How to Fly Like a Gentleman

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 21, 2012 · 131 comments

in A Man's Life, On Etiquette

You stretch out your legs, take a look out the window to check the view at 31,000 feet, and then place the book you were reading on the empty seat next to you. An attractive, smiling stewardess leans over, lays down a cloth napkin and silverware, and asks which of the three available hot entrees you’d like for your meal. She quickly returns and sets down the dinnerware in front of you. As you dig into your delicious food, you can hear the sounds of music coming from the piano bar at the front of the plane…

….THUNK! With a kick to your seat from the toddler behind you, you awaken from your daydream to find yourself wedged between a large, unbathed man in a tank top and a teenager blasting music on his headphones so loud you can hear every word of the lyrics of his favorite heavy metal band. The flight attendant hands you a plastic cup of soda, along with a tiny bag of pretzels, and quickly moves on.

Air travel. It certainly isn’t the same as it was during its “golden age” several decades ago. It’s even gone downhill from how it was just 15 years ago, when flights weren’t always full, you didn’t have to pay to check a bag, and you could make a mad dash to the gate to finally confess your feelings for a lover right before she got on the plane. (Not as dramatic to confront them in the security line, is it?)

Sure, the Golden Age of Air Travel had its own drawbacks. Less flights, not as safe, and, a whole lot more expensive. The drop in ticket prices since the days when Pan Am ruled the skies has been a boon for the man of modest means who still wants to see the world (or, just his family a few states away for the holidays).

On the flip side, the democratization of flight has turned it into something that has to be endured, rather than enjoyed. When you’re being herded through security and made to wait an hour and a half on the tarmac, it’s easy to feel more like a head of cattle than a traveling gentleman.

But a gentleman always does what he must do, and regardless of the circumstances, makes things as pleasant and smooth as possible for those around him – friends and strangers alike. Through gestures big and small, he shows a respect for the needs of others and an awareness of how his behavior affects them. He knows his example encourages others to follow suit, and that the more individuals who choose to adopt common-sense manners, the more enjoyable life becomes for all. A small sacrifice in the present ends up benefitting not only other people, but himself as well.

This was true of the gentleman when he traveled by stagecoach and by train, and just as true, if not more so today, when he hops aboard a jet. Here’s how to take to the skies like a classic gent.

How to Fly Like a Gentleman

“To do nothing that can either annoy or offend the sensibilities of others, sums up the principal rules for conduct under all circumstances—whether staying at home or traveling.” Emily Post, Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home, 1922


Dress sharp. Now, there’s no need to don a three-piece suit, but do kindly leave the pajama pants and crocs at home. No matter how seemingly pedestrian it’s become, taking a trip is still a special thing. Dressing decently and with a little style can get you into that mindset and heighten your experience, as well as add a bit of the old charm back into travel for you, and for your fellow passengers as well. Putting on real pants that button will help your fellow travelers feel more like they’re getting away from it all, and less like they’re visiting a Walmart at midnight. For advice on dressing for travel with both practicality and style in mind, check out these tips from Antonio.

Be civil to the ticket agents and other airline employees. Despite their proximity to those automated kiosks, ticket agents are not machines. Just as you don’t berate a waiter for a poor-tasting dish, don’t take out your understandable frustrations on the ticket and gate agents for flight delays and other snafus they had no hand in or power over. Your own disgruntlements feel supremely important, but understand they’re burdened with dealing with the disgruntlements of hundreds of other folks just like you every single day; it’s not easy. So by all means, be firm in asking them to do all they possibly can to accommodate you when things go awry, but do your best to stay calm and cool, even friendly. It will surely be a sigh of relief to the agent to deal with a rational and perhaps even smiling traveler for once. And when an agent goes above and beyond the call of duty in helping you, be sure to tell them how much you appreciate it.

Get through the security check as quickly as possible. Have you ever been standing in a security line that snaked up and down, knowing your flight was going to take off in half an hour, and sweating whether you were going to get to the gate on time? Your blood pressure soars, every minute that passes is excruciating, and when you see folks at the front of the line moving very slowly and not following the clearly-marked instructions, your eyes fairly bulge out of your head.

