Commentary

Ten Rules for Flying Friendlier Skies

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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