Sometimes it seems as if airline passengers check their manners and common sense at the ticket counter, along with their luggage. Granted, flying these days is not always a pleasant experience, what with cramped seats, add-on fees and endless delays. But it’s imperative that you try, just try, to behave yourself: don’t be THAT guy (or girl) who makes everyone else’s flight unbearable by ignoring a crying baby, practicing bad hygiene and being a drunken loudmouth. Observing the following rules of airplane etiquette will make flying better not only for you, but for your fellow passengers and airline staff.
1. Headrests are not handles
Do NOT grab the headrest of the seat in front of you for leverage when you get out of your seat. Someone’s head is resting on it, and they’ll appreciate not getting whiplash every time you have to use the lavatory.
2. Share armrests
Sharing is the name of the game with armrests: don’t take more than half. If your seatmate is a little wider than average, a little gentle elbow-nudging is not out of order. Otherwise, you’ll just have to wait until he/she gets up, then grab as much as you can. If you’re in the middle seat however, all bets are off!
3. Don’t be a jerk about reclining your seat
According to SeatGuru.com, the average seat pitch on a short-haul flight is only 31 inches, so there’s not a lot of wiggle room, literally. This means that when you recline your seat, your head is in the lap of the person behind you, and their knees are probably getting bruised. Yes, we all have the right to recline the seats we pay for, but be strategic about it: give the person behind you a heads up when you are about to recline (so they can prepare), and leave your seat up during meals. Otherwise, you risk being consumed with “recline rage” and risk getting booted off the plane.
4. Keep essential items close at hand
Don’t be that annoying person who keeps getting up repeatedly to pull things out of the overhead bin. Be smart and organize your “below bag” and your “above bag” BEFORE you get on the plane. The below bag should contain items that are needed on a regular basis throughout the flight, such as water, medications, CDs, and magazines. The above bag contains everything else.
5. Perform hygiene activities in the lavatory
Please resist the urge to clip your toenails, change diapers, comb your hair, floss your teeth or perform just about any other personal hygiene activity at your seat. If you wouldn’t want to see (or smell) a stranger do it, they don’t want to see you do it. So take it to the lavatory. That’s what the bathroom is there for—privacy.
6. Leave your shoes ON
Taking off your shoes may make your flight more comfortable, but your foot odor may make someone else’s flight miserable (yes, your feet DO stink, even if you can’t smell it). So the rule is to leave them ON, or bring a fresh pair of socks for the express purpose of lounging. Remember, you’re in a plane, not your living room.
7. Use headphones
If you (or your kid) watch a movie or play video games on a laptop, smartphone or GameBoy, for the love of God, use your headphones! The 238 other people on the plane do not want to hear explosions and annoying music — or whatever else — emanating from your device.
8. Control your kids
Parents must be diligent about policing their offspring. Bring books, toys, snacks, videos—WHATEVER it takes to keep your kids happy and in their seats for the duration of the flight. And keep an eye on their feet: many a flier has had their flight ruined by little feet behind them kicking their seat or digging into their backs. On the other hand, if you don’t have a kid, don’t be a jerk to parents who are having a hard time controlling theirs: your golden rule is to be compassionate, understanding and NOT throw a fit. Two tantrums don’t make a right — or something like that.
9. Don’t be an overhead bin hog
We all know that — ahem — certain fliers either flout the carry-on rules, or push them to the limit. This is probably the number one complaint fliers have. But if bin-hogs packed one-third as much stuff — or brought one-third as many bags — it would not take so long to board, and even the stragglers would have a place for their bag. Sure, cramming the entire contents of your closet into a dinky carry-on will give you bragging rights about your superior packing techniques, and exempt you from paying that $35 checked-luggage fee. But it is also completely self-centered to assume that the 300 people waiting behind you to board are thrilled to watch you try to wrestle a steamer trunk into the overhead bin for 20 minutes.
10. Be polite!
Sure, it’s tempting to lash out in anger when your seatmate is being an ass, the kid behind you is screaming, and takeoff got delayed AGAIN. But that old adage, “you catch more flies with honey” rings true in flight more than anywhere. Rudeness generally begets more rudeness, but politeness may actually get your request granted, whether you’re asking the flight attendant for an extra blanket, or your seatmate to stop cracking their gum.