Practicing airplane etiquette can be the golden ticket to better travel experiences, by beginning and ending your journey with a bit of refinement. This is especially crucial in an age when traveller comfort and convenience (at least, for those of us who typically fly economy) are swapped for seat affordability.
There are many unspoken rules of in-flight behaviour—based on simple manners and common sense—that serve as reminders that our own actions can affect other passengers on board. Here are a few etiquette tips for air travel, to help make those long flights a little more bearable for everyone, including yourself!
Airplane etiquette basics
1. Be considerate of everyone else’s time—don’t be late!
Passengers who are late for boarding their plane risk causing departure delays, which will have a domino effect for everyone else on board. Passengers (including yourself) might be late for connecting flights, pre-arranged transportation arrangements, or meetings at the destination.
2. Don’t ‘space out’
Being respectful of personal boundaries doesn’t mean you have to shrink into an uncomfortable statuesque pose for the entirety of your flight. It simply means that you shouldn’t encroach on your neighbour’s space, if you can help it. Parking your legs in the aisles just to enjoy more leg room or taking up too much overhead bin space with excessive carry-on luggage won’t win you any new friends, either!
3. Check before you recline your seat
To recline, or not to recline, that is the question; on the one hand, you want to be as comfortable as you can be during your flight. On the other, this means less room for the passenger sitting directly behind you. Find a good compromise and give them a ‘heads-up’ just before reclining your seat. Reclining without warning might end up in spilled drinks, damaged laptops or bonked heads!
4. Clean up your act
Comfortable travel can also be linked to basic hygiene. After all, who in their right mind would enjoy a long flight marked by strong body odour or smelly feet? The same goes for strong perfumes and colognes or even pungent foods—passengers sitting next to you might be sensitive to scents or can even experience allergic reactions.
5. Turn it down
When you’re stuck on a flight with nowhere to go but up and down the aisles, it makes sense to keep yourself busy in your seat, to stave off boredom. However, keep fellow passengers in mind when listening to music, watching an in-flight movie, reading an e-book or working on your laptop. Bright screens on mobile devices and media cranked up to a high volume all contribute to the light and noise pollution levels on a plane. You might end up disturbing others who are trying to do the same things as you, or those trying to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
6. Be friendly—but not too friendly
If strangers from all walks of life could find something in common while flying 35,000 feet up in the air, they’d probably find it in travel. It’s a lot easier to get acquainted with people from other cultures whom you otherwise would never have the chance to cross paths with, so chat it up! It’s good to be affable with other passengers, but at the same time, be respectful of their peace and privacy. Sometimes, people just want to mind their own business, and that’s okay too.
7. Don’t get drunk
Whether or not there’s truth to the claim that alcohol is more effective at getting you drunk at higher altitudes, it’s not the best idea to become inebriated mid-flight (or pre-flight, for that matter). This is especially true if you’re the type of drunk who gets a little too uninhibited after a few rounds—you wouldn’t want to end up trending on social media for all the wrong reasons, would you?
8. Don’t make a scene
Everyone knows that flying coach usually isn’t going to result in the most pleasant experience for travellers. In fact, some experience much more tense or unpleasant situations than others, due to unavoidable coincidences or just plain bad luck. But no matter the situation, try keep your composure, especially while up in the air. I repeat, you wouldn’t want to end up trending on social media for all the wrong reasons, would you?
9. Wait your turn
When disembarking at the terminal, don’t rush to the front of the plane before passengers seated in the rows in ahead of you have had a chance to—you’re all on the same flight and you’ve all got somewhere to go. Conversely, do your part in helping the exiting line move along efficiently, by using any wait time to tidy up your belongings and make sure that you’ve left nothing behind at your seat.
The golden rule for air travel, which is really the same rule for any type of travel on land or sea, should be to treat others the way you’d like to be treated, regardless of cultural nuances and societal differences. Much like getting Multi Trip Annual Insurance, where you pay a little to enjoy long-term benefits, a little decorum goes a long way!
If you have other air travel or airplane etiquette tips, share them with us in the comments below!