Top 4 etiquette guidelines for airplanes

With the ridiculous amount of travel I’ve been doing lately, I have witnessed all kinds of rudeness. I’m not sure if it’s the heat, the 6-25-14-4large numbers of infrequent fliers, or some other factor. You would hope that people heading out on vacation would be nicer to their fellow passengers, but based on my observations the opposite is the case. Here are my top four tips for making the friendly skies just a little friendlier.

  1. Watch your bags. This may be the most important etiquette tip I give. Be very careful not to hit people with your bags. If your bag is wider than can be pulled comfortably down the aisle, pick it up and carry it. If you have a backpack, take it off and carry it. It’s not fun, I know, but you can ruin someone’s day by inadvertently whacking them in the head or knee.
  2. Share the armrests. This is a big one. The armrests don’t belong to you. The most polite thing is to allow the middle person to have both armrests. It doesn’t matter if you are tall—the middle person likely has the least amount of space in the row, and the least you can do is give them the armrests. Also, please don’t engage in elbow armrest battles. We’re all (mostly) grownups, okay? Share, people!
  3. Use your own seat to get up. There is not much worse than being awakened by someone yanking on your seat while they lever themselves up. If you are at all able, use your own seat to get up. That way you don’t give the person in front of you whiplash!
  4. Put your rollaboard as close to your seat as possible. I know it’s not always available, but please put your suitcase in the overhead bin nearest your seat. It makes me crazy when someone throws their bag into the bin over row 8 and continues on their merry way to row 30. At least check row 30 before trying the bins at the front. What happens when the person sitting in row 8 boards? Finding a spot for their bag will take forever, and boarding will be slowed. Bonus: only put one bag in the overhead bins, the other under the seat in front of you.

Above all, have patience with your fellow travelers. The more stressed you get the worse you will feel, so take a deep breath and enjoy your flight!

While I think these are the most important etiquette rules for flying, I know that someone else could come up with a whole different set. Regardless, if people follow these guidelines flights will be more pleasant for everyone.

Readers, what are your top four etiquette rules for flying?


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  1. I agree with these tips, and I try to watch my bags as I board a plane. However, people who are seated in the aisle need to keep their knees and feet out of the aisle during the boarding process. I cannot always pick up my carry on and carry it along with my personal item. Sometimes I have a large wheeled carry on (within limits) and have to stop down the aisle as I wait for somebody to move their knees so I can pass. Unfortunately, I can’t say I have never accidentally hit somebody’s foot or knee during the boarding process. It seems logical for people to stay clear of the aisle in order to make it easier for those who have a larger wheeled carry on to pass.

  2. What if you are totally denied arm wrest while in the middle seat. What should be the most appropriate response?

  3. @caveman I think a polite request would be the best way to handle. “Excuse me, I’m a little cramped here in the middle. Do you mind if I share the armrest?” I would think they have to say yes; if they say no they are being an absolute jerk.

  4. I agree with these. The bag in the aisle thing isn’t such a big deal to me. I prefer aisle seats, so it happens a lot, and generally people are apologetic. Some have kids, other have their arms full with god knows what… While it’s unpleasant, it definitely isn’t going to ruin my day. As for the overhead space, I just hate it when someone puts their bag behind them. If you do that, I think it’s just polite to wait when deplaning until there is space to go against the flow. It really bugs me when people are trying to squeeze by to get their bags and run off… Have you SEEN how wide the aisle is? Sit DOWN.

  5. Two words; Nail Polish. Don’t even think about giving your nails a touch up in such confined airspace. Not only does the odor make people sick within seconds, it’s dangerous and just downright rude.

  6. Dress for a public place. Try not to show up in your PJ’s unless it’s a 20 hour redeye. Don’t take your shoes off until everyone is seated. Don’t try to bring everything and the kitchen sink as carry on. Other people have bags too. Don’t recline into the persons lap behind you.

  7. I am relatively forgiving of a bag whacking my foot or leg, but not so much for getting smacked in the head or face with a backpack!

    Many people seem to be totally oblivious about how much space that object takes up and they just swing around with no regard for their surroundings.

    One other airport note – please bear to the right when navigating around the terminals and don’t musty stop abruptly in the middle of the walkway. Sometimes I wish people came equipped with brake lights!

  8. ^This is the problem. Too many people who don’t care. Why would you not care about treating other people with respect? Why would you want to do something that makes others uncomfortable? Why would you do something that you know to be rude or inappropriate? We need more people who care for others. Pulling on someone’s seat back to stand up is the same thing as ignoring a hungry homeless person—you’re disrespecting another person. You should care, and if you don’t you should probably take a look at why.

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