Being a professional flier (I haven't earned my wings yet, but I do have a lot of miles and a lot of great benefits on American Airlines) I've learned, as George Clooney did in the movie "Up In The Air", there are certain ways to get through an airport more efficiently.
1. Print out your boarding pass ahead of time and learn the art of the carry-on baggage. I don't care if you're going away for 10 days, you should never have to check your luggage. It adds at least an hour to your trip. Unless you're status on an airline, which most people are not, you're going to wait in a long line to check in your luggage, you're going to pay a fee, the luggage is then going to go down a chute, it's going to get destroyed, maybe rummaged through, and then hopefully will get to the destination in one piece. And when it does get to the destination, you'll be waiting for the carousel to start. If there's ever a storm at the destination, or you're arriving late at night, the airport usually is understaffed, so you'll wait even longer. Learn to pack well, compress clothes, get a suitcase designed for carry-on, there are lots of things you can do. So, armed with that information, when you get to the airport, you're already armed with your boarding pass and you immediately can go into the security line.
2. Scan the security line. When the security line disperses to four different lines after you wait in the main line, never, ever, ever go behind the family. You're done. Little Timmy with his little suitcase, little Mary who just learned how to tie her shoes, the mother with the infant, the grandpa who forgets to take his belt off before going through the metal detector, the grandma freaking out because she has to go through the body scanner, they'll all hold up that line. Never go behind the old people. They take forever with their stuff. Always look for the business people line, the businessman, the businesswoman, the solo person. Not the couple, because the couple can trip you up with an argument and anything else. When you make it through the security line, never act annoyed. Always smile at them. It'll get you through a lot faster that way. When you're up, be prepared. Laptop out, shoes off, jewelry off, belt off. Don't be the guy who holds up the line.
3. When the flight is called, don't all of a sudden go to the front of the line and pretend like you don't know your group. You know you're in group four, so just chill out and wait. Stop going up to the front of the line when you don't belong in the front of the line, causing a log jam. Stick by your group.
4. Know your luggage dimensions. Wheels first, or wheels out. Don't be the person who puts the luggage in sideways, wastes all that space, and leaves no room in the luggage overhead for anyone else. It just means that the plane will take off later. Don't go to the bathroom when everybody is boarding, and then you got to work your way backwards against the flow of traffic. I love those people. You knew you had to pee before you got on the plane, you should have peed before you got on the plane. You don't want to have to fight your way back. Do not put your luggage up way before your seating area.
5. If you're in row 30, don't throw your stuff up above row 10, it's not fair to the people in row 10. You put your luggage in the row that you belong in. Don't just dump it somewhere and then walk all the way to the back of the plane. Don't be a luggage dumper.
6. Do not butt slam your neighbor. When you're bending down to do something in your seat, do not stick your butt directly in someone's face in the seat around you. You got to know the dimensions of your body by now, you've been in it your entire life, so do not butt slam somebody.
7. Do not bash somebody in the head with your carry-on bag. You know the dimensions of your carry-on bag, carry your bag on facing forward. Don't sling it over your shoulder so it hits everybody in the head and shoulder as you're going through the aisle. You know they way your bag hangs, don't pretend it doesn't do that just because it's behind your back.
8. Don't pretend you've never flown before. To get ready for takeoff, put your seatbelt on, turn your cell phone off, turn the ipod off. I love people who do that, they will keep the cell phone on and the headphones in the ears. If they tell you power off all electrical equipment, it means power off all electrical equipment. Mean, anything that has an on/off button, press the off button, that simple. You don't need your phone on, you don't need to wait for the last-minute text or the last-minute e-mail.
9. Never, ever buy McDonald's and bring it on an airplane. The entire plane is going to smell like McDonald's. There's no worse smell than being in a closed compartment with the smell of Big Macs and French fries. So if you're one of those people who loves McDonald's, do everyone else a favor and eat it before you get on the plane so you can save the skin and clothes of everybody else. If you've ever been on an airplane with McDonald's, your entire clothes stink like McDonald's, your face smells like McDonald's, everything smells like McDonald's.
10. Acknowledge the person sitting next to you, but do not vomit words at them. The best people are those who share a seating area with you, they sit down and they don't even say hello to you, at all. This way I know you don't want to talk, you just say hey, how are you, and that's it. Do not share your life history with somebody if they're not interested. If you'd like to talk to the person next to you, go ahead and start a conversation. But it's a long flight. If they do not respond to you, they put their headphones in, or they stare into a magazine up in their face, it means they don't want to talk to you. Don't continue talking or complaining or blabbering on if the person you're talking to doesn't care.
Ok, so a little more than a top ten list. It's amazing how a little bit of etiquette with people will do you wonders on an airplane. You're sitting in a large cylinder with a group of strangers, so treat it that way.