Travel Etiquette: Cruise Buffets and Airplane Seats

In this edition: Cutting in the cruise buffet line, and the dreaded bulkhead seat.

Q: In the buffet line of a cruise, can you "cut in" if you only want one particular thing? For example, I wanted to get some carrot sticks for my kids from the salad bar, but there was a big line of people making elaborate salads. I felt weird just ducking in front of someone, but I also didn't really think I should have to wait for 15 minutes for one item. What do you think?

A: Just ask one of the people building elaborate salads if you could please grab a few carrot sticks. If they're moving slowly anyway, your cutting in for one item shouldn't hold up the line. You just need to ask first.

Q: I was recently on a flight that was canceled. I was able to get on a later flight, but the only seat available was a bulkhead. I didn't realize I would not be able to have anything at my feet during takeoff and landing. I assumed there'd be a pocket the size of a regular seatback pocket, so I could put my iPad and laptop in there, but instead there was only a tiny storage area barely the size of a magazine. So I just held everything in my lap. The flight attendant told me I couldn't do that -- they'd need to go in the overhead compartment. Well, my bag was several rows behind me, and I really didn't want my electronics out of my sight. I asked the person behind me if I could put them under her seat, but she said no. Is there anything I could have done?

A: The first thing you should always do if something about your seat makes you unhappy is talk to a flight attendant. They might be able to reseat you. You could have also taken matters into your own hands and asked the people around you if anyone would want to switch seats with you. Some people actually prefer bulkheads, so you may have had a taker.

I have to say, though, I don't blame the person behind you. If I were sitting behind you, I don't think I'd want expensive electronic devices that don't belong to me at my feet. I'd be afraid I'd kick or step on them, or that we'd hit turbulence and my Diet Coke would be the death of your laptop. If you just needed me to stash a bottle of water until after takeoff, no problem, but I can see why the passenger behind you didn't want to babysit your iPad and laptop.

Plus, it's not as if you had to leave your stuff unattended for hours in the middle of Grand Central Station. It's unlikely that someone would be able to get into your bag and swipe your iPad or laptop while the fasten seat belts sign is on -- a flight attendant would be looking right at them and telling them to sit down. And if someone tried to steal your stuff while deplaning, it'd also be pretty obvious. If you saw someone grab an iPad out of a bag in the overhead bin but not take the bag itself, you'd be suspicious, right? And if someone tried to take your entire bag, you'd see them carrying it on their way to the exit door. I understand you were frustrated, but try to look on the bright side -- at least your airline got you on another flight.

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