Couple seated in airplaneDid you ever notice how often standup comedians make jokes about air travel? It’s because traveling on an airplane is one of those situations that throw you into a crowded space with total strangers. Anything could happen! And it often does.

Any situation that puts you in such an intimate company with strangers is a potential minefield of etiquette violations and awkward situations. And, unfortunately, it seems like fewer and fewer air travelers are aware of proper etiquette … or care about it.

But we can’t simply let passenger planes turn into zones of anarchy! There are rules of etiquette that apply to fly. And if more of us step up and follow them, we can lead by example. And we can feel good about doing our part to make the skies a little friendlier.

Here are some air travel etiquette tips to practice that will help keep you from making enemies on your flight and make the trip just a little more pleasant.

Stow your belongings quickly

When you get to your row, place your carry-on bag in the overhead bin, and your personal item or bag under your seat QUICKLY! There are dozens, if not hundreds, of people waiting to board behind you, and every second counts during boarding. Do yourself and your fellow passengers a favor, and check large bags at the gate, rather than “rolling the dice” to see if they’ll fit in the overhead bin. Don’t be the person who spends 15 minutes trying to stuff a huge bag into a too-small overhead compartment. Your plane-mates won’t appreciate it!

Be careful putting your seat back

Debates are raging about whether or not it is proper etiquette to recline your airport seat at all. But if you do decide to put your seat back, ease it backward gently. This will ensure that when you DO put your seat back, you won’t smash the laptop or spill the beverage of the person sitting behind you.

Use headphones

Are you planning on using your tablet or smartphone to listen to music, play games, or watch a movie? Then be sure to use headphones when doing so. The people around you don’t want to hear the sound effects from your game, or the tinny dialogue of the movie you’re watching coming out of your device’s speaker. If you forgot your headphones, see if you can borrow or buy a pair from the flight attendant. And if none are available, then use your device on the “mute” setting. Your efforts to help keep noise pollution to a minimum will be appreciated!

Be mindful about conversation

Some people see air travel as an opportunity to meet new people and strike up interesting conversations. Others prefer to fly in peace and quiet and would rather be left alone. If you’re in a chatty mood, watch your seatmates’ body language and other cues. Are they acting like they want to talk? Or does it seem like they’re putting up with your conversation just to be polite? Do they look tired or irritated? If so, it’s probably best to keep the conversation limited to a smile, a hello, and perhaps a few pleasantries before leaving them to themselves. And if you’re not in the mood to talk during a flight, there are a variety of ways you can politely let your neighbors know. Pull out your laptop and say something like, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to get this work done before we land.” Pull out a book and say, “It’s great to meet you, but I’ve been DYING to finish this book!” Or, simply put on your headphones or earbuds. And if worse comes to worst … take a nap … or pretend to sleep!

Be kind and courteous to the flight attendants

If you care about etiquette, you wouldn’t be bossy or rude to the waitstaff at a restaurant, to your hairdresser, or other people rendering you a service. So, it should go without saying that regardless of how stressful your trip has been, you shouldn’t treat the flight attendants poorly, either! Put yourself in their shoes. If you’ve had a rough day, they most likely have had to deal with hundreds of people…who are having rough days! Whose day do you think has been more stressful?  Flight attendants have very important, safety-related duties that go above and beyond keeping your beverage filled. Treat them with kindness, and you’re sure to receive service and appreciation from them in return.

Keep your shoes on

It’s tempting to treat your few square feet of space on the airplane like your own personal living room. But it’s not. When you’re in close quarters with strangers, they don’t want to see (or even worse, smell…) your stockinged or bare feet. Plan ahead and wear comfortable footwear on your flight. Wearing shoes that allow your feet to breathe is much better etiquette than sticking your toes in everyone’s faces.

Supervise your children

Your family may be going on vacation…but that doesn’t relieve you of your child-rearing duties. Of course, you can’t always control a crying baby or a toddler who is frightened or not feeling well. Most people understand that. But, if you sit by passively, or try to ignore your kids while they shout, fight with each other, kick the backs of their seats or run up and down the aisle, you will not be looked upon kindly by your plane mates or flight attendants.

Don’t monopolize the armrests

If you’re sitting in the window or aisle seat, cut the poor person in the middle seat a break, and let them have some armrest space! It’s better than bumping elbows the entire flight.

Thank the flight attendants and crew as you exit the aircraft

This team of highly trained professionals has worked hard to get you to your destination safely and comfortably. Let them know you appreciate them! Giving them a warm smile and a sincere “thank you” as you exit the plane will lift their spirits—and yours!

If you’d like to learn more about how to have impeccable etiquette while traveling, dining, attending parties, or during other special outings, be sure to explore our etiquette courses, and sign up for one today!