After 21 years as a flight attendant, I’ve seen it all. The pandemic heightened tensions on board, with the most extreme incidents of bad passenger behavior escalating to violence. More commonly, though, I see discourteous behavior lead to verbal disagreements, or a general unpleasantness.
As we enter the busy summer season, it’s worth discussing some of the common courtesies that could make flying, dare I say, pleasant.
Here are my airline etiquette rules, which aim to strike a balance between your own reasonable comforts and thoughtfulness to those around you.
Everyone has the right to recline — but there’s a polite way to do it.
The wrong way is slamming back the seat as hard and fast as you can. That has broken laptops, spilled drinks and caused fistfights that have caused flights to be diverted. Be aware of your surroundings. Before reclining, peek behind you and see what the situation is, and nicely ask if that person minds.
Clean up after your kids.
We are not maids. Flight attendants do not have access to vacuums, brooms or cleaning supplies that go beyond hand soap, wet wipes and air freshener. You are not required to clean up, but it’s courteous. There are knock-on effects, too: Messes in the aisle can be a safety hazard, and a big cleaning job can even delay the next flight. Proactive thinking helps. Can a small child handle a large bag of snacks? If not, put them in a smaller, more manageable container ahead of time.
The overhead bins aren’t your personal Tetris game.
The bins are first-come, first-serve in economy class. You don’t own the spot directly above your seat, and it’s not acceptable to take out someone else’s bag to make yours fit. Sliding bags to maximize space is fine, but save the complex puzzle solving for the flight attendant. And remember, small bags belong at your feet, keeping room for large bags in the overhead bins.
No one wants to hear your FaceTime conversation.
We don’t need to hear both sides of that conversation; plus, boarding an airplane is not the time for your goodbyes. It’s time for you to concentrate on finding your seat and stowing your bags as fast as possible so the people behind you can do the same thing. While we are on the topic, no one wants to hear your movies, video games or TikToks, so bring headphones. Even for children.
The middle seat gets both armrests.
It’s the consolation prize for being squished between two people with nowhere to lean. Case closed.
Headphones are a perfectly…
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