The Ten Commandments of Air Travel

Posted on
Sep 18, 2012

(This is no doubt going to piss some people off. Oh, well. Isn’t that what Tuesdays are for?)

I’ve adhered to many of these rules for a while now, and I figured they were common knowledge. But the more I travel, the more I realize that they most certainly aren’t. So please forgive the obviousness of some of these edicts, but they must be stated. And with that, I give you the Ten Commandments of Air Travel:

  1. Thou shalt do all thou can to hold in thou’s farts. If thou really can’t contain thine own flatulence, thou canst either get up and release it in the bathroom, or at the very least turn on thy little overhead fan thingy.
  2. When other people are trying to sleep, and thou has a window seat, thy little plastic curtain shalt be lowered so that the blinding light of the sun does not shine directly in the faces of other passengers.

    Thou should not do as this man hath done.

  3. Thou should store only one bag directly above in the overhead compartment, and the other bag should be placed underneath the seat in front of thou. I’m sorry if that gets in the way of thine legroom, but those are the rules. Thou should have thought about that before lugging all of thine crap onto the plane as carry-on luggage.
  4. Thou shalt be forgiving and patient with crying babies, for they are in pain and in need of sympathy. (Thou can totally feel free to get angry at any of the following: bratty children who art old enough to know better, drunken frat boys, and anyone who speaketh so loudly, they can be heard from more than three rows away).
  5. Thou shalt not bring really stinky food onto the plane, if thou can help it. I understand that thou is hungry, but that stuff is going to stink up the cabin for the next three hours. Seriously. I don’t know how thou can eat that stuff.

    Thy food is odoriferous.

  6. Flight attendants are not thine own personal slaves. They should be treated with respect and kindness because they work really damn hard and don’t need thou giving them a hard time or hitting on them.
  7. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s arm rest. Unless, of course, thou is seated in the unholy and accursed middle seat, at which point thou gets to use both armrests, because that’s only fair.

    Also, thou should keep thy unkempt toes to thyself.

  8. If thou hast an aisle seat, thou shalt get up without complaint when others in thine row need to pee.
  9. Thou should really be able to lift thine carry-on into the overhead compartment by thyself. If thou really needs help with that sort of thing, perhaps thou should have packed more lightly.
  10. Thou shalt not kill.

Leave a Comment

  • CatCatAttack

    Almost everything is where you’re coming from. I get motion sickness easily and hence cannot read a book or watch the movie (which usually sucks anyhow). Looking out the window is fun and distracts me from the fact that I’m stuck in a metal tube with a bunch of people who chose to eat at Taco Bell the night before. I will close the shade if the sun is setting/rising and it’s blinding. Where else do you go in the middle of the day and the blinds are closed? (Sorry, right off the farm- got to tell the cows something when I come back.)

    • For those who get motion sick… Get an aisle seat and look at the HORIZON. Don’t look down at the ground. Keep your eyes on the horizon and you’ll find your illness abating quite dramatically. This works on boats as well. An old sailor taught me that trick.

      • Oh fudge. WINDOW, not aisle. Haven’t had my coffee yet this morning.

        • CatCatAttack

          Exactly, I need the window shade open!

        • Jessica

          Yes, I flip out if I’m in the aisle. For some reason it’s only when I can’t actually see that I’m thousands of feet up in the air that I suddenly realize I’m thousands of feet up in the air. Shade stays up for me, too. Sorry, Geraldine….

    • Jessa

      I think this commandment is meant for trans-continental flights, when the cabin is dimmed because it’s an 8+ hour flight. I love looking out the window, but agree it’s inconsiderate during group nap time.

      • Everywhereist

        Precisely! Though during sunset on domestic flights, leaving your blind up can be brutal to other passengers.

  • Laura

    I agree about being patient of crying babies; however, I also think the parents of those babies are fair game if they don’t make any remote attempt to fix the situation. I was on a flight just the other day where this little girl kept shrieking (she wasn’t crying, just yelling repeatedly) and the parents just kept on having their conversation as if they didn’t hear her! I feel like they owe it to everyone on the plane to at least give a “sh, use your inside voice!”

    • Yelling and crying are different things. I agree, her parents should at least make attempt to discipline her.

  • Can we add something to that lifting the carry on thing about getting the hell out of the aisle when doing so because other people would like to pass? They announce about 20 times every time I get on a flight, and inevitably the person who needs to hear it is too busy heaving their massive piece of luggage into the compartment completely oblivious to the fact that he or she is holding up the entire plane.

