Airport survival guide for August: Be kind to your fellow travellers and staff

Airports are like hospitals and prisons: you really don’t want to be there, and when you are in one you just want to get out as quickly as possible. But it’s important to keep travel etiquette in mind. With peak month for air travel beginning, here’s my survival guide.

Plan ahead

To make life easier for you, and therefore make yourself a nicer person while at the airport, prepare for your journey:

  • Check in online if you can
  • Take cabin baggage only if possible – but make sure your hand luggage is compliant with security rules and airline sizes
  • Never check in anything you could not bear to lose
  • And if you’re travelling on a British passport to the European Union, be aware of the post-Brexit passport validity rules

Getting to the airport

Give yourself plenty of time might sound like a really good idea – but you will be breaching etiquette if you arrive too early because you’ll get in the way of other people.

Some of the terrible delays at security we saw last year at Dublin and Manchester airports were caused by people, rationally for them, arriving five or six hours ahead. They ensured they were in time for their flights but inadvertently scuppered the chances of those who arrived only two or three hours ahead.

Is it OK to jump the security queue?

Definitely, if you are going to miss your flight. I have done this recently in Birmingham and Stockholm airports.

While you are disadvantaging everyone in the queue who you are leapfrogging, it is unlikely you will cause someone else to miss their flights. The same goes for the passport queue when you’re in foreign countries heading home.

Be kind

However stressed you are feeling, never take it out on the staff.

They got up at silly o’clock to help you reach your destination, and are working in a permanently high-stress environment. They are not going on holiday and they do not make the rules.

One reason I am in favour of the new security systems where you don’t need to worry about liquids in bags, etc, is because it makes security a more pleasant experience and people will be nicer to the officers.

Don’t dawdle in duty-free or over a drink

Always keep moving through the airport, and when your gate is shown make your way there. I have missed flights by thinking, “Oh, I’ll just have another coffee …”. Get to the gate as early as you can – otherwise you may find that they are looking for your baggage to take it off the flight.

Don’t demand an upgrade

… whether at check-in, at the gate or on the plane.

Your odds of getting a better seat than you paid for will be enhanced by:

  • Being a solo traveller (often just one person has to be moved to solve a problem for the airline)
  • Belonging to the frequent-flyer programme
  • Paying more than other people for your economy ticket (it’s worked for me a couple of times)
  • Being super-nice to staff (which obviously has never worked for me)

And finally …

Boarding the plane: hang back and let everyone else settle.

Don’t drink to excess before or during a flight: you will not be popular with your fellow passengers. You could potentially pose a safety risk – and for that reason, you might be barred from the flight,

And when you arrive at your destination – whether that’s your holiday location, or you’re coming home – you will be tired and just want to get on with the rest of your journey, and your life. Again, it’s not the fault of staff or fellow passengers. Be kind.

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