Frequent fliers unite! We’ve partnered with Keryn Means of Walking On Travels to review some of the most important unspoken rules of airplane etiquette. Follow her advice and be courteous when you take to the friendly skies — your fellow passengers will thank you.
We’ve all been there. You get settled into your airplane seat and then that one passenger walks onboard and ruins what could have been a few hours of bliss. Smelly food eater, loud snorer, arm rest hog, laptop crusher — there is one on every flight. When did airplane etiquette get thrown out the window? Probably around the same time as those cute pillbox hats the Pan Am flight attendants used to wear.
Well, I’m here to remind you to treat each other with kindness while you fly together. What does that even mean? It means that you need to remember that there are others on the plane with you. And most of all, an airplane is not the place where you let those manners your mama taught you go to waste.
Be Mindful of Allergies
Allergies are a real thing, whether you believe it or not. Some people can react from the mere existence of a peanut in the air, while others have to come in contact or eat them to have a reaction. Many take every precaution, but as decent human beings, we could help them out too. On a recent flight, I pulled out a bag of peanut butter M&Ms. I paused for a moment and turned to the guy next to me and asked “do you happen to have a peanut allergy?” He replied no, and then thanked me for even thinking to ask. I then offered him some of my M&Ms (again, it’s polite at that point) and he declined, but it was in that moment that I realized we have lost our humanity when we fly. We don’t want to be inconvenienced and stop eating what we love, but what about how it effects everyone around us? Will it kill me not to eat peanuts for one flight? Nope.
Avoid Onions or Garlic
Just say no. Stop buying the smelly food. If I could ban all fast food, I would. It permeates the air and takes over the flight. All potent foods are not allowed. Nothing can get rid of that smell in your section, except the dreaded perfume spray, at which point we really have to ask, which is worse? Old onion food smell, or your strong perfume or cologne that will linger for days? You be the judge. But don’t eat or spray it near me. Stick with your bland basics when flying. Your neighbor and your stomach will thank you.
Respect the Arm Rest
There has been a long debate over who controls the arm rest on a flight. The aisle and window seats are easy. You get the outer armrest. Those middle arm rests are much trickier. Some say the middle seat should get access to both arm rests. Some say everyone should get the arm rest to their right or left (depending on the side of the plane you are on) since technically the window seat doesn’t have an arm rest. Others think you should be able to share. One person gets the front of the arm rest while another person gets the back of the arm rest. Let’s all just agree that the middle seat is the worst seat. If they want an arm rest, you give them an arm rest.
Tomato Juice is the Mistress of Murphy’s Law
Why, oh why, do airlines continue to serve tomato juice? Murphy’s Law states, “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.” Never was that so true when it comes to tomato juice. She courts Murphy’s Law and likes to play with him endlessly. Will that cup of juice spill or won’t it? Will you smell like stewed tomatoes the rest of the day or not? No one knows. But, will you really risk it? After all, tomato juice is also flirting with Newton’s Third Law Of Motion — “What Goes Up Must Come Down.”
There is No Salon on This Plane
Ladies, there is not a salon on the plane. Please do not feel like you need to start one either. A plane is not where you do your own manicure and certainly don’t start clipping your toenails (this goes for you too, gentlemen!) or giving yourself a pedicure. Those fumes are noxious and no one needs to smell them. Don’t spray hairspray at your seat or perfume anywhere on the plane. Feel free to fix your hair in the bathroom, but not in any communal spaces.
Keep Your Knees to Yourself
The middle seat is awful. We all get this. There is nothing worse than a very large man in that middle seat next to a very small person on the window or the aisle though, especially if the the window passenger is a woman. Let’s get one thing straight. Keep your legs together gentlemen. I understand that you are cramped. Go walk the aisles. Your size does not give you permission to wander your knees into my leg room territory. I should not have to squish into the aisle or up against the window to give your legs more room just so they aren’t rubbing up against mine. The lines of personal space have already been drawn. Stay within the boundaries of the seat in front of you and the lines of your own seat. Period. I paid for my seat. You paid for yours. Stick to it.
The Aisle is Not Extra Legroom
We all know that airplane legroom is at an all-time minimum. First-class fares aren’t an option for everyone. Upgrades don’t happen as much as we would like. However, just because you have long legs, this does not mean you can stretch them out for the entire flight in the aisle. Moms are rushing kids to the bathroom, flight attendants are trying to bring that drink trolley back and forth, and the tired business traveler is just trying to stretch his legs without tripping over yours. Keep your legs to yourself and we will all be OK.
Give the Laptop Look Back
Nothing is worse than settling in for a good work session and then having the seat in front of you come slamming back into your screen. Be kind. Give a simple look back to see where the person behind you is at, where their knees come to behind the seat, and give them a heads up that you will be going back. This gives them time to move their laptop so it is not crushed. Go slowly. There is no need to fly back. An extra second will still get you resting in no time.
My Head is Not a Prop
How many times have you been jarred awake because the person behind you used your seat to pull themselves up? Once, twice, a few dozen times? We all have done it, but here’s what you need to know. Your seat is your seat. Not the seat in front of you. Not the seat behind you. Use your arm rest to help you up. Not the entire back of the seat in front of you, pushing it forward and then back up again. That person is sleeping, working, watching TV. They don’t need to be bothered by you getting up to go to the toilet five times during a two-hour flight.
Not All Bags Fit. Deal With It.
Not all bags fit in the overhead compartment, no matter how they are labeled in the store. My sister once sat on a delayed flight after a man jammed his bag so hard into the overhead bin, so convinced that it would fit, that he broke the lock mechanism. He delayed an entire plane full of people because he was running late, so he just had to get his carry-on suitcase up there so he didn’t have to wait for his bag at his destination. Instead of asking for help, he broke the plane.
Many people missed their connecting flights, missed cruise departures, and were late for meetings. Worst of all, he didn’t even apologize to his fellow passengers. Gate check your carry-on bag. It is better to wait for your bag on the jet way or at baggage claim, than to delay an entire flight for over an hour because you broke a plane.
Fly friendly, my friends!
Keryn Means of Walking On Travels is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.