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How to be a decent flyer

I set the bar so low that children running down the aisle is not even on my list of annoyances

George Clooney advises Anna Kendrick on being an efficient flyer in ‘Up In The Air’ (2009).Photo: Alamy
George Clooney advises Anna Kendrick on being an efficient flyer in ‘Up In The Air’ (2009).Photo: Alamy

A minuscule percentage of people who sit through the safety briefings of airlines will ever have any use for them (the Air France safety video is such a hoot though!). What most flyers could use every time they board, however, is a lesson in basic decency. I set the bar so low that children running down the aisle is not even on my list of annoyances.

On long flights, my ideal scenario is to not sit next to someone who appears remotely interesting—that way I have no urge to waste time talking and no shame in asking for two-and-a-half sugars for my coffee or rewinding movies obsessively for missed dialogue.

On a recent flight, I was seated next to someone who was impossible to ignore. They got their suitcase down five times during an 18-hour flight. It was to retrieve and then put back a set of items in the same order. I had the aisle seat and since my in-flight lifestyle had to be suspended each time this happened, I thought I might as well pay attention to the proceedings: a zipped pouch of essential oils to address a variety of in-flight needs such as digestion and insomnia was the first to be brought down, eye mask, socks and a change of clothes came next, a book and magazine (these were taken out at different times), hairbrush, medicines. I didn’t think about changing my seat because each time I believed it would be the last. To top this, the person was unable to lift their suitcase. The first time, a co-passenger helped but a flight attendant had to be summoned all the other times.

This brings me to point one: Unless old or incapacitated in any way, please travel with luggage you are able to carry yourself. Do not be the person holding up traffic on the aisle because you are unable to hoist your luggage. Almost everyone seems to be afflicted with back problems now—I hope it is not just the Lounge team—so it is unfair to expect other people to shoulder your burden. Funnily, you know, the rest of us packed light to avoid this exact scenario.

I am already traumatized by what Wi-Fi and phone calls on Indian flights will lead to but in preparation for that, let’s get into a strict headphone discipline. Plug in the headphones even when you’re going to watch a short video on Instagram. For, can there be anything more terrible than waking up to a cat meow or actor Kangana Ranaut asking paparazzi to leave her alone? No.

Some people are just not good at holding on to their drink, even if it is non-alcoholic. You might say I had particularly bad travel luck this time, but on the other leg, I had apple juice all over me, knocked over by the person beside me. In his debut column in Mint this week, on the art of packing, actor Rahul Khanna wrote about how he always carries a fresh set of clothes in his carry-on bag in the event that he spills food on himself mid-flight. I like my hand luggage to be as non-existent as possible so I will certainly never have a change of clothes. With my good karma of rarely dropping things on other people, all I can hope for is that other people don’t drop or spill things on me.

Also, please do not spray perfume, however nice you think it is. It’s very upsetting for other people. We didn’t choose that perfume to be on us or around us.

Finally, any reasonable person seated on the aisle seat is expected to get up or shrink their knees as many times as required for others to visit the loo, without rolling their eyes or muttering. I try to be understanding about this. What is inconsiderate, apart from trips to the other end of the aeroplane to chat with a friend, are those repeated trips to the loo to put on make-up and fix your hair before landing. Ever heard of pocket mirrors? Get one.

Anindita Ghose tweets @aninditaghose

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