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February 12, 2020

Airplane Etiquette 101

From Universal Pictures

We have all been there…sitting comfortably in our seat on an airplane when your seatmate comes with a plastic bag full of some food that makes the entire plane smell like a grease-soaked kitchen. With videos going viral like the jerk who punched the seat in front of him for reclining or passenger shaming for someone using their bare feet to choose a movie, it seems like people revert to savages at 30,000 feet. It may seem like common sense, but people are surprisingly awful sometimes. Here are my 10 tips for basic airplane etiquette.

Basic Plane Etiquette

Don’t overpack your carry-on

Don’t try to fit your entire life into a suitcase that is already bigger than it should be and call it a carry-on. Pay the $25 to check it, pack more efficiently, or get an airline-branded credit card that gives you a free checked bag. I see this happen literally every time I fly. With more and more people trying to avoid those extra charges at all costs, airlines have even introduced “Basic Economy”, which is a cheaper ticket but doesn’t come with any overhead space. Check out Away’s beautiful indestructible carry-ons, which comply with all airline’s carry on policies.

carry on limits
Don’t be the person who insists on fitting their massive overstuffed bag in the overhead its just bad airplane etiquette

Don’t bring smelly food or smelly anything on the plane.

airplane etiquette
Everyone has sat next to someone like this on a plane

This includes wearing too much cologne or perfume. Nobody wants to smell you or your food, so be considerate. Not too long ago on a flight from Raleigh to Charlotte, the woman sitting next to me pulled a lox sandwich out of her purse 5 minutes into the flight. I wanted to look at her and say are you *@$%ing kidding me?! Luckily that flight is only 30 minutes because the smell of her sandwich lingered for the entire plane ride even after it was gone.

Don’t be obnoxious

Snapping your gum, swirling your ice, chewing with your mouth open, talking too loud, and snoring – again there are 100+ people all around you be considerate. Pro Tip: if you’re traveling alone invest in some noise canceling headphones they take care of most of the obnoxious noises people make

Respect everyone’s personal space & Airplane armrest etiquette 

Airplane armrest etiquette

When you’re walking down the aisle of the plane pay attention to where your bags are. As for airplane armrest etiquette that everyone should know – aisle seat gets the aisle armrest, window seat gets window armrest, and middle gets the two middle armrests. This past weekend my seat mate was super fidgety, and even though his moving arms or legs never touched me it felt like he was invading my personal space.

Don’t recline your seat as hard as you can

This goes with the personal space one above, but it deserves its own call out. If the flight is less than 2 hours, you don’t need to recline your seat. If you do feel the need to recline, be courteous and look behind you to make sure you aren’t going to spill someone’s drink, bash their knees, or worse their head if they are reading something on their tray table. On a flight last year, I had a guy smash my knees before the plane even took off, then proceed to yell at me when I accidentally bumped his seat crossing my legs.

Don’t get up to use the bathroom too often

Airplane bathrooms are disgusting places, and I try to avoid them at all costs unless it’s an emergency or a long haul flight. If you’re flying from Dallas to Hong Kong or another ultra long haul flight and spending the better part of a day in the sky you’ll inevitably have to use the bathroom, but shorter domestic flights try to avoid it. If the flight is less than 3 hours, I’d recommend using the restroom before boarding and if you can wait, then wait. You should be fine unless you drink too much.

Don’t drink too much

Airplane Etiquette
Don’t be this guy

It’s fine to enjoy a cocktail or two especially on a night flight or a long red-eye, but in the air the alcohol affects your body differently so moderation is key. Don’t forget a few glasses of water too, you get more dehydrated at 36,000 ft. It is recommended that you drink one 8oz glass of water for every hour you spend in the air.

Keep the Boarding Area Clear

Even though it seems pretty basic – counting to four and reading what number is on your ticket, every time I fly the boarding area fills up with people who are in the last couple boarding groups trying to either sneak their way on early to avoid checking their bag, or just not caring about the process. If you are in one of the last two boarding groups, please stay seated until your group is called.

Wait your turn to get off the plane

I understand you have a tight connection after your incoming flight was delayed. So do the other 100 people on the flight. The calmer you stay and the more courteous you are, the more likely it is that you make that connection and avoid pissing other people off.

Keep Hygiene in mind on airplanes

As I am updating this post, Covid-19 coronavirus is causing mass panic around the world. Airplanes have been dirty places for a long time. Especially now with airlines trying to optimize flight schedules with quick turns the planes you fly on rarely if ever get the cleaning they need. Travel with some hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes to make sure your seat, armrests, and tray table are clean for you and the passenger that gets that seat after you. Also, don’t put your gross bare feet on the bulkhead wall or the armrest in front of you.

Don’t be a jerk on airplanes

It seems pretty simple, but I can’t recall how many times I have been on planes where people are rude to other passengers, rude or inappropriate to the flight attendants, or simply lack the most basic sense of how their actions affect everyone else on the plane. You don’t want to be the one that ends up on passenger shaming!

Hopefully these 10 tips will boost your airplane etiquette and make your next flight more enjoyable for you and everyone around you! Happy Travels! Share this post with someone who needs to brush up on their airplane etiquette!

What is the most outrageous thing you have seen someone do on a plane? Let me know in the comments below!

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Even though many of these airplane etiquette tips are common sense, we see people doing the opposite time and time again when we travel. Use these tips for airplane etiquette and you'll be a more courteous passenger. These airplane etiquette tips will make you the person you want to end up sitting next to on the airplane.


  1. Jb says:

    Once had a lady next to me on the plane start clipping her nails. Did not bite my tongue that time

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