View Full Version : Airline Flight Etiquette

12-30-2015, 01:09 PM
Another "Here Comes High Season" topic that always seems to pop up... and it has done so this past week in my email at least 4 or 5 times.

I'll say right up front that I Know that not everyone agrees with my viewpoint on all of these issues. I have Two things to say about that:

1) It's OK to disagree with someone. I respect the fact that different people have different opinions and different interpretations. and...

2) Nobody is going to change my mind about any of this stuff. I am convinced that I have a solid argument for all of my positions on these subjects. Keep in mind that travel is my business, and has been for over 30 years. Opinion is one thing, but if I state that something is an Absolutely True Fact, or that it is Completely Bogus... you can take that to The Bank... I don't care what some "Travel Expert" on CNN.com says. Disbelieve me at Your Own Peril.

So... Let the games begin...


1) Seat Recline: The seat is sold with a published amount of seat recline, as clearly stated in the airline's literature and on its website. The person with the reclining seat "owns" that space, not the person seated behind him. There are seats available on every aircraft that do Not have reclining seats in front of them. If you don't want the person in front of you to recline... purchase/reserve one of those seats.

2) Window Shade: The person seated in the window seat "owns" the window shade. If you want control of the window shade, purchase/reserve a window seat.

3) Middle Seat: I do believe that it is proper etiquette to allow the "middle seat" person to have both armrests.

4) Underseat Storage: I don't care if you're in a bulkhead seat or not, the space under your seat belongs to the person behind you, as clearly stated in airline policy. If I don't have a bag to put under your seat, that's because I want to stretch my legs out. It's my space... Not Yours.

5) Restroom Breaks: I usually sit in the window seat myself. I believe that it is proper etiquette to take a bathroom break, if you need to, just as the meal trays are being collected after the meal, or as soon as possible thereafter. That way, I don't disturb the aisle-seat guy while he's eating... nor do I disturb him after he falls asleep or starts watching a movie.

6) Overhead Storage: Put your carry-on bag in the overhead bin Opposite your side of the aisle, and, if appropriate, ask the guy sitting on the other side of the aisle to do the same... effectively "swapping" overhead storage space. It is so much easier and quicker, and puts less strain on your back, to do it this way.

7) Meal/Drink Service: Especially on wide-body, twin-aisle airliners... let the flight attendant know that you don't want to be awakened for meal or drink service, if you really don't. If you do want drinks, order Two drinks at a time (the maximum that most airlines will serve you at one time). Your fellow passengers will appreciate the time and annoyance that this saves.


Now for the Really Factual stuff. You can believe all of that bullshit that CNN and all of those "expert" travel sites tell you, but this is the Real Deal... believe it or not...

1) When Is The Best Time to Buy an Airline Ticket? There isn't one! Period! All of that "90 days prior", "45 days prior", etc. is Total, Complete, Bullshit! However... I'm not saying that those times that always Seem to be the best times to buy airline tickets are simply magical coincidences. The reason why, for example, a ticket from ABC to DEF always seems to be at its lowest price about 32 days prior to the date of departure is because of Human Behavior. I could write several pages on this topic, but the short version is that when someone says that it's best to buy a ticket 32 days prior to departure, they are basing that upon historical sales records. It's a bit like saying, "I know it's going to snow in my town on January 14, because it has snowed in my town on January 14 for 6 of the past 7 years." Basically, you're playing the stock market... counting on past performance to guarantee future returns. Since human behavior is a big factor, you might be right... assuming that there are no new or unexpected factors affecting human behavior this year, which were not factors for the past 7 years.

It's true that, in the past, major airline ticket price adjustments occurred at key points in time. But this is the year 2015, folks. We've gone WAY beyond airline executives sitting down in a big meeting on Monday morning and making price changes for the following week. Nowadays, ticket prices are not "changed"... Ticket price tiers and ranges are "designed" by "think tanks" composed of people who specialize in maximizing capacity and profit. These guys maintain many of the airlines' most carefully guarded secrets and are more like high-end computer programmers than sales and marketing people. The airlines' computers get programmed with the end result of their decisions-making process, and then those computers take over, quietly adjusting prices and releasing "buckets" of tickets according to complex algorithms. Prices can change in a microsecond, at 3 a.m., with no human involvement at all, because an airline's computer decided that a "T" bucket that is $10 cheaper than the current lowest-priced bucket needed to be released.

I can teach people how to find the cheapest ticket for a flight... but it takes a LOT more than a few paragraphs on Ticaland to do that.

2) Where is the Smoothest Ride on the Airplane? Right over the Wing, near the middle of the airplane, you say? WRONG! That's a common myth. However... Every airplane model is different, so the exact location with the best chance of the smoothest ride does vary among different airplane models. But... The Short Version is that the closer to the front of the aircraft you sit, the smoother your ride is likely to be. I can explain this in more detail, if anyone wishes, but it will take a while to do so. But here's a thought to get you started... The control surfaces that control the Pitch and Yaw of the airplane are almost always located at the Tail-End of the airplane.

