Want Better Airline Service? Try Being A Better Passenger!

“Everyone loves to blame and shame the airlines for their travel woes, and there has been plenty of poor behavior to warrant this year’s ticker tape parade of complaints. But before you pig pile your anger on the carriers, take a good look in the mirror. You may not have thrown any punches or tried to bring a birthday cake on an airplane, but perhaps you’ve unknowingly sprayed a bit of lighter fluid on the charcoal briquettes of airport anxiety through some of your actions. I’m not here to make you feel bad, unless you’re a chronic seat recliner or have a predilection to remove your flip-flops at 30,000 feet. Instead, think of me as your fairy godfather (no jokes please), as I offer you some solid advice on how to be a better passenger.” C. Muther, The Boston Globe

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Miguel Gallardo, Boston Globe


Excerpt: A dozen easy ways to be a better airline passenger, By Christopher Muther, The Boston Globe

Stop shuffling the contents of your suitcases at the ticket counter.

 Airline websites clearly state weight limits for checked bags. Still, there are plenty of fliers who skim over that detail and show up with suitcases that are heavier than RuPaul’s make-up case. No one wants to pay additional fees, so the overweight suitcases are opened and extra clothes are redistributed into carry-on bags or between spouses’ suitcases. Unfortunately this is happening at the counter, while others are forced to wait in line and watch the suitcase shuffle.If you find yourself in this dilemma, pull your bags to the side and let the next person in line step forward. Better yet, weigh your bags before you get to the airport.

Don’t get pushy when you’re boarding the plane

You’ve been assigned a seat (except if you’re flying Southwest) and no one is going to take your seat (unless the flight has been oversold), so keep those elbows to your sides and proceed in an orderly fashion when your group number is called for boarding.

Don’t take 30 minutes to get in your seat

I’ll never understand why some people take an inordinate amount of time to arrange their belongings and sit down. Jiminy Christmas, just put your carry-on in the overhead and plant yourself. What’s so complicated?

Don’t let your carry-on become a weapon.

I know this sounds like an easy one, but with narrow aisles it’s common to thwack unsuspecting shoulders and legs as you walk to your seat.

Don’t grab on to the seat in front of you when you stand up or sit down.

The seat in front of you is not there to support you when you stand on a plane. There’s someone sitting in it, and whether they tell you or not, they’re probably very annoyed when you’re grabbing and pulling it back to hoist yourself upward.

Never, and I mean never, make others endure your bare feet on a plane.

Jessie Char’s Twitter blow-by-blow of a fellow passenger’s bare feet went viral, and it was horrifying. The offending feet were everywhere (except under the passenger’s seat).

Don’t bring smelly food on a plane.

Buying food on a plane is insanely expensive. I get it. I never buy it either. But bringing smelly fast food on a plane is almost as obnoxious as paying those high prices.

Don’t recline your seat in economy.

No explanation necessary.

Ma’am, please step away from the baggage belt.

It doesn’t matter where I stand at the luggage carousel (does anyone still call it a carousel?), there is inevitably someone who steps in front of me as I’m waiting for my suitcase. When I step away to find another place, someone else stands in front of me. I usually end up elbowed out of the way completely.

You have no right to glare at someone else’s screaming baby.

It’s a baby. It has no idea why its ears are popping or why it’s surrounded by scary adult bare feet. ‘Refrain from giving the parents long glares,’ says Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert and author. ‘They know their child is being loud and your stare won’t stop it.’ But if you have a toddler or child kicking your seat, then by all means turn around and speak with the parent. I find they’re usually very understanding if you ask nicely.

Don’t be a jerk when it’s time to disembark.

There are those (and you know who you are), who dash like Usain Bolt to the front of the plane when the captain turns off the fasten seat belt sign after landing, cutting off everyone else. This starts a cut-off chain reaction. There is a better system. Passengers should leave row-by-row. You’re not the only one who wants to escape from a metal tube that smells like Burger King and feet.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the current problems occurring  with different airlines.  Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

G. Cluster Brainstorming-workshopexercises


II. While Reading Activities

Vocabulary Practice:Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Passengers need to stop shuffling the contents of their  suitcases.
  2. There are plenty of fliers who skim over important details.
  3. If you find yourself in this dilemma pull your bags to the side.
  4. Many people take an inordinate amount of time to arrange their belongings.
  5. Some people even bicker with their spouses.
  6. Some passengers play games as a queue grows behind them.
  7. When getting up use your armrests.
  8. Many people would love to fly on an airline that banned bare feet.
  9. Remember to take a sandwich, or something that won’t invoke the olfactory anger of your fellow passengers.
  10. You don’t have to dress in a spiffy twin set and pearls or a tweed jacket.

Reading Comprehension


Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

Jacqueline Whitmore, a ___flight attendant, ___expert, and ___of the ___School of Palm Beach told me that those who___well are___ better by___ and have a better chance of getting ___when they don’t look like they ___their ___from a pile of dirty laundry.

WORD LIST: selected, upgraded, ensemble,Protocol, founder, etiquette, former, dress, treated, staff,

Grammar Focus

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

I’m not saying/sighting  you should staff/starve on your flight, but maybe forgo/Fargo bringing the Taco Bell  bubble/double chalupa or the Burger King onion/oleo rings into the cabin/cargo. Try a sandwich, or something that won’t invoke/invite the olfactory anger of your fellow passengers.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups  and have each group do the following:

1. Make a list of bad passenger behaviors they   have witnessed on airlines.

2. Make a list (honestly) of any bad behaviors they have committed while on a plane.

3.  List ways in which the passengers and  the airlines  can improve to make flying an enjoyable experience for all.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.


Category: Social Issues