By James Wysong Travel columnist
updated 6/10/2008 11:08:14 AM ET 2008-06-10T15:08:14

Air travel is full of mistakes waiting to happen. That’s especially true this summer.

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There are the errors in judgment we make at home while preparing for our travels, and the ones we make at the airport, and of course the ones we make once we get where we’re going.

But the mistakes I’m focusing on in this column are the ones people make on the airplane. As a flight attendant, I see the same passenger blunders on just about every flight. Let’s take a moment to review some of the in-flight mistakes that will be made by many passengers this busy summer travel season.

1. Bad humor
Lately, I have heard of several passengers that were pulled off of flights due to poor humor judgment. If it’s got an explosion, terrorist or hijack related theme, you might want to save it for the bar after the flight. One male passenger got in trouble while boarding for accenting the word bomb in every sentence. “I need a drink to get bombed, O-Bomb-a for president ...” He was offloaded, questioned and ended up catching the next flight five hours later. I guess one could say that his stand-up routine ... bombed.

2. Spending too much time at the coffee bar
Sure, the coffee stands in the airport look inviting, but think about the long flight ahead of you. When you can’t get any sleep, you will remember that gallon latte you downed in the terminal. If you don’t want a trip to hyperspace, order the decaf.

3. The new blues
A long flight is definitely the wrong time to break in a pair of new shoes, outfit, or even under garments. After the insufferable lines that the day in the airport will undoubtedly bring, your body most likely will swell in-flight causing shoes and other clothing to shift and ride in a way that is bound to annoy. Stick with the old tried and trusted just to be sure.

4. Expecting things
Don’t count on the airline giving you anything more than safe passage. Not magazines, blankets, a special meal, diapers, pillows, an infant bassinet, bottled water or even headache tablets. Cost-cutting programs sent these amenities packing years ago. If you really need something while you’re on the airplane, bring it yourself.

5. Going barefoot
The number of people who go to the lavatory in their bare feet is staggering. Other passengers with bad aims are just a small part of your worries. Feces, blood, mucus and germs are all commonly found in the lavatory, and they can make for a dangerous cocktail. Limit your exposure by keeping your shoes on.

6. Ignoring your body
If you know cabbage gives you bad gas, don’t risk it the day of a flight. Same goes for anything else your body can’t deal with: tight clothes, lack of sleep, dry cabin air — you name it. Believe me, 35,000 feet in the air is no place to pick a battle with your body.

7. Playing loose with your meds
People on antidepressants and other medications sometimes forget their label warnings when they find out the alcohol is free in first class and business class. This also happens with people who take a sleeping pill to help them sleep on long-distance flights. Alcohol and drugs are a highly dangerous combination, and I can’t tell you how many onboard medical emergencies have occurred on my flights because of it. So think before you swallow. Also, if you have an important medication that you need to take on the flight, don’t put it in your checked luggage. This happens more often than you might imagine.

8. Drinking too much
Yes, that double scotch may go down nicely, but making a scene and being greeted at the gate by the authorities will not. Know your alcohol limit, and remember that the effects of alcohol are quite a bit stronger in the air than on the ground; similarly, anxious fliers may find that alcohol only makes their anxiety worse. And take it from me, flying with a hangover is simply a horrible experience. Don’t even think about it.

9. Flying sick
It’s one thing to fly with a case of the sniffles but another to fly with full-blown flu. If you are truly sick, then stay home. Flying sick is not only uncomfortable and dangerous to your health, it is downright inconsiderate of your fellow passengers and the crew.

10. Flying the wrong airline
Flying on an airline you hate never works out well. Just because it has a better schedule or you are a member of the airline’s frequent-flier club doesn’t mean you have to fly with them. Life is too short to fly angry. Now with the new Open-Skies Agreement you are bound to have more airline choices.

While it is true that to err is human and to forgive is divine, it’s better to avoid these self-defeating behaviors altogether. Fly safe, happy and smart.

James Wysong is a veteran flight attendant who has worked with two major international carriers. James recently released a new book, “Flying High With A Frank Steward: More Air Travel Tales From the Flight Crew.” For more information about James, visit his Web site or send him an e-mail.


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