3) Infants: I don't recommend infants flying in the laps of adults. I believe that every infant should have its own seat with an appropriate infant safety seat. However... If you are going to fly with an infant, there are two things of which you should be aware...

a) If you and another adult (your spouse) are flying with two infants in your laps (twins, perhaps?)... Purchase/reserve seats that are not in the same row, or that are at least separated by an aisle. The best choice, in my opinion, is two aisle seats that are directly across from each other. You can't sit directly next to each other because each section of each row only contains One extra oxygen mask... and the airline won't allow two infants to sit in the same row section for that reason.

b) I also discourage flying with infants, and any other children who are too young to communicate discomfort in detail. It is the worst kind of hell for a child who does not understand how to clear an ear blockage and who cannot communicate that problem. If you must fly with a young child, a visit to the doctor the day before is a good idea, to make sure that the child is not experiencing any blockage. Try to let the child get a little hungry/thirsty before the plane descends, so that the child will happily drink milk/formula/water during the descent, to help keep the pressure in his ears equalized. This issue is personally significant to me... I have permanent hearing loss in a certain frequency range in my left ear, due to an in-flight incident with an ear blockage when I was one year old.

4) Clothing: Wear sneakers and clothing made of natural fabrics aboard aircraft. Flip-flops, sandals, and slip-on/off shoes are great at the security checkpoints... I know. Those types of shoes will severely injure or kill you in any kind of incident or aircraft evacuation. Fleece jackets are soft, warm, and comfy... I know. Not only will a fleece jacket kill you in the fire that occurs after the airplane crash, it will hurt like hell for the entire time that it is killing you. There are easy solutions to both of these issues. I always wear leather/cotton sneakers on airplanes... I just tie them really loosely and double-knot them. They slip on... they slip off. Once I'm through security, I just re-tie them tightly at my leisure... in the gate area, at the bar... wherever. As for the fleece jackets, or any other synthetic fabrics... Just Don't! The material used to make those fleece jackets and other synthetics doesn't Burn in a fire... it Melts. It will turn into a semi-liquid paste that will bond to your skin at a temperature of several hundred degrees. Buy a cotton jacket. It might catch fire, but you'll still be able to take it off if it does. With that said... there are some specialized synthetic materials which are specifically designed not to melt and bond to your skin. So... if you're stuck on synthetics... at least do your research and find synthetic garments that are fire and heat-resistant.

12-30-2015, 01:39 PM
Reserve Your Seat when you purchase your ticket. How difficult is this?

It is especially infuriating for both passengers and flight attendants when couples or families board the aircraft with seats that are not located next to each other. Although sometimes there is a legitimate reason (a flight got canceled, etc.), about 90% of the time, when I ask the couple when they booked the trip, the answer is something like, "Oh... maybe 4 or 5 months ago." I have not sympathy for those people. If someone has missed a connection or otherwise had a rough day with the airlines, I am usually far more accommodating.

One of my favorite stories regarding this issue...

When I booked my ticket, I selected the Window Seat in the Exit Row, as I usually do, when it's available. Massive legroom, nice window view, nobody crawling over me to go to the bathroom, etc.

This young man, about 22 or 23 years old, sits in the middle seat next to me. He says "Hi", and I say "Hi" back. About 1 minute later, his girlfriend walks up, leans in, and asks me, "Would you mind swapping seats with me, so that I can sit next to my boyfriend? I have the aisle seat, right in the row in front of you, here."

I answered, "I'm sorry, but I need my window seat. I'm going to try to get some sleep on this flight. But I'm sure the guy in that middle seat next to you would swap with your boyfriend, for the extra legroom back here." That guy was already looking at me and the girl and nodding his head 'Yes!'

But she just looked at me and gave me that "Huff" that entitled 20-year-old pretty girls do when they don't get what they want. She stared at me for a few more seconds, and I just shrugged my shoulders.

Then, the guy in the aisle seat of my row said, "I'll swap with you."

The girl immediately said, "Oh! Thank You!" then gave me a nasty look.

I gave her back a look that basically said, 'Sweetheart... That Barbie Charm Shit don't work on Me. You got some other poor chump to give up his exit row seat for you... so just sit down, shut up, and be happy.'

Like I'm supposed to give up the most Cherry-Ass seat on the airplane (other than First Class, of course), because she and her boyfriend couldn't reserve exit row seats in advance.

12-30-2015, 04:39 PM
This one snags a lot of people who don't understand how the airline industry works... I'll pose it as a Riddle...

At pretty much any given airport, in most countries of the world (particularly, considering we're on Ticaland -- the USA and Costa Rica)...

Question: What do Airport Management, the Airport Authority, Airport Security, the Government's Aviation Administration, IATA (the International commercial airline organization), ICAO (the International "voluntary regulatory" body of civil aviation), Airport Police, the Airlines, the Baggage Handlers, the Airlines' Ticket/Gate Agents, the Airport's Shops/Stores, the Parking Lot Operator, the Taxi Concession Holder, and the Air Traffic Control System... ALL have in common?

