Friday, 21 April 2017

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 21 April

Thomas Blaikie on air travel: rage, unruly toddlers and passengers in their pants

Dear Thomas
I hear awful stories of terrible conduct from passengers on aeroplanes these days. I wonder if it’s wise to board at all, but I’m going to Italy in May. What choice do I have? Cora Allsop, Manchester

Dear Cora
Don’t be too alarmed. The American comedian Kumail Nanjiani was on a flight in December with a male traveller who, as soon as convenient, removed his jeans and lounged agreeably in his underpants. It was four hours before staff took action. But this person was rude, aggressive and generally uncooperative, slamming his fist on the armrest if he didn’t get the flight attendant’s attention immediately, etc. Not having his trousers on was the least of it. As is so often the case, really, really rude people are a separate category and might be classed as unhinged. Their behaviour should not be confused with the more casual thoughtlessness any of us might be guilty of…

Such as: not storing walk-on luggage in the overhead locker compactly, dithering and blocking the aisle at the same time, which delays boarding and even makes the flight late. It’s possible, if a little awkward, to stow stuff while standing in front of your seat, not in the aisle. Otherwise wait for a suitable break in the boarding passengers. Or get someone more agile to do it for you. Don’t panic about grabbing space in the locker. It’s the same story in reverse on arrival. Contrive to get your luggage out of the locker in the interval between the aircraft coming to a standstill and the great moment when the doors are opened. Ask someone to do it for you if necessary. If you wait, you will disrupt the exit flow as you heave your bag down.

Flight attendants have usefully taken to complaining on websites about passengers. What can we learn? They don’t care for us doing yoga in the galley (their space, after all); babies and toddlers should not be encouraged to use the aisles as a play space. The cabin is not ‘home’; we should have our shoes on when walking around. When ordering food and drinks, don’t enquire what they have when there’s a printed menu. Tell them how you want your tea/coffee or gin and tonic – don’t wait to be asked, to avoid a serious delay to service. Don’t argue about airline regulations. No matter how priceless your handbag, it has to go under the seat in front. Believe it or not, airline staff prefer that their existence is acknowledged on boarding, especially by male business-class frequent fliers who think they know everything.

The essence of it is: flying is not a luxury experience – the purpose is to get from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible. It doesn’t make any sense for passengers to do anything other than support this objective. 

Please send your questions to thomas. or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Etiquette for girls

The Eleanor Hall School in Clyde, Alberta, offers an optional course to help young girls ‘navigate adolescence with self-esteem intact’. A field trip is included – can you imagine the adventure! The girls will visit the ‘food and cosmetology classrooms at a local high school, where students will plan recipes, table settings, dinner music and review dinner party etiquette and polite conversation. The girls will spend the afternoon learning about nail care and application’. Unsurprisingly there has been a lot of criticism of this course, similar to that attracted by the ‘legs-it’ photo of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon in the Daily Mail. I sympathise. Do we really want a stiff, rule-bound notion of manners and etiquette, let alone rows and rows of identical dainty ladies (or gentlemen for that matter) perfectly trained in napkin and pastry-fork management? But it has to be conceded, gaining confidence in trivial things, however artificial the means, might lead to greater effectiveness in more important areas. It’s not so simple. To find out for sure, I think a field trip to Clyde, Alberta, is called for.

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