Tips For Hassle-Free Air Travel

Michael McCarron, director of Community Affairs at San Francisco International Airport, holds a bag of liquids and gel products which will be allowed through security checkpoints under amended rules, Monday, Sept. 25, 2006, during a news conference at the airport in San Francisco. The government is partially lifting its ban against carrying liquids and gels aboard airliners, as long as they are purchased from secure airport stores, and will also permit small, travel-size toiletries brought from home, officials said Monday.
AP Photo/Tony Avelar
In the past nine months, passengers have been kicked off airplanes or detained at airports for uncontrolled coughing, joking about hijacking, breast-feeding a baby, kissing and other amorous activities, cursing at flight attendants who denied them alcohol, failing to get a screaming child buckled in for takeoff and carrying a sippy cup of water.

Whether you side with the passengers or the workers who disciplined them, one thing is for sure: It doesn't take much in the post-9/11 era to get in trouble on airplanes or in airports for behavior that might not be a big deal at a ballpark, beach or mall.

Here are five tips for getting to your destination this summer without getting scolded, grilled, detained or escorted off a plane.

  • Be discreet: "The No. 1 tip is the 'I wasn't raised in a barn' tip. Whatever you wouldn't do in a church, don't do on a plane," said Peter Shankman, founder of, a social-networking site for air travelers. "If there's ever been a time in your life where you don't want to attract more attention to yourself, it's on a plane."

    Federal rules say that "no one may interfere, intimidate or threaten a crew member," said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Alison Duquette. "It's completely up to the pilot in command if they want to not allow someone to take a flight."

    That means air crews have a lot of discretion in deciding what constitutes disruptive behavior.

    "From my experience, if a passenger's behavior is offensive to other passengers on board, then the airline reserves the right to deny boarding or to ask for the passenger to be removed," said David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association.

    Cursing at a crew member or drunken behavior can lead to hassles, but so can a lot of other things. In May, a California man was convicted of interfering with flight attendants and crew members in a case that prosecutors said began when he became too affectionate with his girlfriend on a flight to North Carolina.

    The case last fall of a woman ordered off a flight in Vermont while breast-feeding her baby resulted in protests in support of nursing mothers at airports around the country. The airline involved later said its policy does permit breast-feeding on planes. But Castelveter said there is no industry-wide policy on the issue.

  • Prepare if you're traveling with small children. Tell them what to expect on board. Use their car seat on the plane so they're not upset by unfamiliar restraints. Bring snacks. "Bring along games and coloring or connect-the-dots books," said Joyce Gioia, who writes the Herman Trend Alert, a business-strategies newsletter. "My tactic was to pack a brand new toy my child had never seen."