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After 3 years of NOT flying, I’ve done 3 domestic roundtrip flights in the past 5 months. I was curious what I would encounter among my fellow passengers in the way of airplane etiquette and courtesies. airplane etiquette and courtesies

Although it’s not uncommon to hear in the news of an occasional unruly passenger, I was actually surprised—in a good way—about how well-mannered most passengers were!

Here are some airplane etiquette and courtesies I observed on all three of my recent flights. (Note: These were all domestic flights, economy section, on totally packed planes.) These are things to keep doing to be well-mannered passengers!

Courtesies and good etiquette I observed on my 3 domestic round trips:

  1. Offering assistance – Fellow passengers were not hesitant to offer help in hoisting someone’s bag into the overhead bin. (And twice I accepted their help…lest I accidentally bash someone on the head, haha!)
  2. Listening to music and movies respectfully. Passengers used headphones or air pods for listening to music, movies or games. This was delightful to observe; a few years back, it seemed there were always a few people who seemed to think they should entertain the whole plane with their kid’s Peppa Pig video or latest TV show!
  3. No messy food. No one sitting around me brought smelly or messy food onboard. This keeps everyone’s space cleaner, especially if there is unexpected turbulence. And with so many airport restaurant options, it’s often more convenient to grab a bite before boarding the plane anyway.
  4. Willingness to swap seats. I overheard several conversations that involved someone asking to switch seats to keep family members together. It was heartwarming to observe that fellow passengers (who were likely travelling solo) were willing to make a switch and did so happily.
  5. Giving the middle seat passenger both arm rests. I’ve been that middle seat person many times, so it seems like a small luxury to have both arm rests.
  6. Lastly, showing appreciation to the flight attendants. Smile and greet them with a friendly ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ when you board. When offered a beverage, say, “May I please have…” rather than saying, “Give me a…” Most passengers around me said ‘thank you’ to the flight attendants when served a beverage. This simple gesture of gratitude goes a long way to help make a hard-working flight crew feel appreciated.

Incidentally, here are a few etiquette observations from my recent flights that passengers should be more mindful of:

  1. Carry your backpack when you board. Do NOT wear it strapped to your back down the aisle to your seat. Instead, before you step into the plane, place it atop your roller board or carry it in front of you close to your body as you make your way down the aisle. I secured aisle seats on my flights because of tight connections and wished for a football helmet to protect my noggin from being bashed by back packs.
  2. Quickly stow your luggage in the overhead bin. Then immediately step into your row to stow your personal item under the seat versus getting things arranged while still standing in the aisle.
  3. Refrain from reclining your seat to the fullest. If you want to sleep, bring a travel pillow, which helps you sleep without reclining your seat all the way back. The passenger behind you will appreciate it! Here’s a travel pillow I use and highly recommend.

If you have upcoming flights, make it a point to keep observing good airplane etiquette and courtesies. As a result, these gestures and good manners, albeit in tight quarters, help everyone enjoy air travel and the friendly skies.

You might also like to read “Airplane Etiquette – 8 things not to do.”

Rachel Wagner is a licensed business etiquette consultant, trainer, and speaker. She is the owner of the Oklahoma-based business etiquette firm Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol. 
Rachel provides onsite and LIVE virtual training on business and dining etiquette topics. She has corporate clients from many industries around the country. As an etiquette expert, she is interviewed and quoted in a variety of local and national media outlets. These include The Washington Post, MONEY, Forbes, and many more. She is also credentialed as a Virtual Event Professional and Zoom Producer.

Photo credit: Rachel Wagner