Airport etiquette, and an example of how not to behave

March 12, 2020 • 1:15 pm

Even HuffPost can occasionally publish something useful. After all, they put up gazillions of pieces, most of them garbage, but occasionally, due to the law of large numbers, one of them might be useful. This is one example, though I already knew that the ten behaviors they singled out here were rude. Rather, I thought the piece was useful for those rude people I occasionally encounter in airports. Click on the screenshot to read:

Here’s there list of ten things not to do in an airport. HuffPost’s “tips” are in bold; my comments in plain type. At the end I’ll show one example of a rude person—someone most of you have heard of.

Not Tipping At Curbside Check-In.  I rarely check luggage, but when I do (with Southwest at Midway), I give the guy two bucks. So I’m not guilty.

Holding Up Lines. What they mean is not to delay people by waiting until you’re at the front of the TSA checkpoint to get out your ID, or stand at the TSA machine, taking off your belt, shoes, etc. only at the last moment. Of course I am well prepared for this and never cause a moment’s delay. These are the same people who only get out their wallet or money at the grocery store checkout counter when they’re told the total, and fumble in their pockets or purses for loose change.

Pushing to the Front of Security. I’ve done this only once, in Calgary, Canada, when I was about to miss my plane and there was a line of roughly fifty people in front of me before security. I went to the front and asked permission of the lead passenger to go ahead. And I learned a lesson: the Canadian official said I had to ASK EVERYONE IN LINE FOR PERMISSION. So I went down the line and said loudly, “Is it okay if I move to the head of the queue? My plane leaves in a few minutes.” And, being Canadian, they all said “yes,” Ceiling Cat bless them! But I learned a lesson about Canadian politeness. That’s the only time in my life I’ve pushed to the head of any line, much less a security line. (As an excuse, Americans usually ask only the lead person, which is a cultural difference, not inherent rudeness.)

Blocking The Moving Sidewalk. This one really ticks me off: people will just block the moving sidewalk with their bodies and luggage, so I have to say “excuse me” to get by. Protip: STAND TO THE RIGHT AND DO NOT BLOCK THE MOVING SIDEWALK: LEAVE A LANE OPEN ON THE LEFT. Same on escalators.

Not Attending To Your Children.  Not a problem for me.

Getting Angry With Kids. Ditto.

Complaining About Small Things. I’ve been subject to passengers who beef and kvetch and mutter to me when lines at check-in are slow, and it makes me dislike them. Nothing is gained by such kvetching. I may feel anxious, but expressing it to others is not useful to anyone.

Swarming The Boarding Area. Another thing I don’t like. If you’re in boarding group 3, don’t hover around the boarding line when group 2 lines up. You can be alert for when your group is about to board, and try to make it to the front of the line, but DO NOT HOVER.

Blocking Terminal Walkways.  What they mean is do not walk three abreast in an airport terminal. Many is the time when I’ve been behind entire families: three or four people with their luggage, completely preventing you from passing (I walk fast). Be considerate.

Being Harsh with Airline Employees.  This is the lesson I find most important. When planes are late, or delayed, it is not the fault of the gate agent. You may suspect that they are lying to you about the reasons for delays or about estimated boarding times, or are hiding other information from you, but accusing them of that is simply rude. These people have hard jobs and are always getting yelled at. Airline counters are the one place where you simply have to be polite—if for no other reason than the agents have power to treat you or mistreat you. And when they’re especially helpful, I tell them so. Believe me: they appreciate it, for airline employees are not allowed to talk back to customers, and so must internalize their anger. Don’t be one of those nasty people like the guy below!

If you want help or information on flight delays, I’ve found it very useful to message the airline on Twitter. They’ll often help you get another flight, or give you the skinny on what’s gone wrong. And the answers come quickly—often far more quickly than from the gate attendant.

And yes, here we see a video of Young Turk Cenk Uygur—I think I posted a different one a while back—that he made after he was delayed 4 hours on an American Airlines flight at LAX.  You can watch him abuse the gate agents repeatedly, and to no avail. According to the Daily Fail (click on second screenshot below), Cenk was actually kicked off this flight after this behavior. That’s his reward for rudeness!

I swear, this guy is wound so tightly he’s going to have a stroke. . .

Cenk gets booted off (video after clicking on screenshot).  He made and posted both of these videos himself. So he’s not only rude, but clueless. This does not make him look good!

