Q: A few years ago, I had to do a decent amount of business travel while I was pregnant. On one flight, I chose an exit-row seat — I wanted the extra legroom. I knew I’d be asked to assist the crew in the event of an emergency, and I would have been perfectly capable of doing so. Well, when I boarded, I was about to put my carry-on bag in the overhead when someone asked if he could put it up for me. I said OK, thanked him, and sat down. A flight attendant came over and said that if I couldn’t put my own bag in the overhead, I shouldn’t sit in the exit row. I tried to argue that I could easily lift the bag — that I had just accepted help when someone offered — but she wouldn’t listen. She reseated me in a middle seat in the back of the plane. I still don’t think that’s fair and wonder if I should have complained. If I had had any doubts of my fitness to sit in the exit row, I wouldn’t have chosen the seat. What do you think?
A: If you can fulfill all the exit-row seating requirements (help the crew, understand verbal instructions in English, etc.), then you should be able to sit there. The fact that you’re pregnant shouldn’t matter. But if the flight attendant thought you couldn’t lift your bag, she might have thought you wouldn’t be able to deal with a 50-pound airplane door … and can you really blame her for erring on the side of caution? I would have offered to demonstrate by taking the bag out and putting it back in.
Q: I often see a parent traveling alone with a baby and think they might need some help. I love babies and would be happy to hold one while the mom or dad grabs luggage at baggage claim or puts their stroller together. But people always say no. Am I being creepy? Would you let me hold your baby so you could deal with other stuff?
A: After all the complaints I get about babies on planes, your question is refreshing! But my answer’s no, I wouldn’t let you hold my baby.
I know your intentions are good, but even if you were giving off the most wholesome, noncreepy vibe possible, I’d still worry about a million things, like whether you have a cold. And lest you think I’m just a misanthrope, some of my worries would be in your interest — what if the baby throws up all over you? So I personally wouldn’t chance it.
The best way to help a parent traveling alone with a baby is to ask what, exactly, you can do to help. They would probably be very grateful for some assistance with the luggage or stroller or what have you.
Q: I saw another customer turning down the thermostat in a restaurant last week. I was shocked — I think that’s like adjusting the heat in someone else’s house! What do you think?
A: You’re absolutely right — diners shouldn’t be messing with the thermostat in restaurants. What’s next, changing the light bulbs to higher wattage ones if you think it’s too dark? If you’re too warm or too cold in a restaurant, say something to your waitress rather than appointing yourself queen of the thermostat.
Lesley Carlin has been writing about travel and etiquette professionally for more than 10 years. As one of the Etiquette Grrls, she is the co-author of “Things You Need to Be Told” and “More Things You Need to Be Told” (Berkley). Have a travel etiquette question of your own? E-mail Lesley at firstname.lastname@example.org.