While I was in the states for the past two weeks, my mom and I took a trip up to Ohio to visit my grandmother. My mom made an offhand comment as we deplaned that "someone should write an etiquette guide for air travel" and I am here to tell you that I WILL BE THAT SOMEONE. But not today. Today is just a Quick Reference Guide to Air Travel, Coach Class edition. BECAUSE APPARENTLY THAT IS NECESSARY. (You know what else is necessary? Getting Through Security 101. No sir, you can't take your jumbo bottle of sunscreen. Yes ma'am, you DO have to take off your belt. Just like everyone else. Is it really possible that you have not flown since 2001? Did you miss that whole thing? Have you heard about Google yet, because your mind is about to be BLOWN.)
I didn't really feel strongly about any of this until my plane ride from Charlotte to Munich. You know, the 9-hour leg of the trip.
First, let me just say that I flew a military flight from Germany to the states. It cost me $30. I didn't know when I would get on a plane (or what type of plane I'd be on) or where I would land, but a cross-Atlantic flight for only 30 buckaroos? Worth it. And this flight experience was delightful. Yes, I was in a middle seat in the middle of the plane. Yes I was in the row right in front of the galley so my seat didn't exactly recline. But my seat-mates were so pleasant. We were just so thankful to be on a flight (a cheap flight) and headed for "home". I couldn't have asked for a better experience. Happy, pleasant people on a smooth, easy flight. I really do attribute this to the fact that it was all military members and dependents. We were grateful. We were respectful to one another, acknowledging that we're all in the same boat. No whining. No drama. Beautiful.
Also, my time in Atlanta was fabulous. More on that in a later post.
Time for my return trip on a commercial flight. I paid way more than $30 for this flight. And it was the exact opposite of my flight to the US.
First leg, Atlanta to Charlotte. Uneventful. Then, Charlotte to Munich. Board plane. Find seat. I have a window seat, just one man sitting next to me. We settle in. A few hours (one movie) in and it's time for dinner. We eat, the lights dim, we settle in for the long night. The lady in front of me reclines her seat. I decide to recline mine as well.
Hmm. Something must be wrong with my seat. It seems to spring up every time I try to push into a recline.
This time, the spring back is not so subtle. In fact, this time I realize I'm being PUSHED back into an upright position. What the...?!?
Try again. I'm not even going for a full recline right now. I'm just trying to get halfway back so my nose is not in the movie screen on the chair in front of me.
Definitely being shoved forcefully forward now. In fact, not only am I being shoved forcefully forward, but I have knees forcefully digging into my back. Lots of force happening now. Now I am not reclined but still definitely feeling a lot of pressure on the back of my chair.
Fine, let's do this. Headphones off. Turn, smile, expecting to see a small child. Woops, older lady. Continue smiling, puzzled about this passive aggressive behavior from an adult.
"Excuse me, do you mind if I recline my seat just a little bit?", I kindly ask the lady behind me.
"No. You can't. We do mind." This gruff reply comes from the man sitting next to her. Her husband, I assume.
He continues, loudly and with great agitation: "We don't have any room back here. You can't lean back. We have long legs and we have no space."
"Sir...I think all of us have the same amount of space back here."
"No, I don't care. You can't lean back. We have no room."
"Sir, your wife's seat is reclined, so that's not really fair..."
I am interrupted, this time by the woman.
"NO, my seat is NOT reclined. Because that is rude to the person behind me and it gives them no space so I don't recline my seat out of RESPECT for them."
Whoa. At this point, I am truly at a loss. Her seat is clearly reclined, she clearly will not allow me to recline my seat, and her husband is clearly ready to bully me into submission. Her knees are firmly planted in the back of my seat. She is braced and there is no way for me to remain seated comfortably, reclined or otherwise. She is also about 4 times my size (there is no way to be delicate about this...she was big. And not in a "tall" way) so I abandon the idea of using strength to win this battle. My usual go-to strategy, naturally.
People are starting to look over at us to see what's the fuss. I am about to break out in hives, so I simply turn to the man beside me (who has remained silent the entire time, thanks bro) and ask if he will excuse me.
And then I march back to the flight attendant and tattle on the people behind me.
