Smart flyers stash stuff, share space — oh, and shower first, says Pamela Wade.
Any trip overseas from New Zealand means you're going to be sealed inside a metal tube for at least three hours, counting tarmac time each end: you owe it to yourself (and your neighbour) to make that ordeal as easy as possible. Herewith, some guidelines.
1. Non-negotiable: shower and clean your teeth before you set off. Even (especially) backpackers.
2. Be a normal size: reducing armrest-overflowing obesity is, sadly, a long-term project, but one you should work on to be fair to your neighbour.
3. You can share that armrest, you know: one forward, one behind.
4. Choose your seat when you book (or arrive early enough at check-in to have a choice) and make sure it's at the front of the cabin. Ignore those who say the tail's the safest place in a crash - happily, you're much more likely to land safely than in a ball of flame, and it will pay off later.
5. Don't be taken by surprise at security: read the signs about laptops and toiletries, and take off your belt with its Calgary Stampede buckle.
6. Listen to the boarding instructions and wait your turn: today may be the glorious day when those jumping the queue actually get sent back.
7. At your seat, don't block the aisle: move into your row to get out your bits and pieces, which are ready at the top of your carry-on or, better, already in your hand. And really, you don't need anything other than your phone/iPod, noise-cancelling earphones, book and pen.
8. Stow your stuff away and keep your space shipshape: no tumble of newspapers, scarf, enormous handbag, plastic bags, boxes of KFC (yes, really).
9. Exchange some pleasantries with your neighbour: at some stage you're going to have to straddle/be straddled by this person, and it's less awkward if you've already said hello. But no life stories: keep it short and light. Though you will be sleeping together, you're not going to be BFFs and the other person may already be easing into their zen zone.
10. Yes, you can work out how to use the entertainment system by yourself: you're living in the 21st century, for goodness sake. Read the instructions if necessary in the guide or on-screen, and stop bothering other people. And don't stab at the touchscreen with your finger: every time you do that, you bounce the head of the person on the other side of it. Use the handset.
11. If it's not the video, at least look at the cabin crew when they're doing the safety briefing: it's just manners. And count those seats to the exit. You never know ...
12. You're a grown-up, not a kid in a lolly-shop. Even if the drinks are free, you don't have to spend the entire flight sucking them down. And be careful reaching over your neighbour: he doesn't want a lapful of hot coffee or to be stinking of your beer when he goes to meet his internet bride for the first time.
13. Fill in the immigration form when you're given it (you've memorised your passport number, right?).
14. On landing, spring out of your seat like a scalded cat when the seatbelt sign goes off, and ignore the cool types who stay seated: they'll be sorry. Put your inflight gear away while you're waiting and have your passport and immigration form in your hand.
15. As you're at the front of the cabin, you'll be among the first off: now it's a race. Get those blood clots moving by marching briskly, weaving through the dawdlers, walking along the travellator, charging straight through Duty Free. Your goal is to get to Passport Control first: those queues build up fast.
16. Take the stairs, not the escalator, down to Baggage Claim, and stand next to where the bags first emerge. At Auckland, you could be here just seven minutes after stepping on to the airbridge and, all praise to the handlers, the bags are often already being unloaded.
17. If you have anything to declare, you've packed it to be easily accessible if you have to show it to the MAF people. If not, swing your bag onto the x-ray machine, snatch it off the other side and power on out through those doors. You've arrived!