Staff travel etiquette – be a gentleman/lady

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So, you read my guide about traveling standby, using staff travel benefits, and you wanted to know the staff travel etiquette. I’m glad you did. Not many people are interested in what can THEY change in their behavior so that the world becomes a better place. Or, you know, so that you get an upgrade.

This guide should have been, and it was for a few days, the first one in the series. And I’m not joking. You can know the rules by heart, you can plan like a guru; if you’re acting like a jerk, no matter how many Trello boards you created or what priority you have, you won’t get on that flight today. Or maybe ever again.

Since I started working in aviation, I have realized so many things I didn’t know before. I know so many things now, and so many stories, that I cringe if I hear one more person talking nasty to a flight attendant, for example. I’m thinking of creating a post with aviation myths just so I can share this knowledge.

In the meantime, while I have always considered myself a very polite person, I also saw some things that I was doing myself, and are not quite okay. But as long as we want to change and we accept we’re wrong, there won’t be any finger-pointing or judging coming from me. Except for Jake in 43D that’s putting his feet up: come on, dude!

Some of the tips I’ll provide will mostly be around the lines of “Be a good passenger!”, but applied for the case of a staff traveler. Let me know if there’s something I could add to this guide, I would be happy to get your feedback over it.

If you don’t have time to read it right now, you can also pin it for later. So, here it goes!

1. Be nice to the crew

This is, in my book, the first rule. And not only in this case but in general, if you live in a society.

The staff members are part of your team (yes, even if you work in finance and they are cabin crew). Be nice and polite to them.

You know that guy that won’t pay for a subscription to a website, and is also offended he sees ads on it? Don’t be that guy.

Were you offered a bad seat? Take it or leave it, you don’t have to be a drama queen. And you don’t have to be rude with the gate crew or the flight attendant.

They were out of beef by the time they reached you? Take the vegetarian dish and smile. You can also be left without a meal from time to time. It happens, and I hope you read my previous guides and brought snacks. If you don’t, I’m sure you will the next time.

You are flying almost free after all. Don’t be a bitch and just enjoy that you’re flying.
And even if you’re not flying, keep being nice. If you keep it long enough, you may become a better person.
In short, don’t be a douche.

2. Ask the staff for help

As in, if YOU can help THEM. Not the other way around. They have too much going on anyway, without having to babysit you.

The flight attendants know who you are. It’s not like you can hide anywhere. And they see you as part of the team, no matter if you’re John from IT, or Meghan the pilot.

If you think it’s a good time, you can introduce yourself to them. Tell them: “Hi, I’m Mark from finance. I’m in 23 D if you need me.”. No one will be upset if you do it.

They know not everyone is dependable in an emergency with the same level of knowledge. They won’t ask you to arm the slides or do safety checks. But if they need to do a seat exchange, they will require your help. And it’s easier to ask for it from a colleague, without having to check the passenger list before.

If you’re flying crew, and you notice something while flying, by all means, tell the duty crew members. You should know this by now, but some checks will be made based on this report. Do it discreetly though: if there’s something worse than flying a “broken” plane, it’s flying a “broken” plane full of people panicking.

You could ask the staff what would they like to receive for Christmas from Airportag as well…

3. Be cool with the other passengers

You are representing the company, but other passengers shouldn’t know about this. Be discreet with your affiliation with the airline. Don’t wave your badge around like it’s some sort of jewelry.

Don’t act like a boss, mocking people. Don’t patronize passengers. And, by all means, don’t tell them you’re flying almost free. It’s something you do not want to hear when you paid 500 $ for a 2-hour flight around Christmas time.

Unless you have a confirmed seat, always board last. Still, keep it fast, so they can take-off in time, without delays.

If passengers ask you why you’re sitting on a jump seat (it happens to the best of us), just say you work for the company, you had a seat, but you were left with none due to an increased flow of passengers, and passengers are always priority one for your airline.

4. Be a good passenger

Be the best passenger that you have ever seen. Say “Please!” and “Thank you!”, as you learned in kindergarten. Smiling doesn’t hurt either.

Ask for permission to recline in coach, and get the seat in the upright position when the mealtime is here. Don’t snap it without looking if the person behind has a laptop and/or drinks on the table, or if you’re going to break someone’s legs.

Don’t use your feet to change movies on the entertainment systems. Don’t put your feet on the tray tables. Don’t put your feet on the armrests between the chairs in front of you.

Just, don’t put your feet anywhere they shouldn’t be. I wish I wouldn’t have to say this, but I saw way too many people using their feet for too many things and it grosses me out. And my extensive research in lots of travel groups I’m in makes me believe other people are grossed out by feet as well.

Put your shoes on when you’re going to the toilet. That water on the floor? NOT water!

Don’t drink too much. Don’t be too loud. Don’t talk to your friends in your fully outdoor voice, Karen. No one wants to know everything about your trip. (Sorry if your name is Karen, but you must know by now you’re a meme star.)

Don’t open the window blinds when people are sleeping and there’s light outside, producing irreparable damage to their corneas.

I should have said this at the beginning I think, but don’t bring on board anything that smells awful. And this includes yourself. You are entering a metal tube with recycled air. Your curry will smell for hours, and a tuna sandwich with boiled egg will produce a mass disgust amongst you seat neighbors. Take a brief “half-shower” in the bathroom at the airport if you had a long layover.

On the same principle, don’t wear any strong perfume: some people are allergic, and the other may not like your perfume at all. Showering should give you a good enough smell to not make you need any perfume.

Boy, do I have a list of things I hate in other passengers, don’t I? So do other passengers. You don’t want passengers complaining about you.

5. Do not ask passengers to change seats

It will happen, maybe quite often, that your party will be split throughout all the aircraft. It’s shitty, but it happens, and it’s one of the risks. This also sometimes happens due to weight and balance restrictions.

If you do ask for a seat change, the passenger agreeing to change would have to go to an equal or better seat. No discussion! In this case, you’re making a decision: do you prefer to sit on the good seat, or close to your party?

And if they refuse, do not insist. It’s not their problem you want to fly almost for free, so you don’t get to choose your seat. You don’t want to be reminded by them as the guy who insisted on changing the seats. Better yet, be as forgettable as possible.

If this situation arises, you can even enjoy your time without the rest of the party. Do you REALLY want to stay with your annoying sister-in-law for 12 hours? Or, in certain situations, wouldn’t you enjoy a few hours away from your child, while s/he’s taken care of by your partner? You can switch mid-flight anyway, but two hours all to yourself is a treat you could maybe enjoy.

6. Always dress for First class

Even if you’re not flying First class, you should always dress properly. It’s like “Dress for the job you want, not for the one you have.”. You should always look like you belong to First class.

Gate staff can and will deny boarding if you’re not dressed properly. The same applies to anything related to your general appearance. So your hair should look nice and groomed, if you have a beard it should also look taken care of, and not like you’re a castaway on a deserted island.

You can be downgraded based on your way of looking. You can also be upgraded if you are groomed and nice and the situation allows for it. In this case, rule #1 applies as well. Never forget rule #1.

You can always change in something more comfortable if you end up in coach after a downgrade. And you can as well pack the nice clothes in the luggage and dress up at the airport if that’s easier to do.

If you have a late flight and you spent your day wandering around Barcelona, make a short stop to a toilet and freshen yourself up. If you’re coming straight from the beach, pack your flip-flops before you talk to any staff member.

7. Accept the jump seat or the cockpit seat

If it’s a short distance and it’s offered to you, that is. Usually, the gate staff can ask for it, but it all goes to the pilots’ decision. And usually, within your airline, they will be kind enough to offer this to you.

While it’s not the most comfortable seat in the world, it gets you where you need and it’s a cool experience. Not many people that are not pilots can say they have seen a sunset from a cockpit, row one. They also make you feel like part of the team, which is super awesome.

Also, keep in mind that it’s almost guaranteed to be unoccupied since passengers cannot book it. So, even on an overbooked flight, you can still get to the destination. This is what I call a super advantage of your job.

Conclusion: do not mock the jump seat. The jump seat is your best friend. Embrace it!

Bottom line

So, here it is guys, the complete guide on the proper etiquette while using staff travel benefits. I hope you will use them and I also hope you understand the reasons behind all of these tips. And if you have more ideas that you would like to add to this guide, please let me know in the comments section. I would be happy to add new tips to this list.

Need to know more about standby travel for staff members? Read the full series here:

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