If you think you're going to miss your connecting flight, don't wait until it's time to get off the plane to freak out about it. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Washington - On a Spirit Airlines flight to Los Angeles earlier this year, I shrank into my seat as chaos broke out a couple rows behind me. We had just landed at Los Angeles International Airport and were taxiing to the gate when a woman started to yell about wanting to get off the plane. Now.

Expletives were hurled through the air of the low-cost carrier cabin as the woman insisted other passengers get out of her way. We reached the gate and the altercation reached its fever pitch. 

That is not how you get off a plane.

To find out once and for all the proper way to get off an airplane, we talked to experts about the etiquette of deplaning. Here's what they had to say.

Step 1: Pack light, and gather your things before the plane lands

Good deplaning etiquette starts in the air. Once the plane has begun its descent, that's your cue to get your belongings together.

"When the flight attendants make that announcement that it's time to put away your electronics, that is a great time to start packing your bag," says Abbie Unger, a former flight attendant who owns a company helping aspiring flight attendants.

Check the seat-back pocket, wind up your headphones, assemble your trash and make sure you have all of your valuables (laptops get left behind more than you'd think).

"Make sure that you are ready to go. This will also will help you not forget anything, because when the 'fasten seat belt' sign goes off and all your neighbors stand up and you get pressured, you'll forget to look," Unger says.

Step 2: Stay seated until the "fasten seat belt" sign goes off

We get it. You want to get out of this cramped tube and back into the world. But if you stand up while the plane is still rolling to your gate, the plane could actually stop and slow down your deplaning even more.

"It is a safety issue," says Jennifer "Jaki" Johnson, a flight attendant for a major carrier as well as the CEO and founder of Jetsetter Chic. 

Step 3: Be mindful of connecting flights, for yourself and others

If you think you're going to miss your connecting flight, don't wait until it's time to get off the plane to freak out about it. Let flight attendants know about your anxiety-inducing connection as soon as possible so that they can watch for updates about your next flight, switch your seat to somewhere closer to the front of the plane or help you deplane faster.

For people without pressing connections, pay attention to flight attendant announcements about connections anyway. They may ask that passengers allow those with tight connections to pass first. While those travellers may have a chance of getting rebooked on something immediately, they could be in trouble if their next flight is international, as some are only scheduled once a day. Rack up some karma points and let them through.

Step 4: Watch for your turn to enter the aisle to leave

You hear the ding. You want to flee the aircraft. That's understandable.

"When the seat belt sign turns off everybody tries to stand up - which I get because you've been sitting for a long time. Sometimes you're almost too tall for the seat. I don't think it's that big of a deal to stand up in your own space," Unger says. "But then the next thing that you want to do is start paying attention to what's going on around you so that you are seeing when your row is coming up."

And if you're that person with bags stored in overhead bins of rows behind you, don't enter the aisle and go against traffic to retrieve them. Pop out when you see the aisle is clear so that you don't clog the walkway. It's also good form to let others go ahead of you if you have a lot of things to collect.

Step 5: Be a considerate human on your way out

Unless you're in full panic mode trying to pull a Hail Mary flight connection, slow down enough to ensure you're a respectful member of society as you deplane. If you can, help your neighbors out.

As you leave, don't forget to thank your flight crew. Many of their interactions with travelers can be negative, so a smile or a thank you goes a long way. While they're posted up by the doors thanking you on your way out, take out your headphones and respond.

Few people want to be on a plane longer than they need to be. There's a reason why boarding takes an eternity, and deplaning goes by in half the time. We all have meetings to rush off to, loved ones to see or other flights to catch, so try to deplane with grace and efficiency to make the process a little nicer for everyone.

The Washington Post