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27 Rules To Live By On Your Next Trip: The Ultimate Guide To Airplane Etiquette

Korean Air SeatsI think I’m sometimes in the air or at airports more than I am on the ground. Not really having a home is a contributing factor. This year (2014) alone, I’ve been on nineteen airlines and traversed five continents. I’ll tell you, people are pretty much the same the world over, but some are a bit more orderly than others.

I’ve seen some behavior for which my grandmother would have just given me one look and I’d know its wrong. So why would full grown adults do that in public no less.

As such, I’ve devised “The Ultimate Guide To Airplane Etiquette.” It highlights a few things to keep in mind when you are traveling on an airplane. Feel free to add your own as a comment below or share it with your friends you know are guilty of any of the items mentioned. Here goes:

  1. Take a shower – This sounds simple, but I’ve sat next to countless people who just did not shower that morning. Remember, you are sitting next to other people you don’t know in a confined space; don’t ruin their flight.
  2. Do not wear shorts – I see passengers wearing shorts on a flight and I don’t recommend it. The first is really hygiene. That seat you are sitting on has been sat on by other people who have sweated on it. At least if you have a long pants on or a long dress, there is a layer of fabric between you and the seat. Plus if you have to evacuate using the slides, wearing a shorts may cause leg burns as you make your way down the slide due to the friction.
  3. Wear a top with a sleeve – Same reason for not wearing a shorts; sweat.
  4. Dragon Air Airbus A320 WindowIf you are at the window seat, keep it open at least for takeoffs and landings – It is so annoying when the window keeper decides they don’t want to see outside so no one else should. Really? This is why I love some airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and SriLankan who asks that you open your windows on landing. This is also a safety concern. If something is wrong outside, you can alert the pilot. In my early airline days, we were pushing back an airplane in 25F weather and the back of the wing hit an object. None of us saw it, but a passenger inside the plane saw what happened and alerted the flight attendant. The flight was later cancelled.
  5. Korean AIr Seat Back VideoDon’t kick the seat back in front of you – Remember that there is someone sitting in the seat in front of you, so don’t kick it. Also, ensure that the little ones do not kick it either. If you have to get up, refrain from using the seat as support as it will irritate that passenger. Also, if you are using the video screen, don’t push on it too hard as it will irritate the person in front of you.
  6. Let your fellow passengers off the plane – If someone who is sitting in a row ahead of you misses their turn when deplaning for whatever reason, when they are ready let them off. It won’t kill you if you let them go before you. Wouldn’t you want the same treatment if that were you?
  7. If you cough, cover your mouth – You don’t want to give someone else your germs. Or maybe you do, but I can assure you, they don’t want it. That cough expels fluid and germs out your mouth, keep it under control.
  8. Don’t ask others to change seats with you unless its absolutely necessary – Other passengers have picked their seat based on where they want to sit. Don’t ask them to change it so you can be happy as its just not right. Instead, pick your seats as soon as you buy your ticket, if that is not possible, keep checking back with the airline. Most airlines allow you to do so at the time of booking or you can go back and do so on their web site. Other airlines make you pay if you want a seat assigned before departure. Otherwise, get to the airport early or check-in online and choose the seats you want. If you cannot sit together with your family members, then so be it, don’t make someone else’s flight miserable so you can be happy. It’s just not right or fair.
  9. Let the window passenger out when they ask – If you sit at the aisle, don’t get upset when the person in the middle seat or the window asks you to move to let them out. If I have the aisle, I always tell the passenger(s) not at the aisle that if I fall asleep do not hesitate to wake me up if they want to get up and stretch their legs.
  10. Dragon Air Airbus A320 SeatsDon’t hog the armrests – The person in the middle seat also paid for a seat, but for whatever reason they got a middle seat, for the love of God, share the armrest. Don’t jam your elbows down and keep the person in the middle from using the armrest at all; why is that necessary and what does it do for you? Except to say that you are not a nice person.
  11. And now for the uber sensitive one; what to do if you cannot fit in one seat – Look, it happens, its life, but its how you handle it that make it work. If you can’t afford to purchase an extra seat or sit in one of the wider seats in First, Business Class or Premium Economy, talk to the flight attendant on boarding or better yet ask the gate agent to help in anyway. If all that fails, then start a dialogue with the person next to you; say hello, apologize and ask if you can put the armrest up so it will be more comfortable for both us. You’d be amazed what a little dialogue can do. Under no circumstances, stay quiet and not talk to the person next to you about the situation. This makes it worst for them as they are embarrassed for you and themselves and everyone will have a bad flight including others who are watching the situation unfold from a distance. One a flight a few years ago, it was a 2-2 configuration on a JetBlue flight from New York-JFK to Houston, TX, I sat down and said to the guy next to me, dude, its O.K., we will make it work. He was so relieved that I said that and we chatted all the way to Houston. At the end of the flight, he thanked me. Be nice to people.
