Wise Traveller Guide To Flying Etiquette

There is nothing more annoying than discovering that your airline seat is next to someone over-friendly with their elbows or behind someone who reclines their seat fully as soon as the plane lifts off. What can you do about travelling with inconsiderate fellow passengers, and how can you ensure that you abide by the correct flying etiquette?

1. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself

Don’t sit down on a flight with a bad attitude already set. Be courteous with your fellow passengers, and you are more likely to be respected equally by them. Check behind you before reclining your seat, come to an agreement with your neighbour about elbow room and the sharing of the arm rest, and keep your music to a volume that your neighbours cannot hear.

2. Only recline your chair fully on red-eye flights

There is nothing worse than having to squeeze your legs behind someone who has completely reclined their chair on top of you. The only time that it is acceptable to lie back as much as your chair will allow for is when everybody is in the same position. If you are on an overnight flight when most people will be trying to sleep, the majority of chairs will be in the same position, meaning that you will all get the same amount of space. If you don’t need to sleep, you don’t need to recline fully.

3. Always sit upright during meal times

Can you imagine having to eat your in-flight meal off your knees because the chair in front is reclined so much that you cannot access your tray table? Be respectful of those behind you and ensure that your seat remains upright throughout the entire meal time, checking that those behind you have finished their meals before reclining again.

4. Speak to your neighbours

We may come from a culture where we don’t like speaking to strangers, but sometimes it is just polite to ask your neighbours if they mind you reclining in your chair or taking up a little more room. If you are sat in front of a six foot tall person, they are more likely to have a problem with you leaning back in your seat than if you are sat in front of a child who requires less leg room. There may even be opportunities for one of you to move to another space on a relatively empty flight.

5. Look before you lean

Even if you don’t want to check verbally with the person sat behind you, at least be courteous enough to offer a glance behind before you lean back. Check that they aren’t resting their head on the tray table, or using it to work or eat. This also minimises the risk of accidentally bumping someone’s head if they are leaning forward to sort through their bag.

6. Negotiate elbow room

Yes, you have to share an arm rest with a complete stranger sometimes, but it doesn’t have to become a battlefield. If you like to keep your arm on the rest, ask your neighbour if they mind, and if they wish to share, simply delegate each other the front or back of the rest. If you plan on doing work during the flight and have lots of paperwork to spread out, ask if your neighbour minds and be respectful of their space. You have both paid for your seat, and they have just as much right to their space as you have. If you really require extra room, ask if there are any empty aisles that you could move to, or consider paying extra for a first class ticket. When all else fails the simple rule here is if in a window seat you get the bulk head/window  one arm rest, if in an aisle seat you get the aisle to stretch your legs and one arms rest, if you're in the middle seat you deserve 2 arms rests.

7. Don’t get annoyed with children

After all, you were once a child yourself, and surely you can remember how boring and frustrating you found long haul flights. Utilise eye masks and noise cancelling headphones if you wish to rest during the flight. If you’re sat in front of a child be more vigilant with reclining your chair, checking that you are not going to injure them. And if you are sat next to a particularly boisterous child, either politely ask their parent to swop seats or put up with it.

8. Be polite

If someone in front of you rudely reclines their chair without warning, there really is nothing much that you can do about it. Rather than rudely tutting or sighing, talking loudly about how rude they are, or kicking the back of the chair in anger, simply tap them on the shoulder and ask if they would mind moving their chair forward slightly. You are more likely to incite a positive response if you remain calm and polite.

9. Ask to move

If you are stuck behind a persistent recliner, next to someone who keeps elbowing you whilst playing loud music, or in front of particularly noisy children, the best thing that you can do is quietly seek out the nearest air hostess and politely ask if there are any empty seats available that you could move to. If the flight is full, you will have to reach a polite compromise with your neighbours.

Here are a few more tips to on common travel blunders and how to avoid them.

Emma Lavelle is a UK based writer and photographer and has her own blog Field and Nest.