Ok, not really. But I did approach a flight attendant (knowing how much they LOVE solving passenger issues like this. Because we are, after all, adults) and say "Hi...I'm so sorry to bother you but I'm having an issue with the woman sitting behind me. She is preventing me from reclining my seat. I really do not want to create a scene or cause any issues, so is there something you could suggest?"
Bless this woman's heart. She says "wait right here" and walks down the aisle. She comes back momentarily and says "that is just not right. HER seat is reclined!", to which I reply "I know, it is really unfortunate, but I truly do not want to cause an issue" so the flight attendant says "Ok we have some open seats, let's just move you."
Sigh. Long story short, I moved from my nice window seat to a middle seat in the middle row. The people in this row who previously had empty seats next to them were not thrilled, but gracious nonetheless. Should I have had to move? No. And believe me when I say that there are MANY scenarios I have played out in my mind where I responded differently or chose another method to deal with the old, overweight, Scrooge-y couple behind me. I have tons of awesome responses now that I've had time to think about it. But the point is, in that moment, shocked, emotionally fragile, tired and traveling alone, did I REALLY want to start something? Especially with the husband, a man who was obviously ready to get angry and hostile with me? No, I don't think so.
So I have taken this time to compile a short guide to air travel, specifically when traveling coach/economy class.
This is for you, unhappy couple sitting in row 35, seats A and C. I wish you the best...upon your return home. Until then, may your European vacation be filled with missed train connections, rain, and lost hotel reservations. At the very least, may you miss your flight home and be forced to reschedule, sitting by the bathrooms with small children kicking at your seats and babies screaming incessantly. But after that, I wish you only the best. No hard feelings.
Army There Yet's Quick Reference Guide to Air Travel (Coach Class edition)
Welcome to Coach Class! If you purchased a ticket that isn't First or Business class, here's what you can expect from your seat (and all the seats in this part of the plane):
- there's not a ton of space. You don't have a ton of space, the person in front of you doesn't have a ton of space, the person behind you doesn't have a ton of space. The person next to you probably has more space than you. Nope, wait...just kidding. The person next to you doesn't have a ton of space, either.
- you paid for a coach ticket. Assuming you've flown before, you know what to expect. If you haven't flown before, let me encourage you to visit your airline's website, where the dimensions of leg room and seat sizes are clearly outlined. This may help your set you expectations and determine if coach class is right for you.
- I also paid for a coach ticket. I knew what to expect. I paid for my leg room (which is the same as YOUR leg room). I paid for my seat size (which is the same as YOUR seat size). I paid for my seat to recline (surprise twist! the person in front of me also paid for THEIR seat to recline and you also paid for YOUR seat to recline. WE ALL GET TO RECLINE! Can you even believe it?!)
- if you think that traveling in a space this size will be a problem for you, you are encouraged to consider your options. These options include (but are not limited to):
1) buying a Business or First class ticket. Seriously, do you SEE how much legroom those guys get? Yes, it is more expensive. But worth every penny. Maybe you don't have money in the budget for it? I encourage you to consider cutting some money from other areas for a short time in order to save for the greater cost of a Business or First Class ticket. I'd start with the food budget. Tighten the belt, you know. Literally annnnnnd figuratively.
2) putting on your grown-up pants and realizing that you may not be in a state of extreme luxury of comfort whilst traveling by air. Suck it up. No whining. No drama. No need to be rude. We're all in this together.
3) driving. Taking a boat. Staying home. Emphasis on "staying home" for some of you.
4) enhancing the trip by dulling the discomfort level. I suggest any of the following: Benadryl, Ambien, Xanax, wine, liquor, beer, etc. Probably check with your doctor first.
- Finally, when the plane reaches the final destination, understand that everyone will be allowed off the plane at that destination. No need to panic. When you're seated in coach class, you're probably closer to the back of the plane than the front. This means you will not be the first one off the plane, despite your best efforts. While it's pretty impressive to see how fast you can unbuckle your seat belt, jump up, and retrieve your bag from the overhead bin, it is equally impressive to watch you have to wait for every single person seated in front of you to exit the aircraft before you. Again, if you think that this may be a problem for you, please revisit the options above. Minus option 4...that's just for traveling purposes, not deplaning. Reel it in.
I hope this Quick Reference Guide has proved helpful. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. We're here to help.