Bad Flight Behavior and Crowded Vacation Rentals

Q: I was at the airport recently and an airline employee pulled me out of the security line and told me my bag was too big to carry on. Now, I know my bag is fine. (And I measured it after I got home to prove it.) I tried to tell her this, but she insisted I return to the counter with her to check my bag. Then she suddenly whispered, "Hurry up, go, my supervisor's not looking now." I ran off (and proceeded to successfully take the bag on the plane). But what the heck? Can an airline just randomly decide a bag is too big to carry on? And what could I have done if she didn't let me go?

A: That's very bizarre—particularly because if you were in the TSA checkpoint line, I'm sure there were plenty of other people nearby whose bags actually were too big. And it sounds like that airline employee has a rather bad relationship with her boss. If she did attempt to follow through with making you check your bag, I'd ask (very nicely) if someone could measure it to prove it's oversized. Now, I've seen flight attendants force people to gate-check very small bags when the overheads are full, so I suspect airlines do have the right to make you check pretty much anything. But it doesn't make sense to have carry-on size restrictions and apply them unfairly. Ask politely if you can speak with a manager.

Q: Three friends and I are planning to rent a beach house for a week in August. Well, one of my friends announced she's bringing her boyfriend. We tried telling her this was supposed to be a girlfriend getaway, but she says if she wants him to stay in her room, it's not our business. What can we do? (For the record, none of us can stand him.)

A: She can't try to pull this kind of stunt. It's not like he's going to stay in her room 24/7—he's obviously going to be using the bathroom, hanging out in the living room, running up your electric bill, etc. You agreed to share the house with three other people, not four, and I think the rest of you should just tell her that. Don't mention how much he annoys you, though. It's beside the point. Even if he were the greatest guy in the world, he'd still be an extra person you didn't count on having in the house.

Chewing Tobacco on Planes

Q: The guy sitting next to me on my flight last week was chewing tobacco and spitting into a cup on his tray table! It was disgusting! What should I have done?

A: How nasty. Just the other day I saw someone's soda spill all over the place when our plane hit a little turbulence—I shudder to think how revolting it would have been if that had been a cup of spit. I'd ask the flight attendants to reseat you. In fact, they might even make your seatmate put the tobacco away… some airlines have smoking policies that prohibit the use of all tobacco products on board.

Lesley Carlin has been writing about travel and etiquette professionally for more than 10 years. As one of the Etiquette Grrls, she is the co-author of "Things You Need to Be Told" and "More Things You Need to Be Told" (Berkley). Have a travel etiquette question of your own? E-mail Lesley at