No one likes being on an airplane. Being in close, confined quarters with complete strangers can be stressful and frustrating at times. Adhering to the following 12 rules of airplane etiquette will make you and everyone else on board much happier passengers.
1. Check your oversized bag
You aren’t fooling anyone. Unless your suitcase is new or strangely-shaped, a person generally knows whether their suitcase will fit into the overhead compartment. Your check-it-at-the-gate-for-free method is not a secret system loop hole that you have cleverly discovered. For the sake of your fellow passengers, obey the system and check the bag.
2. Slow down and give people space
While boarding, there usually is not a need to rush to get on the plane. If you are at the gate, the plane is not going to leave without you. Slow down, wait, and give the person in front of you some room.
3. Put your personal item under the seat
Federal mandates allow for one carry-on bag and one personal item only. If you have more than two items, they should be consolidated into one. Be aware that just because you board the plane early in the boarding process, this does not mean you have free reign to the overhead bin space. Place your larger item in the bin as compactly, the short way if you are able, to allow space for others and your other item under the seat in front of you.
4. Choosing your seat
Many airlines assign seats, in which case you should specify your preference when booking the flight. Southwest Airlines and many others outside of the US have boarding groups and open seating. When making the decision on where to sit, ask yourself a few questions:
Are you a person who needs to use the bathroom on even as short trip?
Make sure you have an aisle seat.
Are you a person who doesn’t want to be bothered to get up to let people out?
Get yourself a window seat.
Are you a person who likes peering continuously out of the window?
Get a window seat so that you aren’t looking across someone.
Are you planning to sleep?
Take a window seat so that you can lean against the side wall of the plane and not on your neighbor. This will also prevent you from needing to be woken up if someone sitting on the inside of the row wants out.
5. Do your best to stay in the confines of your allotted seat space
Having to have constant physical contact with an adjacent stranger for 3 hour flight is not fun. No one is comfortable, but spreading your limbs into your neighbor’s zone is not courteous. Consider the boundary from the center of your armrests (not the full armrest). This includes air rights within that zone. Keep your body parts within that imaginary boundary.
Many travelers need to work during flights and can’t get around it. If you do and your computer is not an airplane-friendly size, try not to use it. For the average-sized person, the only way to type effectively is to assume the home-row position with your elbows out. This can be very crowding to your neighbor when combined with a widescreen computer hanging off of both sides of your tray.
7. Mind your own business
Whatever your neighbor is reading, writing or typing is really none of your business. They don’t want you reading over their shoulder and they don’t want your help with the crossword puzzle they are working on.
You can safely assume most people don’t want to talk. As a general rule assume this. If something happens and a conversation evolves, so be it. But do not board an aircraft thinking you are about to make a friend.
9. Using the bathroom
If you must use the restroom during flight, ask the person next you nicely to let you out if you are not in an aisle seat. Be very apologetic about the disruption.
If you are contagiously ill, you should not be flying. Period. This is not about you, this is about everyone else. And if you aren’t contagious but you have a nagging cough, be well-stocked with cough drops---coughing on planes makes the other passengers nervous.
11. Clean up after yourself
Leaving behind trash and personal items only delays the process for the next flight.
12. Exiting the plane
The rows of seats on airplanes are generally staggered. Always allow everyone who wants to deplane from the rows ahead of you out of their seats first. Wait your turn and let everyone out---even if they need to retrieve a bag from above. Additionally, offer to help if they look like they are struggling.
The golden rule applies even to riding on an airplane. Treat fellow passengers as you would like to be treated, doing so will make your next flight a much friendlier one.