Answer: Abso-fuckin'-lutely Nothing! This dysfunctional group of self-serving entities are only looking after themselves. The gate agent wearing the Delta Airlines uniform? She doesn't work for Delta. She doesn't even get to fly for a discounted airfare, much less for free. The Airport Police and Airport Security? The Airport Police in the USA resent the fact that TSA gets to wear a badge. TSA has just as much law enforcement authority as the homeless guy sitting on the sidewalk. Costa Rican law enforcement is even more segmented than that. Neither the airport police nor airport security could arrest Cubadave... they had to call in OIJ to do that. The airport authority's job is to make money for the City, and the Airport Management's job is to make money for themselves. The Government's Aviation Administration couldn't care less what ICAO thinks, and neither of them cares what IATA thinks... while IATA only cares how it can squeeze more money out of its member airlines and organizations.


What's the point of all this?

The point that I'm trying to make is that 95% of the battle with the airlines and the airports is won by talking to the right person. I could list tons of examples, but here's a very common scenario that is one of the best examples I can think of...

It's the very last flight of the night from ABC to DEF. It's a Boeing 767, and about 250 people are waiting in the gate area, about 10 minutes before boarding time.

All of a sudden, that poor, poor girl working the gate desk for minimum wage... who is just a contract employee, and doesn't even get a paycheck from Delta Airlines, much less actually work for the airline...

She gets on the PA system and says, "I am so sorry, folks... but one of the baggage cart drivers just ran into the landing gear on the airplane and it has definitely been damaged. Just bear with us for a moment while we..."

At about that point, everyone begins rushing the gate desk. A supervisor quickly shows up to help the poor girl out, while they start to work on re-booking everyone and taking care of overnight arrangements.

But I don't see or hear any of that, because as soon as I heard "ran into the landing gear...", I was already headed at a full-on sprint to the main ticket desk at the entrance to the terminal, and I was already dialing the number for the airline's customer service. Whatever my current situation with the airline is, I'm dialing the highest-tier frequent-flier number that I am entitled to use. I'm still running towards the main ticket desk for two reasons...

1) Just in case I can't get someone to help me on the phone (unlikely)

... and ...

2) To pick up my shit as soon as it's printed out

... oh, and....

3) Since that was the last flight of the evening, the main ticket desk will be Completely Empty!


Someone answers the phone, and I say, "Speedy1, frequent flier number 987654321, flight 123 from ABC to DEF... it just got canceled due to a mechanical."

Phone Agent: Yep. I see that right here. Hang on a second... Yeah, we can get you out on the first flight in the morning... no problem. OK... I got you confirmed... window seat in the same basic area. I'm so sorry about the cancellation.

Me: That's quite alright. These things happen. Look... I'll be at the front desk in just about 3 minutes. Could you go ahead and have them print that out up there?

Phone Agent: Absolutely no problem. Let's see... we'll go ahead and print out a $300 voucher for the inconvenience, got you a room at the Marriott, a $50 dinner voucher, and a couple of $15 vouchers in case you need breakfast in the morning or anything else. I'm also going to go ahead and put 10,000 miles into your frequent flier account. Do you need anything else tonight?

Me: Nope. That should do it.

Phone Agent: Once again, I am so sorry about your flight getting cancelled. Everything should be ready at the front desk shortly. They'll tell you where to catch the shuttle to the hotel. Good Night!


Sure enough, as I approached the completely vacant ticket counter, the lady asked, "Are you Speedy1?"


"I've got all your vouchers and your new boarding pass right here. The hotel shuttle is right outside that door and to the right."


Now... This really has nothing to do with any kind of special frequent flyer status with the airline. I could have just been Joe Blow, calling the airline's regular customer service number.

The point is that the person with whom I was speaking on the phone was Infinitely more qualified for re-booking and compensation than the poor girl and her supervisor back at the gate, trying to deal with 250 angry passengers. The girl on the phone works at the airline's customer service headquarters, and sits in front of her computer, 8 hours, 5 days per week. She's an actual airline employee... and That is What She Does, Every Day, for a Living! She doesn't board passengers at a gate or check bags at a ticket counter. She could handle 240 guys like me in the same time that it takes the gate agent and her supervisor to handle the other 10 guys... I Shit You Not.

Airports and the Air Transport Industry are a maze of confusion that requires some knowledge, wisdom, and experience to understand and use to your advantage. Expedia and TripAdvisor would have you believe otherwise... I know.

12-30-2015, 06:34 PM
Online Check-In:

A little Tease of a perk that promises you something awesome... then pulls the rug right out from under you... then suddenly hands you a golden ticket again.

Using online check-in to your advantage requires knowing exactly what online check-in does for you. Actually... the main thing is not to imagine that it is any more complicated than what it sounds like. Quite simply... You're checked in. Even if you have printed boarding pass... you're still checked in. Now all that you have to do is meet the baggage check time (if you're checking bags, which you should rarely be doing), and the gate time. Gate time is rarely more than 30 - 60 minutes prior to boarding, and most airlines still won't take your seat within about 15 - 20 minutes of departure time.

I remember, 3 or 4 years ago, telling guys over and over again, until I was blue in the face, that you should always check in online as soon as you can, which is usually 24 hours prior to the originally scheduled departure time. At SJO, when flying on a U.S. Carrier... especially during Low Season (when fewer airplanes are flying in and out, this can be a big deal for you. I remember checking in at 8:00 a.m. one morning for a 7:00 a.m. flight the next day. I didn't print the boarding pass, but I was checked in with my seat assignment. I had no bag to check, either (as usual). I checked the status of the inbound flight that night at about 8:00 p.m., and it had already been delayed, and then diverted to Liberia (LIR). I checked again at 10:00 p.m., and the flight had landed at LIR, and was still on the ground. It didn't take off again until after midnight, and I was partying hard... when I would normally have been waking up at 4:00 a.m.

