What You Need to Know About Airplane Etiquette

airplane etiquette

It’s more than the armrest argument and the seat swapping dilemma.

Flying on an airplane means sitting in a tight space, with a bunch of strangers, and no escape until you arrive to your destination. It’s not always glamorous and your fellow passengers can really play a role in how well or no-so-great the flight goes. Proper airplane etiquette will go a long way to making sure everyone is comfortable.

The Journo team wants to prepare you so that you aren’t one of those flight-experience ruining passengers so we’ve created a guide about what you need to know about airplane etiquette.

When you’re getting onto the airplane, sit down and get out of the way.

in flight dos and don'ts
We see this way too often, you finally get to your seat and there are people standing in the aisle, rummaging through their bags, and just taking their sweet time.

We get it, you might need to grab a few things before you put your bag above you in the storage compartments but be prepared before you board and have those in-flight items in hand so you can get to your seat, store your bag, and sit down as soon as possible.

Store your bag above you.

inflight manners
Unless you have a smaller purse or backpack and depending on the amount of space around you, your bag is just going to be in the way if it’s by your feet.

Be courteous to other passengers as this also creates a problem when they need to get up and get past you (if you’re in the middle or aisle seat), to stretch their legs, use the restroom, etc.

Be mindful of how much noise you make.

inflight etiquette
If you’re watching TV, watching Netflix, or just jammin’ out to some tunes – be mindful of the volume of these things. It can be really annoying when someone is trying to rest and they hear your choice of music or show blasting through their head.

Try not to be too messy with food – it’s a tight space! 🍴

airplane etiquette
We all live different lives and we’re all raised differently. Some of us are taught to eat neatly and with our mouths closed and others are not. And that’s okay. But be mindful of who is around you, where your food lands, and try not to chew too obnoxiously.

Know how to share the armrests.

share the armrest
If you’re on the end, you obviously get the armrest on your end. The middle seat passenger technically has access to both armrests if they choose to.

And if you are that middle passenger, you’re already in a spot that you probably aren’t crazy about – squished between two people. So if you want two armrests (this is New Jersey talking), stand your ground and you glue those elbows down for a long enough period of time that the other passengers know you aren’t kidding.

Or, you can just politely talk to them about it. However, most people will say the middle seat always gets both armrests.

Keep your shoes on – please. 👞

keep your shoes on
I get it if your feet are tired and they need a break from your shoes, but no one really wants to see or smell anyone else’s feet on a flight!
Keep your shoes on, unless it’s a flight where you are sitting alone and there aren’t people around you.

Use the window shade wisely.

airplane window
It’s always nice to ask those around you if it’s okay to keep it up or to keep it down.

I think the best rule of thumb is this – if it’s extremely sunny out and the light is beaming through the plane – and you notice the person next to you is trying to sleep, then putting the window shade down is courteous. Night flights or red-eyes don’t really apply to this rule – so do with the window shade as you please.

Turn your phone on silent and switch to airplane mode. ✈️

airplane mode
Just like you don’t want to hear someone else’s music or movie, you don’t want to hear the constant buzz or ring of someone’s phone from messages or other notifications. Turn it to silent when you get on the plane. Be mindful of any repeating alarms that might go off.

Remember making sure your devices are switched to airplane mode is a rule, not a courtesy. Phone interference can seriously affect a plane’s inner workings – so please do this no matter what.

Don’t wake your neighbor, unless you absolutely have to (or they request you to).

asleep on plane
It’s nice to be thoughtful of others when the drink cart comes around, but waking someone up to tell them this is not okay.

Do not wake your neighbor, unless you know them well and spoke to them about this. Otherwise, the only time you should need to wake anyone up is when you have to use the restroom.

The seat swapping dilemma.

seat swap
It’s a century-old dilemma amongst airplane passengers. Should you swap seats when someone asks you to?

I don’t think there need to be two separate sides on this. As long as it isn’t affecting other passengers and it’s done in a timely manner, then I say, go for it. You can at least ask someone politely, and see if it’s okay with them. If they say no, then at least you tried.

You never know what someone has going on that day or if they strategically picked their seat for a reason. So ask nicely, but also accept a “no” nicely as well.

