Business Travel 101: Etiquette (Revisited)

Business Travel 101 is a series from a couple of years ago about making that first business trip as easy and successful as possible. I’ve re-tooled the series, and now it’s more comprehensive than ever! It covers everything a new business traveler needs to know for that initial trip, including essential tips for packing, security, safety, etiquette, and comfort.

I often feel the goal of my blog is to help people have calmer, more peaceful trips. Preparing well, packing simply, and being mindful of your fellow travelers are all things I focus on often. If travelers enacted these practices, the traveling world would be a better place! We’ve talked about preparation and packing, therefor the obvious next Business Travel 101 post is about etiquette.

Etiquette is something I feel strongly about in my everyday life, as well as my travel life. Not necessarily the traditional, so-many-rules-it’s-hard-to-remember-them-all etiquette, but simply recognizing that you are not the only passenger on the road and acting accordingly. This is a list of my favorite etiquette guidelines, but not by any means all encompassing. If there is one that means a lot to you that I missed, let me know! And let’s all travel nicely.


  • Be prepared to go smoothly through security.  Know what the current security rules are for the location you are traveling through, and follow them. Have everything ready to go (laptop, bag of toiletries, shoes off, etc) as soon as you get to the bins. Have all change out of your pocket and your boarding pass out for people to see.
  • Once you get through, grab your bags and bins and move over to the nearby benches so you don’t hold up the line.


  • Know your airline’s guidelines. All major airlines have the size and weight restrictions for carry-ons on their website. If your bag is too big, they may make you check it. Also, there are slightly different size requirements for international carriers vs. American carriers, so make sure your bag works for each continent you’re traveling in.
  • Make sure you can lift your bag. You may not be able to depend on having people around you that can help, and some flight attendants are prohibited from helping customers put bags up.
  • Put your suitcase on the correct side of the airplane, facing the correct way. Listen to what the flight attendants tell you to do, and do it. If one side of the plane is made to hold rollaboards, please put your suitcase there.
  • Only put your large bag in the overhead. Put your purse or briefcase under the seat in front of you, until you know for sure there will be room. Also, don’t put your jacket in a bin unless it’s going on top of or in front of your bag.
  • Put your bag in the bin as close to your seat as possible. If you are sitting in row 25, and there is no room over 25 and there is room over 23, that’s one thing. But if you’re sitting in row 25 and you put your bag over row 8, the people in row 8 won’t have room.
  • Don’t make it your plan to gate check.  If you bring a normal sized carry-on that you are happy to bring on the plane or to gate-check, that is one thing. But please don’t bring an oversized bag on the plane expecting they will make you gate-check it. If you are bringing too much stuff, check your bag. If you don’t want to pay the fee, bring less stuff. Don’t slow everyone else down because you’re trying to save $20.

On the plane

  • Be careful with your personal item as you walk down the aisle. Countless times I have seen seated passengers whacked in the face with someone’s briefcase. Most of the time the “whacker” is completely oblivious.
  • When you are standing up to go somewhere, please don’t grab the seat in front of you for balance. Most people simply don’t think about this, but 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.
  • 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.
  • If you have a middle or window seat, politely let the person sitting in the aisle that you need in. I usually say something like, “Hi, I’m sitting in the window seat.” Some people say, “Excuse me, I’m sitting there.” This lets the aisle person know they need to stand up to let you into the row. (As opposed to standing there staring at someone until they move. That seems rude to me.) If you are sitting in the aisle, don’t put your seatbelt on or get out all of your stuff until the middle and window seat passengers have arrived.
  • Please, please don’t wear heavy fragrances, or use any fragrant products while on the plane.

Once you arrive

  • Practice patience while deplaning. Hundreds of people rushing down the aisle to get off the plane all at the same time…’s just not possible. Even though it can be frustrating to have to wait what feels an excessive amount of time, be patient. And when it is your turn, grab your stuff quickly. If there is someone who has a tight connection, it is polite to let them go first or pass you in the jetbridge if necessary. Think of how you would like to be treated in that situation!
  • Don’t be too loud in hotel rooms. Most of us know this one, but sometimes can be loud without realizing it. I was guilty of this myself once. I was in a room next to a coworker, and she could hear my alarm through the wall. It wouldn’t have been a problem, except that I am a “snoozer.” I set my alarm 30 minutes early, and it goes off every five minutes. Which can be very frustrating for a neighbor.

Readers, did I miss any? What is your favorite travel etiquette tip?



  1. “Please, please don’t wear heavy fragrances, or use any fragrant products while on the plane.”

    I really “vote” for this.

    seems most persons that wear heavy fragrances have their sense of smell burnt out, and they over do it.

    what they think is pleasant just plain stinks to others,

  2. •Don’t make it your plan to gate check.

    I only kind of agree with this one. While I have seen some gigantic (“illegal”) carry ons, there are times when I know I will be on RJs for all of my flights and there is no way my rollerboard will fit. I’ll still pack it though because I need to be able to use a bunch of the stuff in there while I’m waiting in the airport or I don’t want some of my semi-valueables to be away from me (or with the TSA!) for too long.

  3. Your comment in the security section about moving to a bench caught my eye because I had a funny experience doing that leaving Tucson today. I was gathering up all my stuff out of the bins and heading over to a bench to organize and put them away when the security guy actually paused me and told me that I could put my stuff away right there. I told him “no I just want to get out of the way rather than hold up the people behind me!”

    He was trying to be nice I suppose but now I know why their xray lines take so long. They actually encourage people to stand there and block everyone else! lol

  4. If your the chunky sort, that does not fit in to a cramped little seat without spilling over, buy that second seat or ask FA for help reseating. Hard these days now there is less space on the plane.

    If have cold or other contagious disease take special care not to breath on the person in the seat in front.

    Don’t put your bags in the overhead 20 rows forward of your seat.

    Don’t crowd around the gate waiting to get on if you are not next on the order.

  5. Just to add to the “grabbing the seat in front of you” request- often when people do that they are also grabbing a big handful of my hair and pulling HARD. So another reason to please not grab the seat in front of you when you stand up.

  6. “grabbing the seat in front of you”

    I had this happen several times on the same flight, I finally got fed up and when the fool reached ( he let out a telltale sound before reaching) I held it he seat back release button, leaned forward and let him flop back in his seat. did not happen after that.

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