A quick check and verbal phone call... just to be sure... confirmed it. Yep. Crew timed out. 7:00 a.m. flight re-scheduled for 12:30 p.m. A quick look at my account showed me checked in an confirmed for an 11:40 a.m. boarding time. I showed up at the airport shortly after 11:00 a.m. and walked up to the ticket counter to hand in my exit tax form and get my boarding pass. The agent asked me, "You're on the 7:00 a.m. flight?" I answered, "Yep! Checked in yesterday at 8:00 a.m." She said, "Yes. Here it is. Here you go! Have a nice flight!"

I waltzed into the gate area at about 11:20 a.m. The place looked like a refugee camp. I'm sure they had all been there since at least 6:00 a.m.

12-30-2015, 07:39 PM
Now for some Airline Etiquette Rules that apply to the Airlines themselves...

1) The Direct Flight: This is the Number One most Disgraceful thing that the Airlines do, in my opinion. You've booked a Direct Flight from, say, Chicago to San Josť, Costa Rica. But what's this? You board the flight in Chicago and find out that you'll be stopping in Miami, and you'll have to Make a Connection (change planes)? Well... As long as the flight from Chicago to Miami and the flight from Miami to San Josť have the same flight number... That, my friend, is a Direct Flight. What you thought you had was a Non-Stop Flight. Oh, Yeah! ... You can bet that the airlines were laughing their asses off the day that Expedia, Orbitz, and TripAdvisor put all of the Travel Agents out of business. The airlines, major hotel chains, and all of the other travel businesses kick the average traveler right in the nuts every single day... and the travelers thank them for the privilege and beg for more!

2) Booking Codes and Fare Basis Codes: With all of the rules that the U.S. Congress has passed to make airline ticket pricing more transparent -- such as disclosing the actual price of the fare, plus all fees and taxes -- airlines are still not required to very open about their Fare Basis Codes, and airlines are not required to disclose any information about their Booking Codes (other than the Fare Basis Codes) at all. This is kind of like going into an automobile dealership and asking how much it is to buy the Alpha model. The salesman replies, "Well, the Alpha GTR is $20K, the Alpha GTS is $30K, and the Alpha GTQ is $40K."

"What's the difference?"

"I don't have to tell you that. And you're not allowed to look at the cars or drive them before you pay for the one that you choose, either. Also, we might release the Alpha GTP for $25 next week... but we're not sure yet. Oh... and if we have at least 3 left this Thursday, the price on the Alpha GTS will drop to $18K."

This is what a lot of folks don't understand about airline ticket prices. The prices don't really "change." The airline has several "buckets" of tickets. All of those tickets, regardless of which bucket they are in, can be purchased for exactly the same seats, with exactly the same in-flight services. However, the airline gets to decide which bucket it sells the ticket from. Today it might be selling from the $200 bucket, but if it sells too many of those too quickly, that bucket will be closed, and you'll have to buy the same seat from the $300 bucket. The $200 price still exists... you just can't have it right now. Even if the $200 ticket is available, you can still buy the $300 ticket, which -- if you had the airline's secret decoder ring -- would tell you that the $300 ticket can be automatically upgraded to a first class seat within 7 days of departure, or some other obscure feature.

12-30-2015, 11:10 PM
"Poor Man's First Class", as I like to call it:

Most full-size narrow-body airliners and most wide-body airliners have groups of 3 seats in their seating layout. If you're traveling alone, purchase a window or aisle near the back of the airplane in a 3-seat group where the other "outer" seat (window or aisle) is already reserved, but the middle seat is vacant. Picking a seat near the back of the aircraft reduces the chance that you'll want to change your seat later. If you're traveling with one other person, reserve the 2 "outer" seats in a 3-seat group near the back of the aircraft where the middle seat is vacant. You might not want to get the Very Back row, as it's often more cramped, noisy (due to lavatories and galley), and those seats don't usually recline. Check the seat chart every week or two, prior to your departure, and change your seat(s) if the previously vacant middle seat is no longer vacant.

Those single middle seats near the back of the airplane will be the very last seats filled by the airline. Keep monitoring this right up until you check in and get your boarding pass. Some airlines will allow you to change your seat assignment even after you get your boarding pass, so you may be able to keep a vacant middle seat open until just prior to boarding.

About the very worst thing that can happen is that somebody will show up for the middle seat. If you're traveling with a companion, just happily exchange your aisle or window for the stranger's middle seat. You'll still get to sit next to your companion and the stranger will smile and thank you for his "lucky break." I've even had these last-minute dudes buy me drinks during the flight as a "thank you." If, on the other hand, your traveling companion is another guy, and not your girlfriend or wife... and a scorchingly hot girl shows up for that middle seat... screw that! Make her sit in the middle seat!

