Question: I'm pretty tall (6-foot-6). Whenever I fly, I sit on the aisle, and I end up helping other passengers get their luggage in and out of the overhead compartment. People are usually very appreciative, but I had a situation recently that kind of blew my mind.
As my flight was boarding, I was finishing a very important phone call, so I was kind of unaware of what was happening around me. At some point, though, I noticed that movement of passengers down the aisle had stopped and there was a woman staring at me. When our eyes met, she looked down at her bag and up at the overhead -- it was a nonverbal command to put her bag up. She never asked for help or said please.
So instead of jumping up, I said, "I'm sorry, can I help you with something?" She said, "Uh, yeah," with the kind of obnoxious inflection my teenage sister uses and motioned to the overhead bin. I did put her bag up but was really offended by how she treated me. She did the same thing deplaning, too. And now, because my mother raised me to be a Southern gentleman, I have been playing this back in my head and wondering if I was rude to her. I know she was rude, but did I sink to her level? Because if you think I did, I'll be ashamed.
Answer: Please do not beat yourself up over this. I cannot believe someone would be that rude to you! It is never acceptable to expect that someone else will put your bag in the overhead -- never mind ordering them to do it -- never mind giving that order via eye movements! If you're too short to put your bag up, you ask a tall person nicely, and then you thank them profusely.
I actually think, "I'm sorry, can I help you with something?" was a perfect thing to say. You gave her a chance to say, "Yes, could you please help me put this up?" and she didn't do it. And then you still helped her -- twice -- despite her horrible manners. I think your mom would be proud.
Question: In May, a passenger was arrested for allegedly messing with the emergency-exit door on a flight from Orlando to Boston… according to news reports, he admitted he had been drinking before the flight. Why on earth didn't the people sitting next to him tell the flight attendants they thought he was drunk?
Answer: If other passengers suspected he was drunk, they obviously should have said something to a flight attendant. But sometimes it's hard to tell if someone's had too much to drink. Flight attendants usually ask every person seated in the exit row if they're capable of understanding instructions and helping the crew in the event of an emergency. I assume he didn't seem drunk to the flight attendant, or they'd have reseated him, so it's possible the other passengers didn't notice anything strange either. Until, of course, he started fiddling with the door.
While we're on the subject of exit-row seating, though, let me say that if you choose to sit there, you shouldn't just be in it for the legroom. If you're someone who panics easily, or you can't lift 50 pounds, or you need four martinis to calm your nerves, or you plan on knocking yourself out with sleeping pills during the redeye, don't sit in the exit row in the first place!
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? Email Lesley at firstname.lastname@example.org.