Be aware of backpacks and shoulder bags when walking down airplane aisles

On my trip last week I saw a few glaring examples that many travelers just don’t think about where their bags and backpacks are. So many passengers seated in the aisle got whacked in the face or the arm by backpacks and shoulder bags. None of it was on purpose, but the standing passengers were completely oblivious to the amount of space their bags took up.

When you are wearing your backpack it’s SO important to be aware of how much space it takes up behind you when going down an airplane aisle. When you turn to say something to the person behind you that backpack will likely hit a seated passenger in the face. If you’ve got a bag on your shoulder it’s possible you’re unwittingly hitting every seated passenger you walk past.

The best way to make sure you’re not hitting anyone is to hold your backpack or shoulder bag by the strap so that it’s close to the ground. If you’ve got a spinner carry-on, a good solution is to put your bag on top of it and push it sideways down the aisle in front of you.

And remember, if you accidentally hit someone be sure to apologize!

Readers, how do you carry your backpacks or shoulder bags on airplane aisles? Have you been hit by a wayward bag?


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  1. I hate roller bags. People wander the airport with this huge thing behind them totally unaware they are running over your toes or blocking the entrance to the bathroom. Just oblivious.

  2. Yes! This might be my biggest pet peeve of air travel. If it were up to me people who wear backpacks on airplanes would be automatically placed on the no-fly list. In my opinion, the backpack should be off your back before you get in the boarding line. It’s too easy to turn around in a crowd and hit someone.

    I’m actually really disappointed to see Tumi (I own their products) selling such a large line of backpacks now. No one should be encouraging people to travel with backpacks.

  3. Thank you!! This exact issue drives me CRAZY! I am an “aisle seat” person & am constantly dodging backpacks & oversized purses that are carelessly slung on a shoulder. Unfortunately, you are preaching to the choir…those who carry said overpacked & carelessly carried bags are probably not reading this. *high five* glad I’m not the only one who has this on my pet peeve list.

  4. I have been on both sides of this issue. I have been grazed by passing bags. But I am very forgiving about that, since I struggle with my luggage the aisles in many of the smaller planes on which I am forced to fly.

    I do not carry a backpack, but I do use a duffel-type page with a should strap. I generally try to carry it low, by the handles, but sometimes it’s tough to manage. I can get it down most aisles using the shoulder strap without hitting folks, but some aisles are very narrow, and some seated passengers exacerbate the problem by not being self aware (sticking heads and limbs intuit he aisle and partially obscuring the aisle with luggage). The aisle then becomes a veritable obstacle course–luggage or no luggage in tow.

    I generally do not sit in an aisle seat. But when I do, I try to ensure that my belongings and appendages are well clear of the aisle. I have determined that both walking and seated passengers should be more attentive to the aisles when folks are boarding the plane.

  5. I am so glad I don’t fly in airplanes. It’s like a school bus staffed by cranky DMV officials.

    Just say no to the sardine can.

  6. I’m that guy who has hit some passenger with my backpack. So I learned to carry it in front of me in hand to avoid whacking people now.

  7. Carried a back pack for years, always careful of others. As for the idea I should on a no-fly list for doing so is absurd. I also gladly put it up in storage, since I earned that right by checking my bigger bag (never put it in my feet area).

  8. For the longest time, I’ve wanted gate agents to tell people (e.g. during the announcements during the boarding process) to take their backpacks off their backs and hold them in front of their bodies. I’m an aisle person and constantly get whacked by backpacks carried by unknowing newbies. My only defense is to lean strongly into the personal space of the person to my right, and that’s not a cool thing to do.

  9. Totally agree with Gizmodad. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hit in the shoulders, arms, or face by some idiot’s backpack. Gate agents absolutely should require passengers to remove them or carry them in front.

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