Whether you are a fan of traveling by plane or not, there are certain rules everyone should comply with, no matter what. It’s difficult enough that you’re sharing a rather small space with people you don’t know; you don’t want things to go in the wrong direction by behaving improperly.
As Jules Hirst, founder of Etiquette Consulting explains, airplane etiquette is about solidarity and understanding with your fellow travelers. Being “forced” to stay put in a confined space can easily degenerate into something else, even if people have the best intentions. Surely, we’ve all witnessed some small arguments turning into major conflicts in the blink of an eye.
If you don’t want to be “that passenger” people talk about upon arrival and not in pretty terms, stay away from making these “polite” mistakes; they might seem innocent to you but annoy and offend other people.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking! Please be on your best behavior!
Most Annoying Habits That Offend Airplane Passengers:
“Sharing” the middle armrest
Sharing is something highly “debated” especially when we are children. We are taught from an early age that it is important to be able to share. With this engrained in our minds, it might not seem wrong to want to “share” the middle armrest in an airplane. But believe etiquette experts when they say that no one appreciates this type of sharing.
According to Jodi RR Smith, founder of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, the armrest belongs to only one person; that’s usually the person sitting in the middle (if we are talking about a three-seat row). “The window traveler has the wall and the aisle traveler has the space of the aisle.”
Helping someone with luggage without them asking
If the plane has landed and you get up first, it might seem normal to help the other passengers on your row with their luggage. The truth is that some people will not appreciate your gesture, at least not without asking for their permission to retrieve their luggage first. Yes, it is an act of kindness on your part, but they might not see it that way. In fact, your action might even scare some people. You can never know. So, the best thing you can do is ask first and act later.
Climbing over someone instead of waking them
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be considerate and not wake up the fellow passenger beside you to get out of your row, but climbing over them is definitely not the way to express your care. Laura Windsor, founder of Laura Windsor Etiquette & Protocol Academy says it’s better to wake up a sleeping neighbor by tapping them on the arm or saying “excuse me” than stepping over them.
Imagine what you would do if you were sleeping and woke up with someone all over you in a confined space. It wouldn’t be a nice surprise, would it?
Recline your seat during a short flight
Something else most people find annoying and offensive in airplanes is when other people use the recline position, especially for short flights. Yes, it can get really uncomfortable to sit in a small space for hours, but it’s even more uncomfortable to do it while being squeezed by the passenger in front of you.
If your flight takes less than two hours, then the polite thing to do is maintain your seat in the upright position. Airplane etiquette allows you to recline your seat in case you have red-eye or overseas flights, where most people do it to get some sleep. According to etiquette experts, you should at least ask the person behind for permission to recline your seat before doing so. But remember, just because you can do something, aka reclining, doesn’t mean you should!
Working during the flight
“This may come as a complete surprise, but the tray table was designed for your dining convenience. It is there for drinks, snacks, and the occasional meal. It was not designed to support your laptop,” warns Smith.
You might not see it as something offensive, but every movement on your tray will generate unwanted movement in the seat. Nobody likes to sit next to or behind someone who is constantly moving. It’s annoying!
On that note, here are 16 Things People in Small Towns Consider Annoying.
Asking to switch seats
No matter how politely you formulate your request, most people don’t like to switch seats in an airplane. At least, not when a complete stranger asks them to. It puts them in a difficult situation, especially if they refuse. In fact, according to a survey about the most offensive things people do in airplanes, 31% of the 2,000 polled Americans included this on the list.
According to Windsor, you should refrain from making such a request if the person you’re about to ask is not one in your group.
What you can do to prevent such a situation is to make the right arrangements to sit next to family or friends from the very beginning, when booking the flight.
Being too chatty
No one is saying that you shouldn’t say hello or exchange a few polite words when boarding the plane and sitting down. But according to Smith, talking too much and being too intrusive with people on your row is plain rude.
It might come as a surprise, but when people travel for long hours, they are not exactly looking for someone to talk to. They just want to sit in peace and not have to entertain the person next to them. Rather than becoming too chatty and tiresome, just greet politely and find other things to help pass the time. You can listen to something on your headphones, watch an in-flight movie, read a book, or simply relax. Being a sociable person is a virtue, but being a nuisance who cannot stop talking is not.
Taking off shoes or socks
Another offensive and absolutely rude habit during flights is taking your shoes or socks off, as agreed by 35 percent of survey respondents. Come on, do all the people on the plane have to endure your smelly feet?
To make sure everyone understands that this is an offensive breach of airplane etiquette, airline companies have carriage documents that clearly stipulate the Dos and DON’Ts while flying. For instance, United reserves the right to ask barefoot passengers or those with a “malodorous condition” to leave the aircraft before take-off.
One of the worst things you could do on an airplane, if not THE worst, is personal grooming like clipping or painting nails, trimming your beard and the like. Was there really no other place for you to do that?
An airplane is not your personal lavatory, so refrain from doing things that should be kept to yourself.
Apart from offending other people, you might also get into trouble with the aircraft personnel who will have to remove you from the plane. There have been numerous cases of altercations between rude passengers and flight attendants. Don’t be that strange guy!
Speaking of strange, check out these 15 Wackiest Laws in American Small Towns.