Advice for travellers – a timely guest post from Bob Kilpatrick

Advice for travellers – a timely guest post from Bob Kilpatrick

I travel a lot. I just flew home from Texas two days ago. Two days from now I’ll be on an airplane bound for North Dakota. I’ve flown over a million miles with United Airlines alone. They gave me lifetime Premier Executive status when I reached seven figures. This was not a gift, though; it was an exchange. Award miles, bonuses, partner miles, rental cars and credit card purchases don’t count toward this.These are actual “tail in the pail” hours on endless jets. If you fly this much, you start to learn the lingo. You know what deadheading means, where the Shakespeare seat is,what FIM stands for and what a Rule 240 is (and what it does for you). I know that, in the event of a water landing, my seat will become a flotation device. (As Rick Enloe says, if it can become a flotation device, why can’t it become another airplane to carry us out of this situation or a bridge back to land?) I know that oxygen bags will appear over my head (sounds like a miracle) and that the bag will not inflate even though oxygen is flowing to the bag (another miracle.) I always return my seat and tray table to their upright and locked position, and my seat belt will forever be buckled low and tight across my waist.

I’ve spent many nights stranded in airports or airport hotels. I’ve missed some flights and wished that I had missed others. I’ve been in bona fide sky-way emergencies and have had nearly every kind of harrowing, frustrating, stomach turning experience you can have at an airport or on an airplane. I have flown with other experienced travelers and with those who are on their maiden voyage. If you’re to the place in your music career where you find yourself on jets more than at the wheel of a Dodge Caravan, I have some advice and handy tips for you. These will make your fellow travelers happy and will, ultimately, make you look smart and get you better service.

– Don’t crowd the gate or try to sneak on before your row or seating group is called. Half the time it will prove embarrassing- “I’m sorry, Mr. Kilpatrick, respected CHRISTIAN musician and someone who ought to know better, we’re not boarding your group yet. Please step aside.”- and half the time it will be noticed, and resented, by your fellow travelers.
– Stow your luggage as near your seat as you can, NOT at the front of the plane. This takes room away from someone boarding behind you. I’ve seen flight attendants take bags down and carry them back to their owners to stow where they’re seated. This is simply a matter of courtesy, as are most of these little pointers.
– Nothing says “novice flyer” more than grabbing pillows and blankets out of first class overhead bins as you pass through on your way to cattle class.
– When you find your row, GET OUT of the aisle. There are probably a lot of people behind you with their arms full of blankets and pillows that want to get to their row and drop all this stuff.
– When you wear a backpack on a plane, though you feel the same size as you always did, you are now twice as deep. Therefore, every little turn makes you a moving hazard for people that you pass. I have been hit in the face by too many backpacks to count.
– If I am seated in the aisle seat and you need to get past me to the middle seat, please allow me to step out into the aisle rather than having you squeeze your backside- or frontside- past my face. Conversely, I’ll allow you to do the same.
– Your other belongings that didn’t make it into the overhead bin go under the seat IN FRONT of you, NOT under your own seat. That space is for the feet and stuff of the business guy behind you. If you’re in the bulkhead, you’re out of luck.

– Bob’s Rule of Fairness: Middle seat person gets both their armrests. Life is already too hard for them. This rule is void, however, if the middle seat person exhibits a sense of entitlement to the space beyond the left and right of their armrests. In that case, whoever lifts their arm off the armrest loses.
-Look behind you before reclining your seat. I’ve been bumped hard on the top of my head many times by a careless or zealous recliner as I have hunched over my wonderful airline lunch. On a bald man this can show.
– When you must arise from your seat and make your way to a) chat with your friend in first class, or b) visit the loo, DO NOT grab the seat in front of you to raise yourself. I am sleeping in that seat and deeply resent being rudely awakened by having my airplane bed pulled out from under me. This causes a tremendous jerk on the seat and makes you look like one.
– On a related note, as you make your way down the aisle to the loo, don’t put your hand on every other seatback for your personal support. What you did to me when you arose you are now doing to every second passenger the length of the plane. Rudely awakened = irritable.
– Make sure your head-phones are in-ear and not open-ear. I may not be interested in overhearing MC Bubba sing “Lay Your Ears On Me, Dumbo.”
– If you must talk to your fellow seat-mates, make your volume sufficient to carry to their ears and no further, unless, of course, what you have to say is so compelling that everyone for five rows forth and back will thank you for including them in your thought life.
– If you’re seated next to me, please don’t talk to me at all. I don’t want to talk. That’s why I carried this Bible on board.
– If you’d like to have a quiet flight, carry a Bible on board. Lay it open on your tray table. Say an obvious prayer before eating. Smile and look at peace with the world. No one will bother you.
– There is an air vent for each passenger. Adjust your own and not that of another.
– On a related note, please eat sensibly before flying so as to alleviate any digestive conditions that would have your fellow passengers opening any and every air vent in reach. Your fellow passengers can pretty much tell where it came from.
– Nothing says “novice flyer” like an inflatable neck cushion. Don’t throw them away, though. These can be put to good use for other ailments.

– When that little bell sounds, that is your one and only indication that it is now safe to unbuckle your seat belt and retrieve your luggage. Be careful when opening the overhead bins as items may have shifted during the flight.
– Everyone wants to get off the airplane. Don’t squeeze and slither past people toward the door. Wait your turn.
– When it is your turn to move toward the jetway, be ready. This is not the moment to start gathering the blankets and pillows and stuffing them in your extra carry-on. You should have done that toward the end of the flight while the flight attendants were in the back eating leftover first class meals, chatting and reading Cosmopolitan.
– There is no prize for reaching the baggage carousel first. We’ll all get there before the luggage does. Of course, if you think it is important that you be the first person in the circle as the bags drop and slide, then, by all means, start your engines.
– A family of seven do not all need to take up seven side-by-side slots at the carousel. Form a line and hand the bags outward and away. Standing about ten feet away will give you fresher air and a healthier attitude. Plus, you will enjoy the feeling of superiority compared to all those other selfish passengers. And it makes you look like a seasoned traveler.

– If you’re driving that Dodge Caravan and I’m pulling up behind you going faster than you are, let me pass. Move out of the fast lane, even though it is a lot smoother than the truck lane.
– And, for goodness sake, use your turn signal indicator.

To sum up, these are all simply extrapolations of the Golden Rule; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Air travelers and life travelers are all on the same plane. Be a seaoned traveler. Be nice, if for no other reason than that wonderful feeling of superiority I mentioned earlier.

This article originally appeared in Christian Musician magazine. Bob Kilpatrick wrote the classic worship choruses “In My Life, Lord, Be Glorified” and “Here Am I (Send Me To The Nations)”, has a daily devotional on the KLove radio network and has a new book coming out with Zondervan in 2010. His website is at