I’ve never understood why Cenk is so popular. He’s angry, rude, obnoxious, and I don’t find him at all interesting as a journalist. Perhaps, like Bill Nye, he was good back in the day, but oy, what a schmegeggy he’s become!

Remember, folks, be especially nice to those people who have tough jobs and are liable to be yelled at by the public.

88 thoughts on “Airport etiquette, and an example of how not to behave

  1. Once we were in Rome and our flight was cancelled. Some of the passengers started harshly abusing the poor ground staff at the gate; swearing, shouting and going so far as insulting his physical appearance. I apologised to him on behalf of my fellow travellers. Luckily they were ignorant and insulted him in English; not Italian; so, he didn’t know what they said.

  2. I would add two:

    Do not be one of a group of blind drunk people in line at Customer Service.


    Don’t crowd right up the the baggage claim carousel — you and your fellow crowders keep others from being able to see or reach their luggage. It’s not like you’re going to get your suitcase any later if everybody stands ten feet back.

      1. And also when people are traveling with a family, and everyone is crowded at the carousel, instead of just one or two of them.

  3. A perfectly sensible list.

    Number 2 is a big peeve of mine also. A common manifestation that irritates me are drivers that aren’t paying attention, usually because they are on their phones, and stay stopped even after the light has changed to green. They finally notice and go but leave 2 or 3 people that otherwise could have made the light sitting through another cycle.

    And don’t even get me started on people who pull up to the bank drive-thru terminal and then sit there filling out their transaction forms. Or worse, ask the teller to send them a pen.

    1. Some years ago I read an entry in the NY Times’s “Metropolitan Diary.” A pedestrian observed a driver at an intersection and who had a red light. There was absolutely no other car at the intersection. The light turned green. The driver blew his horn.

  4. I may have posted this before but my brother witnessed a very self-important passenger march up to the front of a long line of disgruntled delayed airline passengers and angrily ask the clerk “Do you know who I am?” The agent, without missing a beat, got on the PA and said “We have someone here who doesn’t know who he is. Can anyone help him?”

  5. Thanks, Merilee.

    What a quick reaction and great line.

    While self-reporting has its own problems, I think I’m polite in lines and mind these rules although I’ve never used curbside checking so have no data.

  6. I have been accosted by a passenger at 4.30am (I’d been up all night) that left me physically shaking, not from anger but from his full on persistent rant.
    It was like a boom box going off in my head lol, as to the last screen shot.
    These days with sky anger airlines wiil offload simply because your anger is a security and disruptive potential for cabin crew and passengers.
    Unruly behaviour will get you an instant fine when you disembark, futher delay and the police are present. (NZ)

  7. Yeah I’ve said this here before; that line think isn’t Canadian. That was just the official being an ass. There is no cultural requirement to ask everyone in a line.

    1. When I wrote about this before, Diana, I got the distinct impression that it was considered by canadians to be the polite and right thing to do to ask everyone. I’ll try to find the post.

      FYI, I didn’t think it was an asshole move; I was just startled. But there is a bit of justification for it, because you’re delaying everyone, not just the first person in line.

      1. I think having to ask everyone in the line is an asshole move. If one person disagreed what would happen? You have to miss your flight? I’ve had the staff just call people up to the front of the line and help them through. The onus isn’t on the person to ask every individual and get consent. It’s rude to not help the passenger. I’ve always seen it done this way. Why stress out a person?

        I recall that post Canadians saying it wasn’t necessary to ask anyone in a line. I dunno, I’m from ontario. Some say we are more like Americans. To that I say “yeah well we use bagged milk and that’s something the West doesn’t do so maybe they are more like Americans so touché”.

      1. I do if you’re late. Staff should pull you ahead and make an announcement as I’ve seen everywhere. Not ask the late person to ask all if it’s ok they not miss their plane.

      1. Am reminded of Phil Plait’s “Don’t Be a . . . .” (Forgive me, it’s the residual Puritan in me.) As I recall his presentation did not go over well with everyone.

  8. As an American, people who let others cut in front of them are just enablers of line-cutting. I don’t consider requesting just that person acceptable in the least.

      1. Some of our local stores are limiting customers to “2 to a customer” of some of the hot items- which I am glad to see. It counters some of humanities moral weaknesses.

        1. I hope they do that here too. I have to order medicine tomorrow and pick it up so I will see what’s what at the drug store.

          1. Went to Costco today to buy gas and popped in to get a few items like nuts and nitrile gloves. It was NUTZ there, with each checkout line running all the way to the middle of the store. The cashiers said they’d never seen it like that, noteven on Boxing Day. The parking lot was practically full when I arrived, and was just lucky to get a spot waaay in the backrow, waaay away from the entry doors. (Fine with me as I like to walk.) Well, when I left by the back way, there were cars parked on the backroads as there was no parking space to be had!

            (Pandemic begins and ends with letters of the word ‘panic’.)

            1. Yeah I’ve heard of people who waited in line for almost an hour with groceries from Walmart. I went to the drugstore today though to pick up my prescription (and get Presidents Choice caramel popcorn, Advil, and milk) & it was fairly empty. I didn’t check the TP situation & assumed there was still no hand sanitizer.

              1. If you want hand sanitizer, you can make it from isopropyl alcohol and glycerine (or aloe-vera) with a little hydrogen peroxide. These can be had at some stores (if your lucky) or online. My dear wife has assembled the ingredients and has concocted a bunch of it.

              2. Oh, check the hardware section for denatured alcohol. It may come in a gallon can. That would work well too.

          2. Diana, Rickflick mentioned making your own hand sanitizer. It’s important for anyone planning to do this to follow the online recipe to the letter. The proportions are key for efficacy.

            Some Costcos *might* still have the 4-bottle box of isopropyl alcohol. Aloe Vera is tricky to come by too (not carried by Costco, but maybe still some at healthfood stores or backorder on amazon or Walmart).

              1. BTW, yesterday my home state of Idaho discovered it’s first case of COVID 19. The governor promptly declared an emergency and the grocery stores were emptied within hours.

                In other news, my brother-in-law living in Florida reports that the elderly there believe everything tRump says about the virus. They still think it’s a hoax. This probably means about a 10 – 15% decline in the population of Florida.

              2. Yes, I get the impression that Florida thinks everything is hunky dory and is taking no precautions. However, Trump has declared a state of emergency etc. so perhaps things will change but it will be too late for Florida by then.

              3. The focus (especially by NY Times) is off China (and no doubt China is glad) and on the U.S. response.

                It won’t do if the U.S. per capita – and total – death rates turn out to be greater than those of China.

    1. A few years ago I flew to Rome with my family for New Year. When the aircraft arrived at the stand lots of people jumped to their feet, filling the aisle with people. My daughter was sat in the aisle seat and I was in the middle seat and we remained seated but the man next to me in the window seat told me we should get up so he too could leave his seat. I pointed out that the aisle was full and even if we wished to there was simply nowhere for us to stand but he would not accept it. He got quite nasty and told me I was very rude! Eventually the doors opened and people began to exit the aircraft and I let him past.

  9. I have a few ‘don’ts’ for airports.

    – do not mime extreme relief and say ‘phew that was a close one’ after you get through the metal detector.

    – do not try and surreptitiously insert the word ‘bomb’ into your conversations with officials as many times as possible, even if it’s just to win a bet.

    – do not try and amuse your friends by pretending to ‘make a break for it’ as you approach the security gate.

    1. Egads. The voice of experience? If so, I can only say that I’ve done an untold number of boneheaded things in my life, so I can commiserate. But I never -ever- fuck with TSA. Those folks have absolutely no sense of humor.

      1. No, I think I’d be dead if I’d done any of those things. Especially with American security.

        In the UK we had the unfortunate case of Charles de Menezes post-9/11. That was salutary.

    2. I was flying out of Manchester (UK) airport; after going through security I was waiting in the departures lounge when I heard the following announcement:
      “Will the person who has left a green bomber jacket in security please return and collect it.”

  10. “I’ve never understood why Cenk is so popular. He’s angry, rude, obnoxious”

    You’ve sort of answered your own question there. Unfortunately, those are the qualities that get you maximum views on YouTube.

    1. Your rule doesn’t always apply, not even to Cenk, eg:

      The Young Turks
      4.67M subscribers

      Joe Rogan Experience
      7.69M subscribers

      Unless, of course, you consider Rogan “angry, rude, obnoxious”, which the available evidence doesn’t remotely support.

      Looking wider, at WikiP top 50 subscribers list, (132m – 29m) none are obviously obnoxious (although some may count Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, The Ellen Show, etc, such).

      Wider still, if you look at the list of 30 most-viewed YouTube videos, 6.66 – 2.36 BILLION views, most seem to be music.

