Airplane Etiquette: Does It Exist?

When flying was first introduced to the public it was an event. Passengers would get dressed up to get on their flight and everyone was polite, friendly, and most importantly, happy. The flight itself was as important as the destination.

Women were flight attendants and were called stewardesses although the first person in this job was a man, Heinrich Kubis, back in 1912. The air hostess or stewardess was the epitome of style, class, and of course, service.

Service was all-encompassing and passengers were civil from the moment they entered the airport, throughout their flight, and afterwards.

So what has happened to us? Stewardesses are now called flight attendants and their jobs are harder than ever before. They have a thankless job, especially after 9/11, and I have huge respect for them since it’s not the easiest job in the world. They have their work to do and they get to deal with a myriad of obnoxious passengers. Yes, you know the obnoxious passenger – the one that always sits next to you, behind you, or in front of you. Let’s go through a list of potential obnoxious passengers.

  • The Overhead Bin Stealer: Despite sitting in row 36, this passenger is going to put his/her bag in the overhead bin at row 10. Since they boarded before you do, by the time you get to your seat, there’s no more space in the overhead bin and you have to check your bag.
  • The Recliner: Doesn’t matter that the plane hasn’t taken off yet, this person has to push his/her seat back the second they get on the plane. As the pitch, the space between the seats, gets smaller on planes, the Recliner doesn’t seem to care that anyone else is on the plane.
  • The I Refuse to Change My Seat Because I Was Here First: We’ve all seen families or couples board who ended up with separate seats. The flight attendant will attempt to move a few single passengers to get the couple or family together, but inevitably there will be that passenger who refuses to budge. I was on a flight recently where a man refused to change seats so a couple could sit together because he liked his aisle seat. He was going to be moved to another aisle seat but didn’t want to change seats.
  • The Smelly Passenger: Granted, we don’t all smell like sunshine and rainbows, but if you have to sit next to the passenger who hasn’t seen deodorant or a shower in years, you know how tough it can be.
  • The I’ve Had Way Too Much Too Drink Partier: Be it in First or Business Class where the liquor runs freely or in Economy Class where he/she has to pay for drinks, this person is the one you want to stay away from. They start out happy and often end up loud and uncontrollable. Why oh why didn’t you cut them off earlier?
  • The Armrest Hog: This is the passenger who has to have both arms on the armrests at all times or else. They invade your space, but don’t seem to mind since they paid for their seat and feel entitled.
  • The “It’s Ok Johnny to Kick the Seat in Front of You” Parent: Ever see those parents so tuned into their drink, the inflight movie, or computer and little Johnny decides kicking your seat back would be the best thing to do for the entire flight? Oh yeah – you get the parent of the year award. Yes, there is a person in that seat and yes, they can feel your well-behaved child’s repeated kicks. Do you think you could do something about that?
  • The Chatterbox: This person wants to know every detail about your life and won’t let up until they have gotten enough information to write a book about you.
  • The I Need to Use the Restroom During Beverage Service Now or Else: The flight attendants announce that beverage service will start soon and yet, this passenger decides to wait to use the restroom once service has commenced. You’ve seen this person as they make the flight attendants back up the beverage cart to the back of the plane so they can get around them. Really?
  • The I Must Get Off the Plane First Runner: A relative of the last person, as soon as the plane lands this person makes a run for it. They try to scoot past everyone else to get off the plane first. Apparently, he/she doesn’t notice everyone else wants to get off the plane as well.

We’re squeezed in for long and short flights and I may not be Miss Manners, but what ever happened to common courtesy?

You probably expected me to include the crying baby now didn’t you? Nope, not doing it. Believe it or not, I’m the person who feels bad for the parents on a flight with a crying baby. I’m the first to tell the parent that their baby or toddler was so great on the flight instead of chastising them for bring their child on a plane. It amazes me that people are so upset when a child is crying on a flight. C’mon people – they’re kids after all! I also want to say that I have met many incredibly sweet people on flights who were helpful to me or other people. On another recent flight when I was upgraded to first class, the meal was one I couldn’t eat as a vegan. I ended up with a small salad along with hummus and pita chips, which wasn’t bad, but boy was I hungry. The man next to me offered me his hummus and pita chips and although I declined, it was nice of him to offer. I have had people offer to help get my bag in the overhead bin even if I didn’t need the help.

