Before Committing To A Relationship, See How They Behave At The Airport

When my wife was growing up, her father told her that before she got truly serious in a relationship she needed to take a cross country greyhound with the guy first. Thank goodness she didn’t present long haul bus travel to me as a test. She didn’t need to. She already knew how I acted in an airport.

Spending time together at the airport reveals everything you need to know about a partner. And there are no right answers! Okay, there are some right answers. But mostly it’s a way to learn about someone at 10 times the speed you would in regular life.

First, it’s a simple window into your compatibility.

  • Do you both check bags, or would neither of you ever do so? That’s going to tell you how early you’re going to need to get to the airport – are you on the same page here? – and is the other person going to be making you wait at baggage claim at the end of a trip?

  • Do you both have access to PreCheck? What about CLEAR? If only one of you does, you’ll be spending a lot more time in line, going through the shoe carnival, and stressing over whether you’ll miss your flight. That’s stress on the relationship itself.

  • Bonus: Whether you both have good credit tells you whether you can accumulate miles rapidly in two-player mode, or whether one of you is going to need to take on the role of the ‘provider’ of miles.

Then, watch how they behave.

  • Do they take the moving walkway or meander through the shops?
  • Do they shove past other passengers, or are they polite? Are they in a hurry in the airport, and in life, and what does that mean for how they see the people around them?
  • Do they buy bottled water, or bring an empty bottle to fill? Neither answer is right, but this helps put their values on display.
  • Do they crowd the gate area even though they’re in a later boarding group (“gate lice”)?

You might think that behavior on the plane matters more, and onboard behavior can reveal relationship styles. Do they watch the same inflight movie as you, starting both screens at the exact same time, so that you can connect on a show even though you’re watching different screens? Or do they stick on their noise cancelling headset and ignore you from the flight? How do they treat their other seatmate, and the flight attendant?

But airport behavior is far more telling because they aren’t stuck in a seat on the plane, not moving, and coming into contact with far fewer people. In the airport, though, they are more hurdles to jump through – more tests you can put a potential mate through. Travel through an airport and you’ll know whether to take the relationship further, or fly away to different destinations.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If someone is not polite to others around them during a trip, that should be looked at as a big warning sign to think about running for the hills. Behind the facade peopls put up for self-serving purposes, impolite people and bullies tend to be miserable people, to try to make others miserable, or both of those.

    And if someone cracks into extreme emotional outbursts over travel disruptions or having to compromise, you’re probably looking at something with an expiration date..

  2. My parental advice was always to watch how dates/potential partners act towards staff at places like restaurants and stores. Bossy, entitled, condescending, etc behavior in those situations can tell you a lot about a person.

    I can get a nice guy signed up for PreCheck/Clear if need be. I do expect suitors to have access to priority boarding of some sort. 🙂

  3. I look at things a little differently. Air travel is beneficial to:

    1. See how people cope with adversity or sudden problems. Do they become aggressive or helpless or resourceful. Of course, some of coping is to know the system, which comes with travel experience.

    2. See how other people are treated. Being rude to the waitress is a similar idea.

    Some of the measures mentioned in the article are just a reflection of experience, such as knowing when shoe removal is necessary.

  4. Before people get married, they must, repeat must, agree on how early to get to the airport. .

  5. I’m pretty dubious about whether a person checks a bag or uses a moving walkway has much to do with true compatibility. I’m more with @derek.

  6. How they drive can often tell a lot about a person. Aggressive? Polite? Angry? Takes foolish risks? Oblivious? Distracted? Or are they focused on the task at hand? And if someone doesn’t have PreCheck then maybe, just maybe, it indicates a “problem” background that they are hiding. Of course many people don’t get it for good reasons but if they were evasive on the issue I would wonder. Anyway, going into a relationship with your eyes open is critical. When my sister found herself in a long three way conversation that her future mother-in-law was having with her husband’s grave, and her fiance blew off the matter, she started to have doubts. (Unfortunately not enough.)

