Manners Monday: Airplane Etiquette

I know that some of you are probably traveling with your children during their spring break vacation. So, in the spirit of spring break, I thought it would be appropriate to post about travel etiquette, in particular airplane etiquette as many fly during this time of the year towards warmer weather.

Here are a list of essential etiquette tips to remember of at the same time as flying to make both yours and the other passengers’ flight more enjoyable:

Boarding the Plane

Every airline is a bit different in how they board passengers. Generally there are sections whereby they call specific rows up, allowing first class passengers to board first then families with small children and the elderly. It’s important to go up only once your section has been called as to keep things flowing smoothly. If your section was already called upon before you arrived to the gate, it is usually okay to board but ask the gate attendant before doing so. Be careful to keep a healthy distance between you and the person in front of you as to not clip the heels of the person in front of you with rolling carry-on luggage.

Carry-on bags & Overhead Storage

The greatest challenge with carry-on bags is making it through the aisle carefully as to not bump others who are already seated as well as those in front of you when they stop suddenly. The best way to do avoid this is by rolling your bag forward straight in front of you or if carrying a shoulder bag, do so in front of you vs. on your shoulder where it is likely to hit someone in the head. I often lift and carry my rolling carry-on bag in front of me to be the most efficient and avoid hurting others. Once you become seated, be sure to keep your arms and legs within your row as to not get bumps and bruises by others who will likely be paying less attention.

Keep a distance of 3 feet while walking down the aisle. Those walking ahead will need to stow their baggage overhead and may need to have a middle or aisle seat passenger step out into the aisle so that they can get into a middle or window seat, they’ll need some extra space.

Once you reach your seat, place your bag into the overhead compartment next to other existing bags, being careful to not shove it in with force as others may have stowed fragile items above. If you have a secondary bag such as a laptop bag, large handbag, etc., store it under the seat in front of you. Also make sure that you have everything that you’ll likely need from your carry-on bag to place into the secondary bag for your flight (this is best done while waiting at the gate before getting onto the plane) as it will limit your need to get out of your seat for things you suddenly realize you want. Such items would include: books, magazines, iPod, notebook & pen, gum/mints, tissues, earplugs, eye mask, prescription medication or vitamins.

Getting Seated

From time to time while flying you may be approached by another passenger asking to switch seats with you. It is your seat to do as you wish with, so if you are happy with where you’ve been assigned, the polite thing to say to turn the other passenger down gently would be, “I’m sorry, but I’d really prefer to stay in this seat”. If you’re not partial to your seat, it would be a kind gesture especially if you’re traveling alone and it would allow a couple or parent and child to sit together, particularly for longer flights.

If you are the one who would like to switch seats with someone or move to an unoccupied seat, be sure to wait until all other passengers have boarded the plane which is signified by the airplane door being closed. If you are unsure about a seat, it’s best to ask a flight attendant. If another passenger turns down your request to switch, thank them kindly and quickly move back to your original seat, be sure to excuse yourself if you have move past other passengers in your row.

Your seat is yours to recline but it’s best to only do so after you’re given the okay to no longer be in the upright position during take off. Inch your seat back carefully as to not hit the knees of someone behind you. It’s always polite to let the passenger behind know that you intend to recline the seat a bit. Try to avoid doing this while meals are served as tray tables will be down and space will be limited as is.

Making Conversation with Passengers

One of the things I’ve always loved about flying is the uninterrupted (for the most part) reading or resting time. It doesn’t always work out that way though. You may not be in the mood to chat with fellow passengers in your row and that is precisely when someone wants to strike up a conversation.

Always be polite and smile, however if you want to keep the conversation short, it’s best to let them know that you’ve enjoyed chatting with them and then let them know you’d like to spend the flight time reading, sleeping or working. Thank them for understanding. Chatting is a kind and friendly gesture that makes those around you feel comfortable but be careful if you are beginning the conversation that you don’t infringe on their personal time.  On the flip side, I’ve also spent many short flights with lovely people that have fascinating stories that I can remember to this day so if you’re up for it, it’s a great way to pass the flight time!

Children In-Flight

If you are a parent traveling with a baby or small child you will want to do everything you can to ensure that your precious one is not disturbing other passengers. Planning is key before the flight so items like coloring books and crayons, small toys, stickers and snacks that they love will help along the way. If they kick the seat in front of them, be sure to apologize and if the child is old enough, have them also apologize and try to have them refrain from doing it again. Try to feed and change a baby immediately before boarding if possible to avoid crying and more work for you on the plane.

If you are the passenger sitting near a child that is kicking your seating or throwing small items like candy your way (I’ve been there before), politely let the parent know that you realize they may be unaware, but their child has been making the flight uncomfortable for you. By carrying earplugs or listening to music, it will help drown out any excess noise if you are in a noisy area and there are no available seats to move to instead. Try to remind yourself that while an inconvenience, the flight is a few hours and not forever, try to make the best of the situations. If things do become unbearable though, it is entirely appropriate to seek the help of a flight attendant.

Other Important Tips

~Refrain from using anything with a strong scent, including fast food or food with garlic. Keep perfume etiquette in mind and it’s best to avoid highly fragranced lotions and other items on a plane as it is an enclosed space which could trigger allergies in some. Likewise, the use of permanent markers like sharpies or nail polish are absolutely a no-no while on a plane as they are toxic. Hygiene is important, clean clothes and showering the day of your flight is a must, your fellow passengers will thank you!

~Be understanding if a passenger in your row repeatedly asks you to get up to let them out. You never know if someone has a medical condition, feels under the weather or just drank a lot of liquids before boarding the plane. Be gracious and kind as you might be on the asking end one day. If you are seated in an aisle seat, it might be easiest to switch spots with that passenger.

~Keep all items and reading materials you’re using in your own space, avoid having it spill out onto the seat next to you.

~Don’t be nosy, avoid reading over someone else’s shoulder, or watching someone else’s in-seat TV screen from your seat instead of  your own, it’s best to keep to yourself and allow others privacy.

~Like libraries, airplanes should be a quiet environment. Keep talking volume down to a minimum as to not disturb others. If you are traveling with a child, be sure they keep video games and talking to a quiet level also.

~If you need to get up to use the restroom, don’t hesitate to ask the passenger next to you so they can let you out.  If someone is sleeping, do it gently by saying “excuse me” and if necessary lightly tapping them on the arm.

~Avoid spending too much time in the lavatory to keep others from waiting. It’s not the place for applying full makeup or anything that requires a lengthy stay. A full freshening up can always be done after landing in a much more comfortable sized restroom in the airport. After using it, be sure to leave it the same way if not neater than how you found it.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Many find traveling exhilarating while others find it stressful. Either way, being prepared and aware of what to expect is key!

Speaking of being prepared, here are some items that you don’t want to leave home without on your next trip!

Is anyone going to be flying soon? If so, where are you headed to?


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