I hate to admit this but when I read travel writer Paul Ewart’s top tips for a better flight, a wave of self-satisfaction washed over me.
“I can hear the sharp intake of breath from fellow frequent flyers as I type this. They may contradict me, saying that boarding last means you run the risk of a lack of space in the overhead lockers for your luggage, but hear me out.
As I sit comfortably at the gate I’m always amazed at those who are intent on queuing way before boarding. You have an assigned seat, being first isn’t going to get you a better one, and the aircraft isn’t going anywhere without you — the umpteen loadspeaker calls chasing missing passengers are testimony to that. Planes are built to accommodate carry-on luggage for all passengers, and for the rare occasion when space does run out, there’s always crew stowage.”
You’d have reacted one of two ways reading that. Either you gripped the edges of your chair, gasping ‘quel horreur!’. Or… you nodded vigorously, a smug smile spreading on your face.
I was in the latter camp. Finally, this was a person who understands me.
LISTEN: We need to talk about plane etiquette. Post continues after audio.
Whenever I’m waiting at the gate for a flight, I’m one of the last to board. It’s a choice that often leaves my fellow travellers baffled. But I swear it’s the key to remaining calm. As Ewart explains, there is absolutely no point in rushing to get in the boarding line. Your plane seat isn’t about to be given away. And you will always have room for your carry-on luggage. If you choose to behave in a way that is frantic, you will feel frantic (aka you will be anxiously awaiting the drinks service).
Ewart’s tips are centred around ensuring you feel less tense when flying, and rushing unnecessarily is a key part of this.
Travelling is basically just a constant stream of queuing before plonking yourself in a big flying metal box for a few hours. You need to be giving yourself the breaks when you can. And there are two other moments you can do that.
First, the disembarkation. As well as racing to get on the flight, many passengers have the tendency to be in a mega hurry to get off it. This is a huge pet peeve. You are not alone in feeling determined to exit the damn plane. So barging into the aisle is not going to help anyone, including yourself – there are usually dozens and dozens of people in front of you standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Take a deep breath, plug in your podcast, do whatever it is you need to do to just go with the flow. (Oh, and please be a good human and wait for the seatbelt sign to switch off.)
The other moment is during the luggage collection phase. People seem to think that speeding to the baggage carousel and parking themselves centimetres from it is going to help summon their suitcases faster. (Fact: It doesn’t.) Meanwhile, those behind are having to manoeuvre themselves around and over empty trolleys to retrieve their items. Everybody just needs to take a few steps back.
We can all use a little more chill when we’re in transit. Giving yourself plenty of time, as well as recognising what moments you need to rush and what moments you can hang back and relax will mean you’ll need one less glass of wine to recover from the whole ordeal.