Airplane Etiquette is a hot-button issue right now. Traveling is not as glamorous or fun as it used to be. It’s become a stressful event that we do to get from one place to the other. Bringing kindness and consideration for others into the mix has the potential to make it more enjoyable for all. As we head into summer travels, here’s my take on what you should and should not do on an airplane.
Have your documents ready for the security screening
This should be obvious, but I’m always surprised when I see someone fumbling for their ID as they approach the security screening agent. Instead, get your ID ready to show as soon as you walk into the airport. Put it in an easy to reach pocket to be able to easily pull it out when you get to the front of the line.
Board the plane when your group is called
We were all taught in kindergarten to wait your turn. This is the grown-up version of that.
Don’t block the aisle as you get into your seat – put your items in overhead bin as quickly as possible so you don’t hold up the other travelers
This one is tricky because you want to make sure you have everything you need before you sit down. Try to pull out your reading materials and anything else you may need before you board the plane so you’re not holding up the line as you retrieve them from your carry-on. Another option is to place your items in the overhead bin and once everyone is settled, get the items you need at that time.
If asked to move your seat to allow families to sit together, go ahead and move unless you have a valid reason why you can’t or won’t.
I did a TikTok video on this and received a lot of backlash. If you’ve paid extra for your seat or selected a specific seat for comfort, legroom, whatever reason, no one would expect you to change seats. Plus, no one should ask unless you are exchanging like-for-like (i.e., aisle for aisle or window for window seat). If changing your seat is no big deal, just do it. I’ll bet you’ll make their day.
Reclining your seat
There’s a lot of chatter about this on social media. Should you recline your airline seat? My thought is, if the airline has seats that are reclinable, then they are meant to recline. Before you do, give the person sitting behind you a heads up. Recline your seat slowly, especially if they’re using their tray for food or beverage.
Armrests - Who gets them?
Evidently, there is this little-known rule: The person in the window seat has the view. The person in the aisle seat has the ability to come and go as they wish. The person in the middle should have the use of both arm rests as a consolation prize. This should be part of the announcements made before takeoff!
Don’t be a Chatty Cathy or Chatty Chad
Not everyone wants to have a conversation the whole flight and the rest of the plane doesn’t need to hear your life story. I was recently on a flight where to two men behind me starting chatting the moment they sat down. They did not stop THE WHOLE FLIGHT! Conversations like this disrupt people who may want to read or sleep. Please be courteous and keep your chatter to a minimum.
Use headphones when watching a movie
Most airlines require headphones when watching a movie and even make an announcement about it before takeoff. Bring your headphones or ask if the airline has a pair you can use.
Avoid bringing smelly food onto the plane
Strong smelling food in an enclosed space can be nauseating for some people.
When disembarking the plane, wait until it’s your turn
This is just like boarding the plane but in reverse. Wait your turn. If you are going to miss your connecting flight, notify the flight attendant and they may ask your fellow passengers to allow you to disembark first.
Be considerate to the flight attendant and follow any requests they make
They don’t make the rules but it is their job to enforce them. Be nice.
Be patient with other travelers and be prepared for minor inconveniences
Accept that part of traveling includes some inconveniences. When packing for your trip, remember to pack your patience too.
I believe we live in a world where kindness and consideration are valued and that’s what etiquette is all about. Even on an airplane.
Suzy Lins is a certified etiquette trainer located in Southern California. Educating on manners and etiquette to help people gain confidence to master business and social situations is the core of her teaching.