What Are The First Things You Do When Boarding an Airplane?

Passengers start boarding onto an Airbus A380 aircraft operated as a route verification flight by Air France from Montréal to Paris back in 2007. What are the first things you do when boarding an airplane? Photograph by FlyerTalk member chrissxb. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by chrissxb.

“While at the gate, I usually pull out all the items I intend to use during my flight, so I can quickly pop my bag in the overhead bin and take my seat, with my book next to me on my seat and anything else in the seat pocket” are some of the first things FlyerTalk member rose42 does when boarding an airplane. “I used to count the rows to the exit and glance at the safety card, but then I started watching some shows on the History Channel. Now I’ve pretty much determined that if something were to happen anytime except during the taxi, I’m toast, so I might as well sit back and be comfortable.”

To continue the theme started two weeks ago when I posted an article asking you about what are the first things you do when entering a hotel room, I thought I would ask you about what are the first things you do when boarding an airplane.

Well, let’s see…I might greet the flight attendant upon boarding if he or she is not busy. If I am not one of the first people to board, I usually think to myself why the person in front of me is unnecessarily blocking the aisle and therefore preventing me from arriving at my assigned seat — as well as causing a line to form while we wait until that person finally decides to leave the aisle and sit.

After taking out a pen, I will then place my one bag which I carried aboard the aircraft into the overhead bin before taking my seat — assuming that that space is not already taken. Once seated, I lower the armrest to establish my “territory” before the passenger to be seated next to me arrives. I then adjust my seat belt and check to see where the life vest is located while I ensure that there is a life vest available to me in case of emergency; and I also notice where the emergency exits are located — although I thankfully have never had to use one during an actual emergency.

Once situated in my seat, I will adjust the air flow nozzle above me and then either watch the people head on down the aisle searching for their seats; or I will whip out the in-flight magazine and start to solve a puzzle with that aforementioned pen. Yes, I solve puzzles with a pen — not a pencil. If I am seated next to a window, I will usually look outside instead and watch the activity on the ramp and the tarmac — as well as on the runway, if I have a view which is good enough.

I prefer an aisle seat for easy access and egress; but I am like a little kid when I am sitting next to a window, which is part of the passion and joys of travel for me. Of course, I prefer when I can have a seat which serves as both a window and an aisle seat.

When a flight attendant arrives, I will inform him or her that I am an “able-bodied person” who can assist in emergencies, as I have learned but a mere fraction of what flight attendants are trained to do in the event of an emergency. Sometimes the flight attendant is fascinated and will ask me more about my experience of practicing a water “ditching”, what “Easy Victor” means, how to perform the “Bad Exit” scenario, and what to do in a smoke-filled cabin…

…and sometimes the flight attendant will simply grunt with disinterest before moving on.

Most of the time, the flight attendant will smile and thank me for offering to volunteer to assist in the unlikely event of an actual emergency.

This routine does not change much when I am assigned to a seat in the premium class cabin. There is usually no armrest to lower; and my pre-departure beverage of choice is orange juice with no ice, for which I will politely ask the flight attendant. I may also fiddle with the in-flight entertainment system if the aircraft is equipped with one.

Either way — once boarding passengers onto the aircraft has officially concluded and the boarding door has been closed shut by a member of the flight crew — I will take out a pair of headphones from my pants pocket and start listening to what I deem “airplane” music on my personal electronic device. This is especially easy now that the use of personal electronic devices is now allowed during all phases of flight.

FlyerTalk members impart their own routines when they first board aircraft — some prefer to doze right off to sleep once seated; while others hope and pray that the middle seats next to them remain empty; and still others will initiate polite conversations with their seat mates…

…and while many share variations of what they do when boarding an airplane, some responses were rather witty, unique or memorable. FlyerTalk member Wilbur is certainly not the aforementioned person to whom I was referring: “Put luggage in OH compartment, get the heck out of the aisle.”

I do not quite understand the ritual of checking the aircraft manufacture date on the door, however — but several other FlyerTalk members apparently agree with Wilbur. If the airline has a reputable technical operations division — and many do — the age of the aircraft would not concern me at all.

“Right as I’m walking on, I give the piece of aluminum fuselage immediately to the right of the entry door a couple quick pats”, revealed FlyerTalk member 318i. “Purely for good luck.”

Here is some excellent advice offered by FlyerTalk member Billiken which could save your life: “Count number of rows (seatbacks I would need to touch) to nearest forward and aft emergency exit.” This is in case smoke filling the cabin significantly reduces visibility whereby you are no longer able to visually locate the nearest emergency exit.

FlyerTalk member Wiest also suggests an important activity in which I admit I do not engage: “Read the safety instruction pamphlets that are in the pocket on the back of the seat in front of me. It’s usually not very comforting to look at little pictures of planes crashing, on fire, careening towards water, or pictures of people passing out or floating around the ocean on the bottoms of seats, but it gives me something to do.”

There was a time where I used to kick off my shoes during a flight — but these days I usually do not do so unless my seat is equipped with a footrest. “I put my briefcase in the overhead compartment, close said compartment because I am territorial, sit down, resist kicking off shoes because of take off safety requirement, make seat belt loosest possible, fiddle with seat reading light and wait for my champagne”, posted FlyerTalk member hairpeace.

“Am I the only one who scopes out the FAM?” asked FlyerTalk member stimpy.

Probably not, stimpy.

While FlyerTalk member alamedaguy searches for celebrities, FlyerTalk member tele — whose height is six feet and four inches tall — ducks.

Although my height is average, I duck as well when boarding a regional jet aircraft or similar smaller airplane.

“I pray to god that the person next to me can actually fit in their seat”, posted FlyerTalk member civicmon.

As I mentioned here one week ago, I posted an article on March 22, 2013 here at The Gate regarding the ensuing debate pertaining to obese passengers if you want to post a comment there.

Finally, FlyerTalk member ghost boy imparts what I believe to be just a little too much information as a part of his routine: “Adjust ‘boys’ without drawing attention.”

Ahem…well…on that note: what are the first things you do when boarding an airplane — and why?

Comments (Showing 6 of 6)

  • envgeo at 5:35am June 21, 2014

    i always touch the skin of the aircraft as I am boarding, superstition I guess but its worked thus far!

  • IanFromHKG at 4:09am June 22, 2014

    Well, if it’s a decent airline, the first thing I do is order a drink 😉

  • zoobtoob at 10:06pm June 22, 2014

    Ever since I accidentally dislodged a PFD from its storage space retrieving a bag from under a seat, I always check for mine right after sitting down.

  • garbs at 1:47pm June 23, 2014

    I do the same thing, pat the area next to the door as I board, and once again after I deplane. It’s pretty much second nature to me.

  • gryphon410 at 10:45pm June 23, 2014

    I actually raise the armrests when I sit down. I feel so boxed in with the tight seats. If the passenger sitting next to me comes in and lowers it, to establish their territory, I don’t fight it :). I also make sure the seat reclines as it should (else I let the FA know the seat is broken and try to get moved). Then, thanks to the new rules on Delta and several other airlines, I play my PS Vita or Phone during takeoff, or sleep, or whatever.

  • Ronlap at 7:52am July 15, 2014

    I have an Eagle Creek packable nylon daypack that fits into my rolling computer bag. While in line, I take it out and fill it with the items I will need on the flight – food, iPad, magazines. When I get on board I pop my computer bag into the overhead and sit down to get out of the way.

    Then I watch as people block the aisle for 5 minutes while they are searching their bags for their stuff before putting it into the overhead. I cannot believe how insensitive people are to others trying to board.

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