Airplane Etiquette: 10 Most Offensive Behaviors

Air travel is a marvel of modern convenience, connecting people from different corners of the globe. However, as we squeeze into crowded cabins, it’s important to remember that we’re sharing this flying metal tube with fellow passengers. Good manners should prevail even at 35,000 feet. We asked over 1,000 people about what their fellow passengers’ pet peeves were, and here were their answers:

In no particular order…

  1. Not sharing armrests: Armrests are the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) of the airplane seat. It’s only fair to share them with your neighbors. Hogging both armrests can be an uncomfortable experience for the person seated next to you.
  2. Taking off shoes or socks on a short-haul flight: While it’s tempting to kick off your shoes to get comfortable, it’s important to remember that a crowded plane is not your living room. The odor from bare feet can be quite unpleasant for your seatmates, especially on short flights. 
  3. Talking on speaker phones or phones before takeoff or upon landing: Everyone knows that electronic devices must be switched off during these critical phases of the flight. It’s important however not to disregard this rule and force everyone to hear a loud conversation. See an example of this in action here.
  4. Using noisy devices, watching movies, or listening to music without headphones: Your choice of entertainment should not be shared with the entire cabin. Invest in a good pair of headphones to ensure your fellow passengers are not subjected to your musical or movie preferences (no matter how good you think they are)!
  5. Eating smelly foods on board: While airplane food isn’t always the most appetizing, it’s essential to be considerate when bringing your snacks. Avoid pungent, aromatic foods that could turn the cabin into a smelly battleground.
  6. Personal grooming: Save your beauty regimen for the privacy of your bathroom. Trimming nails, brushing hair, or using strong-smelling lotions in close quarters can be both unpleasant, unhygienic, and distracting for those around you.
  7. Hogging overhead bins with jackets or similar: Overhead bin space is limited and precious. If your jacket or small item can fit under the seat in front of you, place it there instead of taking up valuable space for larger carry-on luggage.
  8. Reclining a seat during meal times: Meal service on airplanes can already be a cramped affair. Reclining your seat during meal times can make it nearly impossible for the person behind you to eat comfortably. Keep your seat upright until the trays are cleared.
  9. Racing to get out of the plane before others: Patience is a virtue, and this holds even when disembarking. Wait for the row in front of you to exit before making your move. Rushing can create chaos and slow down the process for everyone.
  10. Being too chatty with fellow passengers: While some in-flight conversations can be enjoyable, it’s crucial to gauge your seatmate’s interest. If they’re engrossed in a book, watching a movie, or simply looking to relax, respect their personal space and solitude. Sleep masks, headphones, reading materials, or simply lowering your hat or putting up the hood of a sweatshirt can subtly signal your desire for personal space.

In addition to these specific etiquette tips, remember that small gestures can go a long way in promoting a friendly atmosphere on a flight. 

Lastly, let’s not forget the golden rule of flying: be kind and considerate. Avoid being judgmental of other people and always strive to be friendly and understanding. We’re all in this experience together, and a little empathy can make the journey much more pleasant for everyone involved!

Want to learn when it is or isn’t okay to recline your seat? Read the etiquette on this hot topic here.

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