Master the Art of Airplane Etiquette: Tips for a Peaceful Flight

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Nothing dampens the excitement of travel quite like the stress of sharing a confined space with complete strangers for hours on end. As an experienced globetrotter, I’ve seen my fair share of inconsiderate behavior on flights. But fear not, fellow travelers! I’m here to share my top airplane etiquette tips to help you navigate the skies with grace and consideration.

TL;DR – Key Takeaways

  • Be mindful of the shared space and avoid annoying behaviors like seat kicking, loud talking, and unnecessary seat reclining.
  • Practice good hygiene and avoid strong-smelling foods to create a pleasant environment for fellow passengers.
  • Respect the personal space and privacy of your seatmates.
  • Follow the cabin crew’s instructions and be ready to assist in case of an emergency.
  • Show kindness and empathy towards fellow travelers, as everyone is in the same boat (or plane).
Don't let bad manners ruin your flight

The Golden Rule of Airplane Etiquette

In the words of Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute, “The key to good airplane etiquette is to be considerate of others and to remember that you are sharing a small space with many people.” With this in mind, let’s dive into some specific tips for maintaining harmony in the skies.

Top Annoying Behaviors and How to Avoid Them

According to a survey by Expedia, the top three most annoying airplane behaviors are kicking the seat in front (61%), talking loudly (51%), and reclining the seat (48%). Let’s discuss how to avoid these common faux pas:

  1. Seat Kicking: Be mindful of your legroom and avoid jostling the seat in front of you. Consider using a footrest or placing your feet on your carry-on to avoid accidental seat kicking.
  2. Loud Talking: Keep conversations at a reasonable volume and avoid using speakerphone. Consider using headphones for phone calls or entertainment to minimize noise pollution.
  3. Seat Reclining: A study by Skyscanner found that 91% of passengers believe that reclining seats on short-haul flights should be banned. If you must recline your seat, do so slowly and inform the person behind you beforehand to avoid any surprises or spilled drinks.

Hygiene and Food Etiquette

When you’re sharing a small space with others, good hygiene and food etiquette are essential. Here are some tips for maintaining a pleasant atmosphere on board:

  • Shower before your flight and wear clean, comfortable clothes.
  • Avoid applying strong fragrances, as some passengers may have allergies or sensitivities.
  • Choose non-offensive snacks and avoid foods with strong odors, like tuna or garlic.
  • Dispose of trash responsibly and keep your area tidy.

Respecting Personal Space and Privacy

It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and respect the personal space and privacy of your fellow passengers. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Use headphones when listening to music, watching movies, or playing games.
  • Avoid leaning on your seatmate or encroaching on their personal space.
  • Respect the privacy of others by not snooping on their screens or eavesdropping on conversations.
  • If you need to get up from your seat, try not to use the seats in front of you for support, as this can disturb the passengers seated there.

Following Cabin Crew Instructions

The cabin crew is responsible for your safety and comfort during the flight. Following their instructions is not only polite but also essential for a smooth and enjoyable journey. Some ways to show your cooperation include:

  • Pay attention during the safety briefing, even if you’ve heard it many times before.
  • Comply with requests to fasten your seatbelt, stow your tray table, or switch off electronic devices when instructed.
  • Remain seated when the seatbelt sign is on, and wait for the crew’s permission before moving about the cabin or using the lavatories.

Handling In-Flight Emergencies

In the rare event of an in-flight emergency, it’s crucial to stay calm and follow the cabin crew’s instructions. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Don’t panic or create unnecessary stress for other passengers.
  • Offer assistance to those who may need it, such as the elderly, disabled, or parents with young children.
  • Be ready to follow the crew’s instructions, including helping with emergency tasks if required.

Showing Kindness and Empathy

A little kindness goes a long way, especially when traveling. Remember that everyone on the plane is in the same situation, and a small act of compassion can make a significant impact on someone’s travel experience. Here are some suggestions for spreading kindness in the skies:

  • Offer to help others with their luggage or stow their carry-on items if they’re struggling.
  • Be patient and understanding with parents traveling with young children, as they’re likely doing their best to manage a stressful situation.
  • Engage in polite conversation with your seatmates, but also respect their cues if they prefer to be left alone.
  • Offer a smile, a kind word, or a thank you to the cabin crew, as their job can be demanding and often goes underappreciated.

Conclusion: Soaring to New Heights in Airplane Etiquette

By following these airplane etiquette tips, you’ll not only contribute to a more pleasant and harmonious in-flight atmosphere but also set a positive example for other passengers. Remember that we’re all in this together, and a little consideration and kindness can make a world of difference. Happy travels!

FAQs about Airplane Etiquette

  1. What should I do if someone is being disruptive on a flight? Politely address the issue with the person, if you feel comfortable doing so. If the problem persists, inform the cabin crew, who are trained to handle such situations.
  2. How can I politely ask my seatmate to switch seats? Be honest about your reasons for wanting to switch and offer a polite explanation. Remember that they are not obligated to accommodate your request, and be gracious regardless of their response.
  3. Is it rude to recline my seat on an airplane? Reclining your seat isn’t inherently rude, but it’s essential to be mindful of the passengers behind you. On short-haul flights, consider refraining from reclining, or inform the person behind you before doing so.
  4. What’s the best way to handle armrest disputes? Communication is key. Consider discussing the issue with your seatmate and come to a mutual agreement. You could take turns or agree to share the armrest space.
  5. Is it okay to remove my shoes on a plane? It’s generally acceptable to remove your shoes, but be mindful of the comfort of those around you. Ensure your feet are clean and odor-free, and consider wearing socks or in-flight slippers for added hygiene.
  6. How can I minimize the risk of disturbing my seatmates when I need to get up frequently during the flight? If you anticipate needing to get up often, try to reserve an aisle seat when booking your flight. When getting up, avoid using the seats in front of you for support, as this can disturb other passengers.
  7. What should I do if I accidentally offend someone with my behavior on a plane? If you unintentionally offend someone, offer a sincere apology and make an effort to correct your behavior. Demonstrating awareness and consideration can go a long way in diffusing tension and maintaining a pleasant atmosphere.


Lizzie Post, Emily Post Institute.

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