If You Get a Yellow Card on a Plane, You’re in Trouble
Hey, I get it: airports, planes, annoying seat neighbors — traveling is stressful. Tensions rise, and sometimes you can’t help but blow off some steam. But try to stay cool! You don’t wanna get a yellow card for misbehavior, do you?
The No-fly list is nothing new, but not many have heard of these so-called yellow cards. Every time you buy a ticket, you enter into a contract with the airline. It has regulations and expectations you’re supposed to abide by. So, sorry, but airlines CAN reject passengers if they feel that the person’s behavior or condition jeopardizes flight safety or order. Yes, even if you spent money on a ticket!
A yellow card is basically a warning before that happens, just like in soccer. In the game, you get 2 yellow card warnings, and then it’s a red card — you’re done — you get sent off the field and banned for the rest of the match, possibly even multiple future games. But with airlines, you’ll get only ONE yellow warning, then you’re outta there! Right out the door at 30,000 feet! Well, not quite...
The staff member will politely ask you to change your ways, calm down, act sensible — to basically stop being a Bozo. You might even get a few polite but stern verbal warnings. But once they’ve had enough, out comes the dreaded yellow card.
Now, no flight attendant will blow a whistle and hold a yellow card over your head. It’ll be a piece of paper with FINAL WARNING written big and bold right in the middle, so you can’t miss it! There will be some more writing after that, letting you know that they’ve asked you to stop, you haven’t listened, and if you continue, they’ll call the authorities.
In fact, if you get a yellow card while you’re still at the airport (say, you were making a scene at the check-in desk or security screening), they can refuse to board you! So, let’s see what this serious misconduct is. (And what you can do instead to get rewarded with an upgrade!)
You have to be respectful and attentive to everything the crew says — even if you’ve heard the same instruction a million times. “Put your seat in the upright position, stow away your tray table, turn off your phone or laptop” and so on. It’s not to annoy or inconvenience you — their requests are for everyone’s safety... A reclined seat and a tray table can keep you and others from getting out fast enough in case of an evacuation.
As for your gadgets, if you don’t turn them off or switch them to Airplane Mode, the signals coming out and going into them can interfere with the airplane’s navigation system. Just be patient, and wait until they say you can switch your devices back on — it’ll only be a few minutes.
Keeping passengers calm and respectful is for the crew’s well-being too. Airlines are serious about their employees’ right to work in a civilized and orderly environment. If they’re tense, upset, or distracted by a passenger giving them trouble, they can’t do their very important job the best they can. And the same goes for overly friendly behavior!
Even if your flight attendant was the kindest, most attentive person ever, don’t try to hug them. In fact, don’t touch them at all. A simple “Thank you!” and a genuine smile will do! Conflict or unwelcome physical contact between travelers is another ticket to a severe warning. For ALL the participants! So if someone’s instigating you, don’t fall for it! Stay cool and don’t make a scene. Just quietly inform the crew that someone’s bothering you.
Don’t ruin the seat or tray table. Anything you use or is given to you on the plane, unless you’re told otherwise, is the airline’s property. Meaning: you can’t take any blankets, pillows, earplugs, and even the earphones! Ok, you probably won’t be punished with a yellow card, but better double-check before you take anything, just out of common decency.
Some rules are obvious: “Don’t leave your seat during take-off and landing.” “Yeah, but what if I really need to go to the bathroom!?” Sorry, but there are no exceptions. You can fall down and injure yourself, other passengers, or crew members. Try to hold it until the captain’s turned off the Seat Belt sign. (Better yet, hit the bathroom before you board!)
Other rules, though, aren’t so clear, like that you can’t just help yourself to an open seat as you please. Ask first. If the flight attendant says “no,” just accept it! Correct weight distribution is crucial on airplanes — you’ll probably be denied simply for safety.
Now about that emergency exit row — those super comfortable seats with a lotta leg room! They’re only given to adults who are physically or mentally capable of helping the crew during an evacuation. Don’t be offended if you’re denied the spacious seat. But no big loss really — it’s a huge responsibility, these seats usually don’t recline, and the tray tables are smaller!
Food onboard — it’s practically tasteless. (Hey, it’s actually not the food, it’s you! You lose most of your sense of taste because of the cabin’s dry air, you’re a tasteless person, but anyway...) If for some reason you decided to bring your own lunch, make sure your food won’t be at someone else’s inconvenience! That can of Swedish surströmming? Delicious, but stinky! So please don’t choose that as your midflight snack...
Ding!... Ding!... “I want an extra pillow!” DING! Hey. Dingbat! The flight attendants’ first priority is to keep you safe, not act as a personal servant. Be discrete when you hit that call button. If you’re feeling unwell and need assistance, if you’re thirsty, or if it’s urgent, don’t hesitate to use it. But if the flight attendants are already busy serving dinner or helping others, be patient and don’t be a dingbat!
You wouldn’t go into someone’s house and throw your trash everywhere, right? Well, planes are no different. Be sure your garbage is neatly collected and doesn’t touch other people’s clothes or bags.
Also, seat pockets are not a trash collector! If the Seat Belt sign is off and the flight attendants are busy, feel free to get up and throw it away yourself in the galley. It’ll be a nice stretch for your legs!
We all like jokes, but what’s funny for you can be quite the opposite for others. Any comments that could possibly be taken as threatening or insulting are verboten. Airline staff have the right to remove you from a flight if there’s a remote chance you might endanger people on board, even if you were “just kidding”!
By the way, there are some things you might consider harmless, but the airline will disagree. Batteries, magnets, a can of hairspray! Before packing your bag and heading to the airport, make sure everything you put in there doesn’t break air travel rules. You can find a list of prohibited items online.
If there’s anything that’ll guarantee a serious reprimanding, it’s touching the safety equipment. Trying to open the overhead compartments where the oxygen masks are, “accidentally” pulling out the safety vest under your seat, even tinkering with any of the doors (either exits or to the cockpit) — big no-no!
Now about upgrading: it is possible if you play it right! If you’re already on board, ask politely and expect a refusal. But passengers are sometimes given a higher-class seat if there are any, and it won’t throw the weight off balance.
Your best chances, though, are before boarding when the flight is overbooked. They might ask volunteers to give up their seat entirely. Do it! Then you’ll have leveraging power to get a nicer one on a different flight. Hey, if you’re in no rush to get where you’re headed, why not enjoy first or business class at an economy price!