An Ultimate Guide to Airplane Etiquette

Airplane Etiquette

When you fly, you are embarking on a shared journey. Sadly, airlines are stuffing planes to the point where there is barely any room to move in your cramped seats. It can be very unpleasant and uncomfortable to travel in economy class You are forced to share tight spaces with strangers for an extended period of time. To make things easier for everyone, there are some unspoken, unwritten rules that everyone should follow. Flying can be a much more pleasant experience if we are considerate and adhere to airplane etiquette.

1).  Freshen up Before Boarding

It is highly recommended that you spruce up before going on board. Planes are shared spaces with recirculated air. It would be much more comfortable and bearable to fly if everyone took precautions to avoid bringing body odors or germs into the cramped, small interiors. Best to avoid eating pungent foods before flying. Pack a travel toothbrush for long-distance/overnight flights, as bad odors are amplified in close quarters.

2).  Carry your Bag Ahead of You

When carrying your bag through the aisle, keep it close to the ground and in front of you. If you hold it above your head or to the sides, you risk hitting passengers sitting in the aisle seats. If your carry-on has wheels, you can pull it along.

3). Do Not Obstruct the Aisle

Give a little forethought and organize things beforehand. After boarding the plane, put your luggage in the overhead bins and get into your seats as quickly as possible. Don’t keep everyone waiting while you rummage endlessly through your bag in the overhead bin or try to access the storage compartments repeatedly during the flight. Ensure that you have everything you need for your flight when you settle in.

4).  Make Sure that Carry-On Fits

Confirm that your carry-on luggage meets the dimensions specified on the airline’s website. If your bag is bigger, it will most likely not fit in the overhead bin, causing delays and inconvenience for everyone. Make sure you can lift your handbag above your head and into the overhead bin. It is your responsibility to fit your bag in. Don’t expect others to assist you. Also, check the permitted number of carry-on luggage before your flight and consolidate any extra bags you may have.

5).  Avoid Hogging the Overhead Bins

If you take the first space you see in the overhead bins to store your carry-ons, everyone will have to adjust. You should place your bag in the storage bins above your seat. If that spot is already taken, you can look for space in nearby bins or ask the flight attendant for assistance. Try to store your bag vertically instead of horizontally, to leave more room for others. Keep in mind that the storage in overhead compartments is limited, and shoving multiple pieces of luggage in there will leave no room for other passengers.


6).  Interact with Caution

Acknowledge your seatmate with a smile and a greeting when taking your seat. Keep an eye out for cues from your fellow passenger to determine whether or not the person wishes to continue the conversation. Most people would rather sleep, watch a movie, or listen to music than talk further. When you see someone wearing headphones, it is a sure sign that they are not in the mood to interact. If the other person becomes too chatty, you can start reading, put on headphones, pull out your laptop, or simply doze off. If you need to use the restroom, it is acceptable to wake your neighbor and ask him to get up so you can pass. It is awkward for everyone involved if you try to squeeze past them or climb over him. When getting up, use the armrests rather than yanking the seat in front of you.

7).  Stay in Your Own Space

Economy seats are extremely cramped, with limited space for everyone, and you should still be careful not to spread out. Touching your neighbors is considered an invasion of personal space. Keep your arms, hands, legs, feet, and other protruding parts of your body within the confines of your seat. Passers-by may trip over your feet if you stretch them out in the aisle. Don’t lean over the other person to look out the window. If you want to sleep, make sure you don’t invade another person’s space while napping. A great aid for you is a travel pillow. If you have a bag/jacket at your feet, make sure it doesn’t spill onto the feet or legs of your seatmates.

8).  Check Before You Recline

If at all possible, avoid reclining your seat because it makes the person behind you extremely uncomfortable. Unfortunately, plane seats can be painful, and we all want to recline, particularly on long-haul flights. Airplane etiquette requires that before reclining your seat, you should first look back and ask the person behind you. Allow him a few moments to gather his belongings, drink, and knees before pressing the recline button. Maintain an upright seat position during meals.

9).  Give the Armrests to Middle Seat Passengers

The person in the middle seat does not have a view or access to the aisle. They are also sandwiched between two people. One of the unwritten rules of flying is that the person in the middle seat gets to use both armrests. If you are unfortunate enough to be stuck in the middle, hopefully, your fellow passengers are aware of this rule. Another unwritten rule: the window-seat passenger has the final say on whether the shade remains up or down.