  12. The armrests are for your arms, not your feet – If you want a footrest, some airlines will provide one for you, otherwise, wait until you get off the plane; by definition, the armrest is for your arms.
  13. Korean Air Cabin InteriorThe space above your seat does not belong to you – You can place your bag anywhere on the plane in the cabin for which you’ve purchased a seat. Unless you get permission from the flight attendants to do anything differently.
  14. The aisle is not a playground parents – I love children, so don’t get me wrong, but think about it; the kids run heavily up and down the aisle all the other passengers are hearing is thump, thump, thump constantly. That’s not cool for anyone. It may work for you and your child as they are being occupied, but think about the other passengers on the plane. Just don’t do it, or if you do it, keep it at a minimum.
  15. Don’t yell at the parents because the child is crying – Flying is pretty stressful even for adults. The parent is doing their best to keep the little one quiet, your yelling does not help any. And parents, for takeoffs and landings, hold on to the little one for dear life as if the airplane have to come to a sudden stop, they will go flying and that’s not good. Also, have some kind of juice for them to drink on takeoffs and landings as that will clear their ears. usually their scream is as their ears is slow to adjust to the altitude. Some children are more sensitive than others, so bear that in mind.
  16. Be nice to the person next to you, a simple hello won’t kill you – I’ve flown on 12+ hours flights and the only exchange of words with me and the person next to me is not even an exchange, its just me saying “excuse me” so I could go to the restroom. When you get to your row, just say hello. You don’t have to hold a conversion, but you should be polite and say hello. And when a new person arrives in your row, say hello as well. And if you are the receiver of the hello, say hello back. I’ve learned so much from a saying hello to my fellow traveler. Who knows, that person my have to save your life later on.
  17. If your feet smells, keep your shoes on – This one sounds simple, right? Well a young man did not think so and has his feet, shoes off, on the back of my armrest. I put my hand on the armrest and my elbow hit his socked feet and they wreaked. Eventually I told him to put his foot down when I could not take it anymore. Besides, the floors are not as clean as you think. All kinds of shoes have walked on the carpets and who knows what they stepped on.
  18. Don’t place your bare feet on the bulkhead, its just not cool – No one wants to see your bare feet while on a plane, especially not on the bulkhead. If you do that at your home, the airplane is not your home so don’t do it.
  19. Don’t envy the First/Business class passengers – I see the looks all the time. Look, you don’t know how hard they worked to sit up there, just be nice and move on. It’s not their fault that you have to walk past them to your seat. Can’t you just be happy for people enjoying life?
  20. Watch the safety video – I have another post on what people do while the safety video is running. But I’ll say this, at most its five minutes of your time on the flight, please give the flight attendants your undivided attention as it may save your life if you have to evacuate the airplane. Besides, its just plain rude if you have people standing in front of you or a video playing for your benefit and you don’t pay attention.
  21. Say, please and thank you to the flight attendant; they may have to save your life later – This one is so simple, yet not many people do it. A little kindness goes a very far way. Try it next time, you’ll see what I mean.
  22. Don’t read the screen of the person next to you and then when you don’t like something you see, you complain about it – There is little privacy on an airplane, but try to keep your eyes on your own property. Quit being so nosey.
  23. Keep the cuddling to your bedroom please – The airplane cabin is not your make out place, so no making out please. It makes people very uncomfortable, so quit being an exhibitionist. You’ll have plenty of time when you get home.
  24. The seatbelt sign is really there for a reason, its not just to piss you off – When you are told to fasten your seatbelt, do it. If you don’t want to, then you should not bother to fly. If you are taxiing and you don’t have your belt on and the plane stops suddenly, you will go flying and guess what, more than likely you’ll ruin someone else’s day as well. So its not just about you. I’ve been in violent turbulence that lifted my cup of water from my chair table about three feet. Imagine what it can do to you.
  25. Don’t go applying nail polish during the flight; really? – During a flight is just not the time nor the place for this. You are in an enclosed tube where everyone is breathing the same recycled air supply, why would you think this is a good idea? Don’t do it.
  26. In the same vein, manicures and pedicures are off limits as well – No one wants to see that. Remember you are not at home you are in a public place. Get your act together.
  27. And for heaven’s sake, don’t fart! – At least if you do, try to camouflage it a bit.

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