However... what normally happens, if you've played this game correctly, is that that middle seat will be empty for the flight. As long as the plane has just 1 or 2 or 3 empty seats, that's going to be one of them. Once the boarding door is closed and all of the passengers are seated, flip those middle-seat armrests up and "high-five" the person in the other "outer" seat. If the person is a girlfriend or wife, one of you just got a couch to sleep in, with a lap to use as a pillow, and you read into that whatever you will. If it's another guy, the middle seat and tray table just became your shared workstation, storage, and lounging area. Welcome to "Poor Man's First Class." It has worked for me about 90% of the time.

12-31-2015, 12:00 AM
Here's a good one to help you pay for some of those trips to San Josť (SJO)...

How you play this one depends on where you live and what you're willing to do. Here was my situation for about 3 years, living in San Diego:

I could drive to LAX and park the car (for $6 per day), or I could take a $15 taxi ride to the airport in San Diego (SAN).

From LAX, there was Delta connecting in Atlanta (Delta later added a Non-Stop to SJO out of LAX), and also American, United, and USAirways with connecting flights through their hubs in DFW, MIA, IAH, and PHX.

From SAN, there was a connecting flight with Delta through Atlanta or United through Houston. However, I could also fly from SAN to LAX and connect with the flights at LAX on a 2-stop ticket. The 2-stop ticket out of SAN was only about $70 more than the cheapest 1-stop out of LAX, plus I didn't have to spend 2 hours driving, each way, to LAX, and pay for the gas and parking. But why fly on a 2-stop from SAN to LAX to IAH to SJO? Two reasons...

1) No matter what, even leaving SAN or LAX at 6:00 a.m., I still wasn't getting to SJO until about 9:30 p.m., on my old favorite... Continental (United) 1565.

2) The opportunity to Score on this routing out of SAN was Phenomenal!

Tickets from SAN or LAX to SJO are generally inexpensive (relatively speaking), since SJO is a tourist destination, but all of those SAN-LAX, LAX-IAH, and SAN-IAH flights are expensive, because those are very much business-heavy routes. Those planes were frequently overbooked. Flying from SAN to/from SJO eats up a whole day, any way you look at it, so I figured, "Why not take advantage of that?"

An even nicer feature of flying out of SAN was that from curbside, through security, to the gate typically took about 10 minutes. In LAX, that can take 30 minutes or longer. By inserting yourself into the secure "airside" system in SAN, rather than LAX, you save a lot of time and frustration.

My typical booking was on 6:15 a.m. from SAN to LAX, connecting with the 11:21 a.m. from LAX to IAH. Additional flights flew from SAN to LAX at 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., and 8:50 a.m.

That 8:50 a.m. was the last one with enough time (still 1.5 hours) to make the connection in LAX, but I always booked the 6:15 a.m. The reason? The 6:15 a.m. is overbooked? I volunteer! Re-booked on 7:36 a.m. with a $200 voucher. Now the 7:36 a.m. is overbooked. I volunteer! Re-booked on the 8:50 a.m. with another $200 voucher. There were usually 2 or 3 $15 meal vouchers in there, too. I fly to LAX, then to IAH, then to SJO... $400 in pocket.

On the way back, I usually skipped LAX and flew SJO to IAH to SAN. I could take 2 bumps in IAH, which were quite common, and those were usually $400 vouchers. I arrived in SAN at about 11:00 p.m. with $1200 in vouchers, all from what was, at the time, about a $630 flight.

Most of the time, I got at least 3 of the 4 bumps, and sometimes some additional perks (free upgrades, etc.). On average, I was Getting PAID $300, every time that I flew from SAN to SJO, round-trip. Those connecting flights in major U.S. hubs to SJO can be a real gold mine. You will not, however, see many opportunities to get bumped on the inbound and outbound legs at SJO itself.

12-31-2015, 03:41 PM
Speaking of Vouchers...

This does depend upon your personal situation. If you don't fly that often, or if you don't fly on that airline very much, you might not want a voucher. Often, you are entitled to cash in lieu of a voucher, especially under the newer laws in the USA regarding this situation.

However... Vouchers are usually better, for most people, than cash, and here's why...

1) You catch A LOT more flies with honey than vinegar, when it comes to the airlines. Practically every person that calls customer service or visits the ticket/gate desk with a problem is upset, and is often very rude to the airline's employee or agent. Maybe the airline did screw you over somehow, but I assure you that it wasn't some master plan that that gate agent has been working on for years... "Yes! After 5 years of careful planning, I finally Got that Speedy1 guy!"

So... If the flight got cancelled or you got bumped or whatever... That has already happened. It's in the past. If that was the last flight of the night, the gate agent isn't going to bend over and shit out a brand-new Boeing 767, complete with a full, fresh flight crew. You're stuck. Accept it. There's nothing that you can do about that. You just want to make the best of situation... get re-booked, and get compensated as best you can. Being a Huge Dick about it is not going to help.

You want to be the nicest guy that person has talked to all week, which is not a difficult thing to do. Just being a halfway-decent human being pretty much makes you the nicest guy that person has talked to all week. That goes a long way, and that service agent (especially the one on the phone at the service center) can do a lot for you. Which leads me to the Cash vs. Vouchers part...

