Airport etiquette is essential to use when you are navigating the complex world of check-in, security and boarding your flight. Paying attention to a few details will decrease your stress and increase your enjoyment.

We are definitely grateful that there is security and protocol at airports. Without them, there would be more mass chaos than there already is. It is essential to remember that the rules and protocol are there for a reason and following them will make not only your life easier, but everyone else’s too.

As with most things manners, airport etiquette follows the golden rule: treat everyone else like you want to be treated. Now this can be difficult with long lines, crying children, frustrated people and the whole nine yards. A gentle smile or word can go a long way when you are in the airport.

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Airport etiquette starts even before you arrive and ends when you have returned home. Following a few simple details is vital when you are traveling.

Packing & Luggage

If you are like me, I begin packing, at least in my mind, about 2-3 days before I fly. This is essential for me to have everything ready to go on time. When you begin packing determine how much luggage you will need for the trip. The less you can take the better.

If you are taking a carry-on it is essential that you follow the guidelines written by TSA. You will want to read up on their site as the security guidlines change from time to time. Keep all of your items in clear baggies. Mark everything, especially medication, so that it is easily identifiable.

If you are checking a bag, be sure that your name and contact information are on the bag. Nobody likes lost luggage, however if that does happen you will have more chance to recover it.

Also, luggage can look the same. Be sure to put something that will allow you to identify your luggage quickly. Put the same identifier on all pieces of your luggage. We have huge stickers on our luggage. I have heard of people putting colored pom-poms on their luggage. Whatever you need to help you recognize your suitcase. This is good airport etiquette because the quicker you get your luggage, the less of a crowd there is in the baggage claim area.

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Arrival & Checking In

Like I said previously, airport etiquette starts before you arrive. Most airlines make the suggestion to arrive at the airport 2-3 hours before your flight. Follow that advice. This gives you enough time to check-in, go through security and relax for a bit before you board the plane. It also gives a cushion should there be a problem in any of these steps.

Fortunately for those of you who only have carry-on luggage, you can check in at the kiosks around the ticketing counters. This makes it simple and helps you avoid the long lines.

If you are one of the lucky ones that needs to check bags or purchase a ticket at the counter, you will need to show your good travel etiquette in these situations. Chances are the lines will be long and you will get to wait. Remember to do so politely. Smile at others, offer to help if they need a hand and be ready to listen to someone who wants to chat.

At the counter, have everything ready to go. This includes your ID and any information that they need to get you going. Be polite with the ticketing agent. They have a mighty stressful job. Using your manners with them will get you more assistance than yelling, screaming and stomping your feet (sounds like a 2 year old doesn’t it?).


Ahhh the dreaded security check point in the airport. It can be a simple or painful situation. You determine which security path you get to follow if you follow airport security etiquette. A few simple details will make this time easier for you and them.

  1. Wear shoes that are easy to slide in and out of. You will have to take them off, so make it easy on yourself.
  2. Follow directions to the T. Generally the guards are not in a good mood because of the wonderful passengers that try to get away with something.
  3. Place your bag on the belt. If you have a laptop, remove it from the case and place them in the bins separately.
  4. Wear clothing that isn’t offensive or that would make you look suspicious (unless you are in the mood for a “step to the side” moment with a guard).
  5. Have all required information ready to hand to the guards.
  6. Retrieve your items from the scanner and move to the side to replace your shoes. This will allow the line to continue to flow.
  7. Be polite with the guards. It may just surprise one or two of them.

Boarding the Plane

It is time for you to finally get on the plane! This is another place for you to show good airport etiquette. So many people get so excited or impatient to get on the plane (to wait again for takeoff) that it can cause more chaos.

Take a few moments to review your ticket. Know where you are seated on the plane and follow the boarding instructions accordingly. Have the ticket ready to hand to the boarding agent so that they can scan it or check it quickly. Pretty simple.

If you have missed a connecting flight or have been bumped from your flight, be sure to talk to a ticketing agent. Again, manners here are vital to you getting what you need. There are usually options available for a new flight. They are more than likely to help you if you are using your pleases, smiles and thank yous.

Traveling is a wonderful time, especially if you are going on vacation. Airport etiquette is a great way to lessen any stress that you feel as you are exploring the world.

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