What Would You Do? Travel Etiquette Survey

Surveys are being released all the time about various things related to travel, but I recently saw a clip on the Seattle news about one that really got my attention. That’s right, it’s a survey about travel etiquette. My favorite topic!! The survey, conducted by Travel Leaders Group, asked travelers to put themselves in certain positions and then rate how they would react.

“If another airline passenger seated near you won’t turn off his/her cell phone while in flight, what would you do?”

  • 34.3% — Call a flight attendant.
  • 27.1 % — Say something directly to the person.
  • 23.9% — Sit quietly and say nothing.
  • 14.7% — Not sure.

My thoughts:  I honestly don’t care that much if someone doesn’t turn off their cell phone, as long as they’re not, like, talking on it or something. It surprises me that so many people would be willing to call a flight attendant, as I have never seen a FA called for a cell phone before.

“If another airline passenger seated near you is using headphones to listen to music or a movie and the sound is so loud that everyone around him/her can also hear, what would you do?”

  • 47.4% — Ask them to turn it down.
  • 26.5% — Call a flight attendant.
  • 17.3% — Sit quietly and say nothing.
  • 8.8% — Not sure.

My thoughts: For me, this one depends. If I’m right next to someone, I can often hear their music, but it’s almost never so loud that it’s a big deal. (Although sometimes I worry about the effects on their hearing. But whatever.) However, if it were so loud that it was distracting me from work or really bothering me, I would probably say something.

“If a child was seated behind you on an airplane and constantly kicked your seat, what would you do?”

  • 62.8%  — Say something directly to the parent or child.
  • 10.2% — Call a flight attendant.
  • 9.7% — Sit quietly and say nothing, hoping the parent will stop their child.
  • 6.7% — Ignore it, children will be children.
  • 6.1% — Turn around and glare at the parent or child.
  • 4.5% — Not sure

My thoughts: I would definitely turn around and say something, but try to be nice about it. Chances are the kid isn’t doing it intentionally, and the parent doesn’t fly often enough to recognize how thin the seats are. Now, if it continues, or if it’s hard, or if they are really being rude, that changes things. Probably then I would call a flight attendant.

“If you were flying alone and a couple asked you to switch seats so that they could sit together, what would you do?”

  • 44.7% — Gladly move regardless of what kind of seat it was.
  • 27.2% — Move only if it was not a middle seat.
  • 13.6% — Move only if new seat was an aisle seat.
  • 6.4% — Not sure.
  • 4.4% — Move only if new seat was a window seat.
  • 1.8% — Move only if it were closer to the front of the plane.
  • 1.3% — Move only if new seat had extra leg room.
  • 0.6% — I wouldn’t move for any reason.

My thoughts: Again, it depends. If it’s a short flight, and if I’m NOT PREGNANT, then a middle seat isn’t a big deal. If it’s a longer flight, or if I’m pregnant, then I would really prefer to have the same type of seat I reserved originally. Is that mean?

I’m kind of surprised that so many people would move only if the seat was better than their own….

“While passing through a TSA security checkpoint, if a traveler in front of you is taking too long removing shoes, laptop, etc. would you…”

  • 51.3% — Patiently wait.
  • 37.8% — Wait, but be frustrated that they don’t have their act together.
  • 9.0% — Jump in front of them.
  • 1.8% — Not sure.
  • 0.1%  — Tell them to move faster.

My thoughts: This one is easy. I would wait but be irritated inside. I can’t help it!

The other questions: If you were traveling with a companion and you got one upgrade, what would you do? And, If you placed a small bag in the overhead bin and were asked to put it under the seat in front of you so another passenger could place a very large bag up there, what would you do? Very interesting questions!!

Readers, do you agree with the respondents? What would you do in these situations?


  1. “If you were flying alone and a couple asked you to switch seats so that they could sit together, what would you do?”

    I’m sure this will be unpopular with some people, but I don’t switch seats because a couple couldn’t get seats together, etc.

    When I book my flights, I choose specific seats that offer extra legroom, etc. The few times I’ve been asked have always been swaps for exit row windows to non-reclining middle seats.

  2. Understand the hesitation giving up premium seats, but even with Star Gold on US Airways… I have been “re-seated” away from my travelling partner nearly every flight. Fortunately people have been willing to trade, but its a HUGE hassle and something that US Air GA’s do nothing to help. Worst airline by far… even post UA/CO merger.

  3. Unless I’m upgrading to a different cabin then I am not about to switch seats as a lot of time/effort/$$ goes into my seat selection. (I purchase in advance so I can get the seat of my choice!)

    As for the upgrade question it depends on who I am travelling with & what the circumstances are.

    Also,If someone asked me to put a small bag under the seat so that more bags could get into the overhead bin I would not have a problem with it.

  4. I will switch seats for cash.

    As for the bag question. I will act like i dont speak english.

  5. I noticed you didn’t ask the question about when people completely recline their seats with no regard for who is behind them. I usually ask politely if they will put their seat at least partly up. If they don’t, then I speak to the flight attendant. I try to be respectful of those behind me and I do expect the Golden Rule to be honored.

    I had a woman Christmas before last, who fully laid out her chair and THEN took her dog out of it’s carrier despite the fact that, I believe, FAA rules say it’s supposed to stay in it. She was unbelievably rude and even the flight attendant didn’t do much. Not like she could have chucked Ms. No-Manners off the wing, but it would have been nice.

  6. The results for the seat switching are really surprising – I’m going to assume the poll respondents are either not elite travelers or felt they had to answer that way so they wouldn’t be perceived as being mean.

    I completely agree with FriendlySkies, Nancy, and Jenn.

  7. You know what they say: you chuck one or two rude SOBs off the wing and pretty soon the rest fall right in line. 🙂

    I probably wouldn’t switch seats from a premium seat to a less desirable seat. It stands to reason that the person sitting next the the other spouse would benefit more from swapping, and the couple really should take the worse of the two options by default.

  8. Y’all have a great point–I wouldn’t switch from a premium seat to a normal seat. I forget about that scenario because the airlines I typically fly, American and Southwest, don’t usually have those, at least not that I have to pay extra for.

  9. I think the general unspoken rule of travel etiquette is that if you’re going to ask someone to switch seats, you should be giving them at least an equal seat if not a better one.

    As for bags, I personally think that if your bag will at all fit under the seat, you should put it there – whether or not you have brought on two items. That just helps ensure there’s room for all the bags, and lessens the chance of the flight being delayed while people have to do last minute bag checking.

    If we had only one upgraded seat, I will always give it to my husband. He doesn’t travel much, unlike me, so first class is a nice treat for him.

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