2) The rules for Cash are pretty rigid. The airline will give you what you're entitled to receive, and that will be it. On the other hand, if you are frequent flyer, and you know that you're going to spend the money on airline tickets... Vouchers are better. Even if the agent asks me if I want cash, I always just answer, "Nah. Vouchers are fine." This works even better these days, because if you do have a frequent flyer account with the airline, they can deposit the voucher into your account immediately, as an electronic voucher that you can't misplace, lose, or have stolen. Also, since you've released the airline from its Cash obligation, you might get a $700 Voucher instead of the $500 Cash that you're entitled to. I've also had as many as 25,000 frequent flyer miles added to my account for a missed flight. Meal vouchers, free hotel rooms or discounted rooms, upgrades, and many other perks.

Your politeness and your willingness to play this game will get you much further with the airline -- especially legacy carriers -- than being a dickhead and demanding Cash.

12-31-2015, 04:44 PM
More Etiquette for Airline Passengers:

1) Don't Close the Overhead Bins before departure. Let the Flight Attendants do that. You might think the bin is full, but jackets and other stuff might still fit. I've seen a lot of frustrated flight attendants walking up and down the aisles, opening bins to see if space is available. Even if the bin really is full, she's still going to have to open it and look, to make sure. I remember the flight attendants checking 2 bags at the front of the aircraft. I noticed that one of the bin doors was closed, reached up, and popped it open. COMPLETELY EMPTY! One of the flight attendants, busy filling out a baggage check tag, said, "You Gotta Be Kidding Me!" The passengers popped the 2 bags into the bin, and off we went. If the bin doors are all left open until everyone is seated and all bags are stored, you'll never have this problem.

2) If you want to sleep on the flight, reserve a window seat. If you've got a weak bladder, reserve an aisle seat. I know that this might not work in every case (claustrophobic people and tall people have trouble with the window seat), but it works most of the time, and shows some consideration for your fellow passengers.

3) If you bring your own food aboard (and I don't blame you -- I do it too, sometimes), please stick with the Non-Stinky stuff!

4) Speaking of Stinky -- Skip the cologne/perfume portion of your "Getting Dressed" regimen, prior to taking an airline flight. Deodorant -- Yes! L'Air de Panache -- NO!

5) I love taking off my shoes on long flights, and I always use shoe deodorizer and wear fresh, clean socks. Nevertheless, as a a courtesy to my fellow passengers, I also carry a pair of thick oversized socks, which I put on over my regular socks.

For the health conscious, it is a good idea to remove your shoes or at least untie them and "loosen" them once you're in flight. Your feet swell in flight, and if you're a frequent flier, as you become an old fart like me, this could cause some health issues.


More health stuff...

1) If you're a frequent flier, and especially on long-haul flights, recline your seat. Even a slight recline helps to relieve some of the compression on your spine, and possibly reduce the swelling in your feet.

2) Elevating your feet helps, too, and can reduce swelling. If there's enough space, you can rest your feet on top of your backpack or other "personal item."

3) The standard advice is not to drink alcohol on a flight... but that ain't happening with me. If you're a drinker like me, follow each drink with a few ounces of water. In the USA, you can walk right onto the plane with your water, but you'll have to buy it in the terminal after security. To save money, take an empty water bottle. Show the security guy that it's empty, and he'll let you bring it through security. Then, fill it up at a water fountain in the airside terminal. It is easy to get dehydrated on a long flight.

4) If you have to throw up, do it. Holding it in can be dangerous, sometimes causing a "vasovagal response", which will cause you to faint, possibly then throw up anyway, choking and exhibiting seizure-like twitching. If you gotta do it, just grab the air-sickness bag, then head for the lavatory if you can make it. If you don't make it, you still have the bag.

5) Always keep chewing gum and water handy for the descent. Ear blockages can occur unexpectedly, and the pain can be excruciating. If all else fails, pinch your nose closed and blow, increasing from gentle to strong, just until your ears pop (Valsalva maneuver). Don't blow with maximum force all at once, or you might end up with an even bigger problem.

01-01-2016, 02:21 AM
More Etiquette that applies to the Airlines themselves:

There was once this airline called Aerosvit. It was one of Ukraine's primary carriers, and a damned good one, too. Aerosvit did very well for over 15 years of operations. Like most carriers in the former Soviet Union, Aerosvit had a sort of "A" class division for international operations, and a "B" class operation for domestic operations.

Although Aerosvit did not have the lie-flat seats of many other major carriers, First Class seats on Aerosvit were Cheap, and very comfortable. I flew First Class on Aerosvit many times, non-stop between New York (JFK) and Kyiv. At the time, it was the only non-stop U.S. to Kyiv service available on a regular basis, although Delta Airlines offered sporadic/seasonal non-stop service.

In my opinion... Aerosvit was a masterpiece of Cost/Quality/Value service. Aerosvit wasn't 5-Star, but a First Class seat on a non-stop from New York to Kyiv only cost about $1200-$1600, depending upon the time of year. Aerosvit flew Boeing 767s, with English-speaking crews, on that route.

The real pleasure of flying on Aerosvit was the awesome service and the lack of nickel-and-dime treatment. Three meals were served on this roughly 10-hour flight, and snacks and drinks were available continuously. Yes... I know that's normal for First Class, but the same was true in Coach. I verified that. Nothing was fancy, but everything was solidly good. There were so many little touches that really cost the airline practically nothing, that really made the difference...

