Flight Etiquette: What to Do and Not Do on an Airplane
We all know that person: the one who seems to forget all about manners and social etiquette on an airplane. Flying is already stressful. You really don't want to be that person.
Between the long security lines, potential delays, heavy luggage and congested gates, finally making it to the plane can feel like quite an accomplishment. However, your fellow passengers just went through the same stressful ordeal, and tempers are short. To ensure the flight is a pleasant experience, don’t forget about flight etiquette. Here’s what to do and not do on an airplane.
Offer to Change Seats to Accommodate Families
Most people have specific seat preferences. Some are window-seat people, while others prefer the aisle, for example. Even on very large planes, most people try to avoid the middle seats. When booking your flight, you probably chose the seat you did for a reason, so it can be tempting to say no if you're asked to switch seats with someone.
If you plan on playing music, videos or games on your electronic devices, be sure to use your headphones. You can take your own, purchase a pair at the airport or use the headphones offered on the plane. Remind your children to use them as well.
Don't Lean or Pull on Other People's Seats
If you’ve ever been sitting comfortably when suddenly your seat gets yanked back by someone who's getting up from the seat behind you, you know it’s an incredibly irritating feeling. Your armrests are there for a reason. Use them to boost yourself out of the seat..
Sit in Your Correct Seat
Again, most people have seat preferences on airplanes. Unfortunately, you don't always get to choose your seat, or the seats you like might have been booked. That doesn't mean it's okay to snag the seat you want, just because you got there first. If you think the other passenger won’t notice, you’re wrong.
Don't Automatically Recline
Once you're in the air and you're given the okay to move around the cabin, your first instinct might be to recline your seat. However, just because you can recline it doesn't mean you should — at least, not without taking a few precautions first.
Don't Crowd the Gate While Waiting to Board
Your plane is finally boarding, and you're eager to get out of the airport and on your way to your destination. You want to get on the plane as quickly as possible, especially if you need to use the overhead storage space near your seat. However, many airlines board passengers according to specific zones.
Don't Go to the Bathroom Without Shoes On
People have different opinions about whether or not it's okay to take your shoes off on an airplane. On the one hand, you want to be as comfortable as possible, and taking off your shoes on a long flight shouldn’t be a problem as long as you wear socks or slippers and don’t put your feet up. On the other hand, many people think it's gross and shouldn't be allowed.
Don't Use Your Cell Phone When You Shouldn't
Most people consider their mobile devices to be extensions of themselves at this point. They are glued to them for everything from texting and email to social media and music. However, it's important for safety reasons to keep your phone in airplane mode during take-off and landing. Only turn on your WiFi when the pilot gives the okay. Ignoring these rules could cause significant problems.
Take Your Trash with You
Flight attendants typically walk down the aisles at least twice during a flight to collect trash. In some cases, you aren’t done with your beverage or snacks yet. That's fine as long as you remember to take your trash with you when you deboard the plane. This includes any newspapers or magazines you brought to read, even if you don't want to keep them.
Say “Please” and “Thank You”
As with anyone who works in the service industry, flight attendants spend a large portion of their time at work catering to the needs and requests of others. Often, people on planes are rude and angry, especially when their flight was delayed. They are often in a rush and preoccupied with their own business, which can cause them to be dismissive and distracted, even if it’s not intentional.
Understand That Flight Attendants Don’t Control Delays
No one is excited when a flight gets delayed. In many cases, passengers get angry and take it out on the gate clerks or flight attendants. It's important to remember that flight delays are completely out of their hands. In fact, flight attendants probably want the flight to remain on schedule even more than you do. They're only considered "clocked in" once the plane takes off, and the end of their shift get delayed with every flight delay.
Be Mindful of Armrest Space
Airlines maximize every inch of planes, leaving little room for passengers to stretch out and get comfy. One area that can be a bit contentious is the armrest zone. When you're seated, it’s almost second nature to rest your elbows on the armrests next to you. In some cases, it's possible to share an armrest. Other times, however, you may need to suck it up and keep your hands in your lap.
Respect the Seatbelt Light
Airplanes have seatbelt lights for a reason. It's important to respect the directive when the pilot turns on the light. Generally, it's because they expect turbulence, and they want you to be safe. Disregarding the light can be dangerous. If you’re unbuckled when turbulence occurs, you could fall and hurt yourself or another passenger.
