The Do’s and Don’ts of Airplane Travel

Welcome to part two of my Travel Etiquette Mini Series. In my job I travel quite a bit and all my trips start and end the same way… at the airport. In part one I discussed my tips and tricks for airport etiquette, but what about actually being on the plane? Here are my thoughts on how we can all be courteous while we travel:

  1. Open seating. It is totally up to you!
    • If you are traveling with other people who have a boarding number after your own, true travel etiquette is to give up your earlier boarding position and join your travel partner at his/her boarding position. However, if you do board ahead and want to try to save a seat, simply place a coat, purse, or small bag in the seat you hope to save:
      • If someone asks for the seat, kindly say, “I was hoping to save this for my friend/spouse/parent, do you mind looking for another seat?” Normally, people will be understanding especially if there are still plenty of seats left, but do keep in mind it is not your right to save that seat.
      • If the airplane is filling up and the flight attendant has started making announcements to “take any open seat you see,” it is time to give up your seat saving mission. You do not want to be the person who delayed your flight because you forced others to play musical chairs until your travel partner got on the plane.
    • If you see someone traveling with an individual who needs assistance (i.e. a parent and younger child or someone with a disability), but they cannot find a seat together and you have an open seat next to you… Do the right thing and offer your seat to them.
  2. Stowing Your Carry-On Items
    • Place your bag above your own seat. Do not take up the storage space above another row unless your space is full and the flight attendant directs this.
    • If you need to move someone’s bag a little in order to fit your’s in the overhead bin, ask the person, “Do you mind if I scoot your bag over a bit?” Most people will not have a problem, it is simply polite to ask in case they have something fragile in their bag or are traveling with hanging garments (gowns, suits, etc.).
    • If the flight attendant says your bag will not fit, chances are it really will not. Allow the flight attendant to place your bag in another overhead bin. It is not worth holding up the line of people behind you and potentially delaying your flight because you tried to play Tetris with the bags in the overhead bin.
    • Always offer assistance to someone you see struggling to get their bag in the overhead bin.
  3. Be a Good “Seat Mate”
    • You cannot go wrong by starting off your trip with a simple smile and saying “hello” to the person you will be seated next to for several hours.
    • If you have a middle or window seat and need to get up to stretch your legs or use the restroom, be sure to politely ask the individuals closer to the aisle if they will please move for you.
    • When standing up, do not grab the seat in front of you. This often pulls that individual’s seat backwards and can be quite disruptive.
    • Who gets the arm rest? True travel etiquette indicates the person in the middle seat gets both arm rests while the people in the outside seats get those arm rests. In a row with only two seats? Share the middle armrest.
    • We all like to travel in comfort, but do not get too comfortable!
      • Keep your shoes on. You may think you do not have feet that smell, but it is very possible that you do. Also, some people just do not like feet.
      • If you want to take a nap, be cognizant of your surroundings. Try your very best not to lean on the person next to you. Travel Tip: Use a neck pillow, it helps to prevent the lean!
      • Do not bring foods on the plane that have heavy odors. For example, a tuna packet probably is not the best thing to crack open mid flight.
      • Keep the volume on your headphones low. Your seat mate very likely does not want to hear what you are listening to especially if he/she is trying to nap, read, or do work.
      • Avoid getting drunk and making your seat mate feel uncomfortable.
      • Check before you recline! Ensure the person behind you is not getting something from under your seat or using the tray table. If they are, simply say, “Excuse me, I’m going to recline my chair, I just want to let you know.” This will avoid you bumping him/her, accidentally spilling a drink, or even potentially breaking an open laptop.
  4. Be Courteous to the Flight Attendants
    • Pay attention to the flight attendants when they give the safety instructions. Yes, they are often the same on every flight, but they really are important to know.
    • Listen when they tell you it is time to turn off electronics or stop using certain ones. Side note: Always be sure your devices are in airplane mode!
    • When the flight attendant brings you a snack or asks for your drink order, always say “please” and “thank you.”
  5. De-Planing
    • We all know the mad rush to get out of your seats as soon as the “Fasten Seat-belt” light turns off, but remember you are in a small area, there really is not a lot of space for you to move. Let the people ahead of you have the room they need to get out of their seats and retrieve their bags from the overhead bin.
    • If you have a short connection time to your next flight, ask the flight attendant during the flight if it would be possible for you to get off the plane before others. Due to a delay on one of flights, there was a passenger who had a very short amount of time to get to his connection. When we landed and were taxiing to the gate, the flight attendant said, “We have a passenger on board who needs to exit quickly to make a short connection. Please allow this person through the aisle before we begin regular de-planing.” If asked this on one of your flights, be kind and follow the request to help the other person.
    • If there is someone who needs special assistance exiting the plane, allow them to go first.
    • Thank the flight crew on your way off the plane.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you find yourself on a plane!

Safe travels y’all!

AB