If you’ve flown before, you know that there’s a certain, unwritten code of proper airplane conduct that makes for a more enjoyable flight for all.
If your upcoming flight will be your first, we’re going to let you in on what you need to know about airplane etiquette, so that you can be a pleasant seat neighbor and hopefully others will follow your lead.
We’ve flown enough to know that some people adhere to our airplane etiquette guidelines and some don’t. We can’t really say it’s the frequent travelers that know how to behave on an airplane and the newbies that fly unaware.
There seems to be a mix of people doing the right thing – etiquette-wise – and those flying totally clueless. Let’s just say that whether or not one demonstrates good airplane etiquette may have everything to do with how they treat their fellow human off of a plane.
Airplane etiquette – for anyone who may be wondering if they’re playing nicely and following the rules – is simply behavior that allows all passengers to have the most enjoyable and peaceful experience possible on an airplane.
While some facets of airplane etiquette seem obvious – like the NO SLEEPING ON YOUR NEIGHBOR’S SHOULDER rule – others are a bit iffy, such as “How many times should you ask your seat mate to move so that you can use the restroom?”
We’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts that make up an airplane etiquette guide, which – while not perfect – will at least make a flight fairly tolerable for all.
Of course, these airplane etiquette rules apply mostly to coach passengers who are seated in very close proximity to fellow flyers. But, even first class travelers will do well to abide by some of our airplane etiquette guidelines.
Keep Aisles Clear
We’ve been aboard many planes and we’ve experienced some really long waits to store our carry-on and get seated.
When boarding an airplane, the first airplane etiquette rule is to have your carry-on bag, jacket, hat, purse, laptop, or whatever you’re going to store ready to place in the overhead bins.
Your fellow passengers also want to store their items, so you need to have the entire storage and seat-taking process last no longer than a minute (even that is liberal) so that aisles are cleared for others and the plane can take off on time.
Make Sure that Your Carry-On Fits
This airplane etiquette rule has much to do with our first unwritten law of air-travel conduct. Before you leave your house – and board the plane – make sure that your carry-on luggage will properly fit in the overhead bins.
Most airlines will give you their size requirements for carry-on luggage on their website.
If they don’t, phone ahead to inquire so that you will have the proper-size bag and it can be easily loaded in the overhead bins in less than a minute.
Trying to stuff your bag in – or having to call a flight attendant to help you find a place for it – only delays other passengers.
Introduce Yourself to Your Neighbor
This part of airplane etiquette is sometimes looked weirdly upon, but we feel that simply offering your first name (or just a “Hi” with a smile) to your neighbor is a great way to set the stage for a comfortable hour or longer in the air.
After greeting your flying mate and acknowledging their presence, you can chat more in-flight if you both want or just know that you’ve created a friendly space for a shared experience.
Use Only Your Share of the Armrest or Don’t Use Them at All
Having only one armrest in the middle of two people sitting next to each other is not ideal.
Even movie seats have two armrests next to each other, but of course the space available in a plane is a lot less. If you’re wondering whether you should take up the shared armrest or not, opt for not.
Chances are the person sitting beside you wanted to use it to, but they were courteous enough not to hog it and encroach on your space.
Sometimes, flying neighbors will be okay with sharing the armrest and each having their little inch to relax on.
Often, however, it should just not be done. In cases like flying with JetBlue – and with many other airlines – individual television controls are on the armrest and using it means you may inadvertently press buttons and changing your neighbor’s channels (we’ve had this done to us).
Stay in Your Own Space
Expanding on the armrest issue, some people feel that they can completely relax, allowing their body to extend into their neighbor’s seat area and personal space. Following airplane etiquette means that you do not do this.
While in your seat, please keep all of your body – arms, hands, head, legs, feet, and other parts – only in the space that is bordered by your seat measurements. Trust us, your neighbor will thank you for this small act of civility.
Make Sure the Food You Bring on Board is Mild in Smell
It’s not always likely that food you bring on board will be something that your seat-mate finds amazing (even if it’s your absolute favorite meal ever).
Airplanes are filled with so many people from different cultures – and culinary traditions – that what smells incredible to one could cause another to nearly gag.
While we realize that it’s sometimes enjoyable to bring your own food on a flight, try to make sure that the food’s odor is mild and that the person next to you won’t easily be able to smell it.
A good rule of thumb is to stick with neutral aromas and avoid smells (even though you might adore them) of smoked duck, fish, meats, and so forth.
Keep Your Seat Upright
Or at least ask the person behind you if they mind that you recline your chair. We’ve seen many passengers have their drinks (on trays) spilled because the person in front of them decided to quickly recline their seat.
Having your tray attached to the passenger in front of you is an unfortunate reality when flying, so we think it’s best just to keep your chair upright and allow the traveler behind you their little bit of space.
If you recline, chances are they’ll have to recline, and then a domino effect is created as flyers try to grab whatever little bit of personal area they can. (Many drinks have been spilled after a sudden upright of a chair too).
Use the Bathroom (and Roam) Only When Necessary
We know that long flights can be brutal on the bladder and the legs. We all need to use the restroom and chances are we’ll do have to do it multiple times on a long flight.
While keeping your hydration in mind (it’s healthy to stay hydrated while flying), consider not overindulging in water – or on alcoholic beverages that will mandate frequent trips to the bathroom.
Along these lines, airline etiquette says that it’s okay to get up and stretch your legs now and then, just consider that your seat partner might not appreciate you doing it every minute.