AML in Print


By Lisa M. Grotts

For optimum airborne pleasure - yours and others - we offer a few suggestions for flying on a smaller scale. Whether you're lucky enough to be a guest on someone's private jet or a host or guest on a chartered plane, it helps to know the rules:

  • Anxiety. Leave your anxiety on the ground, or if you have any - and most of us do - keep it to yourself. Remarks like, "I never feel safe in small planes," or even attempts at humor, "Are you sure the pilot has a license?" won't be welcome.
  • Arrive early. You already have the luxury of no lines and no crowds, so forget about showing up "fashionably late." You can assume that plans are scheduled down to the minute, and your early, cheerful arrival will be appreciated. Besides, late arrivals cause unnecessary costs for you or your host, and delays for your flight, scheduled spa treatments and golf games.
  • Attire. Business or country casual is the way to go for both sexes. Avoid jingling jewelry, high heels, bulky clothes that take up room. Remember the three B's: Be comfortable, Behave and Be seated.
  • Cell Phones. If you're lucky enough to have one of the new cell phones that work 30,000 feet in the air, welcome to the 21st century. Just try not to use it unless absolutely necessary. And before you do, make sure you're not disturbing your fellow napping passengers.
  • Crew. Know your lingo: the correct terminology is pilot not captain. As at sea, the kitchen is the galley; the bathroom is the lav (or lavatory). The crew (pilot and co-pilot) fly in the cockpit, while the passengers sit in the cabin.
Also, at many airports, you can drive your car up to the ramp, the area just outside the plane, and board from there, with your car whisked away for you. On your return, the pilot will radio ahead for your car to be waiting at the ramp as you land.

  • Drinking. Just because you're not piloting the plane is no excuse to arrive tipsy or to overindulge on board. If you must drink and fly, keep the booze in moderation.
  • Food. If you're a guest, be sure to ask what you can bring to eat, and if your host says, "Nothing," bring something anyway. It could be a delicacy, like paté or a platter of cheeses or prawns, or as simple as a tin of mixed nuts, a box of chocolates, a tray of cookies.
  • Gifts. "The polite traveler will show appreciation with more than a bar of soap or a bottle of wine" says Marybeth La Motte, who recently flew on a private jet to Aspen. She brought her hostess a pair of Christian Dior sunglasses (perfect for the slopes) and her host a deck of Armani playing cards in a leather holder. "Great for snow days or on-board games."
  • Health. If you're coughing, sneezing or wheezing, try to take an antihistamine-plus-decongestant half an hour before takeoff. Bring cough drops and extra medication. Keep your mouth and nose covered, and blow quietly, away from the passengers. If you're just starting a cold, you're probably contagious and should stay home.
  • Keep Busy. Bring reading material, preferably new magazines you can share. If you bring games, play quietly and don't disturb the others with your groans and guffaws.
  • Kids. If you must bring small children, take along toys, games or books to occupy them (and be prepared to participate). Pack their favorite snacks. Tell the children in advance that if they want to go along, they have to behave and follow certain rules. Enforce them. Bring small gift rewards. Above all, don't let your kids whine or be a nuisance.
  • Luggage. If you're told you can only bring one bag, only bring one bag. And keep it as small as possible.
  • Summary. Remember that manners and thoughtfulness in close quarters, particularly if you're a guest, are crucial to the success of the flight.

Lisa M. Grotts teaches etiquette courses to teens and adults. Her company, the AML Group, has been featured in Newsweek Japan and USA Today. Her clients include the San Francisco Ballet and Cornell University. She's currently working on a book about travel etiquette.