  • LittleOldLady

    Couldja just help me a little with the overhead thingy? I’m a seasoned, thoughtful traveler and I do pack pretty lightly, and what I call an underseat item actually fits under the seat. But sometimes I do need to use the overhead rack as well, and that nasty old arthritis sometimes makes it hard to do. Sorry about “flying while old” but you will too someday, if you’re lucky.

    • Everywhereist

      Yes, yes – those who are long of tooth or grey of hair may totally request a little help – and any young, strapping individual who refuses to assist them should get the stink-eye. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • As a flight attendant myself I say thank you for this!
    Especially for point 6, obviously, but also for the rest of it – as self-evident as they are, I can really tell they aren’t for some people.. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • goatberg

    Thou shalt own a decent pair of headphones, so if thou wishes to hear thine music in flight, the rest of us won’t have to hear it as well. Seriously, buy some good headphones, they’re not that expensive. Like, seriously.

  • Randy

    I was on a flight from London to Houston. The woman in front of me was traveling with two children, one about two and the other about 5. The two year old cried for the entire flight, 13 hours straight! The five year old was a seat shaker, over-the-seat starrer and at one point grabbed my hair with both hands and pulled when I bent over to tie my shoes! Thankfully, I was rescued by a flight attendant at that point.

    • Emily

      YOU were rescued? Maybe you could have thought a bit more about the poor woman who had to spend her flight dealing with two kids under 5 on her own?

  • Jenna


  • Lea Galanter

    Agree with everything except the crying babies. Do not bring babies on planes. I did not pay hundreds (thousands?) of dollars to hear your screaming child all the way to London. So there, I’ve said it. Go ahead and hate me. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    • Everywhereist

      I think some people have to bring babies on planes, as it is extremely frowned upon if you leave them at home unattended.

      • Jenny

        It is also extremely frowned upon to store them in the bottom of the plane, as much as I might want to. Flying with babies isn’t fun for parents either. Unfortunately, they do have to come with us. I do try and do everything I can that mine don’t bother anyone though.

    • My travel funds ran out before I could buy all the seat in the plane or book the private jet so that my kids wouldn’t dare disturb anyone. Going by boat ate up too much time.

  • Janet T

    Can we go back to an earlier post?
    Thou shall not talk to me while Iโ€™m reading, just because you are bored. I get very little down time and read whenever I can find snippets of time. Donโ€™t assume I am โ€œonly readingโ€ -this is my form of escapism. If I wanted to socialize, I would have left my book packed away.

    • Dawn

      Amen to this! I travel often for my job and find that airtime is my down time. I just want to relax and be alone. I don’t wish to be antisocial, but I treasure those hours of quiet, even if I’m not reading.
      I’d like to add one here as well, but our 10 Commandments seem to be growing into a constitution for air travel. Thou shalt not kick the seat in front of you, nor grab the top of it to pull thineself up when standing. And PLEASE re-read number three.Two carry-ons means TWO carry-ons. One overhead means ONE overhead. If thou art deaf and cannot hear the announcements, read these instructions. If thou canst not read, please listen carefully to the announcements. If thou thinkest thou art privileged, buy a first-class ticket or charter a jet. In the economy cabins thou art just one of us.

    • Jill
  • Melissa

    well, normally the lift your own carry-on commandment might make sense, but it’s not always a sign of overpacking. Being as short as I am (as I know you can relate to Geraldine) and traveling pregnant last year, and then with a three month old earlier this year, I was ever so grateful for the passenger who was quick to offer help to heft that thing up into the overhead bin….and there are plenty of reasons someone might have trouble with this. If someone is holding up the line of people getting on or off the plane, consider being bold enough to offer to help them if you physically can – camaraderie among travelers can go a long way ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Absolutely. Lend a hand if you can. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. BTW, that goes triple for prarents who are not even audibly suggesting to their spawn that they stop kicking the back of thine seat.

      • Angela


    • christine

      Also, uhm, some of us who appear to be young(ish) and healthy(ish) may actually have fairly significant health issues that prevent us from lifting the bag up into the compartment… You know, kinda like how most people would never guess that you just had a brain tumor removed? 99.9% of people would never guess that I had severe scoliosis and now have a spine that is almost totally fused to 2 titanium alloy rods. Those rods saved my life but they also cause quite a bit of pain and sometimes I just need a little bit of help.

