11 Etiquette Rules To Follow When Flying

by Carina Wolff

When it comes to traveling, most of us spend our time trying to figure out what to pack and what our itinerary looks like. With all that hustle and bustle, we can sometimes get so caught up in ourselves that we forget some etiquette rules to follow when flying. Spending long hours in a cramped space can cause some sticky situations, but if you're doing your best to be courteous and polite, you'll help yourself and everyone have around you have a more enjoyable journey. Plus, you would want everyone else to act the same, right?

"When it comes to flying, the most important aspect would always be safety," says international civility expert Lew Bayer over email. "And then I would say that we follow the general rules to help ease the experience of others and make air travel more enjoyable for everyone."

No matter where you're going, what section of the plane you're in, or how long the flight is, you want to maintain good behavior while traveling. Some rules are obvious, but others you might forget when you're caught up in trying to make your flight. Here are 11 etiquette rules to always follow when flying on an airplane — your fellow passengers will thank you.


Don't Move Someone Else's Bag


"Do not move someone else’s bag in the overhead without asking," says Michael McGilligan, general manager of Hilton Chicago O’Hare over email. "People who fly often get on the plane first and typically have very appropriate carry-on bags. When someone boards late with a bag that probably should have been checked, it is never appropriate to start moving other people’s bags around or cramming them into smaller compartments so that you can jam your suitcase in the overhead."


Check Before Reclining


You don't have to ask permission from the person behind you before you recline, but out of courtesy, you should check before throwing your chair back. "This is an option, created for everybody's comfort, but before you recline your chair, always let the people behind you know about it in advance," says Maryanne Parker, founder of Manor of Manners, over email. "Sometimes they might have an open table and drinks or food. Be gentle."


Let The Person In The Middle Seat Use The Arm Rest


No one likes the middle seat, so don't be that person who doesn't leave room for that poor soul stuck in the middle. "Give them an opportunity to put their arms on the arm rest," says Parker. "Even if they don't suggest by their body language they might use it, make sure to ask them before you use the arm rest."


Practice Good Hygiene


if you know you are getting on a plane and will be seated literally 6 inches from other people, consider washing, brushing your teeth, having a mint, putting on a clean shirt, refreshing your deodorant etc. Take a trip to the bathroom or take some Tums or whatever you need before you board so that you can keep other unpleasant body smells to a minimum, and go easy when you put on perfume or fragrance.


Use The Bathroom When Your Seat Mates Have Gotten Up


It's good to get up once or twice during a flight, especially a long one, but try to time it out so as not to disturb others, if possible. "Consider using the bathroom when other folks in your row are using it as well," says former travel agent Grainne Kelly over email. "Avoid making people get in and out of their seats several times."


Book A Window Seat If You Like To Sleep


If you're someone who likes to take a seat on the plane and then pass out, it's best to book yourself a window seat. "Otherwise, you will inconvenience badly the people who might want to leave their seat for different reasons," says Parker.


Avoid Messing With The Window Shade


If you are seated by the window, be respectful when it comes to putting up or down the shades. "The window shade is not a toy," says Kelly. "Put it up or leave it down. Do not continue to play with it. If putting it down, ask others in your row they mind. Some passengers might need it open for a sense of calm and safety."


Avoid Strong-Smelling Foods


"Do not bring food on the plane that will have a strong or lingering smell," says Kelly. If you're hungry, bring snacks that are sealed or opt for foods that aren't going to stink up the cabin.


Don't Clog The Aisles When Disembarking

"Nothing says rude like the person pushing through the aisle, pushing others aside to get to the door first," says national etiquette expert Diane Gottsman over email. "Everyone is in a hurry. If you are about to miss a connection, contact your flight attendant before landing, and ask for assistance deplaning quickly. Otherwise, be patient and exit the plane in order of your aisle."


Check The Label When Retrieving Your Bag

Nothing is worse that arriving at your destination, only to find that your bag is missing. Don't let yourself be that person who takes someone's bag by accident. "Check the name tag on your luggage before leaving the terminal," says Gottsman. "Consider a unique ribbon or bright durable tag for easy identification. Taking the wrong bag to the hotel, or back to your home, is a terrible way to start, or end, a great trip."


Don't Drink Too Much


Limit your alcohol intake, says Parker. After following all the proper etiquette getting on the plane, you don't want to get too hammered so all your manners fly out the door — not to mention you don't want to get kicked off your flight!