10 Common Flying Etiquette Complaints and How to Address Them (Part 2)

10 Common Flying Etiquette Complaints and How to Address Them (Part 2)

First off…. I’m planning out my content for the next six months and need your help! I’m working on new blog content, courses, workbooks, workshops and more because I’m super excited to help make business travel easier for all of you lovely people.

But here’s the deal: I want to know which topics YOU need help with most. So I put together a little survey for y’all, which you can take right here. It will take just a few minutes and will help me SO much. Also! I’ll be drawing two names at random to win a $30 gift certificate to Amazon. Woohoo!


a close-up of a pink headphonesA 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.

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 Two)

Pulling on my seatback to stand up or sit down

Oh boy. Another one of those pet peeves for me! There’s nothing like drifting off to sleep only to be awoken when your head ricochets on your seat because the person behind you is using your seat as their personal handle. On the one hand, I believe people truly just don’t realize how much it affects others when they grab their seat to help them stand up. And of course, there are those that genuinely need the assistance getting in and out of their seat. But for the most part, for Pete’s sake people, use your own seat to get up!

If someone grabs your headrest to get up feel free to say something. Even if it’s just a (slightly passive-aggressive), “Whoa!” Something as simple as turning around and to look at the person can help them realize they’re impacting someone else.

Person in aisle won’t stand up to let window seat in (or person in window seat doesn’t give you a chance to stand up)

First off, let me say: Don’t ever expect anyone to climb over you! Also, don’t ever feel like you have to climb over anyone!

If you get to your row, say, “Hi! I’m sitting in the window/middle seat there,” and the person in the aisle makes it seem like they expect you to scoot past them or climb over them, DON’T DO IT. Just ask them nicely, “Do you mind standing up?” At that point if they don’t stand up I would just wait, staring at them, until they feel like they have to.

On the flip side, if you’re in the aisle and someone starts to climb over you, it’s totally fine to say, “Hang on a second, let me stand up!” and then do so immediately. Yikes.

Personal grooming

Yeah. This one gets me going. The complaints range from fellow passengers clipping or painting their nails, brushing their hair, spraying things on their face or hair, and (THE WORST) wearing strong perfume or cologne.

There may not be a ton you can do if someone near you is brushing their hair or clipping their nails. It’s not ideal (and can be icky) for people to do that in such a confined space but it’s not on the level of other types of grooming. In other words, doing anything that introduces strong smells into an airplane such as using nail polish or wearing strong perfume.

I’m sure you love your perfume but there are people who get instant, raging migraines from certain fragrances, and it is very possible you will come into contact with those people while flying. There have been times when I was ill for an entire 4-hour flight because of sitting in such close proximity to someone wearing incredibly strong lavender spray. I try to always have a mint tea bag to smell or a scarf to breathe through just in case, but these don’t always do the trick.

Anytime I write about not wearing perfume there is the inevitable comment: “Why should I not wear my perfume just because it might bother someone else? Maybe those people shouldn’t be flying!” or some variation. Sure, I can totally tell my boss I can’t fly because someone may wear a perfume that sets off my migraine. That will go off really well!

It’s called common courtesy, friends. Anytime you’re trapped in close proximity with hundreds of people it makes the time smoother for everyone if you think of others just a little bit.

Playing game or listening to music with volume so loud people can hear it several rows up

This is annoying, but I would just put my own headphones in and drown it out. I worry for that person’s long-term hearing though!

Reclining their seat

I’ve written entire posts about whether it’s rude to recline your seat, and let me tell you: opinion is very divided. In my opinion, it is NOT rude to recline your seat. For many, especially those with back issues, it is the only way they can spend a flight without being in agony. That being said, there are ways to do it that make it less aggravating to the person behind you. First, lean back gradually and try to avoid rocketing your seat back as fast as possible. Second, please don’t recline during food service.

If you are behind someone reclining unfortunately there’s just not that much you can do about it. I’m sorry.

While I don’t think it’s rude to recline your seat, I don’t do it personally unless I’m in premium economy. It’s generally not necessary for my comfort, and I want the person behind me to have that extra space if they need it.


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, are any of these on your Top 10 list? How would you handle these issues?


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  1. My mother was telling me a story of her recent journey to Asia and how for literally one full hour her seatmate was clipping his toenails before dinner was to be served. She complained to the flight attendant but the flight attendant said there was nothing she could do. She vowed never to fly that airline again.

  2. The first and last items are closely related IME. If I need to get out of my seat or just stand up, I certainly don’t grab the seat back/ head rest in front of me on purpose — but if that passenger has reclined as far as their seat will go, it’s just about impossible for me to get out of my seat without bumping theirs. I’m a 5′ 3″ woman of average size and shape, but there’s only so much I can bend, flex, and contort, especially if I’m also trying to set my laptop/ book/ phone down while I go use the facilities.

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