Flight Etiquette: The Golden Rules of Flying

March 10, 2015 by Alexandra Gregg

Last year 114 “disruptive passengers” plagued Britain’s flights, doing everything from sparking up in the lavatories to assaulting cabin crew – not to mention even throwing scalding coffee over fellow passengers in a leg-room dispute.

The civil aviation authority (CAA) has just released the 2014 dossier, announcing  the highest air rage figure in three years, having tripled since 2011 (39 incidents). And while we haven’t all experienced Hulk-like travellers, ripping tray tables from the backs of chairs and issuing empty bomb threats, it’s fair to say most of us have seen – or in some cases, heard – our fair share of irksome sky-high commuters. But a little consideration goes along way when you’re above the clouds, so whether you’ve been irritated or are the irritant, be sure to read our Flight Etiquette guide.

Airplane interior with passengers

Recline at your peril

We know you want to start your trip in style and relax during your flight, but avoid reclining your seat the second you sit down. When you do get the okay to recline, do so slowly and look behind before you do it. That way you’re not going to injure someone or force a drink into their face. You’ll also be able to see how much space they have too; if they’re 6ft 9in, have a heart. Likewise, at meal times put your seat upright. No-one eats lying back anyway, and it gives the person behind you the chance to chow down without having their knees up to their chin. Again, check behind before you recline again, no-one wants a face full of aeroplane curry. If you’re really desperate for extra space, pay that little bit more for a bulkhead or exit row seat (age restrictions apply).

Move luggage around carefully

When putting in/removing your luggage from overhead lockers, be careful not to knock anyone out – whether that be with your bag or your backside, as you bend/lean forward. Providing there’s space, try to store your luggage in the compartment above your seat too. Storing your stuff at the other end of the plane means others will have to put theirs elsewhere too.

Keep your elbows to yourself

Beware the armrest hog! Not everyone understands the concept of personal space, but it’s an essential part of flight etiquette and especially important if you’ve been lumbered with the dreaded middle seat. Do use the armrests, but use your fair share. Leave half for your companion. You’re in close confines after all and for extended periods of time, the last thing you want to do is annoy the person next to you and become part of next year’s air rage stats. The same goes for newspapers and laptops on tray tables – keep to your table and don’t try and spread across someone else’s.

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Adhere to basic hygiene and lavatory rules

Regardless of your destination, you’re not in the outback yet. In fact, there’s probably more room in the wilderness than there is in the tiny closets that most airlines call bathrooms. With this in mind, try and leave the loo in a pleasant state for the person who goes in after you. Release the sink plug, wipe the sink and dispose of any used tissue. And, it may seem fairly obvious, but please flush. Keep an eye (or nose) on your personal hygiene too – there’s plenty of weird smells on planes already without you adding to the aroma.

Avoid the seated Irish jig

We know some seat pitches don’t leave you with much room but that’s still no excuse to start kicking the seat in front. Just don’t. Firstly, it’s beyond maddening and, secondly, it could get you booted off the plane.

Hold onto your kids

Most passengers are pretty understanding when it comes to children on flights. With young children or babies especially, there’s only so much you can do to placate them if they start to cry or get agitated. That said, there are a handful of parents who seem to forget they have dependents with them and let them wail, peer over seatbacks and generally be a nuisance without even realising it. We know you’re going on holiday, but have some consideration for your fellow passengers and be a bit more attentive to your little ones. Bring books, games and snacks to keep them quietly occupied. Likewise, those of you who aren’t so understanding about noisy youngsters: give them a break, we were all young (and red-faced) once.

Inflight Champagne

Check the volume

It’s not just kids that are noisy: adults can be just as audio-insensitive. If you’ve got headphones in, make sure only you can hear the music/video that’s playing – especially if you’re on the red eye. If your fellow passengers wanted a concert, they would’ve gone to one.

Stay off the sauce

Now we’re not saying don’t have a celebratory drink or two to kick-start your holidays, but don’t get blind-drunk. You’ll most likely stink of alcohol, agitate other passengers and could even find yourself being not-so-politely removed from the aircraft. Your holiday could be over before it’s even begun.

Know your neighbour

Of course you’re excited about your new trip and meeting all these lovely new people sat either side of you, but not everyone requested an in-flight chatterbox with their meal. Do initiate conversation, but if you’re not getting anything back, take the hint and indulge in a good book or the seat-back entertainment instead. The person may just want to relax, do some work, or simply not be much of a talker – respect their personal space.

Tell us what you think of our Flight Etiquette guide below or via Twitter @FlightCentre_UK. Do you agree/disagree with the comments? Did we miss anything you’d like to add? We’d love to hear from you.


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About Alexandra Gregg

Once a roving local news reporter and now a travel-obsessed writer/sub, I'm head-over-heels for nature, wildlife and the ocean. When I'm not underwater or deploying a snorkel, I'm seeking out the sets of my favourite TV shows around the world. Tweet me @wonderg1rl