As airplane manufacturers continue to make planes according to airline needs over passenger comfort, we will see planes with more seats squeezed in to accommodate more passengers. Below are the new Air France seats that are thinner and although they provide more pitch, look how thin they are. The thinner seats are lighter and the lighter the plane, the less fuel it will require.

What about the newly announced SkyRider? Think you want to squeezed in on a flight where you are sitting on a bicycle seat with a pitch of 23″? Yikes!

Comfort is compromised, but we don’t have a right to interject our opinion. Well, we do by buying or not buying tickets on airlines that don’t keep the passengers comfort in mind. If we continue to get squeezed into airplanes, I can’t imagine passengers becoming more polite. Think about it the next time you fly and maybe your flight will be better if you are nicer and more considerate to the people around you and of course, to the flight attendants and other airline employees.

6 thoughts on “Airplane Etiquette: Does It Exist?

  1. lol great post! I’m rather tall so it is always hard for me to fit in airplane seating to begin with, but when you throw in “the recliner” it makes it that much more unbearable.

    You left out one that I think is one of the worst the “Wide load”. The person that should have purchased two seats, but instead decides to put the arm rests up and use half of yours.

  2. You are absolutely right! What’s worse is the Wide Load combined with the Smelly passenger. Somehow they always end up next to me on a flight.

  3. I have to disagree with this:

    “The I Refuse to Change My Seat Because I Was Here First: We’ve all seen families or couples board who ended up with separate seats. The flight attendant will attempt to move a few single passengers to get the couple or family together, but inevitably there will be that passenger who refuses to budge. I was on a flight recently where a man refused to change seats so a couple could sit together because he liked his aisle seat. He was going to be moved to another aisle seat but didn’t want to change seats”

    In this day and age, seats are selected well in advance, at the time of booking, and on some airlines ANYONE can do this..you don’t have to have status. You can also pay a bit extra for the benefit of selecting your seat in advance. People work hard to make sure they are not in the middle, and often pay to do so.

    So why should anyone who took the time and trouble to book an aisle seat play “unite the couple”?? They are grown ups. It will not kill them to be apart for a few hours, and if it is so important to them, why didn’t they book seats together in the first place???? Why impose your wants onto someone else? Why SHOULD the guy in the aisle seat be put out of his assigned seat for a couple that couldn’t be bothered..or was too cheap…to pay to select seats together?

    If the gods of airline travel dealt them a poor hand and they got separated…take it up with the airline and just be grateful to be on the plane at all.

    The guy in the aisle had the BP…a document…with his name on it. He is entitled to that seat, to keep that seat, and doesn’t owe anyone an explanation.

    The couple who wants to sit together is are the entitled ones..especially if they were dumb enough to think the airline would seat them together.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It definitely shows that different people have different thoughts and priorities in life. As for me, I have paid extra for a seat I selected and I’ve still given it up to let people sit together. It’s not going to kill me to do something nice at least once a day for someone else. That’s just my two cents. 🙂

    2. I agree with drfhy. Some people pick specific seats based on leg room (tall people, ect), and honestly they are entitled to the seat they paid for.
      If a couple/family wanted to sit together, they should have chosen seats or paid the amount of money everyone who picked their seats has. They aren’t entitled to another person’s seat because they wanted to be cheap and steal from others.

      1. Bridget,

        I agree with both of you on that topic. I guess all I’m saying is that if I’m traveling alone, it doesn’t bother me. Now if I had paid for extras, yes I would be bothered by that. But I regularly fly and often switch seats with others just because it really doesn’t bother me that much to move. To each his or her own in the end.

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