Anna Hart explains how you can be the perfect plane passenger.
In the century since the first commercial flight, international travel has become less like a glamorous high-society party in the sky, and now resembles a shabby student flat on a hung-over Sunday. We've lost the dinner jackets and clink of martini glasses; they've been replaced by stray grubby sports socks and dog-eared copies of trashy magazines. And when we lose glamour, we lose good manners and decorum. Glamour, in essence, is a visual cue to behave a little bit better, to bring the best versions of ourselves into the arena. Alas, there is little glamour to be found in Economy Class these days, and that's where firm, fixed rules of etiquette come into play.
Jet-iquette, if you like.
For long-haul flights, comfortable sportswear is permissible but if you're going to dress like a slob, you need to ensure you don't smell like a slob, talk like a slob, or eat like a slob. Bare feet aren't acceptable and neither are shabby socks; if you remove your shoes, have a dapper pair of flight socks to hand.
Treat airline staff like hosts, not staff. They have invited you to this peculiar party in the sky, and the more enthusiasm and gratitude you can muster, the more miniature bottles of merlot they'll bestow upon you.
Smile and politely greet the passengers in the same row as you when you take your seats.
Despite the indignities of the security line, you are not entering prison and making eye-contact with your new neighbours will not get you shivved in the shower room.
In a utopian society, we'd all politely ask the passenger behind us if they object to us reclining our seat, to which they'd respond, "Not a jot — thanks for asking, comrade." But in these savage times, there's a chance they actually will object. I recline the seat gently and slowly, and never during mealtimes. Treat armrests as seat-dividers and if you place your elbow on it, ensure there's space for your neighbour to do the same.
It is never acceptable to subject your fellow passengers to sounds from your phone or iPad; parents, this applies to children's games, too. Keep the thing muted or wear headphones.
You might have just slept in alarming proximity to your fellow passengers, but they are not your university flatmates. Any grooming rituals beyond that of a swift comb of your hair or smearing of face cream should be conducted behind the closed doors of the aeroplane lavatory.