      1. I don’t insert qualifiers into every single thing I write just on the off-chance that someone’s going to pull me up on it later. I take it as a given that people understand that I’m not describing some kind of mathematical law.

        I’d also point out that Pewdiepie, the guy who paid Africans to hold up signs saying ‘Kill The Jews’, is the most popular YouTuber on earth, and if you actually look at the most popular music videos, stuff like Despacito, Gangam Style, etc. I don’t think they harm my argument.

        Don’t get me wrong, I like YouTube, but it hasn’t figured out a way to incentivise calm, nuanced discussion.

        I’d be interested in putting this to the test empirically. Upload two videos – doesn’t matter what they are, but give one a loud, rude, obnoxious title and the other a considered, thought-provoking, non-offensive title. See which one gets the most views.

        1. “Pewdiepie…is the most popular YouTuber on earth”

          Not according to either of the WikiP sites I cited he isn’t. Take a look. And I’ll be interested to see what your data is and where it comes from.

          Regarding your test, in the case of Cenk v Rogan it’s already been done. Multiple times. Hence the differece in subscribers I cited above, 4.67M v 7.69M. Many more prefer to watch Joe.

          As the saying goes, “You are entitled to your opinion, even in the absence of any facts!”

          1. “Regarding your test, in the case of Cenk v Rogan it’s already been done. Multiple times. Hence the differece in subscribers I cited above, 4.67M v 7.69M. Many more prefer to watch Joe”

            That’s a very strange argument. You’ve just arbitrarily plucked out someone more popular than TYT and placed them against him. I could do the same thing and point to Pewdiepie’s subscribers vs Joe Rogan’s. And given how ridiculously popular Alex Jones’s multiple appearances on JRE have been, I’m not entirely sure I’d accept the idea that it’s some example of how civil discourse is valued on YT.
            …And no, of course the experiment hasn’t “already been done”.

            “Not according to either of the WikiP sites I cited he isn’t.”

            Well, as you say, you’re entitled to your opinion even in the absence of any facts:



            That would’ve taken you thirty seconds to google by the way. Hope you find the data interesting.

            1. Thanks for the links. The WikiP one, you will have noticed, is where I originally got my figures from. As I mentioned.

              The Business Insider link rather proves my point. Remember your original claim that “”angry, rude, obnoxious”…are the qualities that get you maximum views on YouTube”?

              BI notes its Top 26 “include video game commentators, makeup artists, and vloggers.” Also comedy. And kids. Little sign of obnoxiousness.

              OK, Pewdiepie comes top. But this, I would argue, has more to do with his being a gamer (there are 8 others on the list) than being obnoxious.

              Even perhaps the best-known exponent of obnoxiousness, Alex Jones, had a mere 2.6m subscribers. Here you have kids – kids! – with TEN TIMES as many.

              In short, you’ve failed to make your case.

    1. It’s a great word, I’ve never heard it before either.
      A bit unfortunate that it reminds me of the sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf’s signature swear word, ‘smeg’. which would make its way into the show’s dialog constantly in wild and varied forms, eg. ‘smegging’, smegger’, ‘smegaroony’, ‘smegariffic’, etc…

  11. Here’s another one:

    When stuck on a crowded jet-way into your aircraft, do not loudly discuss your mother’s / father’s / auntie’s recent gory surgical operation when the folk in front of you can’t get away. I get queasy about such details.

    On the other hand:

    Being nice to check-in staff can get rewards.
    Once, the aged couple in front of me walked away from the desk without their tickets, passports and other stuff.

    The clerk, non-plussed, said to me, “Sorry, Sir, I need to get their documents to them.”

    I answered “Relax- I’ll get them to them.”

    And so I did.

    On my return to the desk, I was told she’d given me a free up-grade.

    First Class made for a nice journey …


  12. ” . . . airline employees are not allowed to talk back to customers . . . .”

    So it is with a private corporate tyranny.

    Years ago I observed an airline employee being bullied at Laguardia. I admired his restraint. I was infuriated. I know it happens occasionally that one or more other passengers will call on a bully passenger. No doubt not a few videos can be found online.

    The CEO ought to occasionally work the desk and see how well he can bear up under the abuse. One way to earn his generous pay.

    1. I did that on a plane once when a passenger didn’t get his right coffee (lacking cream or sugar or something). He berated the flight attendant in a really nasty way. I couldn’t take it and chewed the guy out.

      The FA not only brought me a free drink, but personally thanked me on the way out.