Check Your Bags When Necessary
People often want to avoid checking their bags so they don't have to spend time waiting around at baggage claim. Others try to avoid checking bags because some airlines charge outrageous fees for each checked bag.
Be Mindful of the Food You Take on Board
Airplane snacks aren’t always enough to keep you going on longer flights. If you're running late and don't have time to eat your food before boarding, it's not against the rules to carry it onto the airplane. However, it's courteous to only board with food that is relatively odorless. For example, whipping out a tuna fish sandwich could earn you some nasty looks from those around you.
Ask for a Seat Change If Necessary
As mentioned, sometimes you get assigned to a seat you don’t like. If that's the case and your flight isn't full, it's okay to ask a flight attendant to move. However, it's important that you ask and don't take it upon yourself to move.
Don't Put Your Feet Up on the Armrest
There are very few ways to stretch out and get comfortable on a plane. In your attempt to do whatever you can to relax, be sure your actions aren’t invading other people's personal space. The person seated in front of you paid for their seat. They don't want your feet on it.
Be Wise About Using Overhead Space
There's a limited amount of overhead space on airplanes. It’s helpful if you do your part to make sure you’re making efficient use of it. You should definitely place large carryon items in the overhead bins, but keep your personal items, such as purses and backpacks, with you in your lap or stored under the seat in front of you.
Keep Calm About Children
If you’re not flying with children, it's important to understand that crying babies and screaming toddlers may be annoying, but it’s something people have little control over. The parents are likely doing everything they can to soothe the child and are probably more embarrassed than you are annoyed.
Converse with Courtesy
It's polite to at least greet and make a few minutes of small talk with your seatmates. However, always try to read social cues to determine whether the person minds talking to you. For example, if they are working on their laptop, reading a book or have their headphones in, they probably want to be left alone.
Be Polite About Pets
Most people love dogs, and if you get to travel with your furry friend who acts as an emotional support dog for your flight anxiety, that’s great. However, it's important to keep in mind that not everyone around you on the flight will feel the same way about your four-legged friend.
At the end of the day, every person on board your flight would probably rather be somewhere else. Airplanes only offer so much room, so it's helpful to remember that everyone around you is in the same boat, so to speak.
Give the Middle Seat Both Armrests
As discussed above, being mindful of how much armrest space you're occupying is an important part of plane etiquette. This is particularly crucial when you're on an airplane that includes rows with three seats.
Don't Try to Be the First One Off the Plane
It has been a long flight in a cramped space, and everyone is ready to deboard. However, trying to push past people or get out of your row before it's your turn won't make the process any smoother or pleasant for anyone. If you're in a rush or are worried about making a connecting flight, let people know.
Be Careful Storing and Retrieving Luggage from the Overhead Bin
When you're getting on or off the plane, be mindful of your surroundings when retrieving or storing your carryon. You don't want to accidentally hit someone in the head with your suitcase because you used a little too much force pulling it out.
Don't Linger in the Aisles
Most people want to board and deboard the plane as quickly as possible. However, standing up and waiting in the aisles won't make the process go any faster. You may be eager to get up and retrieve your bag, but if everyone tries to do that at once, it's unproductive.
Be Cautious of the Cabin Crew When Getting Up
If you need to use the bathroom on a flight, it's best to do so either before or after the flight crew serves food and drinks. The aisles are extremely narrow, so trying to squeeze your way past them isn't feasible. If necessary (and possible), go to the bathroom at the opposite end of the plane from where they are serving beverages, even if it’s farther away.
Flights can be tricky when it comes to temperature control. One second you might be sweating, and the next you're shivering. The only thing you control is the tiny air fan above your seat — and what you're wearing, of course.
Don't Drink Too Much
Flying makes many people nervous, and enjoying a cocktail on the flight can sometimes help ease those nerves. Additionally, some airplane passengers are on vacation or celebrating a special event. Whatever the situation, consuming alcohol on a flight is certainly okay, but it's important to drink in moderation.
Exercise Window Manners
Some passengers enjoy looking out the window during takeoff, while others prefer the window to be closed. If you're sitting in a window seat, you have the opportunity to decide if the window shade is open or closed during the flight. The polite thing to do is ask the passenger(s) next to you if they have a preference.