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How to Fly Like a Gentlemen - Boarding and Disembarking Etiquettes

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One thing that always surprises me is how people seem to lose all manners and etiquette as soon as they enter an airplane or airport. Suddenly, everyone behaves like a buffalo amidst a panic stricken stampede.

Ever wonder why everyone tries to rush out of an airplane at the same time as if it's about to explode? Or why people stand at the luggage belt, blocking the view and access for all other passengers? I think it's time for a quick rundown on air travel etiquette.

Boarding and disembarking etiquettes

At the gate

First of all, once you are at the gate on time, the plane is not going to leave without you. So, there really is no reason to simultaneously jump up and run to the gate entrance as soon as boarding commences.

Relax!!! First off, pay attention to the boarding announcements. Boarding is usually in groups, and if your group hasn't been called, there is really no point hanging around the gate entrance blocking the other passengers who are allowed to board.

Inside the airplane

When inside the aircraft, walk to your seat and sit down. If you can't find space for your carry-on, put it on your lap and wait for an airline assistant to help you. Do not hang out in the aisle, looking around, trying to squeeze it in somewhere. And please... do not walk back! The aisle is already narrow for one person, let alone two.

This brings me to the third point. When the plane has arrived at your destination, there is not enough space in the aisle for everyone to stand up. So, again, relax!

You probably have to wait for your check-in luggage anyway, so what's the point of trying to gain one minute by jumping up and standing in the aisle? And no, you're not that important; whatever you traveled for can wait one minute.

At baggage collection

I know you love your bag and that it can be emotionally disturbing to be separated from it during the flight, but please do not stand on the side of the luggage belt until you actually see your bag! This is especially relevant advice if you're pushing a cart.

Now, if everybody would just follow these rules, wouldn't air travel become so much more enjoyable?

It would. But guess what: it's not happening. Why not? Because we're stubborn, impatient, and a little bit neurotic:).

That's why I think the airlines should guide us in the right direction. Here's my two cents on the perfect boarding protocol.


Instead of boarding by row number, why not start with the window seats, middle seats next, and aisle seats last. This ordering system would prevent people from having to get out of their seats to let someone else in.  

Moreover, it would speed up the boarding process by eliminating the need for folks to step into the aisle as their neighbors slide past them.  Lastly, this process would ensure that the overhead space is filled up proportionally, reducing the need to walk across the plane to find space.


Hmm...doesn't this concept work for unloading the plane too? Yes, it does! Killing two birds with one stone.


This problem is a little bit trickier to solve, but here's what needs to be done. First of all, there needs to be a "no-cart-zone" of at least 3 meters around the luggage belt.

Second, we need people to line up in staggered rows along the belt. This way, everyone can see the belt and there is space to grab the bag once it reaches you.

Simple, right?  The ball is in your court Mr. and Ms. airline owners :) .

5 thoughts on “How to Fly Like a Gentlemen - Boarding and Disembarking Etiquettes

Comment author said

By Dan on 23 October 2013 at 22:41

I enjoyed reading, but have a couple of comments:

1. Regarding people waiting at the gate--I agree that people get up too soon and make a mess out of things. However, the big issue is the lack of overhead bin space on most airlines. In many cases, I find myself trying to board as soon as possible because I do not want to have to check one of my bags at the gate.

2. The reason that airlines, in many cases, do not want to change the boarding system is that they prefer having people who paid more or are considered "premium" or "elite" have early access to the bins. I am not saying that this is right or wrong. Interestingly, different airlines have had different boarding orders and I think that the switch was actually an issue during the United/Continental merger (one had window first, one had a different method).

3. Regarding at the luggage bin--At some airports, I am actually concerned about seeing right when my item comes from the carousel because of the lack of security. There is often nobody to check the claim check. This is less of a risk in airports where one needs to clear customs after collecting the bag or where only arriving passengers are allowed at the carousel area. However, for airports that are completely open, there is the concern that someone could come in and steal bags. Because of this, many are advised to go to the luggage carousel as soon as possible.


Comment author said

By Jasper Ribbers on 23 October 2013 at 23:03

Hey Daniel, that's a pretty elaborate comment! You make some very good points.

Regarding 1, I think this is most relevant in the US. I've never seen bags getting checked at the gate anywhere else, which is something I just realized. Interesting.

Regarding 2, I guess one option is have the elites board first and then by seat type.

Regarding 3, you're right, if someone wants your bag and you're not paying attention that person would probably get away with it. That's why I always put valuables in my carry-on . But still if people would make lines it would increase safety as everyone can see the carousel. The risk now is that you can't see anything as people are blocking the view.


Comment author said

By Dan on 24 October 2013 at 12:52

You have me really curious about whether bags checked at the gate is just a US thing. I have had an issue with this before in Ireland, but since it was a US carrier, it might be that the US norm applies regarding this.

Also--another issue that I have with people getting up too early at the end of the flight is when they try to get their carry-on luggage down early. I have been hit in the head before by someone getting luggage out of the bin, and there should be no rush for this. In some countries, they deboard the aircraft through both the front and the rear. I feel like this make the whole thing work in a more efficient manner.

I agree with your comment about elites boarding first and then having it by seat type. Often though, the airlines have become greedy enough that the aisle/window seat costs more than the middle seat which messes up this type of method. By the way--scientists have determined the most efficient way to board a plane:




Comment author said

By Janneke on 24 October 2013 at 10:59

Dude! It's the same in/out trains/ busses/ taxilines. People just want to be 'first' as there's usually too many of us for too little space....


Comment author said

By Jasper Ribbers on 24 October 2013 at 12:55

Hey Janneke! You're right that applies to situations where there are either not enough seats or no assigned seats (so people don't know if there are enough.)

For most flights, your seat is assigned in advance so you don't have to worry about it.


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