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dec 08

Is bad behavior ever acceptable?

In this story I wrote about flying over the holidays, two pieces of advice ticked some people off. The first was this: "Wait until the group before yours is almost done boarding, then enter the line. By the time you reach the front, your group will probably be called. And if not, what's the worst that can happen? They'll make you wait right near the gate."

And the second was this: "I wish we lived in a world where you were guaranteed overhead space near your seat. Until we do, I refuse to store my bag behind me, because I'll never get off the plane. Look ahead while you board: If the space above your seat is full, put your stuff as close to it as possible, and don't be afraid to take someone else's space. After all, someone took yours."

The text of one reader's letter follows the jump--along with my defense...and a request for your opinion.

Here's the reader's letter (somewhat abridged). It's from Marge Stock of Murphys, Calif.

"Dear Editor,

Granted that airline travel is now an ordeal and seems to get worse, I feel that what all of us need to do is be more considerate of our fellow travelers, not less.

Most U.S. airlines board from the rear. How do you think it feels to get to your seat more to the front and see the overhead bin filled with suitcases that perhaps are from people seated behind you? Why should I have to check my bag because of someone else's inconsiderateness?

Second, the suggestion about standing up by the gate even if it isn't your turn to board--again, so inconsiderate. The airlines ask you to keep your seat until your row is called; it eases congestion at the boarding gate. What's the hurry?

It all boils down to the size of our check-in luggage. The airlines are quite precise about it but don't enforce it. They should and then people will pack more reasonably and not take up so much room in the overhead bins. How many times have we seen people trying in vain to cram an oversized bag in the bin, sometimes having to remove items from it just to get it in?

Once we start that crazy mentality of taking what's mine and then some, not following the guidelines, we start that cycle of animosity that creates a lot of stress in flying. We should be more considerate not less, be helpful with fellow travelers, be considerate of their space when we put our seat back, get our right-sized bag in the overhead bin quickly, have the things we need for the flight in the bag that goes under the seat, take our seats quickly so as to not impede the loading procedure, and then try to have the best flight we can given the confined space we are given. It's a start and a good one."

I wholeheartedly agree with everything Ms. Stock says--to a point. (And to be clear, I only suggest putting your stuff in someone else's space if your space has been taken.) I guess I'm tired of being considerate only so that inconsiderate people can get their way. I wish airports had seating space for everybody. I wish airlines would enforce their carry-on limitations. But they don't, and they don't. The fact that the system is flawed, allowing selfish people to abuse it, justifies a little selfish behavior on other people's part.... When I wrote the story, I felt like it's time the rest of us fought back. But perhaps that's wrong.

Where do you draw the line? If you're boarding a plane and you see up ahead that the overhead space above your seat is full, what do you do?

For me, the choice is clear. (Sorry, but I'm too tall to put anything big under the seat in front of me.) I have a choice to put my bag behind my row or ahead of it--and either way, it's going in somebody else's space. Why not put it in the spot that benefits me?

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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