Sunday, April 7, 2019

Manners and Etiquette: Knigge Part 2

I promised in a post from last month that I would come back and write more about Knigge, focusing on travel. As it turns out, my flights to and from Newark, NJ (USA) to visit my kids in Pennsylvania weren't as bad as expected. However, looking through Silke Schneider-Flaig's book about German Knigge and reflecting on my own experiences did give me a few ideas.

So here we are for Part 2. Some of these are from the Knigge book, and some are my own pleas tips.

At the Check-In & Security

  • Arrive early enough to cut down on your own stress. Know that at every major airport in the world, traffic to the terminals is thick and chaotic, so plan more time than you think you need.

  • Do not blame other passengers or airline personnel for your misfortunes or bad planning. You will have much better luck getting assistance if you are calm and reasonable.

  • Have your passport or i.d. at hand (take it out while you are waiting in line) rather than approaching the counter and then starting to dig for it.

  • While waiting in line to approach the nudie scanners at security, remove everything you can (watch, belt, bracelets) and put it all in a jacket pocket or pocket of your carry-on. Have your tablet or laptop ready to be placed separately in a bin, as well as your "freedom bag" (the 1-quart Ziplock bag containing your dangerous liquids and gels).

  • Watch the travelers in front of you. If they are required to remove their shoes and place them in a bin, be ready to remove yours.

At the Gate

  • Before they call for boarding, put the items you will need during the flight (for me those are my noise-canceling headphones and MP3 player, a book, a notebook, a pen, reading glasses, hand lotion and lip balm because it's dry as buggers up there) into a smaller bag you have packed in your carry-on for this purpose.

  • Everyone boarding the plane will be taking off together at the same time. So pushing, shoving, and trying to sneak in before your section is called is foolishness. 

In the Airplane

  • Get to your seat, stow your carry-on in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you, and sit down. Get out of people's way and do not block the aisle.
    This is easy as pie if you have done what I mentioned in the section above, because you have the most important items in your little bag - which you will need to put under the seat in front of you for take-off! You can live without everything else until the plane reaches cruising altitude.

  • Silke Schneider-Flaig recommends to help older folks and parents traveling alone, but I would change that to offer your help. Don't just step in and grab their stuff to toss in an overhead bin. ASK if they would like your help.

  • Do not put your seat back unless you are actually trying to sleep. When you fail at sleeping, put your seat back upright again. Honestly, folks, that extra inch of recline will not help you and will be a torture to the person behind you.

  • Put your seat back upright during meals! If the person in front of you doesn't do so, ask him or her politely rather than seething in silence.

  • If you expect assistance and cooperation in the event of an emergency, pay attention to the safety video or flight attendants going through procedures, or at least shut up long enough for the rest of us to listen. It's a matter of respect in my view, and it doesn't matter that I've heard this spiel 86 times already.

  • For the love of all that is  holy, wear socks! Do not display your bare feet to others, and do not rest your foot on the arm rest of the poor soul in front of you.

  • Take cues from the person next to you as to whether s/he wants to chat or not. Just because you're excited to start your vacation doesn't mean the business traveler next to you wants to chit-chat.

  • On most international flights these days the planes are equipped with touchscreen displays on the back of the seat in front of each traveler. Thanks, airplane designers; that was a great idea. They never work as well as our mobile phone and tablet touchscreens, and this leads to people banging their fingers on the displays. To see what this feels like, strap a book to your upper back or neck and have someone bang on it repeatedly with her finger.
    DO NOT BANG ON THE TOUCHSCREEN! It's a touchscreen, not a bangscreen.

Honestly, everything regarding Knigge for travelers boils down to keeping calm and not causing problems for those around you. For this you need a healthy dose of self-awareness as well as acknowledgement of people around you.

One final tidbit of advice: WASH YOUR HANDS whenever you have the chance. On my flight home last month I saw the 10-year-old kid across the aisle from me sneeze a goober into his hand, and since he was too proud to ask his mom for a tissue, he wiped in on his seatbelt that was dangling into the aisle. As fate would have it, his dad wanted to switch seats with him for landing. They did, and the goober ended up on Dad's hand. At least it stayed in the family. 

One of the many morals of that story is that you never know what filth has been on the things in the plane you have to touch. The cleaning crew does their best in a very short amount of time, but they cannot possibly disinfect everything you will have to touch. It really isn't that much of a mystery why people commonly get sick with a cold or the flu after flying...

What etiquette tips do you have for international flights??


  1. Bring a USB charging cable and an electric outlet recharger for your handheld devices. Some international-route aircraft have both types of ports, some only have one.

    Turn off the beeps, keyboard clicks, Notification sounds, and other noises on your phone. Use headphones or put the device on silent/subtitles mode, because no one wants to hear your (or your child's) video, text-to-voice message, or game noises.

    Bathe the morning of your flight, and wear clean clothes and deodorant. Leave off the perfumed products (people going through chemotherapy or pregnancy will be especially grateful).

    When you see the beverage cart being wheeled down the aisle, listen to the choices the flight attendants ask the passengers seated in the row(s) in front of you. They will ask you the same ones, so make your decision now. If it's coffee with cream and no sugar, then say it that way when you order. "Coffee with one cream and no sweetener." It will speed up the beverage service. Likewise for food selections, and have the appropriate cash or credit card in your hand when they reach your aisle.

    1. Excellent tips!! There are so many things we can do (or not do) to make the flight less miserable for flight attendants, other passengers, and ourselves.

  2. Yes, yes and yes! Oh my gosh, sometimes I wonder if people have never travelled or live under a rock, a lot of these are proper logic! Especially putting everything you need in a small bag to have under the seat with you, rather than overhead bin, men struggle with that one since they don't carry purse, but that doesn't mean they should clog up the alley!