- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 4, 2007

NEW YORK — In the past nine months, passengers have been kicked off airplanes or detained at airports for uncontrolled coughing, joking about hijacking, breast-feeding a baby, kissing and other amorous activities, cursing at flight attendants who denied them alcohol, failing to get a screaming child buckled in for takeoff, and carrying a sippy cup of water.

Whether you side with the passengers or the workers who disciplined them, one thing is for sure. It doesn’t take much in the post-September 11 era to get in trouble on airplanes or in airports for behavior that might not be a big deal at a ballpark, beach or mall.

Here are some tips for getting to your destination this summer without getting scolded, grilled, detained or escorted off a plane.

m Be discreet. “The No. 1 tip is the ‘I wasn’t raised in a barn’ tip. Whatever you wouldn’t do in a church, don’t do on a plane,” says Peter Shankman, founder of AirTroductions.com, a social-networking site for air travelers. “If there has ever been a time in your life [when] you don’t want to attract more attention to yourself, it’s on a plane.”

Federal rules say that “no one may interfere, intimidate or threaten a crew member,” says Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Alison Duquette. “It’s completely up to the pilot in command if they want to not allow someone to take a flight.”

That means air crews have a lot of discretion in deciding what constitutes disruptive behavior.

“From my experience, if a passenger’s behavior is offensive to other passengers onboard, then the airline reserves the right to deny boarding or to ask for the passenger to be removed,” says David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association.

Cursing at a crew member or behaving drunkenly can lead to hassles, but so can a lot of other things. In May, a California man was convicted of interfering with flight attendants and crew members in a case that prosecutors said began when he became too affectionate with his girlfriend on a flight to North Carolina.

The case last fall of a woman ordered off a flight in Vermont while breast-feeding her baby resulted in protests at airports around the country in support of nursing mothers. The airline involved later said its policy does permit breast-feeding on planes. Mr. Castelveter said there is no industrywide policy on the issue.

m Prepare if you’re traveling with small children. Tell them what to expect onboard. Use the child’s car seat on the plane so the youngster is not upset by unfamiliar restraints. Bring snacks. “Bring along games and coloring or connect-the-dots books,” says Joyce Gioia, who writes the Herman Trend Alert, a business strategies newsletter. “My tactic was to pack a brand-new toy my child had never seen.”

In January, a family was kicked off a plane when their toddler threw a tantrum and couldn’t be strapped in for takeoff.

m Control symptoms for coughs, colds and other illnesses. Bring tissues; dispose of them in the airsickness bag. Bring a bottle of water for a dry throat.

“Keep your germs to yourself,” Miss Gioia says. “If you have any kind of an illness, cover your mouth when you cough and turn away to sneeze or blow your nose.”

It’s not just a matter of being polite. In March, a teenager on a class trip from Hawaii was escorted off a plane taking her home from New York after she had a coughing fit. In June, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was called in to evaluate passengers flying into Miami with symptoms of gastrointestinal illness.

Mr. Castelveter says most carriers maintain links with ground-based medical consultants to help evaluate sick passengers. Flight attendants may ask if there is a doctor onboard, and the CDC may be called in as well.

Story Continues →