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How to Get More Respect on an Airline

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Dressing to impress may be the best way to get respect when you fly.

Delays, cramped quarters, overpriced snacks: With privileges like these, no wonder many air travelers dress for comfort. But comfy clothes and moccasins might actually be making your travel experience worse, according to a new survey from airline travel aggregator AirfareWatchdog.com.

In response to the question, “When flying, do you feel you or others get treated better by airline personnel if you dress to impress,” some 63% said yes. Veteran travelers say that’s probably not a misperception. Site founder George Hobica says dressing up increases the chances of everything from an extra drink to an upgrade, or even getting chosen as a standby passenger: “Whether fair or not, airline employees treat you better if you take some care about how you dress when flying.”

Frequent flyer Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, says the politeness of airline staff increases “exponentially” when she dresses up. “I’m treated with a great deal more respect than when I’m wearing jeans or sweatpants on my return flights home from Washington DC.”

Some airlines disagree. Allison Steinberg, a spokeswoman for JetBlue Airways, doesn’t believe the poll reflects the experience on JetBlue. “JetBlue treats all customers with dignity and respect, regardless of how nicely they might be dressed,” she told Pay Dirt. “We won’t even judge you if you decide to wear neon stretch pants, puffed sleeves, ribbon barrettes, or any other 1980s gear.”

Pay Dirt readers, do you dress up to fly?

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    • I never get patted down at security; my wife always does. The explanation given us: she wears dresses, and if the airport doesn’t have a fluoroscope (or whatever they call those full-body scanners) they have to pat her down. As a 87-year-old grandmother, I doubt she looks like a terrorist.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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