I have been traveling a lot this month and I have one more business trip before the month ends. During one stretch, I took six flights and visited seven airports in 10 days so I learned a lot from observing the passengers around me. RELATED: The One Thing Some Women Do on Airplanes That Drives Me Nuts – And I Can’t Believe It’s Not Illegal
To give you a little background, I was in three different classes of service, from a lie-flat first class seat on the posh Los Angeles to New York route, to a middle seat in coach between Nashville (BNA) and Dallas (DFW). I also flew Premium Economy.
I ended up in a middle seat because I left a conference early and switched to an earlier flight an hour before departure. I hustled to BNA with time to spare but the gate agents didn’t upgrade anyone so I was stuck. Here’s how to not get stuck in a middle seat.
Unfortunately, I witnessed a lot of bad behavior so here are 15 ways to NOT be a rude passenger:
1. Be friendly
It boggles my mind how unfriendly some passengers can be. Is it that difficult to just say hello to the flight attendants and your seatmates when you board? I understand, not many people want to talk during a flight but we can all at least be cordial. I go out of my way to say hi to the flight attendant working the door, even if they’re not greeting passengers like they’re supposed to.
2. Stow your bags properly
One reason overhead bin cabin space fills up so quickly is because passengers don’t stow their bags properly. Some put them in sideways, which severely decreases the amount space. If you place them in wheels first, then you can double the space. Also, place your bag near your seat, not at the front of the plane if you’re seated in the back.
3. Take your seat quickly
Another frustrating experience is when you see that one person just standing in the middle of the aisle trying to get organized while blocking everyone trying to board. Get your stuff out in advance so that when you get to your seat, you can quickly pull your stuff out, then stow your bag and sit down.
4. Let the passenger behind you know you’re reclining
I think out of all the flights I’ve ever taken, I’ve only seen a handful of people turn around and let the person behind them know they’re reclining. I always check to make sure they don’t have a laptop or drink on their tray table before I press the recline button. It’s just common courtesy. I’ve almost had my laptop shattered because of the rude passenger in front just slamming their seat back without any consideration for the person behind them.
5. Middle seat gets both armrests
An unwritten rule in travel is that the poor sucker in the middle seat gets both armrests. When I happened to be that sorry person, I was surprised that my seatmates, who were frequent travelers, weren’t giving me my space. They thought they could get two armrests and I get none? I don’t think so.
6. Don’t bring smelly or dangerous food onboard
This isn’t rocket science but bringing smelly foods like tuna fish and certain vegetables is a big no-no. The host of the Flight Attendant Podcast told Virgin Radio that, in her opinion, the three worst offending foods are broccoli, fish and hard boiled eggs. I would also add McDonald’s Big Mac or other similar foods. Also, avoid foods that many people are allergic to like nuts.
7. Don’t cut your nails or put nail polish on
Speaking of smelly, who in their right mind thinks it’s okay to put nail polish on while in a metal tube? Fortunately, this didn’t happen to me this month but it did happen to my buddy JT (tweet embedded below). I have seen it in the past and I immediately hit the call button so the flight attendants can put an end to it. I don’t think I need to expand on cutting your fingernails, toenails or doing any other personal hygiene on a plane but then again, this is 2023 and all common sense appears to have gone out the window.
Nail polish users: PLEASE don’t wait until you’re in an enclosed space with hundreds of strangers all breathing recycled air to apply nail polish. Some of us are very sensitive to the poisonous fumes.
Also, an FYI that drinking alcohol you brought onboard is not legal. pic.twitter.com/RQTjaNURTC
— JT Genter (@JTGenter) November 16, 2023
8. Don’t watch videos or talk on FaceTime without headphones
This is one of my biggest pet peeves and on every single one of my last seven flights, I witnessed people of all ages watch videos or talk on FaceTime without earbuds or headphones. Really? If they’re right next to me, I usually do the same thing for a few seconds so they can’t hear their video and they get the hint.
9. Don’t speak loudly to your seatmates
If you’re traveling with people, there’s no need to speak so loudly that people a couple rows away can hear you. Use your indoor voice, especially if it’s a night flight and people are trying to sleep.
10. Don’t cough without covering your mouth
Not covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is my biggest pet peeve and it was even before the pandemic. I just don’t see how people think it’s okay to disperse their nasty germs into the air. Again, it happens often and people of all ages seem to do it. At breakfast at a hotel recently, the kids at the table next to us were watching videos on their iPads without headphones and worse, were coughing aggressively without covering their mouths. One kept doing it (and it was a barking cough) and the parents didn’t say a word. After the fifth time, to my wife’s dismay, I couldn’t help myself and said, “Can you please have your son cover his mouth? We’re trying to avoid getting sick and we’re going to see someone in a few days with a compromised immune system.” She looked at me like I had some nerve but she did tell her son to cover his mouth. However, I saw the kid later in the day walking with his mom coughing all over the place and not covering his mouth.
11. Wear a mask if you’re sick
I’ve been carrying masks in my travel bag for over a decade. I wear one when I think my seatmate is sick or if I have a cold. It’s best not to fly when you’re sick but sometimes people have to. If you do, just wear a mask. One of my flight attendants was definitely sick. I could see it in his eyes and heard his frequent cough but at least he wore a mask. I just wish he coughed into his elbow as well instead of just his mask.
Post by @adventureswbubbaView on Threads
12. Don’t grab the seat in front of you when getting up
When you’re getting up to use the bathroom, don’t grab the seat in front of you to use it as leverage. Instead, use your armrest so you don’t disturb the person in front of you or pull their hair. If you’re old or have mobility issues, then you get a pass.
13. Don’t stick your feet out the other end
This doesn’t happen very often but I saw this on X, formerly known as Twitter (embedded below), this week where a tall passenger put his feet all the way under the seat in front and beyond. If you’re that tall, then pay for extra legroom.
Is this the new norm??? When I politely asked the village idiot in 2F on Saturday if he could move his feet so that I could actually have my feet in front of MY seat, he aggressively replied “I’ve bought this seat and the space under it!” #flying #incredulous #avgeeks #assemble pic.twitter.com/FJwRuWWXta
— elayne grimes ✍️ (@ely_438) November 20, 2023
14. Don’t be a litter bug
There’s a reason flight attendants frequently come down the aisle with trash bags. They do it for a number of reasons, including speeding up boarding for the next flight, it’s more sanitary and it reduces the number of objects that could trip passengers in the event of an emergency. Put your garbage in the seat back pocket (preferably in a bag) and then give it to the flight attendant when they come around collecting trash.
15. Stand to the right if you’re slow
After you’ve deplaned and you’re in the jetway, if you’re slow, stand to the side so others who are in a hurry to catch a connecting flight can pass you. There’s no reason to slow everyone down.
I know this might sound harsh but I’ve had it. It shouldn’t be this difficult for people to follow these basic, common sense, unwritten rules but then again, people seem to have lost their minds in this post-pandemic world we’re living in.
Let me know if I forgot anything in the comments.
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