      Everyone else on the list was just great! Thanks for the laugh (as usual)!

      PS The reason I don’t check my baggage? My hubby is a pilot for a regional carrier for delta and I just know way too much about bags getting lost/destroyed/what-have-you.

  • da

    you forgot: thou shalt not place thy rollaboard in the first overhead compartment that thou seeest, despite your seat being located in row 42.

    • Everywhereist

      Oh, good heavens – I agree with this statement so much, I can’t believe this wasn’t a caveat to one of my commandments.

  • This post made me chuckle. It is all the things we think, but none of the things we say about/to the strangers traveling with us.

  • Sammi

    I agree with this list, and it’s so funny- particularly about farting.

    The only thing is I’m 4ft 10 and actually without standing on the seats can’t reach the over head locker… I tend to ask whoever is sat next to me if they mind and generally speaking my stuff isn’t too heavy or anything like that to be a problem for other people to help me X

  • Debra

    My only objection to #8: there comes a point when it’s excessive. The woman in the window seat next to me climbed over me 5 times in a 90 minute flight to use the toilet. Thank goodness it wasn’t a transatlantic flight! To be fair, she did warn me, but it never occurred to me that she would be climbing over me every 18 minutes or I would have let her have the aisle seat.

    • Everywhereist

      Weird that she didn’t just ask you to switch!

      • I did that once, ask to switch I mean, I always always take aisle because of such a weak plane bladder. thankfully the guy agreed and I felt better for not disturbing him.

      • Debra

        Actually she did ask to switch, but I turned her down, thinking that I could handle once or twice. By the third trip I was considering it, but we already had all our respective stuff situated, which would have been a hassle, too. I kept thinking, “Again? Really? Who pees this much?”

        • Sheena

          Urinary tract infection, overactive bladder, diuretic medications… annoying for you but I also like to give people benefit of the doubt and think “poor ill lady!”

  • God damn it. Did you have to run the toe picture again? Now I want to go home and pumice my whole body.

  • LarenR

    Commandment 10 is particularly important to remember when dealing with people who don’t know about Commandments 1-9.

  • ChristyH

    My husband and I just returned from Italy and had a rather involved discussion regarding commandment #3. Especially after seeing people bring on 3 carry on items or claiming that one of the two items that are the same size (ie both small suitcases) is actually a personal item. If thou cannot put your personal item under thou seat, it is not a personal item.

    • Everywhereist

      I totally agree – one item must fit below the seat in front of you. The other in the overhead bin. There can be no third item.

      • I am always confused/irrationally irritated by the guitar cases that are somehow permitted as carry-on items in addition to the huge 14 day trek backpack…because there’s only one way a guitar case fits in an overhead compartment and that’s by ensuring no one else can fit anything up there too. Where does the backpack go? Probably right in the space that’s directly above my seat. Can I get a hallelujah?

        • Dorothy

          As a musician, I would just like to say that instruments (particularly those made of wood) are extremely sensitive to temperature, especially when they go to extremes (i.e. during the summer in south – going to the frigid cold for 90 minutes after being in 85+ temps is horrible for the instrument). You also have to take into account how a lot of the bags are handled. I would never in a million years check my bassoon because it’s so expensive and it’s not worth it possibly getting lost or damaged. Yeah, it sucks that it takes up so much space (it’s not a flute or a clarinet), but it’s just how it is with instruments.

          The backpack, on the other hand? Check that junk.

  • Kate

    …way back when in my yondering days, I once flew Cairo to Athens via Moscow (Aeroflot – ‘nuf said). I had a wicked cold, and the ups & downs were so hard on my clogged inner ears, all I could do was weep. The pain was excruiating. (I remember it as being worse than giving birth, and I’m told I had a particularly difficult time of that.)
    So I gather that’s often why the little guys are boohooing, especially during take-offs & landings – they can’t chew gum or suck candies to equalize the pressure in tiny ears.
    I tend to be more sympathetic to those cries of pain, less so to bratty just-for-the-heck-of-it squalling

  • Geraldine can I sit next to you on my next flight please?

  • I’m completely down with your whole list, especially #1 (maybe you should have made it #2). I even devoted an entire blog entry to it.