Know how to deal with a chatty neighbor.

chatty neighbour
This is an easy fix. If there’s someone around you that is being too chatty, then politely ask them to talk quietly. You don’t need to come off as demanding or mean, it’s not an unreasonable request!

Last but certainly not least, ask yourself this question:

To recline or not to recline?

This is by far the most controversial topic on the plane. Even more than the armrests. When is it appropriate to recline? According to Smarter Travel, there are several things you need to do in order to answer this question.

  • First, always look behind you before you recline.
  • Don’t ever recline during meal time. It’s just not cool.
  • Only recline as much as you really need. Don’t go all the way back if you don’t have to. Do you really enjoy sitting in someone else’s lap?
  • If you do choose to recline, do not drop your seat backwards, do it slowly.

So what do you think? Are you going to recline the next time you’re on the plane? Did we miss any airplane etiquette rules that you find very important? Leave us a comment below!

22 Responses

  1. Child travel is a major topic as well. We all know that a traveling child can be cranky by always crying,the parents of these children should have at least a little respect to try to prefeed/ change the child before hand so other passengers don t have to not enjoy their 5 or even 8 he flight because of a crying child for the last 3 hrs. Be courteous,respect others and be a parent instead of being ignorant to others. We didn t pay for a kindergarten class,we pay for our trip to the destination .

  2. If you have a tight connection, when deboarding ask nicely for those passengers in front of you to let you through. Otherwise, wait your turn and let the rows in front of you to deplane first. A rude passenger pushed my wife aside on arrival in Hawaii and caused her knee to blow out ruining our vacation.

    1. I had to change flights in Atlanta, GA two years ago. We were late getting to the gate. I had to switch planes in another hub. I was in the middle (at time 64 years old) and I politely told him the problem and asked if I could get in front of him. I told him I had never been to this airport and did not know the lay out and I had to catch another plane.

      He started screaming at me in front of all the other passengers. He was a businessman all dressed up in suit. He started screaming “is this what you want?” “Am I making you happy”. All the passengers turned around and all eyes were on me. It was so embarrassing that I will never forget it.

  3. I wonder what airline other people are flying, because the airline seats I get recline about two or three inches, certainly not putting you in the lap of anyone if used. Anyone reclining their seat has never come anywhere near me.

  4. as a flight attendant for 40 years now, with a major airline…..you have nicely mentioned some of our pet peeves. one of the things you mentioned is what makes the boarding so slow and holds up the traffic, and is one of our biggest pet peeves. for goodness sakes, didn’t you know you wanted to read your book or listen to your ipod BEFORE you got on the plane? standing in the aisle rummaging for your stuff is annoying to the other passengers …and the crew as well. another of our pet peeves. unless you have just RUN from one flight connection to another, what have you been doing all that 50, 40, 30 minutes before boarding starts? why do you wait until you are on the plane to use the restroom? it never fails. at least 5 or 6 come straight to the restroom when boarding, and because others are boarding behind them, now those in row 8 or 12 or 15 (because they have boarded first) are all standing around IN OUR GALLEY while we are trying to set up our carts for the service. ever wonder why sometimes it takes 30 minutes into the flight for the beverage cart to come out in the aisle? it’s because we couldn’t do it on the ground with those standing in it, as they can’t get back to their seats. rant over. THINK!

    1. Since you work as a flight attendant, I would tell the announcers to say politely something about what you just said, “it is now the perfect time to use the restroom you have 10 minutes before boarding.” for flight # so and so…

  5. It is never acceptable to recline on a domestic flight in coach. It’s just rude and inconsiderate to the person behind you.

      1. I just got off a 14 hr Flight from the Middle East. I’m exhausted. I’m on my last 2 hr leg home. Guess what the seat is going back!

  6. Keep the seat up. Reclining is inconsiderate and not necessary
    Think of others. You are in their personal space!!!!!!

  7. We were on a flight and had a very tight connection. One of our party had difficulty walking, using a cane. We spoke to the flight attendant, asking if she could help us. She made an announcement that there were four people who had a very tight connection, and could everyone please wait for us to leave. EVERYONE waited for us – so many people said they hoped we made our connection – what a nice experience.

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