Flying etiquette should be common sense, but unfortunately there’s nothing common about it these days.
If you are looking for ways to be polite on a plane, or just need a safe place to rant about others who are not, then this is the post for you.
7 Essential Tips for Flying Etiquette
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Cut Yourself Off
Dierks Bentley may have made it sound like a blast (after all, the 737 was rockin’ like a G6), but getting drunk on a plane is one one of the trashiest things you can do and a huge violation of flying etiquette.
I’ve been stuck in a tube of metal hurling through the sky at 500mph with drunk girls too many times.
Two of the most memorable experiences:
- My 8:30AM flight from Chicago to Houston.
I was going home to Houston for spring break, but the three girls behind me were just connecting for a week of debauchery on South Padre Island.
One of them drank three Bloody Marys of her own before downing her friend’s when she got up to use the bathroom. Rows 17-20 were then treated to a graphic story of her exploits from spring break last year. Don’t be that girl.
- My 10-hour flight to Paris from Houston next to the lady who inspired this post.
This girl drank like, six mini-bottles of Chardonnay in the first two hours of the flight and then got so belligerent with the flight attendant that she got cut off.
And I say “like six” because that’s how many I counted after she spilled over half of the last one onto my lap. Who knows. The discarded bottles were clustered around her feet. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple had rolled back a few rows.
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Pack with the Plane in Mind
Put your headphones, medication, and snacks in the small bag that will go under the seat in front of you. If you only bring a rolling suitcase, or would prefer to have all the leg room you can, get the things you think you’ll want from your bag out and place them in the seatback pocket.
Don’t be that girl; the one who needs to get into the overhead storage (STORAGE being the key word here, y’all) bin 50 times during a two hour flight and has so much junk with her that it spills over into her neighbor’s lap (side eye at you, Houston to Paris rowmate. I didn’t really want to read your Spanish homework, but you put it open on my tray table soo??) Please plan ahead.
Sit Up during Meals
I’m of two minds on whether or not reclining your seat on an airplane is rude. I mean, I definitly hate it when my forward neighbor comes careening into my lap, but I also definitly like to lean back when I’m trying to take a nap.
- So, my general rule for flying etiquette is this:
Only recline your airplane seat when you are 100% going to take a nap and always sit it up during the meal service. Nobody wants to eat out of their laps.
And, if the person behind you asks you to put your seat up, work with them. It doesn’t mean you are required to sit straight as a board for the entirety of your flight, but don’t be like my Houston to Paris rowmate who actually got out of her seat and almost tried to fight the gentleman behind her (who was well over six feet tall) when he asked her if she would put her seat up for a little while.
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Monitor Your Volume
My lovely seatmate also played the entirety of Nicky Minaj’s Pink Friday on repeat while she took a snooze. I honestly love me some Nicki, but there’s only so many times you can listen to her jams blasting from your neighbor’s headphones before getting irritated.
Tbh “so many times” roughly translates to the first 30 seconds of the opening track. Seriously. There’s this amazing trick you can do where you take your earphones out, see if you can hear what you’re listening to when you hold them at your shoulders, and then adjust your volume accordingly.
This also goes for how loudly you speak. Please use your inside voice on airplanes. They are very small. We can all hear you.
Also (wow this post is getting a little bit ranty), flying etiquette 101: if you’re taking a flight before 8am, maybe don’t speak at volume level 10000000 to the person next to you, even if y’all are best pals, until we are AT LEAST all the way to 35,000 feet. Have some compassion on the sleepyheads who don’t want to hear about your next meeting.
Take the Lead of Your Rowmates
Have you ever sat down on a plane and felt immediately trapped by a chatty Cathy? Or maybe you feel disappointed the man in 14C isn’t more chipper?
People want different things on planes. Some (most?) prefer to just get to where they are going and not learn their neighbor’s life story. Others are looking for a talking buddy. However, no matter which camp you fall into, it’s a important part of flying etiquette to maintain your civility.
If you don’t want to chat, a quick “Hey, I’m going to get some rest. Nice to meet you.” Or “Enjoy the flight! I’ve got some work to do.” should be enough for most to get the picture. If you are out here trying to make friends, be sure to be alert for the these subtle brush offs.
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Be Cool about Bathroom Breaks
As a lover of the window seat, I can promise you that I hold it as long as I can because I don’t want to bother you, but sometimes a girls gotta go.
If you sit on the aisle, even if you’re in a dead sleep, proper flying etiquette says that you don’t have the right to be irritated if one of your rowmates wakes you up because they need to use the restroom. People need to pee.
Unlike frequent access to the overhead bin, frequent trips to the bathroom are definitly something to accommodate.
Shower the Day of Your Flight
I’ve started carrying peppermint essential oil to rub under my nose with me on flights because so many people seem to think it’s chill not to shower when they are about to embark on a hours-long journey in a metal tube with recycled air.
Please you guys. The day of your flight is not the day to skip your shower.
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Solid tips! I’m also a window seat lover and have only ever used an airplane toilet once, and that was just because the other rwo people in my row took a bathroom break too. I’m also a big fan of comfy plane clothes!
I tend to wear stretchy running pants, or a loose dress if I’m trying to be fancy! If the flight is under two hours, I tend to just not go the bathroom as well, unless I really gotta go and have a tight connection coming up. Can’t be wasting time in bathroom lines haha.
Some very good tips! I have to say I have been pretty lucky on long flights so far, I live in Australia and I return to France on a regular basis so I know what it’s like to spend 24 hours on a plane. It’s not hard to be considerate when we’re crammed into a small space. My biggest gripe is kids who whinge and parents who don’t bother soothing them!
I hear that! When a little kid cries on a plane, or is restless, I have a lot of sympathy for them, as they are just kids…but sometimes I’m just like “?????” at how the parents respond.
Yes to all of them! I am still flabbergasted as to why people don’t put their seats up during meal times and I have to ask my front neighbor to do so.
I actually hate talking to people on flights and have been lucky so far that I haven’t had a chatter next to me (this is probably going to change now that I have typed this 😉 but I will remember those very polite brush-offs you have mentioned.
I really don’t like talking to people either haha. Once on the way back to college I was next two a man for like three hours who was telling me about his divorce and custody battle. I almost went skydiving that day haha.
Is there any way I can make it mandatory for people to read this post before flying?! haha!
hahaha! If you figure it out, please let me know!
Everyone should read this before flying- especially about not getting drunk on a flight! I’ve been sat near rowdy drubk people top many times!
Yes!! if you want to party, please get drunk AT your destination, not on the way!
Great list! I’ll never understand why the sorts of people who are able to fall asleep before we even take off, and then sleep through the entire flight, would choose an aisle seat! It just doesn’t make sense, since they’re bound to get woken up! I’d also add a few things: 1) Don’t take off your shoes! And 2) there’s an etiquette to the arm rests. Generally the person in the middle seat gets both armrests, since the people on either side have more room to lean.
100% agree about the armrests. I hate when I sit in the middle and I just have to hug myself. I am guilty of taking my shoes off sometimes on really long flights, but not my socks! I’m not out here trying to make people smell my feet haha.
excellent points. I’m not sure I agree with Rachel above about not taking your shoes of though.. I got regularly from oz to the UK (AND back) and the first thing I do is take my shoes off ? put them back on for toilet breaks though!
I’m the exact same way!
Woah that article describes exactly my feelings! I WISH everyone would read it before flying! Can we please make it mandatory?
I’m officially starting the campaign for doing that! Totally reaching out to the UN as I TYPE hahaha.