The Beginner’s Guide to Airport Etiquette

Entrance to gates at Asheville Regional Airpor...

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Let me first start off by saying that I’m no airport expert. But in my decade of air travels, I’ve been in and out of over fifteen airports across the United States and Asia, so we’re pretty good friends. A lot of people seem to dislike airports- all the waiting, layovers, rude workers, and lost luggage, but these are the least of my concerns. These are the things you can prepare for. It’s the poor airport etiquette of other travelers that I have a hard time dealing with, and this can really put a damper on your trip.

First, how do I get past the common airport annoyances? I plan ahead. If I’m traveling somewhere and I have a layover, I do a little bit of research on the airport to find out what all they have to offer. I check to see if they offer WiFi, and if it comes at a cost. I also never travel without a book. It’s perfect for when you can’t connect to the internet, on the plane when you can’t use electronic devices, or you need something quick to entertain you while you wait for your ride.

Now what about the rude workers? They might be rude for a reason, like if you’re being rude to them! I’ve never had a bad encounter, because I’m always polite and courteous to the employees. If you follow the rules your mother taught you, like saying please and thank you, and doing it with a smile on your face, you’re likely to get the same in return. I always do.

I’ve heard many terrible tales of fellow travelers that have had their luggage lost. I’ve had mine lost too, and from that day on, I made a personal vow to never check another bag. Not only do I save at least $25 in baggage fees, but I know that my belongings are safe by my side, no one is going to go through them, and that they’ll make it to my destination. In doing this, I’ve also become quite an efficient packer. (My tips? Buy travel sized toiletries once you arrive. Roll your clothing. Set out everything you think you’ll need, then put back at least 1/4 of it. You won’t need it!) But if you just have to check bags, at least do it correctly. Every bag needs a luggage tag, and it doesn’t hurt to weigh it to make sure it’s under the weight limits. Also, remove any locks, because they’ll be broken off anyway.

Now let’s get to the etiquette. It seems that some people forget all manners once they step inside the airport terminal. The majority of the time in an airport, people are in a hurry. Though I’ve tried not to be “that person” sprinting from one gate to the next, it happens sometimes. So please, please don’t be one of those people who stand in the middle of the walkways, because I might take you down with those bags I didn’t check. You can see the arrival and departure monitors just as well three steps back against the wall. This also applies when you’re walking off of the plane. You just walked off; don’t you think the people behind you want to do the same? There’s plenty of space and seating in the terminal to take care of your post-flight business.

I like to treat the airport as a library. Not just because I’m usually reading at the airport, but it’s courteous. I keep my voice low out of respect to other travelers. I never know who has just got off a 15 hour flight with a crying child and got no rest, or who’s flying for the first time and is experiencing some serious travel anxiety. If you want to dish about your trip to the people who were just there with you, please keep your voice at a minimum. From 20 feet away, I don’t need to hear how a “dumb tourist” bumped in to you and made you drop your camera. You’re a tourist, too.

And finally, don’t cause a scene. This might be the one airport rule of thumb people forget the most. Having your luggage lost is the worst, I’ve been there. Having to be pat down at security because you were randomly selected isn’t fun either, and I’ve been there too. Airport employees are trying to do their job the best they can, even if it doesn’t seem like it, and they’re not going to go the extra mile to make you happy if you’re yelling, sobbing, or calling them every four-letter-expletive you have in your vocabulary. If something doesn’t go your way, take ten seconds to get a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and calm down just a little bit. It may get you the help you need a little quicker, or the employee may pull some extra strings to get you what you need. Even if it doesn’t, because you’re so calm and cool, you won’t have a handful of people staring at you with disgusted faces.


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