1) Aerosvit gave every passenger a little card with a few stickers on it. You put the stickers that you wanted on the top of your seatback. The stickers indicated dinner, breakfast, lunch, duty-free purchases, etc. If the appropriate sticker was on the top of your seatback, the flight attendant would wake you up if you were sleeping, when it was time for that service.

2) Aerosvit's "amenities pack" for First Class was outstanding. It included slippers, earplugs, sleeping mask, toothbrush/toothpaste, and other truly Practical items.

3) Aerosvit's best feature was its in-flight beverage/snack service in First Class. Dinner was served shortly after departure. After that... the flight attendants wheeled a couple of fully-loaded beverage/snack carts up to the front of the First Class section, and let the First Class passengers have at it. The front of the First Class section basically turned into a self-service bar for about 5 hours.

And all of this basically cost the airline Nothing! Unfortunately, in 2012, Emperor Putin decided that he had had enough of Aerosvit "Showing Up" the Russian airlines, and had Aerosvit bankrupted.

01-01-2016, 07:41 AM
The "Trip in Vain" clause...

This is excellent leverage for you, the passenger... but you have to be prepared to make a convincing argument. Just because you're delayed for a couple hours... that doesn't cut it.

But... If you truly are faced with a "Trip in Vain" situation, you can pretty much get the airline to either meet all of your needs, or give you a full refund (even on a non-refundable ticket) plus some additional compensation.

"Trip in Vain" basically means that even if you are re-booked, the delay and/or the change in your itinerary Defeats the purpose of your trip.

I have run into this situation in a Major way, on two occasions...

1) I was going to spend New Year's Eve with my girlfriend in Russia (several years ago). I had booked a flight out on December 30, with one connection, which would arrive in St. Petersburg at about 11:00 a.m. on December 31. I had already purchased tickets to a big New Year's Eve party. About one week prior to my departure, I got a message from the airline (Delta) that my flight out of New York (JFK) on December 30 had been canceled, due to a lack of crew availability. This is actually a legitimate, and quite common, reason that many flights are canceled at the end of the year. Flight crews must meet very specific daily, monthly, and yearly Duty Time restrictions, and most of those restrictions are based upon the Calendar Year. That's not really the airline's Fault... that's the Law. However... it ain't MY fault that the flight got canceled, either, right?

As I read the rest of the message, I found out that I had been re-booked on an itinerary that would arrive in St. Petersburg on January 1, at 3:00 p.m. So much for my little New Year's Eve party. After 30 minutes of careful thought, I decided that this particular situation required a telephone call... not just an email.

After the initial pleasantries, I told the airline's customer service representative the huge problem that this was going to cause me... and I used the Magic Words... "This pretty much Negates the entire purpose of my trip."

She immediately understood that I knew what I was talking about, and got that "Oh, Shit!" tone in her voice. However, she was also quite sympathetic... "Well, Sir... I absolutely understand why you are upset about this situation, and I'm going to do everything in my power to fix this. I need to go check on a few things and speak with my Supervisor."

I answered, "I'll stay On Hold for One Hour, if that's what it takes... but I need this situation to be fixed! I have faith in you! Go Work Your Magic!"

About 20 minutes later, she was back on the phone with me, and I was all set up to arrive in St. Pete at 4:00 p.m. on December 31.

2) I was booked on another trip to Europe, back in 2010, around the time of the Eyja volcanic eruptions that basically shut down a huge chunk of European airspace and several airports for quite some time. My flight was scheduled about one week after the last major eruption. I was scheduled for a connection in Amsterdam (Schiphol) to Kyiv, Ukraine. Every day, there were images on TV and the Internet, showing thousands of stranded passengers in the AMS airport.

Things were improving, but every day, the flights 3 days in the future were being canceled, and all of those poor people were still stranded.

So... Five (5) days prior to my flight, I decided to call the airline on the phone and dump this trip. I figured that I would just go to Costa Rica instead (which I did, in fact, end up doing).

I just wanted a full credit (not cash) for the cost of my ticket to Kyiv... a good chunk of which I was going to immediately use to fly to SJO.

The customer service rep initially said, "Well, Sir... the conditions are improving already, and your flight has not been canceled."

I replied, "But all of the flights for the next 3 Days have been canceled. That gives you less than 2 days prior to my flight to get thousands of stranded passengers out of AMS. I don't want to be Yet Another stranded passenger in AMS, if things don't work out as you have planned... and you could Definitely use the extra seat."

She answered, "Could you please hold for a moment while I speak with my supervisor?"


Ten minutes later, I had a full credit plus 10,000 frequent flyer miles... and a ticket to SJO.

01-01-2016, 09:22 AM
Some good jokes/quips between me and gate agents, airline employees, etc...

1) I missed a connection, which was supposed to be on a Boeing 737. As soon as I landed, I saw on my phone app that I had already been re-booked on the next flight which would be boarding about 20 minutes after I landed. However... I failed to look at any of the details. I got to the gate, and walked up to the gate agent... "Hi! I got re-booked due to a late arrival. Any chance of an upgrade to First Class?" The gate agent replied cheerfully, "Sure! Every Seat on this airplane is First Class!" Yep... an ERJ135... probably my least favorite airliner.

2) The airport had been shut down for about 1 hour due to thunderstorms. Finally the weather cleared a little, and our airplane boarded and taxied out for departure. We were Number 3 for departure. Then the thunderstorms moved in again. After about 5 minutes, the Captain got on the PA system and said, "Ahhhh... Folks... the thunderstorms are here again, and the tower is telling us that it's going to be about an hour before they clear out, according to the weather radar. Now... we are Number 3 for departure. If you'll look out the windows on the left side of the aircraft, you'll see the 30 airplanes waiting behind us. We can go back to the gate if any passenger on board requests that. Or... I can shut down the engines and we can sit right here for one hour, and then be the third airplane in line for takeoff. I'm telling the flight attendants that all alcohol, snacks, and anything else that we have on board is Free for all passengers, starting right now. I really don't want to go back to the gate and then be Number 35 in line for takeoff. In fact, this crew will probably time out if we do that, and this flight will be canceled.

All of the passengers (including me) started looking around at the other passengers with that look... "If ANY of you fuckers asks to taxi back to the gate, I will beat you to death with your own carry-on bag!"

3) The boarding door had closed, and we sat at the gate for 5 minutes. Finally, the Captain got on the PA and said, "Ahhhh... Folks... I'm sorry for the delay in pushing off of the gate. The problem that we're having is that we found a large bag full of $100 bills on board, and there is no identification on the bag. So our company has instructed us to distribute the money equally among all passengers... and it's going to take us just a few more minutes to finish counting all of this money and stacking it into about 150 equal piles..."


"Nah! We've just got a light that won't go out on the master alarm panel, for a minor item. The maintenance guy should be here in about 2 minutes, and he should be able to fix it very quickly, then we'll be on our way!"

4) I asked the gate agent, "What are the chances of getting an upgrade on this flight?" She answered, "About the same as you winning the Powerball Jackpot." I smiled and said, "So you're saying there's a Chance!" She gave me that look... "Oh, Great! Another Comedian!", but she couldn't stop giggling.

5) I boarded this one flight, with a lucky upgrade to First Class. One of the two flight attendants in First Class was this impossibly smokin' hot girl. I think she said that she was from Barbados, originally, but was living in the USA as a U.S. Citizen at the time. She was definitely a 9.5+, body and face; perfect milk-chocolate skin, with no tattoos, no blemishes, and only a single piercing in each ear; C+ cup (almost a D cup); long legs; Awesome personality... so rare for such a gorgeous girl. I was instantly in love. I was ready to skip marriage altogether and just go straight to divorce and buy her a house, in exchange for only 2 or 3 months of "break-up sex."

As I boarded the airplane, when I first saw her, my jaw dropped, I stopped walking, and I just stared at her as she walked away from me, delivering a drink to another passenger in First Class. I heard someone behind and to my left say, "God DAMN!" When I turned around to see who said that, it was the First Officer of the aircraft, and he was staring at her, just like I was. Our eyes met, and he said, "I don't see THAT too often on a United Airlines flight!" I answered, "Neither do I, but I'd definitely like to." I started walking again and got settled into my seat. About a minute later, "Barbados" walked up to my row and asked me, "Would you like something to drink before departure, Sir?" I couldn't help myself..."Do you have any Chocolate Milk?" She answered, "No... but I can get you some Hot Chocolate once we're serving drinks after takeoff." I said, "OK, then. I'd love some Hot Chocolate after takeoff. For now, then... just a vodka-tonic."

She came back about one minute later and handed me my vodka-tonic, and as she leaned forward to hand it to me, she said, "Here you are... you Naughty Boy..." I just said, "You have No Idea."

01-01-2016, 03:11 PM
Bag Etiquette:

1) Not really an Etiquette issue, but don't check a bag unless it's absolutely necessary. Sometimes it's necessary to check a bag... but for most people, it's completely unnecessary about 95% of the time. if you can't pack for a trip of 10 Days or less using a rollaboard and a small backpack (1 carry-on and 1 personal item), then you're doing something wrong.

2) If you do check a bag, have a photo of it printed out. If your bag is misdirected by the airline, when the baggage office person pulls out the chart where you are supposed to point to which bag is the closest in appearance to yours, you hand the baggage person your photo. For example... this "stock" photo...


The baggage person will say, "Well... that certainly makes this process a lot easier."

3) If there's room, put your carry-on bag in the bin that is Opposite to your side of the aisle. If someone sitting on the other side of the aisle bitches about it, just say, "You do the same thing... Trust me." It is So Much Easier to put your bag into the bin and take it back out of the bin this way.

4) Use a TSA lock and a strap for your carry-on, and most definitely for any bag that you check. However, you need to understand the purpose of these items. Neither the lock nor the strap will keep anyone from stealing anything from your bag. Therefore, anything that you cannot afford to lose Must be in your carry-on bag or your personal item. The lock and the strap are to keep the bag from accidentally opening and spilling its contents, even if it is damaged... hopefully...

The strap has the additional purpose of helping you to identify your bag, so the goofier and stranger your strap looks, the better. If it's a checked bag, get that strap on there as tightly as you can, so that it won't catch on any edges or nails or anything else.