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Roadlife: Seven tips for better air travel etiquette

The words airline and etiquette often clash like "jumbo shrimp" and "reasonable legal fees."

As we head into the summer travel season, when family vacationers share the cabin with business frequent fliers, maybe it's time to brush up on good manners in the sky.

Don't Be a Space Invader: Sure, your 17-inch-wide coach seat is no La-Z-Boy. It's also no excuse for stretching out into the seat beside you. Keep your arms and feet in your own space. When a row is full, whoever's stuck in the middle seat gets both armrests. "With business travelers, it's a given," says Joe Brancatelli, a veteran business travel writer. "If not, you might have to fight for it."

Look Before You Lean: Fliers can argue that since airlines sell reclining seats, you're entitled to lean back as far as you want. But that can damage a laptop or dump a meal on someone's lap. Look back before reclining. If you're the one being squashed, don't hesitate to ask for a little more room.

Quiet the Riot: Rowdy children can turn flying into a special kind of hell. Most parents know to bring entertaining diversions. You also might send an adult ahead with carry-on bags and let kids board at the end of the line. Remember to get a good night's sleep — both you and them — so no one's overly cranky, says Harriet Baskas, who writes the Well-Mannered Traveler column for MSNBC.com.

No Stink, Spill or Splash: With the end of free airline meals, more travelers carry on food from home and the airport. Some are too fragrant for close-quarters consumption, others too sloppy. Eat it before you get on board or after the plane lands.

Bin There, Don't Do That: Overhead bins aren't your personal storage space, especially because travelers now carry on more bags to avoid checked luggage fees. Put your second bag, with stuff you need during the flight, under the seat in front of you. Don't use the bin at the front of the cabin when you're sitting in 44C.

Ready for Nature's Call: If you're pregnant, or simply slurped down too much Starbucks, plan ahead for bathroom breaks. Ask for an aisle seat.

Keep It Clean: Despite all the Mile High Club stories, inappropriate displays of affection on planes are pretty rare. A bigger concern is travelers watching movies with sex or violence on their laptops around kids. Just don't.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Bad behavior

Loud snoring: 44%

Obvious intoxication: 25%

Excessive flatulence: 19%

Vomiting: 9%

Source: TripAdvisor survey in March

Roadlife: Seven tips for better air travel etiquette 04/14/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 17, 2009 2:03pm]

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