10).  Limit your Alcohol Consumption

Due to the lower oxygen level in the aircraft, one drink in the air is equivalent to three drinks on the ground. Keep an eye on how much alcohol you consume before takeoff or while flying because it lowers inhibitions and may affect your behavior toward your fellow passengers. Nobody enjoys having a drunk neighbor. Remember that you are not permitted to consume any alcohol that you bring with you.

11).  Don’t Bring Smelly Food on Flight

Refrain from bringing messy and odorous food on the plane. Pungent foods such as pickles, egg salads, tuna sandwiches, or garlic bread have no place in cramped quarters with limited air supply. Nuts, granola bars, crackers, cookies, and other similar foods are acceptable.

12).  Be Courteous to Flight Attendants

When you board the plane, greet them with a smile, be courteous, and follow their instructions. Don’t take the flight attendants for granted. Their jobs are demanding and thankless. It is challenging to smile while putting up with rude/rebellious passengers, disruptive kids, and filthy restrooms. It would be nice to acknowledge their efforts to make your journey more comfortable. The flight attendants know the best and it’s their job to keep everyone safe. So just do as they say and don’t argue.

13).  Control the Kids

Traveling with young kids is never easy, but try to keep them under control as much as possible. Most passengers will be irritated if the child kicks/yanks the front seat, pulls their hair, or continuously shouts/cries. Bring plenty of distractions to keep them occupied on long flights, such as coloring pages, story books, or electronic devices. On the other hand, one should be understanding if the parents are unable to calm a crying infant. A little bit of empathy is needed in these situations because babies suffer the most during flights because of the unfamiliar surroundings and air pressure that bothers their ears.

14).  Be Open to Swapping Seats with Family

Airlines charge additional fees for adjacent seats, making it difficult for family members to sit together at times. If you’re traveling alone, it won’t hurt to switch seats with another passenger so that the family can sit next to each other. You can politely decline if a couple wants to swap seats just to sit together or if it would cause you an issue. Swap seats after boarding are complete so that you do not obstruct people walking down the aisle.

15).  Use Headphones

This is very basic but still needs to be said. Please use a good pair of headphones if you want to listen to music or watch a movie. Also, keep the volume low so you don’t disturb the people sitting around you. Avoid getting on the phone and talking loudly the moment the plane touches down. Keep your phone in silent mode and speak softly.

16).  Keep Your Socks On (at least)

It is best to wear your shoes during the flight as stinky feet can be nauseating in stuffy planes. If the idea of sitting on a long flight with your shoes on makes you nervous, take them off and wear clean socks. While bare feet are inappropriate, socks should not offend anyone. Never go to the restroom in your bare feet because most plane floors are filthy and can expose you to viruses and fungi.

17).  Limit Bathroom Breaks

Try to keep your bathroom breaks to a minimum because they can be very disruptive to your neighbors. It is good practice to use the washroom just before boarding. Staying hydrated is beneficial, but do not overindulge in beverages as this will necessitate multiple trips to the loo. If you need to use the restroom frequently, reserve an aisle seat to avoid disturbing others. And don’t spend too much time in the restroom because there are very few lavatories on a plane and passengers are always waiting for their turn.

18).  Wear a Mask

Although the worst of COVID-19 is behind us, and many airlines have made wearing a mask optional, it is still recommended that you wear one while flying. You are sitting in close proximity to other passengers, making it very easy to acquire or spread the dreaded Coronavirus. Remove the mask only when eating or drinking. Sanitize as frequently as possible to avoid being exposed to the floating virus.

19).  Don’t Make a Mess

Keep the area around your seat as clean as possible. You must not leave any trash behind. Give all garbage to the flight attendant when she comes to collect it. If you’re feeling sick, get up and walk around. If this doesn’t work, grab an airsickness bag and dash to the restroom. There is nothing worse than having a fellow passenger throw up close to you.

20).  Wait for Your Turn to Exit

Landing always leads to chaos of some sort. Passengers disregard plane etiquette by standing up in the aisle while the plane is still taxing and attempting to retrieve their bags from the overhead bins. You don’t have to stand the moment the plane comes to a stop, especially if you’re in the back row. Be patient and wait your turn. Resist the temptation to push your way out first and let those closest to the exit disembark first. It’s customary to exit the aircraft row by row from the front to the back. The only exception is if you have a connecting flight, in which case you can ask people if you can go ahead.

Flying, especially right now, can be extremely stressful. To alleviate stress, try to be patient, polite, and helpful. Don’t get into an argument with another passenger who is acting inappropriately. It is best to contact a flight attendant to resolve the situation. If you follow airplane etiquette, you will be setting a great example for others to emulate.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ravi Mehta

    Very elaborate explanation on etiquette in flights to be observed.

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