We all like to complain about how awful air travel is, but it can quickly get much, much worse if you don't take the intense safety procedures seriously.
If you have anti-authoritarian tendencies, getting through the airport to your flight is a nightmare. Airport security is not playing around, and they have a lot of power to make your life miserable, which is incredibly frustrating. Yes, it's messed up that travelling in a tin can requires lengthy security processing, but that's a protest to lodge when you don't have to get to your gate.
Still, there are people who don't realise what they can and cannot do on aeroplanes and in airports without getting booted. Flight attendant and author Elliott Hester recently tried to elucidate the public once more on these rules in a story for the Orlando Sentinel.
Here are some of the things that should go without saying, but still need to be said. (Note: Most of this advice is specific to US airports and the TSA. However, you will find that the same rules apply in most other countries, including Australia.)
Haha, it would be so ridiculous if you had a bomb in an airport, right? Obviously, anyone looking at you would know you'd never have a bomb in your bag, so it's totally chill to kid about. Hester related the recent story of US sports star Trevor Davis, who responded rather flippantly to an LAX employee who asked a routine question about whether he'd packed "aerosols, knives or explosives."
"Yeah," Davis replied, according to Rob Pedregon, a spokesman for the airport police. Davis then turned to his travelling companion and asked, "Did you pack the explosives?"
Davis was arrested, booked into Los Angeles County Jail and charged with making a false bomb threat at an airport.
Although charges against him were later dropped, Davis' "joke" is a cautionary tale for those who think bomb threats are funny.
Hester says that it's his job to report any kind of "joke" like this, even if he knows it's a joke. Flight attendants don't want to deal with a bunch of red tape over a stupid comment either, but they have to. So, just say "no" when someone asks you if you've packed explosives instead of working on your tight five.
In an email to Lifehacker, a TSA spokesperson confirmed that this holds true for them as well:
I can only speak to the security checkpoint. However, any comments alluding to a traveller possessing weapons or explosives, or any type of threat, will be taken seriously and result in TSA calling law enforcement.
Refusing to Respond to Questions
It's extremely annoying that when you get onto a plane, you can't just check out. There's a lot of nonsense that needs to be taken care of first. For example, it doesn't seem like having your tray up or down would make much of a difference in the event of a plane crash, but attendants are required to make sure you do it.
Hester described a man who was being the strong silent type and refusing to answer questions when an attendant approached him about his tray table:
"I need you to respond before takeoff," she said. "Please talk to me."
Still, the passenger chose not to speak.
Moments later, the captain announced that we were returning to the gate.
When the aircraft door opened and uniformed officers escorted the man from the aircraft, he spoke for the first time.
"What's the big deal?" he asked.
In a perfect world, I'd never have to talk to anyone I don't want to, either, but don't test how far you can push the people working on your plane. The answer is not very far at all.
Don't Try To Sneak Things Through Checkpoints
All of these lines and invasive searches seem so unnecessary when they're happening to you - but there are a large number of ordinary citizens making them absolutely necessary. TSA Academy instructor Jason Pockett told Business Insider that the weirdest part of his job is seeing all the ways people try to sneak stuff past him, usually without nefarious intent, but definitely in a way that's against the rules:
He's seen batteries taped to different types of Tupperware containers, for example. "When it comes through, it just doesn't look right. It's got an unusual look to it," he said.
"Passengers will also try to put things in there to get us to not want to do the screening. We've had individuals put sensitive items like dirty laundry in their bags just so we won't go in there. It's just a bunch of random things that get put in there. Every day, honestly, is a different experience."
Don't Get Drunk (Or Admit You Are)
I'm a terrible flier and usually need to wash down some sleeping pills with a glass of airport chardonnay to make it on the plane without a meltdown (don't try this at home), but if you can't hold your booze, stay home. Though they sell lovely little bottles of liquor on the plane, you won't be allowed on board if you're visibly intoxicated. If you slur, "I'm wasted!" at an airport employee, they can call the cops and have you arrested, according to Smart Travel. Moderate your intake, or at least wait till close to landing for that fourth vodka soda.
Basically, at the airport we have to be on our best possible behaviour, because the consequences could be dire. Or at the very least, extremely inconvenient. No one wants to miss their connecting flight because someone winked while saying they had a bomb in their bag. Don't be that guy.
This story has been updated since its original publication.