  • #10 is so clutch ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jack

    I was with you right up until the end, but you lost me with your wishy-washy #10.

  • Matthew of Brownsville

    For consideration:

    Upon disembarkment of thine aircraft, thou shalt let EVERY person in the row in front of thou gather up all of their shite without any sort of crowding or, God forbid, thou pushing past them to exit before them.

  • Totally agreed, especially about babies. They are helpless and cute and shouldn’t be scorned.

  • MicMac

    Indeed! Well done. It is true many passengers do not know the basic rules. My last 10-hour flight was behind a woman that ate something that finally died but not before trying to exit in vapor most of our journey. Her husband climbed over her on several occasions to leave us all in the plume of toxic gas. I think he sat next to the screaming teething toddler. If they stop serving sippycups, the 10th commandment will be broken more often…

  • JanBee

    This is the funniest thing I’ve ever read — and you’ve written a lot of funny things. I love your blog!

  • Re: No. 3 – I blame the masses and yet, I don’t. I can’t remember the last time a crew member measured a bag to see if it was the proscribed size, or gate check anything but strollers (which are to be climbed over while disembarking, ugh!). I think people know they’ll go unchallenged, and woe to the flight attendant who says no! (Rule #6). Airlines want the lucrative cargo space, right?

  • Airlines have it wrong. They should charge for the convenience of carry on and allow checked luggage for free. I have sympathy for those wanting to same $100 on luggage fees by taking 2 roller boards on board.

    There’s no incentive for not bringing 2 full size bags onto the plane except getting it through airport security. To add insult to injury, you can get it checked for free at the plane. I don’t see the logic there.

  • Nice job starting on the farts…. I do, however that the rules can be relaxed if the seats are really absorbent….

  • Read this post earlier today, then happened upon this gem and thought you might enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

    How Commercial Airlines SHOULD Be Laid Out:

  • I think these are pretty much unassailable, and I wish more folks would follow them. My biggest pet peeve (recently) on flying anywhere overseas is that the world now seems to think it’s best to NEVER, EVER check their luggage. So they buy carry-ons that push the limits of the bins, and then the bins seem to be getting smaller and smaller (I know my old carry-on used to fit overhead, and now it doesn’t). So then there’s the endless Tetris game at boarding, the flight attendants running about trying to fit things in other bins, the luggage being checked anyway, and the delays delays delays as all this goes on.

    I know some airlines charge to check a bag, but every major carrier I’ve flown overseas allows one checked bag. I have flown bazillions of times, and I’ve never lost a bag. For the love of all that is holy, people, if you are traveling for more than a few days, check your bag. Just do it. It’s so freeing to just get up and walk off the airplane. I love not tripping over things or tripping others. I like being able to get up and use the bathroom while I’m waiting for my flight without worrying about how I’m going to fit myself and my bag in the tiny, filthy stall. And I don’t mind waiting at the carousel for a few minutes after a long flight, as it’s just time to use the bathroom, change my socks, etc. (I keep the socks in my carry-on. It’s a me-thing. I need clean socks upon landing).

  • Loved this and have another commandment to add: thou shall not pee on bathroom floor and if thou doesth by accident during some turbulence, then thou shall cleanth up after thyself. It is so disgusting to go to the bathroom at the tail end of a transatlantic flight and find the bathroom in a state resembling a frat house.

    As a frequent flyer in China, I see all kinds of crazy behavior on planes. People eating dried fish jerky and passing it around like it’s candy, people bring LIVE crabs on that they’ve bought at the airport, smoking in the bathroom and, my favorite, standing up to get luggage out of the overhead bid BEFORE the plane has even landed!

  • houseoffools

    Another peeve: The flight attendants are graciously asking everyone to stay seated so those passengers who need to make connecting flights can exit first, and NO ONE listens!! They all stand up anyways. Ist thou deaf or stupid?

  • kokopuff

    I have to laugh at #1. I have a friend who is a flight attendant and when they have to pass gas, they merely walk up the aisle very quickly, letting the gas escape along the way. They all call it “crop dusting.”

  • Thou shalt not recline thine seat at the speed of a fighter jet being catapulted from the deck of an aircraft carrier, crushing the laptop/dinner/book/nose of the person in the seat behindst thou.

