Modern Etiquette: Travel in the 21st Century

Mon Apr 5, 2010 3:31pm EDT
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By Anna Post

BURLINGTON, Vermont (Reuters Life!) - Who owns the middle seat arm rests on an airplane, really? How do you break away from the marathon talker in seat 12E? And what do you do, if anything, about the angelic-looking child kicking the back of your seat?

Incivility and rudeness are often the product of stress, and there are few situations more primed for stress these days than travel -- especially air travel.

Once glamorous, air travel is now a test of patience, and sometimes even endurance. Today's travelers face the reality of rigorous security procedures on top of flight delays and cancellations, anxiety about flying, cramped seating and reduced or no meal service.

How to cope? Patience, courtesy and flexibility, and a sense of humor will serve you well. While you may have little or no control over long security lines, weather delays, the cabin environment or your choice of seatmate, you can control how you react to adversity.

All the more reason to come as prepared as possible to circumvent predictable problems. Here are a few tips, both defensive and offensive, to get you through your travels with less stress and more civility.

* Arrive early. This may be obvious, but it's often undervalued. As your stress level rises your capacity for tolerance and civility often decreases.

* Stay calm if your gate agent gives you bad news. Losing your temper won't get you there faster, and it may lose you the sympathy of the one person who could possibly pull some strings.

* Dress and pack with security in mind to avoid delaying other passengers. Do your homework on current screening procedures and airline policies for checked and carry-on luggage. There are still clueless passengers who pack large bottles of liquids in their carry-on luggage-a nuisance to everyone behind them. Wear shoes that are easy to take on and off, and keep items you may have to remove from your luggage for screening, such as laptops, readily accessible. This keeps the line moving, which keeps tempers calm. If you're a frequent traveler who knows the drill, be patient with those who are new at this-they may be nervous.   Continued...

<p>An aircraft descends to land at Heathrow Airport in west London, March 22, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>