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How To Avoid Being An Ass With This Airport Survival Guide

Half of the stress at the airport is not caused by threats of delays and lost baggage, although that doesn’t help. Sadly, airport stress is often caused by other passengers. Specifically those people that wait until they are at the security counter before they start unpacking iPads, laptops, toiletries and so much more. Or, those people who wait until they reach the check in counter before they start delving into their bags to find their documents and passports. These and many other annoying habits help to make life hell at the airport. This airport survival guide aims to highlight key annoyances and how you can avoid being the cause of your fellow passengers’ irritation.

Frustrated traveller at the airport

Airport travel guide

Whether you are a novice or a frequent airport traveller, if you abide by these golden rules of airport etiquette, you will help to make everyone’s journey more pleasant.

Before leaving home

Check your passport

If you haven’t travelled in a long time, get ready long before your trip. I’ve heard too many tales of people discovering their passports have expired at the airport.

Seriously people? Your travel insurance will not reimburse you for pure stupidity. If this is you, get ready to pay for a new flight once you have a shiny new passport in your hands.

Check the visa rules

On a related note, be sure to check the entry requirements for your chosen country with plenty of notice. It’s not unheard of for people to be denied transportation for failing to get the necessary visas.

At the airport

Print copies of your flight details

This point is more relevant to non UK, European and US airports. Many countries in Africa, for instance, insist on seeing confirmed flight details before you can even enter the airport.

As much as I prefer not to carry loads of paperwork, it seems that modern technology has yet to reach some airports and it is best to have hard copies available for inspection.

Prepare your documents for check in

That means preparation. While you are waiting at check in, get out your passport and paperwork. Airline check in usually only opens 2 – 3 hours before departure and if every passenger wastes a few minutes at check in searching for documents, there’s a good chance your flight will be late.Check in desk airport

Airports are busy places with extreme competition for departure slots. Your wanton time wasting might lead to a lengthy departure while the airline tries to find a vacant slot.

Speed through security

One of my biggest pet peeves at the airport is the people who arrive at security completely unprepared. They stand chatting in line, or playing on their phones and then take forever to pass through security. Then, they have to remove their belt, their shoes, their jewellery, and wallet.

They then proceed to disgorge the entire contents of their bag, from laptops to IPADs and countless toiletries.

Why didn’t you do some of this while you were waiting for God’s sake? I totally understand if you are juggling babies and toddlers but everyone else has no excuse! Most of this stuff can be done in line.

Airport security


Also toiletries – remember the rules! It’s been well over ten years since new rules were introduced for liquids. Generally speaking, the rule is that you can only carry liquids in carry on luggage up to 100 ml. These must be removed from your luggage and placed in plastic transparent bags for screening. Note, usually airports permit only one toiletry bag and if it exceeds the maximum size, you may watch your favourite cosmetics and perfumes disappear into the bin!

Note, a very strange policy in some countries is entry screening where the same restrictions apply. My new Estée Lauder 8 hour cream was once confiscated on arrival in Florida. You can imagine my dismay, but it pays to check the rules beforehand.


I will never understand the mad rush to stand in line to board when boarding has not even been announced. You know you have an assigned seat right? But if you want to queue, go ahead, just please be mindful of people trying to bypass you to go to the toilets or shops!

Queuing to board the aircraft

Please don’t block the gateway to the Business and First class lines either. People who have paid for the privilege, or better still worked hard to earn sufficient Airmiles (find out how you can earn tons of Airmiles too) to upgrade should be easily able to avail of their perks.

Hand luggage

This is more an issue on budget airlines but the trend in recent years has been to bring the biggest carry on bag and avoid paying baggage charges. This might explain the desire to queue, as these mammoth creations quickly fill the overhead bins. Note your airlines policy, as Ryanair recently changed theirs, as have many other airlines.

If you are one of those people trying to flaunt the rules, please don’t start a big argument with staff when they enforce the rules.


Taking your seat

Once again, be prepared. I’m sometimes astonished at how long it takes people to find their seat and sit down. Take out everything you need for the flight beforehand and then you won’t be one of those annoying people who blocks the aisle.

Also be sure to go to the right door. If you are in row 30, the chances are you are better going to the rear door rather than fighting though the oncoming crowds. This, of course, assumes you have a choice.

Rear steps for boarding a plane

Airlines often have tight time slots to turn around a plane. Time on the ground is lost revenue and additional cost. This behaviour might mean your plane misses it’s slot!


Oh I know kids love travelling so much they never get bored! I do appreciate it is hard work keeping young children amused but please don’t let your little cherub kick the back of my seat endlessly. That’s not cool!

Bring plenty of things to amuse them, ideally with headphones. I don’t want to listen to Bob The Builder, The Teletubbies or any other Kids TV programme.


If a seat has the functionality to move, then I genuinely think you are at liberty to use that functionality. However, please don’t do it at dinner time. Allow other guests to eat dinner before you decide to lower your seat into their lap.

Upon arrival

Passport control

Read the god damn signs won’t you? How do Americans end up in the EU and UK line? Yes, I’m talking about the chap at Heathrow this morning that seemed most upset that he was turned away from the desk for EU and UK. Perhaps he thought he would try it on as the line for non EU and UK was long!!!!