  7. First time I saw my now current partner navigate an airport with me, I fell more in love. OMG they were sooooooo good. It was like an orchestra with them. Bording passes, security, gates, boarding, seating, all of it. lol

  8. See how they treat any customer service staff, especially if things go wrong. That will tell you everything you need to know.

  9. @drrichard writes “How they drive can often tell a lot about a person. Aggressive? Polite? Angry? Takes foolish risks? Oblivious? Distracted? Or are they focused on the task at hand? And if someone doesn’t have PreCheck then maybe….”

    I drive in an odd way. I do not commonly drive at an excessive speed, except maybe on a deserted interstate highway or similar. On the other hand, I view familiar exit and entrance ramps as having a speed limit of 60 mph with the speed sign in yellow only as an advisory, not a legal limit. Why waste brake pad life, just keep on going. Much of how I drive is to conserve brake pad wear. In my first new car many years ago, the front brake pads only lasted 15,000 miles. In my current car, the front brake pads may last 100,000-115,000 miles based on current wear patterns.

  10. The idea of judging people for a personal relationship based on whether or not they have passed a government background check for PreCheck, Global Entry and other such charades created by the government? That would be foolish. Some of the work roles with much higher than average domestic abuse rates and seemingly other sociopathic/psychopathic behavior and suicide rates — after controlling for social-economic background — happen to be from people in roles that had a government background check of some sort done and cleared.

  11. @GUWonder. I agree that impolite and bullies tend to be miserable people and misery loves company.

  12. This is without a doubt the most worthless and useless article I have ever read in this site.

  13. What exactly is the point? What is Gary like at an airport?

    “Excuse me, please move, coming through, I’m a thought leader, please make space for me.”

  14. @ Stuart

    The husband was perpetually late leaving the house. At one point they were closing the gate. He said he would be there any minute. I told him I’d see him in Paris.

    I believe that was the last time we went anywhere together

  15. @Stuart, I’ve read and appreciated your informative comments in some other blogs. Was curious about your relatively negative posts on this one.

  16. More generally, such advice is to see how a person behaves when stressed. Whether it’s Greyhound, an airport, the version I heard of seeing them with a bad cold, the exact cause doesn’t matter.

  17. Is this satire? I sure hope so. The only one of the characteristics mentioned that should be truly relevant to selecting a partner is “Do they shove past other passengers, or are they polite?”, because it actually sheds light on the person’s character. All the other “issues” boil down to experience, personal choices, or just endearing personality quirks. (I would at least ensure all are open to the idea of primarily flying with carry-on bags. Most people can be converted with a bit of coaching and positive reinforcement).

  18. I don’t think I could have a relationship (or at least travel frequently) with someone who checks bags or doesn’t have Global Entry. And I hope they won’t love me only for the companion benefit of my 1K million miler status.

  19. Does he/she enter the Sky Club without you? Or do they pay the $50.00 guest fee for you?

    That’s all you really need to know! (And having guest passes does NOT count!)

  20. Dated a woman who was the perfect travel partner for me. Traveled light, didn’t care where we sat on the plane or what time the flight was, resourceful and active with things to see and do but also enjoyed a day at the pool or the beach. Loved traveling with her and I would have married her. But she had man-hands.

  21. What about travel plans beyond the flight? I’d one picks the hotels or ehst to do?

    A former gf of mine had a daughter in high school/ college when we dated. She commented when she travelled with us ( not all the time) that I picked better hotels.

  22. re:Richard Shumann says:
    July 20, 2023 at 1:25 pm
    Before people get married, they must, repeat must, agree on how early to get to the airport. .

    I’m speaking from experience: prior agreement and actual practice are two different things. Yes, agree on how early to arrive, then test that agreement, don’t rely on the spoken word. There have been times that I swore to myself NEVER to travel with my spouse again, because of this single issue.

  23. GUWonder,

    Are you off the market? You seem both so very popular and yet unpopular with the men and women of FlyerTalk however you travel. You are so popular that the FlyerTalk Mods are coming after you while turning on one another with suspicions about each other and using it to try to settle scores. Don’t date any of them, especially not the North American Anglophones with Global Entry or Nexus.


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