

“I read Karen Hickman's etiquette for hospitals, and it was right on target. I do have another point to add that I hope Karen is able to comment on.

“I am a nurse and I care for people who may be in the hospital for an extended length of time. What I often see is visitors/families who utilize the waiting room/family room inappropriately. Some families literally camp out there, bring in photos and hang them on the wall, bring in crock pots, little refrigerators and make it like it is a tailgating experience. People need to remember that the area is a common area for family members of all patients, it is not their own space, and to be respectful of that. Thanks.”

Of course, I agree completely with this reader's remarks and I thank the reader for responding to the column. Hospital waiting areas are not college dorm rooms and should not be treated as such.

Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email clarson@news-sentinel.com, and we’ll forward it to her.