10 commandments of air travel

10 Unwritten Rules For Airplane Etiquette

Unless you travel first class or have your own private jet, you’ll most likely run into other rude travelers aboard your flight that doesn’t respect basic, common sense rules.

Flying nowadays doesn’t have to be hard or complicated, just follow these basic commandments and you and others will be happy throughout the flight.

1. Thou shalt keep the window shades down when the sun comes up on a red-eye flight.

If you have a window seat on a red-eye flight, it’s 6 am and the sun is just rising, close the bloody window shade, please.

There may be several hours left on the flight and people would like to get some sleep to compensate for time zone loss.

close window shade please
Don’t be this asshole

2. Thou shalt let those in front of you exit the plane before you.

This seems obvious and has recently become more commonplace during the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the few good changes to travel that have come from it. What’s the rush?

exiting plane

3. Thou shalt choose the aisle seat if you have a weak bladder.

If you chose a window seat and slammed a liter of water before boarding the plane, you’re an asshole. At least offer to switch seats with the aisle so you don’t have to wake up the people beside you every 30 minutes.

4. Thou shalt not clap when the plane lands.


5. Thou shalt not inflict thy feet upon other passengers.

We couldn’t describe the situation more accurately than Andrea Romano at Travel + Leisure:

You settle in for a long flight. You try to get comfortable. Get your complimentary ginger ale. Put your headphones in. And then, it happens. You see toes. The passenger behind you has officially broken the sacred, cardinal rule of air travel: Never, ever put your bare feet up on a flight.

Not only should you not be barefoot but your feet definitely shouldn’t be on armrests, or even on the floor below the passenger in front of you (if you’re tall, it happens).

Also, do not block the aisle with your legs, the flight attendants would prefer the aisle to be clear at all times.

airplane feet
Image via Jessie Char

6. Thou shalt look behind you before reclining.

Especially during mealtime. The neighbor from behind you may have a drink and food precariously arranged on the table tray attached to your chair, be courteous and look before reclining.

7. Thou shalt not attempt a conversation with someone wearing headphones.

They clearly don’t want to be bothered. We all know that one person must initiate a conversation during EVERY flight.

While there’s nothing wrong with getting to know one’s own neighbor, please don’t drag on the conversation if it’s only you doing the talking.

headphones plane
This guy clearly doesn’t want to be bothered, so leave him alone.

8. Thou shalt move seats after takeoff if there is an open row.

Assigned seats, we all hate them. Especially if you’re smushed between two overweight travelers. Up ahead, you see the final passengers locating their seats.

Just in front of you, there’s an empty row that nobody has claimed. You cross your fingers, hoping the remaining passengers don’t take those seats. They don’t!

The plane takes and reaches altitude, but you notice the obese man beside you doesn’t budge. You tap him on the shoulder, but he doesn’t speak English, so you grunt and point ahead of you at the empty row.

He doesn’t get the sign. The only thing left to do is crawl over this large man taking up too much space, breaking every distant social protocol in place so that you can make it to salvation.

It’s common courtesy to move and give others space when there’s other space available, and it should be common knowledge.

9. Thou shalt not stand up as soon as the plane lands.

standing up when plane lands

10. Thou shalt not keep thy neighbor’s armrest to thyself.

Everyone gets one armrest. It’s not very hard to figure out.

share armrest

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