7 Plane Etiquette Tips for Travelers


With the holiday season upon us and a final push to solidify our travel plans, it’s time to brush up on plane etiquette. While some rules of plane etiquette are well known and obvious, others are more unspoken, though still widely understood.

As a frequent traveler, I’ve collected a list of seven travel tips to share with my fellow travelers. Each of these are generally accepted and echoed among the travel community as well. Help make flying more enjoyable by following these seven simple tips for traveler etiquette.


1. Place your largest carry-on bags in wheels first.

This is an important rule and a particular traveler pet-peeve of mine. Ever since airlines started charging for checking bags, more and more travelers rightfully so are choosing to bring carry-ons, myself included. However, the size of the space and the plane have not changed since this uptick and yet, some travelers seem to forget this detail when choosing what and where to place in the overhead bins.

Out of respect for all travelers, place your largest bag — not the personal item like a small backpack, laptop bag, shopping bag, or purse — inside the overhead bin wheels first. This is to save space for others and to avoid the uncomfortable situation of another traveler moving your bag. Similarly, your smaller personal items belong under your seat, not in the bin.

2. The person stuck in the middle seat has the right to use both arm rests.

Simply stated, if you’re the lucky winner of the middle seat, you deserve the option to use both arm rests. Not everyone wants or needs both but it is expected and understood that the middle seat can have both.

3. To recline or not to recline, that is the question.

This one is debatable so I’ll present both sides of the issue. Often in an international flight, flight attendants will remind passengers to shift their seats up-right during meal service to ensure a level table and enough space for everyone to eat. This move alone can lead to the realization that reclining seats encroaches significantly on the passenger behind you. Even on a shorter flight, getting up to use the restroom can prove challenging when the passenger in front of you has their seat reclined. On the other hand, sitting completely upright can be rather uncomfortable, especially on longer flights.

So should you do it? It’s up to you but it seems more and more often travelers are choosing not to on shorter flights out of consideration for the fellow economy passenger. No econ passenger has much room to begin with!

4. Be aware of who is around you when selecting a movie.

This is especially important for longer flights as movie options are more plentiful and can be more risqué. Being aware of the passengers around you, particularly looking for kids, can be an important move before selecting a movie. The last thing you want is for a child to look over and see a steamy sex scene, leading to many questions for his/her parents. I’m not saying you should censor everything you watch, but just as you wouldn’t want to be blasting profanities in front of children, ‘R’ rated films should also warrant a similar caution.

5. Always wear headphones when listening to a movie, music, podcast, etc.

This one seems obvious and most passengers obeyed by this rule but there always seems to be someone every once in a while who does not. Forget your headphones? Just about all airlines have extras either available for free or for purchase. It’s more than worth the ask.

6. Avoid walking around the plane with bare feet; socks are okay.

Planes are not the cleanest places, especially in the restroom. If you want to get comfy, bring an extra pair of socks to relax in for your trip. Bare feet up on the seats and walking around the aisles and in the restrooms is just a bit gross for everyone.

7. Skip the smelly food.

Purchasing food for the plane is sometimes a must but avoid bringing items that are especially smelly with you out of respect for those around you. Personally, the stale air scent that greets you upon entering the plane’s cabin is nauseating enough for me already let alone adding a super intense smelling food. Being aware of what scents you’re bringing in is important when considering your fellow traveler. Eating before getting on the plane, bringing on foods that don’t smell, or ordering food from the airline are smart options to avoid the dreaded smelly food.

With travel technology constantly changing, it’s likely for this list to expand and change over time. Feel free to add any others you can think of in the comments below. Wishing you many more safe and enjoyable flights this holiday season and beyond!

Published by Ali Gaffey

An American girl full of life and adventure!

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