How to be a Good Passenger By Following These 10 Rules of Airline Etiquette

December 08, 2015

Written early in the last century, Emily Post’s Etiquette covered decorum and manners to be demonstrated in all sorts of everyday situations as well as etiquette to be displayed when attending a special event such as a wedding.  Emily’s ideas were written before airlines existed in the numbers they now do,  and before air travel became the most convenient and popular way to get from place to place.  Yes, she dealt with etiquette for travel via ‘railroad train’ and ‘steamer’, as well as rules to follow when ‘traveling abroad’.  While much of her philosophy is still extremely relevant and useful, what we need now is a book (or blog :-)) dealing with “Rules of Etiquette for Airline Passengers”.

It likely would be very easy to fill a book with tips and pointers of what constitutes a polite and considerate airline passenger.  Rather than bombard you with hundreds of ideas, we’ll start off with 10 very basic rules which, if followed, could turn a necessary ho-hum flight into a – dare we say – ‘pleasant’ experience.

sign on wall

Ten Rules of Airline Etiquette:
  1. When the plane is loading, ‘move it or park it’!  Put your overhead items in the bin as quickly as possible and then get the heck out of the way.  Or, at the very least, step out of the aisle so the masses can pass through on their way to the tail portion of the plane.
  2. Give a little forethought to that home-packed lunch you plan to bring with you on your flight.  Leave the onions, garlic, strong-smelling spices, blue cheese and other foods with fragrances for another time…a time when you aren’t sharing a small enclosed space with a captive audience.  Those aromas really have a way of wafting to all corners of the entire cabin!
  3. If at all possible, use the overhead compartment above your own row of seats.  Of course, if all the passengers in a row are seated already, and they aren’t utilizing all the space above them, by all means, that room is fair game for you to stow your own luggage.
  4. Place your own carry-on luggage in the overhead bin.  Flight attendants aren’t there to be your personal ‘Charles Atlas’ to do it for you.  In fact, they aren’t allowed to do it in case they injure their back or do other harm to themselves.  Having to lift that little sucker yourself is a great incentive for you to pack as light as possible!
  5. Less is definitely more when it comes to dabbing on…or dousing on… perfume, aftershave, or cologne when a flight is in your very near future.  Some of your fellow passengers may have an allergy to these fragrances, others just may not share your sense of smell, and what you think smells lovely might be enough to turn the stomach of someone else.  Like ‘fragrant’ food, best to leave your eau de cologne to be applied in more open areas.
  6. Keep the volume turned low on your headphones.  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being seated next to someone who is boppin’ to the beat of whatever is playing on their iPad, and all you’re hearing is the bass and other harsh sounds, it makes for a very long, unpleasant plane ride!
  7. Chatty Cathy or Talkative Ted often seemingly lack the ability to gauge the comfort – or discomfort – level of those around them.  If you start up a conversation, and your seatmate is at first polite but then puts on headphones, brings out a novel, or a tablet, take that as a sign that they really, really don’t want to chat with you for the entire flight.  You’re just going to have to find some other way to amuse yourself.  In the words of Emily Post, “those who do not care to meet others have just as much right to their seclusions as those who delight in others have a right to be delighted – as long as that delight is unmistakably mutual.”  Very relevant advice indeed, Ms. Post!
  8. If you want to catch a few zzzzz’s, be considerate of the passenger seated directly behind you.  Recline your seat slowly and carefully so they won’t all of a sudden be ‘wearing’ that drink they had placed on their tray table!
  9. Be nice to the flight attendants.  There is never any excuse for rudeness, and especially not when dealing with people whom you may have to rely heavily upon in the event of an emergency.  Maybe you really would like to move into that unoccupied row of seats where you would be able to comfortably spread out all of your travel gear – thank you very much –  or order an extra cocktail between scheduled services.  The flight attendants hold all the power to make these niceties happen – or to shut you down like a prairie grain elevator.
  10. Use your inside voice.  If you find yourself seated beside someone who does want to chat with you – and it is ‘unmistakably mutual’ – please keep the conversation between just the two of you.  It’s highly unlikely that the passengers seated two rows in front of or behind you are the least bit interested in what the two of you are prattling on about

Follow these etiquette rules and make everyone’s day go a little bit better.  Emily Post would be so very proud of you

Written by Emma Ghattas