Laptop Etiquette on Airplanes

Today is Tuesday, so this post is on personal impact.  Knowing and using proper etiquette is one of the hallmarks of people with positive personal impact.  However, as technology increasingly takes over our lives, the rule of etiquette must adapt.

Last Tuesday, USA Today had an article on the etiquette of laptops on planes.  It discussed the etiquette of laptop and dvd player use on airplanes.

I am visual.  I am drawn to anything on a screen – or anything with words for that matter.  When I fly Frontier, I always black out the little TV screen on the back of the seat in front of me.  If I kept it on during the flight, I would be distracted from my work. 

I have reached the level where Frontier gives me free movies and live TV on their flights.  Normally, this costs $5.00.  The other day, the flight attendant came to my seat and began to swipe her card to activate my TV.  She was shocked when I told her “no thanks”.  She was puzzled when I told her that I find the whole thing a little bit Orwellian.  (If you don’t get the joke, read the book 1984.)

Still, when I fly Frontier, I find my attention wandering to all of those other little TV sets all around me.  The same thing happens when the person next to me is watching a movie on a personal dvd player.  It also happens when someone is working on email, a spreadsheet, a Word document or PowerPoint presentation.  When I catch myself reading someone else’s newspaper or looking at their computer screen, I quickly avert my eyes – but that doesn’t mean that they won’t stray again.  As I’ve said, I’m visual.

On the other hand, I’m usually writing something or creating a PowerPoint presentation when I’m flying, so I just assume people are looking at my screen too.  I don’t care.  I am never working on anything super confidential.

But some people are.  That’s why 3M has developed filters that make it impossible for anyone not squarely in front of the screen to see what’s on a laptop screen.  When I see someone with one of those I want to say “I’m Bud Bilanich, and I take it you are Bond, James Bond.” (Sorry about the British writer jokes today.)

The USA Today article had a side bar called Common Sense Rules for In Flight Laptop Etiquette.

  • Don’t snoop.  That spreadsheet is none of your business.
  • Don’t stare.  If you’d like to watch your neighbor’s movie without sound, ask first.
  • Be neighborly.  If you see someone straining to peek at your movie or music video, invite him or her to watch.  You might make a new friend.
  • Bring headphones.  If you plan to watch a movie or play a game with sound, spare your neighbors the noise.  If you forget, as a flight attendant for airline headphones.
  • Defend yourself.  Bring earplugs or noise canceling headphones to shut out others’ laptop sounds.
  • Speak up.  If you have a problem with the sound or the content coming form your neighbor’s laptop, tell the person.  If that doesn’t work, contact a flight attendant. 
  • Be considerate.  Leave the porn and gore flicks at home.

This is good, common sense advice from USA Today.  Now, if I could just find a way to not be so drawn to anything on someone else’s screen….

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website to subscribe to my monthly ezine and for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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