Oh I get it. That’s super painful, but just so you know, we have to go in the non US line when we visit the United States, and those lines can be terrible!

Immigration signs

Collecting your bags

Now I know you love your huge extended family with whom you are travelling. However there’s no need for all ten of you to crowd around the conveyor belt.

Appoint a few designated bag collectors and a few trolley caretakers. Those with the trollies can wait away from the belt with the rest of the family, freeing up more space for other passengers to collect their luggage. That way, your unruly children don’t get whacked by other passengers trying to offload their bags and we can all move a little freer.

And one last thing…

And just one other thing. Be mindful of where you stop. I’m forever having to hastily avoid travellers who come to a sudden halt to find their passport, have a chat, stare at a shop window….

Please move to the side of the public areas to avoid disruption to others. I won’t bump into you, you won’t get rammed by a passing trolley and we can all travel happy. Furthermore you won’t get deliberately bumped into by Jason intent on proving a point about airport etiquette.

What are your pet peeves?

Ok, so maybe I’m just a bit impatient, but you have to admit these are all annoying traits of travellers right? However, maybe you have another pet peeve which we need to warn people about. Pop them in the comments and perhaps together we can encourage disorganised travellers to be more on the ball.

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips


  1. I wish people would learn not to hang on the seat in front of them to get up to go to the bathroom. It never fails just when I am ready to fall a sleep the person behind gets up and pulls the back of my seat to get out of the row behind me. Drives me crazy. I do my best not to disturb the row in front of me when I have to leave my seat.

    • Ooh yeah that is a tough one. When I am in economy my husband has a habit of refusing to move when I need to get out to go to the bathroom so I end up having to clamber over him and inevitably grab the seat but will try to be more mindful of this! Thanks for commenting.

  2. Spot on! Now if the offenders would just read and adhere. But sadly, I doubt it.

  3. Charles W Sechrist

    My pet peeve at airports and casinos is in the men’s room. There are urinals to use when need even if you have to wait a couple of minutes. There are commode to use for the other purpose.
    Why do so many rude men use the stalls instead of the urinals for the #1 purpose. Why do a high % of those rude men leave the seat down. At least raise the seat.

    • Ladies around the world will likely be applauding this comment. We hate it when men leave the toilet seat down to do their ablutions!!

  4. Haha. Thought it was just me who is constantly irritated by people, not only in airports, who lack any awareness of the impact their actions have on others around them, but then, of course, being of a certain age, I am accused of Grumpiness! Chip off the old block?

  5. All of this stuff can be avoided on domestic US flights just by using trusted traveler and packing super light. Why even have a belt on? Put it in your single small carry on that fits under the seat in front of you. Why take 50 changes of clothes when two will do (I assure you the hotel can launder your clothing). Why have your car keys still? Uber to the airport. Why have anything but a smartphone? Do you really need anything but a wallet and a smart phone and ultralight rubber bottom dress shoes or tennis shoes. I love getting on the plane last and having the cheapest possible fare as it really does not matter where I sit as my bag always fits under the seat infront of me even in little embraer. Why pay for first class? Pay for a gym, membership and any seat will be comfortable if you use it. People take way to much stuff, really all you need is you and two changes of clothes for almost any trip, business included.

    • Bit isn’t it often find it is the people who are trying to avoid any carry ones who are the issue as they ram their bags full of toiletries which don’t meet the criteria and then need to sort and repack. As for travelling with two outfits, good on you but frankly I wouldn’t have a prayer.

    • I am 6″ 6″ tall. How is a gym membership going to help me fit into a smaller seat? Here is another irritating person who feels that just because it works for them, there is no reason why it won’t work for everyone.

      • I feel for you. Even some of the flat beds will still be uncomfortable but still better than a 34″ seat pitch. Thanks for commenting.

  6. This should be sent to everyone with their booking confirmation, then again a week before take off! Perhaps an abridged version at check in, too

    • Ha ha Simon utterly hilarious. Can you imagine the backlash? 🤣🤣

      • Totally worth it!

        • Ha ha yes! I like your style. Where’s your next trip?

          • We did Lanzarote for some TPs and winter sun with our daughter, then Iceland for more TPs this month, to retain Silver for my wife. My expectations were too high for the first trip, so have now booked for the new Ikos in Kos in June. Amazing hotels for luxury and eating!

            We’ve now got the companion voucher sorted… just need to work out where and when to go!

          • Oh lovely. I’ve just booked another companion voucher but I’ve got so many miles at the moment I almost don’t need it. That said, we are looking to use it for Costa Rica next year. Have you been? It’s been on my bucket list for ages

          • Not been to Costa Rica, though it’s one of those destinations that sounds like it should be on everyone’s to-go-to list!

            I’m not sure we are that Avios rich ourselves, so I’m thinking of bashing out somewhere in N America for the first voucher, particularly as there is much better availability – we should then have another voucher early Q4 this year, and should still have enough avios to do another N America. Just a little concerned I’m not the avios collecting pro that you are, so could end up with a second voucher and no avios to use!

            I guess I’ll feel a little more comfortable once I’ve had this BAPP for a year 🙂

          • I’ve got a post coming next week which shows how we have earned over 106,000 Airmiles in the last month. Keep an eye out lol as you might get surprised

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