Flight Etiquette: Restoring Manners at 37,000 Feet

by  Trish Friesen | Sep 14, 2012
Plane in the sky
Plane in the sky / undefinedundefined/iStock

If it’s not the guy showered in cologne in seat 33D, the lady airing out her bare feet in seat 31A, or the child eating a tuna sandwich in seat 32D, it’s something. Sadly, my etiquette expectations are low when surrounded by rows of strangers at 37,000 feet. I know classy flying departed with the Jet Age, but can’t we hold on to part – even a smidgen – of Pan Am glam?

Just because airlines no longer serve steak frites and sautéed vegetables accompanied by free-flowing goblets of Malbec in economy class doesn’t mean that we should resort to wearing Crocs and velour tracksuits, stuff three bags, a coat, and duty-free purchases into the overhead bin, and recline our seat at jet speed in an act of defiance. At least North American airlines haven’t hinted at charging for trips to the bathroom like Ireland-based budget airline Ryanair.

Instead, let’s focus on the positive. We can circumnavigate the world in hours, we can drink a plastic cup of Coke, we can apply complimentary lotion in Cathay Pacific’s lavatories, and together, we can channel our inner Emily Post with this air travel etiquette.

Bin There Done That

  • Slot suitcases straight into the overhead bins; sideways suitcase’ers need not apply. If you’re having trouble with fit, try different configurations like wheels out and down. If your bag still won’t fit, admit defeat – and retire that bag after your trip – rather than take up someone else's suitcase space.
  • Place one item in the overhead bin and your personal item below you. If there’s still room once everyone is seated, sure, put something extra up top.
  • Help passengers who may require extra assistance.

Seat Savvy

  • Reclining suddenly can cause spills and havoc behind you. Simple solution: check first, and recline slowly.
  • Make sure your knees don’t pierce the seat in front of you (we know this is hard when airlines continue to shrink legroom).
  • Share the armrest.
  • During sleep or movie time lower your window shade – that one crack of light can be bright.
  • Wait until you’ve exited the aircraft to make a phone call. The entire plane doesn’t want to hear you whispering sweet nothings to your boo while preparing to deplane.

The Loo

  • Men, kindly put the toilet seat down (I’m as shocked as you are that this basic manner is on the list).
  • Empty the drain once you’ve washed your hands. That sloshing swamp water is disgusting.
  • Refrain from walking to the bathroom barefoot or in socks (unless you’re on a flight with farm animals).

Body and Sole

  • Shower before the flight and don freshly washed garments. I was once stuck on the tarmac for five hours beside a man who had quite possibly worn the same shirt repeatedly for a week.
  • If you’re on a long flight and feel the need to take off your shoes, make sure you have a clean pair of socks covered by washable slippers.
  • Go easy on scents and lotions.

Food for Thought

Finally, know when to escalate. I’m often tempted to say something when I spot a faux-pas – like to the lady who opened 15 overhead bins during an intense period of turbulence almost causing serious injury to those around her – but in these situations, it’s best to quietly defer to the flight attendants.

Do you have any plane pointers that you’d add to this list? Disagree with this list? Voice your opinions in the comments!

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