Travel Etiquette Tip: Watch Your Bags Going Down the Aisle

My own over-stuffed travel purse

You’ve probably seen it happen–someone walking down the aisle of an airplane, totally focused on what’s ahead of them, and completely unaware that they are hitting everyone already seated with their bag. This past week, the woman in front of me on our normal sized Super 80 (so not a small plane with a smaller aisle) was pushing her rollaboard in front of her and had her large purse on her shoulder. As she was walking by a group of people already seated, she literally hit a woman in the face with her purse. Obviously, she wasn’t trying to be rude, she was just completely oblivious.

My recommendation: don’t keep your purse or briefcase on your shoulder—hold the straps in your hand. Then either pull or carry your rollaboard, depending on how narrow the aisle is. It’s not as comfortable this way, but at least you have more control over where your bags go. And you’re more likely to avoid hitting someone in the face.


  1. I usually place my smaller bag on top of my carry-on and hold the straps in place alongside the handle of my rolling bag. Then I either pull or push it down the aisle. This gives me complete control of both bags at once.

  2. I generally take off my backpack and carry it in front of me.

    The only problem is that the strap sometimes catches on the aisle seat arm rests. I’ve learned to be careful.

  3. So tired of being smacked by shoulder bags! And there must be something about flights at particular times of day (AM) that make everyone even more clueless.

    I’d say the offenders are equally men and women – women carrying purses/totes over one shoulder, and men wearing backpacks.

  4. Manuevering a large bag and a carry-on through those tiny plane aisles can be touch! I recommend rolling your carry-on behind you and placing your bag so it falls across your chest/stomach if the strap is long enough. Backpacks are pretty awful, generally.

  5. Here’s my system, which takes a little choreography.

    I carry a messenger for under the seat and a small roll-on bag for the overheads.

    The shoulder strap of the messenger goes so that the bag itself lands on my front.

    I carry the small roll-on in both hands by a handle so that the narrow side points down the aisle and goes a little bit ahead of me. I also brace the roll-on against my thighs.

    With both hands on the carry-on handle, my elbows keep the messenger container portion of the bag up on my front.

    Yes, it’s exhausting. But I get down the aisle with very little drama.

  6. just to voice the reverse, since it can be hard to corral the bags, people already in the seats should be leaning in a little during boarding. also this is why the plane is supposed to board back to front, people boarding first are taking on that risk by getting on early:)

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