Many of us will be enduring air travel in the next few weeks to see family and friends for Thanksgiving and Christmas, already dreading the crowds, the hassles and the traumatic experiences to come.
"Flying is like being on an episode of 'Survivor' these days. You have to be tough," said Heather Poole, who has been a flight attendant for a major U.S. airline for 16 years and is the author of the upcoming book "Cruising Attitude."
Add potential weather delays, the start of the flu season and passengers bringing even more stuff on board during the holidays, and you have the formula for extra aggravation.
"Flying has gotten really difficult for the majority of us, unless you're in one of those lie-flat beds and drinking that fancy champagne," said Rene Foss, another veteran flight attendant and author of "Around the World in a Bad Mood!"
With that in mind, we asked Poole and Foss to weigh in on some common etiquette dilemmas of crowded air travel.
Should you recline your seat? With legroom limited, many fliers are furious when the person in front reclines. But others think reclining is a function of the seat they paid for, so it's their right to push that button on the armrest.
Both Poole and Foss said passengers should be able to lean back but urged consideration. "I would say, if you're going to recline, do so slowly," Poole said.
She advised fliers who are extremely uncomfortable to politely ask the person in front to return to the upright position.
The carry-on madness. Brace yourself for winter coats and bulky presents competing with bags for overhead space.
Ship your presents; don't bring them on the plane, urged Poole, who once had to deal with giant toy firetrucks a passenger brought on board.
Travel light or check your bags, both flight attendants advised. And if you do bring a carry-on, don't expect it to ride nearby.
Who gets the armrest? There is no rule about who gets the armrest, but Poole and Foss said travelers in the middle seat should get dibs because they can't lean into the aisle or rest against the window.
No matter where you sit, be prepared to make some contact with the passenger next to you, because the armrest is shared space, Poole said.
Crying babies. There's really very little you can do about infants crying, Foss said. A plane is public transportation, so there will probably be crying babies on board.
"People need to anticipate that that's probably going to happen and have a plan. I like to use earplugs. … And I have seen a lot more people use noise-reduction headphones," she said.
Poole urged parents to bring along toys to distract kids — she's amazed at how many families bring absolutely nothing to keep little ones occupied — and to always attempt to quiet a screaming child.
"It's not the babies that bother people; it's the parents who don't try to do anything," Poole said.
Tapping too hard on the headrest entertainment unit. If you are on a plane that has displays in the headrests, be aware that pressing too hard on the screen can disturb the passenger in front of you.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun