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Plane Etiquette – 10 Ways to Avoid Being “THAT Passenger“

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Air travel is a drag sometimes. There are rules and regulations posted everywhere, blared over the loud speakers and printed in safety booklets. Following them is tedious but seeing people break them is worse. Then there are the unspoken rules, the plane etiquette that we think everyone knows. Increasingly, however, it seems that people don’t. We fly a lot and we have seen the worst of passenger behaviour. If you don’t want to be referred to as “THAT passenger by your fellow travellers then it’s best not to break these unwritten taboos. Here are our top tips to be a good air passenger the next time you fly.

Planes, trains and transports of all kinds can bring out the strangest in people

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A Quick Note on Following the Rules (said in my best teacher/parent voice) : This refers to any instructions given to you by any cabin crew or security staff. Do whatever they tell you to. It doesn’t matter if you agree with the request or if you understand why they are asking you, just remember that different airlines and areas of the world have different rules and do what you’re told.

That being said, these tips are not rules per se, just good manners and common sense. No air rage here please!

Our 10 Plane Etiquette Tips for Being a Good Air Passenger

1.) Check Your Phone Volume

Check Your Own Volume

Remember you are having a conversation with someone at the other end of the phone line, not with the entire gate room. Nobody else needs to know that you’ve left the kids with Uncle Geoff or that you will call when you arrive at (insert specific hotel name here). It’s as dangerous to reveal this to everyone as it is annoying to hear it. Maybe now is the time to utilise your texting thumbs or remove yourself to a quieter area so you don’t have to yell.

Silence Your Phone

(I don’t mean put your phone on silent.)

Headphones are no longer an expensive treat. If you can afford a phone, you can afford the headphones to go with it. Whether you opt for the fancy Bluetooth earbuds or the wired kind from the pound shop, keep your entertainment to yourself. Noisy action films, jaunty children’s shows and never ending TikTok scrolling are particularly rage-inducing.

Oh, and that goes for computer games too. You wouldn’t want everyone to hear the game over noise when you lose any way.

2.) Wait Your Turn


Most airlines board by group or zone number, and you can probably count. If you are not in business or first class, or a very frequent flyer with millions of miles, you won’t be in groups 1 and 2. Check your boarding card. You are probably going to be somewhere in group 5 onwards so sit tight until you hear your group called. You have a seat and nobody will steal it. Pushing in is annoying for the staff and standing in the way of the gate is annoying for people trying to get through. Hang out, relax and hop up when the time comes.


At the other end of the flight, there is a clear order that people should disembarking. Row by row, working away from the door is the way to exit. Wait for the people in front of you to clear and make your way as quickly as possible out of the way.


  • If your hand luggage had to be stowed much further back in the overhead bins, then you will have to wait for everyone between your row and the bag to move before you try and make it back there.
  • If you have a crazy tight connection, speak to the crew ahead of time to see if they can help you. Don’t just barrel through. You’ll find that asking within earshot of those around you can illicit some help from those people too,

3.) Pick Your Seat Wisely

There are a few things to consider when picking your seat so as not to be a right royal pain in the bottom to those in the seats around you.

Here is a quick guide for you:

Do you want to look out of the window?

Pick a window – It is not fair to be craning your neck over the person next to you (unless they are a loved one, in which case, crane away).

Do you get up and down from your seat a lot?

Pick an aisle – You don’t want to be climbing over people all the time. They will be disturbed when you get up and then on edge until you return.

Do you need to stretch your legs a lot during a flight?

Pick an aisle – This allows you to get up when required or to stretch your legs out into the aisle for minute or two.

Are you a side sleeper?

Pick a window – If you need something to lean on to fall asleep then opt for the window seat. There is a wall that you can use as a prop. This lessens the risk you’ll end up with you head on a stranger’s shoulder.

Once you have decided on your needs and wants you can make an informed decision.

4.) Contain Your Lower Limbs

Your Knees

Splaying your knees out to the side (sometimes called manspreading) is not cool if it means you are encroaching on anyone else’s space. There is nothing worse than being crammed in a middle seat with two sets of legs reducing your leg room to a sliver. Keep your legs closer together or crossed, within your clearly defined seat borders. If you need to stretch then hop up and take a walk (I hope you booked the aisle like we told you).

Your Feet

These should remain even more contained. Keep them in your shoes or socks during the flight. Bare toes are enough to put anyone off their inflight snacks. Fighting cheesy feet with tangy cheese Doritos is something we have had to do before.

Feet should also remain within your own seat. This does NOT include the arm rest of, or gaps into, the seat of the passenger in front. If they get a sneaky toe appearing they are well within their rights to give it a slap or dribble water on it until it is gone again. It’s nasty and it’s not your seat! – Photo by czuber

5.) Minimise Your Beauty Regime

Staying hydrated by popping on a face mask on a plane is fine and so is going to a full face of glam prior to landing but there are a few things to avoid.

Keep it Light

Dousing yourself in expensive duty free fragrance can be fun. However, it can be overwhelming or even nauseating for the person next to you. Just stick to one spritz in the departure lounge and don’t reapply anything when you are in your seat.

Keep it Tidy

If you are planning to use a sheet mask, eye patches or other disposable products, be mindful of their disposal. Don’t put them in the seat back pocket or tray table, take them to the bathroom and throw them in the rubbish bin. No cleaners or crew wants to deal with the slippery gel leftovers. Oh, and avoid anything that will be a nightmare if it gets knocked over. Using nail varnish on the tray table is not the way to go.

Keep It Private

There are some beauty treatments that are not appropriate for the plane. Anything that involves clipping, exfoliating or snipping any part of yourself is for your bathroom at home. If there is any chance you will leave any part of yourself behind in the seat or on the floor then just don’t. Please. It’s just gross. Ped Egg in private, file in solitary and clip alone. – Photo by pxhidalgo

6.) Refine Your Seat Etiquette

Along with the knee-spreading rules, there are a few commonly known rules for seat etiquette.

The Armrests

This is non-negotiable when you are seated in 3 person configuration.

  • The person on the window gets the window side arm rest.
  • The person on the aisle gets the outside arm rest.
  • The person in the middle gets the two middle arm rests. They have so little to be happy about so you can sacrifice this for them.
The Window Shade

The passenger sitting on the window is in charge of the blind. You can ask them to move it up or down but it is entirely up to them what they do. Of course, if you are travelling on a 787 or another plane with remotely controlled dimming windows then this is out of everyone’s control

The Seat in Front

As you get up and down from your seat, try and use your own seat for leverage. Grabbing hold of, and yanking, the seat in front is really annoying for the resident of that seat. They get a jerked around which can really be shocking, could be woken from sleep and if it happens a lot, will just learn to resent you…trust a person that has endured a whole flight of this.

The Seat Behind & Reclining…this requires in own section

7.) To Recline or Not to Recline That is the Drama

Whether or not to recline your aircraft seat has got to be one of the fiercest battles on the internet. Some people believe that you have every right to recline if the seat allows it, whilst others think it is the very height of inflight rudeness.

I am very much of the opinion that reclining is OK…sometimes.

As long as there isn’t a meal or drinks service going on, you should be allowed that extra three inches of comfort. This is especially true on a long or night time flight when you might like to get a little sleep.

It is polite to have a quick peek at what the person behind is up to. You could crush a laptop by mistake if you just whack it back but this can backfire a little. I once sat bolt upright from London to New York, an eight hour flight, because the gentleman behind me in Premium shouted at me when I asked to recline to go to sleep. It was awful.

So yes, I say recline but only once the meals or snacks are all eaten and cleared away (when the trolley service is over).

8.) Leave the Bathroom Clean

This one doesn’t require an awful lot of explanation but some ideas of how to do this could be:

  • If you are concerned about aim causing, ahem, splashing, then sit down. This is good idea anyway as you never know when turbulence could occur and you’re safer when seated.
  • Clean any water you splash from the sink with a hand towel. You could even dry down the sink if you are feeling extra courteous.
  • Ensure you push your hand towels or tissues fully into the bin.
  • Pick up anything you drop.
  • Bring a little Poo Pouri or air freshener if you think you might need to poop on a long flight. Sometimes that airline food can play havoc with your tummy so come prepared.
  • If you have been unwell, tell the crew so they can handle it. They’ve seen it all so just let them know.

Relatedly, those bathrooms can be dirtier than you’d like so never go in with socks or bare feet and never wash your face in the sink. If you need to wash your face or brush your teeth, take in a little drinking water.

9.) Prepare for Security

Before you Travel

When you are considering you travel outfit, think about what you’ll have to do when you go through the scanners. Heavy boots, lots of buckles, a belt, extra jewellery…even a thick underwire in a bra can cause delays. anything that takes times to remove, or will set off metal detectors should be avoided. Instead l, opt for elasticated waists, shoes that slip on and off easily, wireless undies and cardigans/coats that you can whip off without dragging it over your head.

It is also worth preparing your hand luggage with security in mind. You can always repack once you are through and have found a spot to sit. You are most likely going to have to remove any laptops/tablets etc so keep them easily accessible. Then there is the liquids malarkey. Any liquids that you are going to take through security need to be:

  • Under 100ml/3.4 fl oz.
  • All in one sealable, clear plastic bag no bigger than 20cm x 20cm.
  • A combined maximum of 1 litre/39fl oz

There are new machines that mean these restrictions are soon going to be redundant. They are beginning to be installed in some airports but as the world converts to the new machines we still have abide by these rules.

At the Airport

Read the signs as you enter security. Some airports have rules that are different from those you may be used to. At London Stansted for example, they require ALL electrical items to be removed. This is included the standard laptops etc but also cameras, hair dryers and straighteners. In the U.K. in general liquids must be removed from your bag and placed separately but that’s not the case in many other countries. Keep your eye peeled for these regional differences.

Start disrobing as you get nearer to the front of the TSA/security queue. Put your watch in your bag and remove your belt. (Yes, I know some of you will still choose a belt). Get your sunnies off your head, empty every pocket you have and pop that all away too. The less time you spend faffing with your outfit the better. In the USA you’ll have to whip your shoes off but in much of the rest of the world you can head through the arch with them on.

10.) My “Up to Yous”

Here are a couple of points that I remain undecided about.

Clapping at Landing

In some parts of the world clapping when the plane lands is normal. It is less and less common in Europe where it is now considered deeply cringeworthy. You may feel a touch embarrassed if you burst into applause and no one else joins in.

I say. if it makes you happy then clap, if it makes you cringe then try and quieten your eye roll at others. If you have a flight one day that is really bumpy or with a particularly tricky landing you might want to start the ovation!

Inflight Food

In Europe, most people would be mortified at the thought of taking hot food out on a plane to eat but I know this is really common in the USA.

My mum used to think that tuna or egg mayonnaise sandwiches were acceptable on enclosed transport and I died of embarrassment every time. That shows that even cold food can be the culprit for unhappy neighbours.

Plus, things like fried chicken or cheesy crisps can smell fantastic if you are in the mood but terrible if you aren’t. Maybe the FOMO is worse than an off putting smell?

I guess that is one of those that you’ll have to judge by ear because I really can’t decide.

Booze and More

Mind-altering substances are a tricky business. I have had plenty of alcoholic beverages on board plenty of planes so I am probably being a bit hypocritical.

It is true that alcohol can hit harder at altitude so it is a good idea to temper your consumption. Have one or two and then switch to water for the hydration.

The same goes for THC or other drugs. You might be used to them in certain situations but being in a plane could affect your body or mind in a different way. If in doubt, stay sober. Plus, you don’t want the attention of drugs dogs so if you regularly weed smoke, wear nice clean clothes that haven’t been exposed to the smoke.


Popping a sleeping tablet may seem like a good plan for a long flight but there are a couple of things to consider.

  • You should definitely not do this if you are in any kind emergency exit.
  • Ensure you aren’t mixing medication with alcohol. As mentioned, booze hit hard when you fly and you wouldn’t want to recreate the scene from Bridesmaids (what do you mean you haven’t seen?!) or the “He’s Not REAL” meme.
  • Make sure your flight is long enough for the effects to wear off. Hoping on a train in a strange land, or trying to drive when you are still drowsy is not a great plan.
  • Finally, if you are bringing more than one tablet, ensure the country you are travelling to allows that particular drug. Places like Dubai have a long list of banned medications that you may consider a day to day option. – Photo by poznyakov

Final Thoughts

How many of these have you been guilty of? I’ve skipped a line or two in my younger days (back when Ryanair seating was first come first served) but I am older and wiser now. At least, I think I am. Let’s work together to minimise air rage and have a lovely time getting from A to that far B.

Rosie xx

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