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Airplane Etiquette Rules

Air travel can be stressful even when everything goes right. But sometimes, it’s not delayed flights that can be most annoying; sharing the tight quarters of airplane seating with a stranger can be unpleasant, especially when your seat mate has no regard for those around them. Follow these travel etiquette tips to ensure you’re a pleasant seat mate, and hopefully those seated next to you will do the same:

 Prepare ahead of time

Being late to the airport, getting stuck in a long security line, being told your bag’s too heavy to carry on — these are all preventable mistakes that can lead to great stress, which, as we all know, is a recipe for inconsiderate behavior. So step one for being a courteous flier is to not make any unforced flying errors: Prepare for your flight. That includes arriving early, not packing too much, and packing a positive mental attitude.

Freshen-up before you board

You are sharing a confined space with many people for an extended period of time. It’s wise to be freshly showered and dressed.

 Once you’ve put your belongings in the overhead compartment, sit down.

Don’t stand there in the aisle rummaging through your bag to find your jiggies. If you need something from your bag that you can’t grab easily, you should sit down, put the bag on your lap, and then return it to the overhead compartment once you’re through.

Don’t Be a Chatterbox

Many people enjoy flying in silence so before you start running your mouth to the person in the neighboring seat, learn to take a hint. You might want to introduce yourself when you sit down to get a feel for the other person’s mood. If he or she quickly dismisses you by opening a book, be respectful and stop talking.

Honor the unofficial code of armrest dibs.

Each person gets at least one armrest. In a three-seat row, the middle person gets the armrest on each side of him, while the person in the aisle seat gets the outside one, and the person in the window seat gets the one next to the window; the thinking here is that the person in the aisle seat can lean into the aisle, the person in the window seat can lean into the window, but the man in the middle is stuck. In a row with five seats, the person in the very middle seat gets the two armrests around him, while the passengers to his left each take their left armrest, and the passengers on the right each claim the one on their right.

Before You Recline

While you have the right to do so, it can invade the space of the person behind you and make that person’s trip miserable. If you do want to recline whether for sleep or comfort – just give your seat mate behind you a heads up. Let them know you are going to recline so they have time to move any items if needed, like a cup of water that could spill or a laptop that could get hit.

Moving Around the Cabin

Constant up-and-down movement can annoy your fellow passengers, particularly those in your row whose feet you just trampled. Use the restroom before you board your flight and avoid drinking so much that you’ll have to go again. If you know you are one of those people who cannot hold it for the duration of the flight, choose an aisle seat and let someone else have the window.


Whoever thought alcohol during a flight was a good idea has obviously not sat next to someone who couldn’t hold his or her liquor. Don’t be one of those people who quickly downs an alcoholic beverage in order to max out on what is allowed. If you happen to sit next to one of those people, and the person starts to annoy you, don’t get into a discussion with the boozer. Instead, ask the flight attendant if there is a vacant seat somewhere else.

 Communication With Airline Personnel

Always be polite when communicating with airline personnel. They have quite a bit of responsibility to make sure you arrive at your destination safely and on time. Don’t chitchat with them too long, and avoid taking up too much of their time. Chances are, there are people behind you who need their attention.


You never know who will end up seated next to you, and they may not have a tolerance for strong perfumes or lotions. For some, strong scents can bring on headaches or migraines. Bring unscented lotions for the plane or hold off until you’ve disembarked to use your scented products. Show respect for others by not inflicting odors on your fellow passengers. Avoid the temptation to douse yourself with perfume because you might cause a respiratory problem for someone who has allergies. If you carry food onto the plane, make sure it doesn’t have a strong aroma that might offend someone who is squeamish.


Listening to your iPod is fine, but keep the volume down so you don’t inflict it on someone who doesn’t have the same taste in music. Don’t be one of those people who chats on a cell phone during the entire process of going through security and boarding.

 Wear socks.

Wearing socks is beneficial to everyone on flights. For you, it prevents stepping on anything in the aisles or in the bathroom that, well, you might not want to step on.

Clean up after yourself.

Trash in the seat pocket, water (and who knows what else) on the floor of the lavatory, and crumpled up papers and receipts in the aisle are just gross.