10 Common Flying Etiquette Complaints and How to Address Them (Part 1)

Last week I asked my Facebook followers what other passengers do that bothers them the most. While I am quite aware that people feel very strongly about some of the etiquette infractions they experience while flying, I wasn’t truly prepared for the onslaught of responses. There is a lot of frustration built up out there! In fact, I was only planning on writing about five flying etiquette complaints, but since there were so many I’ve divided them up into two posts.

If you are concerned you’re unwittingly breaking an etiquette rule, or feel paralyzed because there seem to be so many rules to follow, here is a general rule of thumb: be aware of your personal space and try to stay within it. This goes for basically everything–noises, luggage, touching, grooming, and seating.

Below I’ve summarized the first five of the ten that I heard most frequently, as well as how to manage if you experience one of these.

10 Common Flying Etiquette Complaints (Part One)

Number 1: Carry-on luggage abuses

Oh boy. This can really get me going. People putting their suitcases over the seats in the front of the plane when they’re sitting in the back is one of my major pet peeves!! Unfortunately there’s not much you can do about it except don’t do it yourself. If someone has their bag under the seat in front of you then you are fully within your rights to ask them to move it. It may not feel comfortable but it is your space that you are entitled to. Say, “Excuse me, do you mind moving your bag? My purse won’t quite fit.” If you hate to say something, grab a flight attendant.

If there are coats in the overhead bin where you need to put your suitcase just move them over. If needed ask around: “Is this your coat? Mind if I scoot it over a bit?”

As always, if you need some assistance feel free to ask a flight attendant. They generally have no problem moving bags around as needed.

Number 2: Hitting people with a backpack while going down the aisle

Another one of my triggers! I have been hit in the head or arm by backpacks more often than I can remember. Unfortunately this is another one of those that is hard to do something about if it happens to you. Often the person with the backpack doesn’t notice what they’ve done, and by the time you’re able to react they’ve already moved on. If you have a chance, a quick, “Excuse me!” may at least help them realize what’s going on. And of course, when you have a backpack make sure you hold it when walking down the aisle rather than wearing it and hitting people.

Number 3: Invading your space

Most of the time if someone is invading your personal space then the best way to handle it is to be friendly but direct. If you are sitting in the middle and someone is hogging the armrest, say something like, “Hey there, mind if I share the armrest with you?” If someone has their hair flipped over your seat and you can’t see your IFE screen, tap them on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me! Your hair is gorgeous but I’m not able to see my movie! Do you mind moving it?”

If someone has their legs spread open and is invading your space that way (yay for manspreaders!) it can feel awkward for some to be like, hey dude you are touching me. In that case I would make a show out of trying to get something out of my bag that’s under the seat in front of me, then say, “Hi, I need a little space so I can get out my computer/book/snack.” If they don’t stop I would repeat as often as necessary to get the point across.

Number 4: Kids kicking your seat

This was mentioned several times! On the one hand, it is super annoying and can be downright painful for those with back issues. On the other hand, I know traveling with kids is hard and sometimes the kid doesn’t even realize they’re doing it, much less the parent. Generally if this happens to me I turn around and say, “Hey buddy! How are you?” to draw the parent’s attention without being a jerk about it. And honestly, most of the time if that doesn’t stop it I just try to ignore it. If it’s really bad or painful for you I would say to the parent something like, “Sorry to bother you, but Junior is kicking my seat and it’s hurting my sciatica (or whatever medical term you prefer).”

Number 5: Bare feet

Sigh. I know people want to be comfortable while flying, especially on long flights. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t…is uncomfortable the right word?…for others to witness. Generally, I will never be barefoot in a plane. For very long flights I will take my shoes off but I always have socks on, and if I’m sitting up I keep my slippers on.

And I must say the next thing in all caps: KEEP YOUR FEET TO YOURSELF, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE OFF. Do not put your bare feet on someone else’s seat or armrest EVER. A couple of years ago on a flight home the woman behind me put her feet (in socks thank goodness) on my armrest and actually touched my arm a few times. I was asleep the second time, and let me tell you it scared the heck out of me. I about jumped out my skin, turned around, and shot her a “What the heck??” look almost before I woke up. Of course, after that she stopped so….

Alas, unfortunately if it really bothers you when others take their shoes off there’s not a ton you can do about it (as long as they’re keeping their feet to themselves).

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Next week I’ll write about the rest of the flying etiquette complaints I got. Just remember: it’s extremely helpful to bring whatever you need to block out annoyances on your flight. Noise cancelling headphones, an eye mask, a scarf or nice smelling tea bag to block scents…. You can’t control what others do but at least these items will help you control your personal environment as best you can.

Readers, what flying etiquette complaints do you think should be on the list? How would you handle the ones listed here?

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Pingbacks

  1. […] A couple of weeks ago I asked my Facebook followers what other passengers do that bothers them the most. While I am quite aware that people feel very strongly about some of the etiquette infractions they experience while flying, I wasn’t truly prepared for the onslaught of responses. There is a lot of frustration built up out there! In fact, I was only planning on writing about five flying etiquette complaints, but since there were so many I’ve divided them up into two posts. You can find 10 Common Flying Etiquette Complaints (Part 1) right here. […]

Comments

  1. Not sure about asking a flight attendant for help with putting your bag in the overhead. Many will refuse, out of fear of back injury, particularly on legacy American Airlines flights.

    The thing I hate the most is having the passenger behind you grab your seat back to haul themselves up. And yet, it’s very common. It’s good exercise to push yourself up without using the seat back

  2. Similar to the kids behind you kicking your seat, sometimes the person behind you is aggressive when using the touchscreen on the IFE monitor. Especially on long flights when I am trying to sleep, the person behind me is tap tap tapping.
    I blame the design of the IFE though…

  3. I so dislike being cramped in by the passenger in front of me reclining the seat. I really think it’s rude. Just because you CAN recline, doesn’t mean that it’s polite to do so. I don’t have enough room then to use my tray and it is very claustrophobic for me!

  4. Last time we flew was end of April, this year. We paid for our aisle seats. My DH sat beside a couple with the cutest 5 months old. They asked if he would might switching seats with him. So he ended up in the window seat, very cramped. The person in front of DH reclined his seat. DH reclined his seat consequently. The person behind him asked him to please sit up. DH felt very claustrophobic.

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