Etiquette Tip: Be careful with hot coffee during boarding!

Lots of situations are tricky on planes. Deciding out where your personal space is, getting your bag in overstuffed to go coffeeoverhead bins, and figuring out how to handle an annoying seatmate are a few things that aren’t always easy to navigate while flying. Well, here is one more: what do you do with your hot coffee during boarding?

Imagine this situation: with one hand you are pulling your rollaboard with personal item stacked on top; in the other hand you are holding a sugar-free vanilla latte (or tasty hot beverage of your choice). When you get to your seat, you need to get your purse off of your suitcase and under the seat in front of you, then your suitcase in the overhead bin. Now you have a choice to make. Do you attempt all of this one handed? Or do you put your coffee down?

I bring this up only because my mother witnessed this very conundrum play out on a recent flight. Unfortunately the passenger chose to do everything one handed, which led to the spilling of his hot coffee all over himself (ouch!) and splashing it on his seatmate.  My mom said that the seatmate was actually really nice about it, but I would be so incredibly mad if someone spilled coffee on me. Especially because there are other, less risky options to manage your hot beverages!

There are a few different ways that I handle my coffee during boarding. Best case scenario, the middle seat is empty. I will put the middle seat tray down and set my coffee on there while I put my bags up. If you’re sitting in the window seat it gets a little trickier but the same idea can work. If there is simply no way to put your beverage down while you put your bags up, I would ask your seatmate to hold it. It feels a little presumptuous, but I would way rather hold someone’s drink than deal with coffee stains on my work clothes! Of course, maybe the best option is to bring your own spill-proof coffee mug so it becomes a non-issue…..

Readers, what do you do with your coffee/tea/other beverage while boarding?

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  1. I never even thought of asking my seatmate to help, but that is the best solution. I hate putting drinks on tray tables. I’m always worried that the person in the seat in front would make a sudden, rough move and spill my drink.

  2. Just two days ago I was boarding a flight on the heels of a family. Mom, dad, two kids – a toddler perhaps 18 months old, and about a 3-4 year old.
    Mom had a huge shoulder bag (diapers?) and was pulling a carryon. The kids were each pulling child sized suitcase. The dad had on a big backpack, held one of the kids by the hand, and in the other was balancing one of those cardboard drink holders from Starbucks. Two hot beverages, two iced ones (treats for kids I guess). As they all stumbled ahead of me onto the plane, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the heck this was going to play out when they got to their seats. I’m pretty sure the smaller one was a lap baby to boot, from the overheard conversation. I took my seat before getting a chance to see how it worked out for them further back, but come on… Seemed like total masochism to me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the hot drinks….

  3. You’re not allowed to bring coffee in a takeaway cup onboard planes here in Australia. I was stopped at the gate once & told I couldn’t take it on. Now I decant it into my Starbucks insulated cup & put it in my bag before i board.

  4. You are not allowed to board with hot drinks in the UK. I’m surprised it is allowed anywhere, not only because of the dangers when boarding but also during taxi and take-off.

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