5 Tips to Avoid a Scuffle While Flying

A plane had to be diverted on Sunday after a fight broke out when a man used a banned device to prevent a fellow passenger reclining her seat. The Knee Defender is a $21.95 mechanism-jamming lock that attaches to a tray table and is obviously aimed at stratospheric gits. A cup of water was thrown, and both passengers ejected from the United Airlines flight. The rules of reclining, stowing and interacting are different in the high-pressure environment of a commercial aeroplane. Here is a handy etiquette guide to avoid a mile-high clubbing.

DO practise arm-rest diplomacy

Space negotiation in confined seating is a balancing act between comfort and good relations. This is not to pretend you’re involved in anything other than a zero-sum land grab – this is a literal arms race, but we’re discussing etiquette.

Look to international relations – US-China is a good model. Civility is paramount. Gradual encroachment is key. Get in behind their elbow. If you lose the higher ground, wait for their inevitable trip to the toilet. OK, it’s not exactly like international relations.

DO order something weird to get your food first

Passengers with special dietary needs get served first, so it pays to be one, or at least say you are. It’s queue jumping, yes, but it’s very hard to get caught. Of course, you may not be the only pretend vegetarian or kosher-requiring charlatan on board. To really jump the queue, tell them you’re a bean-intolerant milk-swerver who can’t eat sugar or salt. Your food will be awful, but you probably deserve that.

DON’T try to jump any actual queues

Anyone who buys any sort of priority boarding privilege is an oily, money-palmed weasel. People with physical difficulties should get on first, everyone else should just wait. The rule is compounded when flying budget airlines, where such “better than you” hypocrisy will almost certainly be met with a strategically deployed Knee Defender© – or it would if the seats reclined, which they don’t.

DO snitch

Restless-legged children kicking the upholstery off the back of your chair, tinny hip-hop leaking from headphones, grown men in sombreros happy-slapping each other, are all perils of flight. The mature thing would be a discreet conversation between parties, leading to a happy compromise. But screw that awkwardness. The cabin crew are your personal secret police, expert at meting out polite cease and desists. Go rat to them, and avoid frosty stares and “accidental” chair bumps for the rest of the flight. Speaking of which …

DON’T flirt with the flight attendants

You’re not George Clooney; you have very dry skin and are wearing compression socks. You’re not on Concorde in the 70s, and the cabin crew are not geishas.

They’re there to keep you safe. You don’t wink at your GP, or a hygiene inspector, so now is also not the time to pull out a feeble line about special access to your cockpit. Do think about adjacent passengers, who you’ve just invited to imagine your frustrated onanism. No one wants to witness a crash and burn, especially on a plane.


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