  13. My friend and I were on a Mexican airliner returning to the US from Mexico. There was a problem with the plane that caused a delay. Most of the passengers, Americans, mocked the all Mexican crew and their Mexican airline. I was embarrassed, so I apologized to an FA. Everyone else received one drink. We never had an empty glass during the entire flight.

  14. Taking off your shoes and saying “My dogs are barking today”. Very rude but eventually they will end up liking you and will invite you to Thanksgiving dinner.

  15. Holding up lines anywhere is annoying. Too often the person in front of me at the petrol-station cash-register decides to buy cigarettes, and a drink, and a hamburger, and a hotdog, and a new eight-track cartridge for the car, and all I want to do is hand over $9.98 for fuel and go on my merry way.

    1. What is wrong with that? Those items are on the counter for a reason. Why should your impatience automatically take precedence over the other person’s desires and the economic interests of the store.

      1. Do you own such an enterprise? And have you never been tight for time? And when I see staff doing other stuff instead of trying to speed up the queue by opening the second cash register? And if only I bought fuel $100 at a time, right? And I consider the ‘store’ keeper discourteous also, for not minimizing the wait time. I know of a supermarket whose checkout staff actively scan the queues for customers with only one or two items and wave them up to the head of the queue. I frequent that store more often than others, even when I am doing a big shop. Thanks for highlighting the disinterest of some store-keepers. “Holding up lines anywhere is annoying” especially when your business model is “where else are they gonna go?”

        Now all this I could have said in my original comment, but I was only trying to make a light observation relevant to the OP.

        1. No, I don’t own such an enterprise. But the people you are complaining about are doing what they are supposed to do, and what the business is set up to do. The business is not just about selling gas. It is possible that the non-gas sales to drivers and passengers are important to keeping that business afloat. And it provides a much-appreciated service for drivers and passengers.

          The thing that annoys me in airports and elsewhere is when people think everything revolves around their needs. I think that is the root of all rudeness. Everyone’s needs matter. Yours don’t matter more than the person who needs food and drink to get through the next segment of his/her drive. For all we know, he or she may have been on a long-distance trip and needed energy to stay safely on the road.

        2. I was once in a store waiting to pay an account (on behalf of a friend) and the queue was long and slow – to the point where people in the queue were making audible and sarcastic remarks to each other about it (and this doesn’t normally happen. This was an exceptionally slow queue). And at one point the poor staff member (who was going as fast as she could) grabbed the manager as he was walking past and said “I need some help here” and the manager said “No, I’m far too busy” and walked on.
          Nobody in the queue harangued the staff member because we could see she was doing her best. But I made a mental note never to shop there.


  16. I’ve never heard of “curbside check-in” nor seen it as I’ve never flown in or out of The States.

    If I saw it for the first time I would just assume it was the airline doing the check-in and wouldn’t tip as I don’t tip at the terminal check-in.

  17. Maybe it’s just my own idiosyncrasy here, but when other passengers line up and and start banging on the plane’s restroom door yelling “hurry up in there!” when you’re inside tryin’ to get jiggy with a flight attendant — I always find that a bit on the rude side. 🙂

  18. You know, being pleasant to strangers, particularly to those serving you, is its own reward just in general. I’ve taken to opening conversations with cashiers, service people, and people in line all of the time. It’s something my wife taught me, as I tend to introversion. I almost always get a warm feeling from this. It’s confirmation that we are a profoundly social species, that connection is essential. Besides, if you’re nice, you’re less like to get your food spat in.

  19. Flying out of a US city (I forget which) there was a long delay. When everyone boarded a member of gate staff came onto the plane and made an announcement along the lines of “I’m sorry for the delay, but I have to thank you all for being so nice. I will not now go home and be angry over dinner with my husband, so I thank you from him too.”

  20. I agree with most of those. In particular people who wait till the last minute to fumble for their documents. (My pet example is people waiting at bus stops in the rush hour, get on bus (which is already running five minutes late) then ask the fare THEN start digging around in the bottom of their bag for their purse (while the whole busload of people wait) THEN offer the driver a $20 note for a $3 fare…

    One exception is the point about airline employees. I’m polite to them, (it’s not only pointless but stupid to antagonise them), but if the story they give me is prima facie absurd I say “That makes no sense at all” and leave it at that. I don’t press the point or make an issue of it but I won’t agree with nonsense. “I don’t know” is perfectly acceptable.


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