Seven Sins of Airline Etiquette

Unfortunately, most of us have been there: bags packed, movie downloaded, work in the rearview, and through TSA security headed to the big silver bird in the sky. However, once aboard, these feelings of jubilation and delight for the upcoming trip are quickly squashed once we realize most of our peers have forgotten (or never learned) the basics of airline etiquette.

With travel season upon us, and freshly off an all-time high of 965 million airline passengers in 2017, let’s take a look at the seven deadly sins of airline etiquette, and perhaps more importantly, how to ensure we’re not the ones ruining a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, or even making someone’s yearly work conference trip that much worse. Here. We. Go.

 1.     Forgetting your manners. It truly is shocking how many people forget this one. Your basic “please” and “thank you” seem to be thrown out with that 5oz bottle of mouth wash you tried to sneak in with your carry-on. Remember the basic manners you learned as a child, apply them to your peers on the plane, and just remember you can travel 3,000 miles in 5 hours. That same journey used to take folks months, and usually resulted in death. Put it all in perspective. It’s a great place to start.

2.     Not understanding bag limits. Nobody likes to check a bag if you don’t have to. It can be expensive, it may get lost, or you may find one of those cards saying that some random TSA agent searched through your stuff. Not cool. If you can get away with a carry-on, know the limits of you and your bag. If you can’t lift your own bag, check it. We’ve all seen those poor souls trying again and again to lift their bag into the overhead only to be embarrassed when two flight attendants have to come to their rescue. And on that note, look beforehand to ensure your bag is allowed as a carry-on. Don’t hold up someone’s departure because you can’t look up a simple requirement. Here, this will get you started.

3.     Bringing smelly, hot food onboard. I would rather have snakes on a plane (Samuel L. Jackson? Anyone?) than sit next to someone stuffing their face with a steaming Wendy’s patty watching mayonnaise drip down their hand. Be considerate of what types of food you choose to bring on board. Not only can these be extremely uncomfortable for the person next to you, remember, you’re in an airtight box hurling through the air at 30,000 feet. Once that smell of curry is released, it’s not going anywhere (kind of like Samuel L. Jackson).     

4.     Reclining in economy. This cannot be overstressed. The tiny amount of comfort you gain is nothing compared to the chain reaction of misery you’ve caused behind you. If you are that 1 in 10,000,000 with that specific back injury that requires you to sit at that exact angle, then turn around, ask the person behind you if it’s OK, and give them some time to move their laptop or grab the scolding hot cup of coffee you otherwise may have just poured on their lap. This can truly be a life-changer for someone. 

5.     Forgetting how security works. No, you probably didn’t believe that this would be number 5 because it seems so obvious. Thinking a few steps ahead and having your ID/passport out, boarding pass ready, phone/wallet/keys put away can make a world of difference for you, your fellow travelers, as well as security agents. These rules don’t differ much, folks. Know them. Understand them. Be prepared for them. 

6.     Irresponsible sleep habits. A plane is a great place to catch up on those zzz’s you lost making that 6:00 a.m. flight. However, remember that you are still in a public place and there are others around you. No snoring, no spilling over the sacred divide that is the armrest, no getting angry when you’re sleeping and your neighbor has to use the restroom. On a similar note, no waking your neighbor to tell them the drink cart is coming. People really hate that.

7.     Asking to cut in the security line. Here is a totally outlandish, peculiar and bizarre notion: BE ON TIME! First of all, it really is amazing how much better your overall travel experience can be when you’re not freaking out, sweating and yelling at the Uber driver to step on it so you won’t miss your flight. Second, it saves some poor person from being put in the extraordinarily awkward situation of either looking like a complete jerk by turning you down, or saying yes and risking everyone behind them clamoring about the selfish choice you just made. I get it, things happen. But if you’re really running that late, get a security agent involved and explain the situation to them. Or better yet, don’t be late. 

8.     Performing the “half-stand”. I know this is the seven deadly sins of airline etiquette, but today is your lucky day because this extra one may help you in other situations as well (e.g., ever been to the movies?) If someone needs to get out of the row, don’t halfway stand up forcing them to awkwardly crawl around your legs and try with everything they have not to touch you. Be a decent human being and stand up to let them out.

And there you have it. If you can avoid these airline etiquette sins, you’ll be sure to enjoy your travels, and guarantee you won’t be the person your fellow travelers are blaming for their awful travel experience. Remember, put it in perspective, be prepared, remember your manners, and watch Snakes on a Plane.    


Escape with Vagary

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