Travel Tips: Plane Etiquette

The worst thing about planes is that they’re full of of other people. Don’t worry, the dislike is mutual. Being stuck in a small space packed with people who are all tired, grumpy, and in need of a shower can be challenging for everyone. Let’s take a few moments to consider some things we can all keep in mind to make things easier for everyone, including ourselves.

1. Clothing.
Repeat after me: This is not my house.
You’re not in the privacy of your own home, you are in a very public space that you share with other people. A good guideline is ‘would I go out to buy coffee in this?”. I’m aware some people are comfortable walking around in swimwear, pjs, and onesies, but take a moment to actually think when you decide what to wear on a plane trip. Firstly, don’t wear sleepwear. Yoga pants are borderline. Secondly, you are about to place your butt on a surface that god knows what might have been spilled on, covered in, or coated with. It is in your interest to keep some fabric between yourself and the seat of that… seat. Planes aren’t cleaned to perfection every time. Thirdly, don’t cover yourself in metal. You’re about to walk through a metal detector. Today is not the day for 500 dangly bracelets.

2. Snacking.
It’s perfectly fine to bring snacks onto a plane, and for long flights I’d even encourage it. However, it’s not worth risking someone’s life. Do not. DO NOT bring nuts. Even if the airline has been notified about a person’s nut allergy, they might neglect to make a public announcement about it as you board the plane. If you have an opened package of nuts in your bag, it might be too late to do something about it. Do you really want someone to have a potentially lethal allergic reaction in a steel tube over the Atlantic ocean just because you preferred one snack over another? No? Thought so.
Beyond food that can actually kill people, some foods will make your fellow passengers wish they were dead. Avoid foods that stink. When packing it, consider how it will smell after a few hours in your bag. The same thing goes for food that is extremely noisy or messy. Yes, diorites are amazing but that cheese dust goes on your fingers, your clothes, your face, your seat, your neighbour…

3. Served meals
Yes, these two need separate categories. Firstly, do not be the asshole who lies about having ordered a special meal just because you don’t like the menu. Ordering special meals for various dietary and/or medical requirements is a very annoying process that people only go through if they have a good reason to do it. If you steal their meal, they might not be able to eat anything for the entire flight. Don’t be an asshole.
In regards to eating said meals. See that little plastic table in front of you? That is your space. This table right here? That is my space. Those two things are separate. Don’t put things on my table.
Once again, you are in a public space. Close your mouth when you chew, eat without turning it into a concert, if you have to burp it shall be done in the most discrete way possible, use a napkin if you need it, and keep your litter under control. Manners do matter.
When the cart is coming up behind you, take a second to listen to what they have to offer. If there’s a menu presented to you upon boarding, read it. The question is usually “option a or b?”, it’s not that complicated. Tea or coffee? That’s another popular question. If they’ve just mentioned all the juices or soft drinks they have to the person behind you, you can save yourself and the staff some time by not asking them to repeat it again.

4. Selecting seats.
If you know you have a very small bladder that will cause you to have to use the bathroom more than twice during a long flight, book a seat next to the aisle. If you know your head falls to the side when you sleep, ask for a seat near the window. If you decide to bring your offspring onto a plane, try to book seats that are behind the walls that separate the different sections so that no one will have to be kicked in the back for seven hours.
If you suspect you will not fit into your designated space/seat, ask for seats with more room. Usually the seats near the emergency exit has more room than other seats. I’m serious. I do not care if it’s due to your weight, height, or a disability, the person who ended up next to you by sheer bad luck does not deserve to have half their seat taken up by you. If you don’t fit, ask the airline if there is a space that will fit you.
Also, don’t be the fucker who reclines your seat back 100% throughout the entire flight. Tilt it a bit when you sleep, change it a bit for variation if sitting in the same position the entire flight is painful, but remember the rule about respecting other people’s personal space. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. This applies to putting your feet up between the seats in front of you too.

5. Scents and hygiene.
Remember all those times I’ve mentioned the words ‘enclosed space’ and ‘packed with people’? Those people are going to be exposed to your personal fragrances. Shower on the day or at least the day before your flight. Wear a goddamn antiperspirant. Brush your teeth or at least chew gum every now and then on long trips. Wear clothes that don’t smell, aka clean clothes (again, this isn’t your bedroom). Don’t go crazy with the perfumes in the duty free stores. If you know that your feet sweat and stink, wear sandals during the entire trip rather than enclosed shoes that you take off during the flight. On that note, don’t walk around barefoot. You’re probably stepping on old body fluids, food stains, and good old dirt. It’s in the interest of your personal health to at least wear socks.

6. Booze and things that affect your cognitive functioning.
This is not the time to get drunk. Have a glass of wine or two, but don’t be an annoyance to others. If you know that even a small amount of alcohol makes you loud and stupid, don’t drink at all. Also, don’t take any other recreational drugs that will continue to affect you once you have reached the airport. Doesn’t matter if they’re legal or not. It’s about respect for others.
Let’s discuss sleeping pills for a moment. A lot of travel blogs/forums mention that if you take a little pill that makes you sleep through the entire flight, it will be a lot more pleasant for you. Why is this not only a genuinely bad idea but also a potentially dangerous one? Firstly, sleeping pills increase the risk of blood cloths. Unless you have double checked with your doctor that you’re allowed to not only use these pills, but also to fly with them in your body. Do not do it. Secondly, there’s a chance you might need to wake up and be coherent straight away. Planes are a very safe mode of transportation but when things go wrong, they go really wrong. You want to be able to wake up easily in case you need to put that oxygen mask on, evacuate the plane, or move out of the goddamn way so that people with medical knowledge can get to your neighbour who is having an emergency medical issue. It’s not worth it.

7. Medical issues
Flying with a cold is pure hell. It is painful and all your symptoms seem to worsen. Although you feel absolutely miserable, try not to let it affect the other passengers too much. Keep used tissues under control, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. If you have a cough, bring cough drops. Bring nasal spray. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Tea is a good option when it comes to beverages. If the person next to you can tell that you’re making an effort to control the couch/cold, they’re more likely to be sympathetic rather than annoyed.

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