    • Emily

      I agree, and while we’re at it, thou shouldn’t really recline it during dinner anyway – the flight attendant on my last flight made the guy in front of me sit his up a bit as she couldn’t even put my tray down. But I do think its ok to recline the seat after that. It is NOT ok to be annoyed about the reclined seat in front of you and take your anger out on that person by banging their seat so much all through the flight that you keep waking them up.

  • Jen

    Geraldine- I’m so happy I found your blog. It’s has provided countless hours of entertainment. As someone who travels weekly for work, I especially loved this post. Hilarious and all 100% spot-on! The general public seems to lose any semblance of common sense or manners when it comes to air travel.

  • Amen!

    Thank you for defending the babies.

    To those who think babies should be left at home:

    a) harden up
    and b) heed this commandment; “thou shalt bringeth thine noise-reducing headphones”

  • I’m with you on most of these.

    I’m the opposite with the whole trans-oceanic window thing though. Although I’m never the problem because I normally choose the aisle seat, I LOVE having the window shade up and HATE being trapped in everyone else’s evil tube of darkness. If I ever end up on the window, I’ll bring eye-masks for my neighbors.

  • I’m going to suggest an addendum to #4 (“Thou shalt be forgiving and patient with crying babies”)…

    Thou has the right to be frustrated with parents who don’t do everything in their power to calm crying babies (walking with them, soothing them, reading books, singing songs, dancing, whatever).

    I have two little girls and when we fly, her mother and I do everything we can to keep them feeling safe, happy, and loved. It doesn’t always work (we’re not perfect), but the effort is always there.

  • Marshall Simmonds

    This reminded me of a Cosby Show Flashback episode (or really any 80’s TV show for that matter).

    Remember the time Theo was “Jammin on the One” with Stevie Wonder? (What did that mean anyways? On the 1 beat? An obscure Bob Marley reference? Should we be talking about this?)

    And then there was the time when Rudy said “Cuz that’s your job – Buuuudddd” OH BOY! That sure never did get old!

    And poor Vanessa, she tried to build up some memorable moments but never really took off for you – I blame the hair! Vanessa – the Susan of the 80s situation comedy.


    • Everywhereist

      Poor Vanessa. It was like they wrote her to be a middle child. And remember Alvin? Poor Alvin.

  • Jenn

    Don’t forget to add the #3- roller bags shall be inserted so the short side,(wheels to the back) is visible whenever possible to allow for more bags to fit. And small bags always go under the seats. Drives me nuts to have to rotate around other peoples bags to make room for mine when I am trying to get out of the way. They probably also boarded before they were suppose to so they are sitting 10 rows away from me.

    • Everywhereist

      I’ve found that wheels to the front actually works best for roller bags. But that might just be our bags. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Haha. PERFECT.

  • Mooly

    I had the displeasure of having to sit in the middle of Dennis DeYoung’s (Styx) band on a flight from Salt Lake City to Sacramento a couple of years ago. I was sitting next to the drummer, I think, and another guy was across the aisle from him. I was coming home from my mom’s funeral and not in the best mood. The guy across the aisle started doing some clumsy flirting with the flight attendant because she had a cold and he was telling her she should get some Emergen-C. She didn’t understand what he was saying, saw him for the douche he was and ultimately was justifiably dismissive of him. He reacted by sort of loudly telling his buddy next to me what a shrew she was and even used the word that rhymes with how you kick a football. Awesome flight >:-(

  • Kay

    HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sooooo glad I found your blog… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Great list and eeeewww on the toes. Really unnecessary. I especially appreciate the crying babies part. If the mom already is trying her hardest, please don’t make her feel worse than she already does.

  • Linda

    Hubby and I just flew Singapore a few days ago. Sunlight helps the body adjust to the time difference and I want the shades up if the sun is at a non-blinding angle. Cover your face with a blanket if light bothers you … somebody nearby probably will turn on his reading light, anyway.

    Oh, and about the crying babies? Great travel tip I read: carry some lollipops. A kid has to shut his mouth to suck on one.

  • Hi,

    My name is Nicole, I am in a communication class at OSU this quarter and one assignment is to have and update our own blogs. We are encouraged to follow other bloggers and make note of what they do or do not do.

    I found your blog through a classmate’s ( I really like your style. Your sense of humor makes your blog interesting to read. I feel like you are very good at portraying your personality with words. Your post seem to be more of a narration of your thought process, short, sweet and comical

  • Number 1 is the biggest for me. I can’t stand people I don’t know breaking the first commandment.

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