After a 3am wake up call and 10 hours of travel on a recent trip home from Mexico, it dawned on me how utterly oblivious some people are to <what I find to be> common airplane + airport etiquette. Okay, so perhaps I was a bit more grumpy than I’d like to admit (again 3am wake up call, people). But I have to believe I’m not the only one who’s been there. This lead me to do some research on the subject to see what the masses think. After scouring my favorite travel journals and polling many travelers, here are the 12 commandments to know (and abide by) before you fly. Consider it a friendly PSA.
1. THINK AHEAD IN SECURITY LINES
Okay, friends. Chances are, we’ve all gone through airport security before. We know how this works. If you’re not TSA pre-check (which I can’t recommend enough) you know to remove your shoes, take everything out of your pockets, and to remove portable electronic devices (like laptops or iPads) from your bags. So let’s not wait until the very last minute to do so. As you approach your turn in the security line, try to have your belongings ready to go to keep things moving. And when they come out, collect them quickly and move somewhere that won’t be holding up the line.
2. DON’T HOG THE OVERHEAD BINS
Don’t get me wrong- I know how annoying it is to use your precious legroom to store personal items like a purse or your laptop bag. But technically, it’s common courtesy to keep one bag at your feet and the other overhead- not both. Wait until boarding has completed to store any additional items overhead as a common courtesy to those needing to store larger carry-ons somewhere that won’t fit under the seat.
ALSO on this topic- avoid storing your bag in the bin horizontally if possible. This takes up unnecessary space and requires flight attendants to do lots of rearranging. Spare them the trouble and do it right the first time.
3. KEEP YOUR KIDS IN CHECK
If you’re traveling with a small child, great! I’m in full support of kids seeing the world starting at a young age. With that said, it’s your responsibility as a parent to keep them in check from disturbing other passengers as much as possible. This includes educating your children on common courtesies like using inside voices and not kicking the seat in front of them.
4. HAVE GRACE TO CHILDREN ON BOARD
Having said all of that about keeping children in check, let’s assess both sides of the coin here. Adult passengers not traveling with children should show grace to those that are and remember kids are kids, and they have just as much of a right to be on the airplane as you do. Babies are going to cry sometimes, so giving the mother (who is likely doing the best she can to calm the child) dirty looks isn’t going to change that. Be kind + remember to pack headphones in case you need to turn on some tunes.
5. MIDDLE SEAT PASSENGERS GET RIGHT OF REFUSAL TO ARMRESTS
Window seat can lean their against the airplane wall. Aisle seat can sneak some leg stretching in as long as beverage service isn’t happening. But the armrests are the only saving grace our poor middle-seat passengers have. It’s only fair to yield them both of the arm rests.
DISCLAIMER: For all ye middle-seat-sitters, this does NOT mean you can stick your elbows all up in my personal space and pour yourself into my seat. Take the armrests, but let’s not get carried away...
6. DON’T STAND IN THE AISLES
I know that international flights can be grueling and it’s quite necessary to stand up and stretch your legs now and then. This does not however, make it acceptable to stand in the aisles and chit-chat to friends sitting a few rows away from you. Remember to be courteous that other people are trying to sleep, read or simply seek some peace & quiet for this long, uncomfortable flight.
7. CONSIDER YOUR SCENT
This goes both for poor body odor, but also fragrant perfumes. Remember, all air in those planes is recycled, so whatever you bring on board will be shared with all the other passengers over, and over again. Shower. Wear deodorant. And go easy on the fragrances. It’s simple, really.
8. AVOID BRINGING FRAGRANT FOOD ON BOARD
While we’re on the topic of scents, let’s also discuss fragrant food. Remember people, recycled air. No one wants to smell your spicy chicken curry or tuna fish sandwich for hours on end. Eat that before you board the aircraft. If you want to bring your own food (I don’t blame you) stick with dry goods like nuts, fruit + veggies, etc. that won’t give off an offensive scent to those around you.
9. CONSIDER YOUR BATHROOM BREAKS
You know if your flight will have beverage or meal services, so don’t be that person that waits until everyone is eating to get up and go to the bathroom (the same goes for moments when you know people will be sleeping) Plan your breaks accordingly to be courteous to other passengers. If you have a small bladder and need to go frequently, consider an aisle seat for this reason.
10. BE PROMPT IN THE LAVATORY
If everyone is considerate about when to use the lavatory (which they should be), that naturally means there is likely to be a line. So be prompt when you do (don’t style your hair or do your make up). For the record, this is a pretty filthy place to spend your time anyway… do you really want to linger?
11. LET PASSENGERS IN FRONT OF YOU DEPLANE FIRST
Everyone wants to get off the plane as quickly as possible. Don’t push your way off before the passengers in the rows in front of you have time to deplane (unless they tell you to do so- which is courteous if you know you’ll be moving slow for any reason). The ONLY time this is an exception is if you’re cutting it close for a connecting flight. If that’s the case, it’s best to notify the flight attendant prior to landing so they can make an announcement to all passengers so those in your position can have priority getting off the plane.
12. STAND ON THE RIGHT. WALK ON THE LEFT
Whether it's before or after your flight, you're likely to encounter a moving sidewalk at the airport. These are created not only to help move you along if you're weighed down with luggage, but also if you're in a hurry. So be mindful to always leave a path on the left for those travelers who are in a hurry- they certainly deserve right of refusal over people who simply don't feel like walking!
Flying is a necessary part of travel that can often be a headache. Let’s all be courteous to one another and not make it any more painful than it has to be. What are some other courtesies you think everyone should abide by while traveling? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks so much for reading and be sure to come back again tomorrow for my travel guide from a recent trip to Moab, UT!