Back in 2011, the Lonely Planet blog published their proposed Airplane Behaviour Bill of Rights for Passengers – this was my starting point for this blog and the hot topic of air travel etiquette…

Interestingly, British Airways (BA) has also recently released their results after running a poll with travelers across the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Italy to address the biggest plane etiquette dilemmas facing fliers today. The airline has translated frequent flier feedback into an unofficial rulebook for how to successfully navigate your next flight (link to it at the end of the blog).

1 – The ‘Aromatic’ Passenger
Most passengers would agree that it is ok to remove shoes as long as they do not stink or present health risks to other passengers. This is also in line with the BA research (below).

However, no traveller should be subjected to unreasonable aromas, be it from powerful perfume, personal body odour, pungent foods or other fragrances wholly unnecessary whilst on an airplane.

2 – To recline or not to recline (your seat)

Always look behind before reclining, do it carefully and take others into consideration. It is perfectly ok to do so but we must ensure this is done in the right way. Only exceptions are during meal times or at other times specified by cabin crew. And by the way, no ‘knee defenders’ should be used on a plane…

3 – Pillow Talk

Whatever you do, please don’t force anyone else to have a conversation with you. If you feel like going beyond the usual ‘hi’ and a smile, then go ahead. You may end up meeting new and interesting people.

However, if the other person does not seem interested, do not pursue it further. As the BA research suggests below, the majority of people prefer to stay within their personal mindspace.

If someone starts talking to you and you don’t feel like chatting, be polite, and another option may be to take an enforced toilet break…

4 – The Armrest Hog

Personally, I agree with the Lonely Planet blog suggestion that middle seat passengers should have first access to both their armrests as they have no room to stretch and no place to rest their head.

Respect is paramount here and we should take others into consideration.

5 – The right to heed the call of nature

Try and plan ahead for toilet breaks if possible to avoid disturbing others around you.

The ‘Climb Over’ may not always be possible to avoid however, and this is generally accepted, even if you have to wake up your seat neighbour. Otherwise if they are asleep…

“Leaving the row with your bottom facing to the back of the plane is the correct way to shuffle past people,” William Hanson, leading etiquette expert

Needless to say, if you have to take a toilet break whilst on the airplane, then respect the lavatory and don’t make a mess! Everyone deserves a clean break…

“Let me tell you something, those toilets are FILTHY. Absolute FILTH.” flight attendant in Reddit

6 – Be Aware of your own Electronic Addiction

The ban on the use of electronic devices during take off and landing varies according to the airline and type of device, but these were not put in place by the flight attendants, so no need to give them grief when they are just doing their job, however much this may be an inconsistent rule. See the video below for a laugh…

Also take others into consideration, especially those sitting beside you, during night flights or when cabin lights are out for example.

7 – Freedom from unruly children

Children are the responsibility of their parents, not of other passengers on the sample airplane. No passenger should be subjected to being kicked in the back, have their hair pulled, and so on. Stay calm, have a quiet word with the flight attendant or talk to the parents (but definitely do not reprimand their children directly about the unruly behaviour). Crying babies are a different story and we must be understanding.

If all fails, pick up the duty free catalogue and purchase that pair of noise-cancelling headphones…

8 – Enjoy Alcohol but always in moderation

First of all, it is ok to drink alcohol as long as you comply with local legislation and you are not below the age limit. Many people also drink when flying as they feel uncomfortable and/or do not enjoy the prospect of flying on an airplane.

Secondly, remember that no alcohol brought onboard by yourself can be consumed whilst travelling on an airplane, whether purchased in duty free or not. Only alcohol purchased or given to you by flight attendants can be consumed.

Lastly, don’t get drunk and instead drink and enjoy alcohol in moderation. It is never a good idea to become disruptive due to excessive consumption of alcohol.

9 – Sleepy time

Consider investing in some sleep aids for use during a flight, such as neck pillows, and try and ignore – if possible – other people who are snoring on the flight. 

10 – Be polite when leaving the airplane

Everyone wants to leave the airplane as soon as it lands, but be polite when doing so.

The etiquette for deplaning in the most efficient and respectful manner can be boiled down to a few simple points, as summarized by FlyerTalk member darthbimmer:

  1. Gather your belongings ahead of time so you’re ready to move when given the opportunity.
  2. Take your bags down without blocking traffic in the aisle. Do it either while standing at the aisle seat, or from the aisle if the aisle isn’t moving.
  3. Don’t stop in the aisle to wait for people who aren’t ready. That creates more delays. But…
  4. Don’t push or cut off people who are trying to move. That’s hostile and doesn’t help empty the aircraft any faster.

After all, you definitely do not want to be seen as one of the people below – courtesy of MAD magazine…

The video below shows some of the most annoying habits of passengers – starring Sir Patrick Stewart.

Here is a list of other websites used for reference:


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