Plane Etiquette Round Up

Sometimes while traveling we get so focused and in the zone that we forget we are not the only passengers on the plane. Still, recognizing how to coexist in a metal tube very closely with 150 strangers can make for a better flight for everyone. Here are some of my favorite etiquette tips for air travel.

  • When you are standing up to go somewhere, please don’t grab the seat in front of you for balance. Most people, it seems, simply don’t think about this. Every time you touch the seat in front of you, the person sitting there can feel it. Grab your own seat if you need help!
  • Let the middle seat have the armrests. You may be tall, have long arms, need a lot of space…. It doesn’t matter. The person in the middle has less space than you, and it makes their flight better if they get the armrest too.
  • Respect the crew. If the flight attendant tells you to turn off your cell phone, do it. If they tell you where to put your bag, put it there. The crew is responsible for the transport and safety of over a hundred people. They are not your personal chef, bartender, or secretary.
  • Keep your kids corralled. Whatever it takes to keep your kids happy, be it snacks, juice, music, a coloring book, please do it. Don’t let your child kick the seat in front of them! I know sometimes it’s unavoidable, but if it is constant throughout the flight it can get very uncomfortable for the person in that seat.
  • Be mindful of reclining. When I posted about whether or not reclining your seat is rude, the results were definitely mixed. If you need to recline your seat, make sure that you don’t keep it reclined the entire flight, especially during food service.
  • Watch your bags when going down the aisle. Make sure you know where your purse or briefcase is. It’s so easy to accidentally hit everyone in an aisle seat by simply not paying attention.
  • Don’t shout. The background noise on planes is so loud that it can hinder conversations with people around us. But please, don’t shout. The person next to you may be super interested in what you’re saying, but I bet the guy three rows in front of you is trying to work/rest/read, and isn’t worried about all the details of your daughter’s wedding.
  • Know your limits. I have definitely enjoyed a glass of wine or two (especially in first class!) on occasion during a flight. Just remember one drink on a plane is equal to two drinks on the ground. So please, know your limits and don’t get super drunk.

Readers, what are your favorite etiquette tips for passengers on a plane? (And watch for the carry-on etiquette round up next week!)


  1. If you are getting ready to board, and you are in group 4, please get out of the way and let the people in groups 1-3 get on the plane.

  2. Great post!

    And please don’t put your feet up on the windowsill. It’s extremely disturbing to the person sitting in front of you.

  3. I have had really bad luck with middle seats lately, and man oh man, have i had two sets of arms wedged into my sides, while the owners of said arms slept happily on…

    As sexist as this sounds, it tends to be men who keep the armrests even on the outer seats, and it leaves me wondering if they cant actually -feel- that their elbow is in direct contact with my tummy….

  4. Denise, I’ve noticed this too! I’m constantly trying to make room for male armrest hogs. Often, I can’t even put my elbow against the inside of the armrest – not on top, just against the side, and definitely within my own personal “zone” – because a man’s elbow is sticking out over the top of the armrest into my space. It’s awful, and it’s rude, and I wish women weren’t invisible/expected to disappear in public spaces.

  5. How about you stop complaining about why you think someone is rude to you because you are a woman and stand up and say something? This isn’t 1904, you can speak your mind with out worrying about retaliation. Have at it. If someone is hogging the arm rest next time, either say something or nudge their arm over.

    I guarantee you that you aren’t losing the arm rest because you are a woman, you’re losing it because you aren’t staking your claim on part of it.

    I come from the South where we open doors for any woman and with a smile, but on a plane, it’s tight, it’s cramped, and it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves.

  6. Great post! I still am amazed when I see people who don’t know that you need to wait for the people ahead of you to get off the plane first. Deplaning is from the front to the back. Don’t rush the aisles trying to shove your way past others! Also, to expand on the child traveler, don’t allow your child to hoot, moo, shriek or make loud sucking noises on the flight. (I flew today, can you tell?)

  7. “Just remember one drink on a plane is equal to two drinks on the ground”

    please enlighten me on how you reached that conclusion….

  8. I can’t get into (or out of) a coach seat without support from the seat in front, sadly, but I am disabled. I try to be as non-disruptive as possible, but sometimes it’s just not possible to bend that way without support.

  9. @Jamison: Cabins are pressurized to simulate approximately an altitude of about 8000 ft above sea level. Alcohol at that altitude has a much strong effect. Hence, the well-known rule of thumb that one drink up in the air is worth two on the ground.

  10. Don’t take someone else’s seat without asking just so you may be with your travelling companion. Ask first and don’t get snooty if the other party declines.

  11. Dear OneMan’s Opinion,

    You obviously missed the point in the original post which says

    •Let the middle seat have the armrests. You may be tall, have long arms, need a lot of space…. It doesn’t matter. The person in the middle has less space than you, and it makes their flight better if they get the armrest too.

    Let them…..not ‘make them fight for it’

    I have elbowed people, asked them to adjust, etc. plenty of times, to various degrees of success.

    I did not imply that I lost the armrest because I am a woman….I lose it because there are folks like you who beleive it’s ‘it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves.’ so rather then allowing the already cramped and more squashed then the other two seats per row middle seat dweller to -have- an armrest, you selfishly decide that its a war for that inch or armrest.

    Politeness should not happen only when it is convenient.

  12. Regarding grabbing the seat in front of you, unless you are on the aisle seat it is next to impossible to go from the window seat across other passengers in your row without steading yourself against something. Especially if some of the seats in front of you are reclined. So it is either using the seat in front, or fall on another passenger

  13. What bothers me is when parents bring video games/movies/electronic toys on the plane to amuse their children – and use them without headphones. It’s horrible listening to electronic beeps, music, and toy voices. I’d almost rather hear the child scream!

  14. My husband is handicapped and walks with a cane, he has no strength in his legs and must use the seat in front to pull himself up. He tries not to get up too often.

  15. @ EllenLV I think handicapped people get an exemption from the “don’t pull on the seat in front of you” rule. I just like to make people aware of it, as most people don’t realize how much the person sitting in that seat feels it. But if there is no other way to get up, of course you’ll have to use it.

    @Denise Thain Thanks for the link! I’ve heard that 1 drink equals 2 thing for so long (and perhaps experienced it a few times) that I have forgotten my original source.

    @Jenny Feet on windowsills!! Wow that person must have been very flexible…..

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