Ten Rules for Flying Friendlier Skies

Last month, Virgin Airways began offering flights to and from Denver International Airport for the first time. It was such a big deal that DIA replaced Mayor Michael Hancock's "welcome" voiceover — the one you hear on the train when you come in to the main terminal from the concourses — with one from Sir Richard Branson.

Trouble is, as of yesterday, Branson's Virgin America is essentially no more, having been bought out by Alaska Airlines, the eighth-largest airline in the U.S. The new, post-merger slogan is already up on the web: "Creating the premiere West-Coast airline."

No word yet on how this will affect Alaska Air's flight schedule in and out of Denver, fare competition at DIA, or how soon the airport will kick Sir Richard Branson's welcome message to the proverbial curb.

It definitely means less competition, so if travelers want to have a better flight experience, it's once again up to us.

Here are ten gestures that will go a long way to making those skies a lot more friendly to fly, no matter what corporate name is emblazoned on the tail.

10. Forget the Mile High Club.
If you're an adult person living in Denver, you're probably already part of the club, whatever that's worth to you. (And if you're out of your teens, it frankly shouldn't mean anything.) More important, by messing around with someone in your seat or in the bathroom or wherever, you're not somehow cooler than you used to be. You haven't accomplished anything. You've just made everyone around you uncomfortable, and you'll keep making people uncomfortable so long as you talk about your membership in this ooh-so-exclusive group.

9. Stop Taking Off Your Shoes
Even if you don't think your feet stink, they do. Assuming that they do is always a safe bet. Spare us all the horror that your socks go through every day. 

8. Choose Your Refreshments Carefully 
Rule of thumb: If the sandwich has "salad" in the name, it's not flight-friendly. This includes tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad, even a veggie sandwich if it's drowning in spicy Italian dressing. Again: Smell travels on a plane. There's nowhere for the air to go. You're making everyone sick because you couldn't bring yourself to order a simple turkey wrap. Likewise, don't bring chai, pumpkin spice lattes or Bengal spice tea on board. There's a reason they don't serve these drinks on the plane, and it's because strong aromas in small places make people want to die.

7. Use the Facilities Before you Board
Speaking of strong odors, stop using the airplane lavatory like your bathroom at home. Look, unless you're flying overseas, this is really a matter of good planning. Assuming you're over ten years old, you have some sense of your gastronomic capacity and intestinal scheduling. Plan ahead — it's not like there's a can of Renuzit in there. And for god's sake, don't take your phone, either. It's not a little room for you to call your own for a bit, weirdo.

6. Stay in Your Seat
There's really no reason to get up and walk, especially if you're on a flight of around two hours or less, which is the majority of flights in the U.S. on a given day. No, you're not going to get a blood clot unless you do laps up and down the aisle. (Also: stop watching Dr Oz and reading Web MD.) It's not a good time to get in your exercise. It's a good time to relax and walk when you're, you know, safely on the outside of a not-so big tube hurtling through the stratosphere.

Keep reading for five more ways to make flying more friendly.

5. Don't Recline
Admit it, reclining is pointless. There was a time in this world when you could, in fact, get comfy in a plane seat. But there was also a time when you could buy a house in Denver for less than you'd spend now on a used car. Those times have passed, and recognizing it is part of how we grow into responsible adult people. We don't whine about inflation, and we don't recline 1.3 inches and risk crushing the knees of the person behind us just for the principle of the thing.

4. Leave your Babies at Home
Lap babies is an airline thing that has to stop. (We don't allow it in cars anymore, and belts are mandatory on planes for everyone else. How do these facts fail to connect?) More to the point, allowing parents to bring children under two on the flight and just keep them on their laps is an invitation for everyone to suffer. Everyone needs a seat, including infants, who don't understand why their ears hurt and they can't move around like they may want to do. This isn't anti-child; it's pro-parenting. Granted, there are times when taking a baby on a flight is unavoidable. But if parents can, they should remember that planes are torture for infants; if parents are taking a baby on a flight just because they don't want to make the drive, they should recognize that they're sacrificing everyone else's comfort — including their own child's — on the altar of their own convenience. Honestly, it's best for everyone if you just don't travel by air until your children understand and can be trusted to respond appropriately to the words "be quiet." That's the beauty of new parents: Make all those family and friends who "just have to see the baby" come to you. Win-win for everyone.

3. Please Don't Visit the Cockpit
The pilots don't want to be bothered while they're working (do you?), and the rest of us want their attention to be strictly on flying the plane, not entertaining a five-year-old like the pilots are birthday clowns. 

2. Leave the Exit Row for the Passengers Who Need It
Please don't sit in the exit row if you're short. If you're under six feet, you have no earthly reason to need the extra legroom. You're just being a selfish asshole. There should be a minimum height requirement for the exit rows. If it works for Space Mountain, it'll work for aviation.

1. Stop Expecting Much
Think about it: flight prices have gone down in the last thirty years. In 1987, I paid $300 to fly from Arizona to Illinois. And that was a good price at the time. These days, we complain if we can't get that same flight for less than $250, and we often can find flights for under $200 — sometimes significantly less. By comparison, a Grand Slam Breakfast at Denny's has tripled in price. An average midsize sedan has at least doubled. A candy bar at 7-Eleven has quadrupled. Everything costs more than it did in 1987 except flights and long-distance calls, and the long-distance industry is dead. If we want the airlines to survive, we have to admit that we want to pay less for crappier service overall, or agree to pay a premium for the experience that was once standard. Either way, being a little kinder and more thoughtful to your fellow passenger is a good first step toward making the experience better — no matter the price.

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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen