In the past nine months, passengers have been kicked off airplanes or detained at airports for uncontrolled coughing, joking about hijacking, breast-feeding a baby, kissing and other amorous activities, cursing at flight attendants who denied them alcohol, failing to get a screaming child buckled in for takeoff, and carrying a sippy cup of water.
Whether you side with the passengers or the workers who disciplined them, one thing is for sure. It doesn't take much in the post-9/11 era to get in trouble on airplanes or in airports for behavior that might not be a big deal at a ballpark, beach or mall.
Some tips for getting to your destination this summer without getting scolded, grilled, detained or escorted off a plane:
-- Be discreet. The No. 1 tip is the I-wasn't-raised-in-a-barn tip. Whatever you wouldn't do in a church, don't do on a plane," said Peter Shankman, founder of AirTroductions.com, a social-networking site for air travelers. "If there's ever been a time in your life where you don't want to attract more attention to yourself, it's on a plane."
Federal rules say that "no one may interfere, intimidate or threaten a crew member," said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Alison Duquette. "It's completely up to the pilot in command if they want to not allow someone to take a flight."
That means air crews have a lot of discretion in deciding what constitutes disruptive
-- Prepare if you're traveling with small children. Tell them what to expect on board. Use their car seat on the plane so they're not upset by unfamiliar restraints. Bring snacks.
"Bring along games and coloring or connect-the-dots books," said Joyce Gioia, who writes the Herman Trend Alert, a business strategies newsletter. "My tactic was to pack a brand new toy my child had never seen."
-- Control symptoms for coughs, colds and other illnesses. Bring tissues; dispose of them in the airsickness bag. Bring a bottle of water for a dry throat.
"Keep your germs to yourself," said Gioia. "If you have any kind of an illness, cover your mouth when you cough (or sneeze)."
In March, a teenager on a class trip from Hawaii was escorted off a plane after she had a coughing fit. Last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control was called in to evaluate passengers flying into Miami with symptoms of gastrointestinal illness.
-- Don't make jokes about terrorism. "It's important that people not make those inappropriate remarks," said TSA spokesman Christopher White. "Any behavior, actions or comments that could be construed as a threat to the aircraft or other passengers would merit some kind of security response."
A woman was detained by authorities in Malaysia after the crew refused to let her children visit the cockpit during a flight and she jokingly said, "My children cannot hijack the plane, but I can."
-- Know the rules and plan ahead. At www.tsa.gov you'll find detailed information on what is and isn't permitted in your carry-on.
"When you go through security, treat it like you've been pulled over for speeding," advised Brett Snyder, who writes an online column about air travel at CrankyFlier.com. "Be polite, answer any reasonable questions, and just keep thinking about being done with it so you can move on with your life."