Sure, some people are late because of their own dumb choices, but sometimes it’s because of something out of their control, and they just really, really want to catch their flight home to their family. So next time you’re in the security line, just imagine there’s a guy behind you on the verge of an aneurism. Plus, everybody, late or not, truly appreciates moving through the chute as quickly as possible.

Have your ID and ticket (or smartphone, nowadays) out and ready when you get to the first checkpoint. Then take off your shoes and remove your laptop from your bag while there are still a few people between you and the conveyer belt. When they say everything out of your pockets, they mean everything. And once it’s your turn, move quickly and efficiently to load up your stuff and walk through the scanner.

Don’t clip your nails while waiting in the gate area, and then leave your pile of clippings there. Yes, dear reader, I saw this happen.


Board the plane in an orderly fashion. Whenever boarding is announced, people tend to stampede to the door…and then creep forward in a giant line to get on the plane. Unless you’re flying Southwest, or are very concerned about finding overhead compartment space, there’s no rush. I personally don’t want to be sitting in that flying capsule for any longer than necessary, and tend to wait until the line has died down to get on. Even if you do want to board ASAP, wait until your “group” is called.

Try to avoid smacking people with your bag as you make your way down the aisle. Hold your carry-on in a controlled fashion in front of you. You don’t want to knock an old lady unconscious with your Saddleback briefcase.

Don’t try to avoid the fee for check-in bags by bringing a carry-on that’s too big. You know this guy – he holds up the line of people trying to get down the aisle of the plane as he struggles against all odds to cram a bag that’s never going to fit into the overhead compartment, and then finally has to give it to the flight attendant to check. Saving money by avoiding the checked-bag fee is great, and so is traveling light, but make sure your bag will fit before you haul it onto the plane; most ticket counters have a measuring box that will allow you to verify this before you check in.

Help people put their bags into the overhead compartment. If you see someone struggling to put their bag up, offer a helping hand.

Once you’ve put your belongings in the overhead compartment, sit down. Don’t stand there in the aisle rummaging through your bag to find your Jujubes. If you need something from your bag that you can’t grab easily, you should sit down, put the bag on your lap, and then return it to the overhead compartment once you’re through.

Let separated couples/friends/family sit together. If a couple gets put in different rows, and you’re a single gent who doesn’t care which seat he’s in, offer to move so they can sit together. It means a lot to folks.

On our first flight with Gus, Kate and I were pretty nervous about keeping him pacified, and were ready to team up to do it. So I was really disappointed to find out the airline, contrary to our reservations, had put Kate and Gus in a separate row right behind me — the very last row on the plane. It was one of those prop planes that had two seats on one side, and one seat on the other. The guy across from Kate offered to switch, but the guy sitting next to me refused, saying he didn’t want to sit in the back row because the chairs didn’t recline. At that exact moment, somewhere in the world, a chivalrous kitten was killed.

Take Off (and Landing)

Return your seat to the upright position and turn off your electronic device when the flight attendant asks. Don’t be the guy who tries to squeeze in a few more minutes on the phone after they make that announcement, and makes the flight attendant come by to give him a nudge.

In Flight

Honor the unofficial code of armrest dibs. Who gets which armrest? It’s always a little awkward, isn’t it? No need to wrangle over them and throw elbows. Here’s a sensible code of conduct: Each person gets at least one armrest. In a three-seat row, the middle person gets the armrest on each side of him, while the person in the aisle seat gets the outside one, and the person in the window seat gets the one next to the window; the thinking here is that the person in the aisle seat can lean into the aisle, the person in the window seat can lean into the window, but the man in the middle is stuck. In a row with five seats, the person in the very middle seat gets the two armrests around him, while the passengers to his left each take their left armrest, and the passengers on the right each claim the one on their right.

Keep your kid as calm and occupied as possible. Despite being separated on the aforementioned flight, we were fine because we had a Gus-pacification battle plan: lots of books, snacks, trinkets, and, God’s gift to traveling parents: the iPad. Cranky kids top the list of traveler pet peeves, so don’t bring a tyke along and expect him to spend his time browsing the SkyMall catalog. Sure, it’s the crying itself that’s annoying, but equally frustrating is a parent who ignores the meltdown while immersing herself in Fifty Shades of Grey. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to turn off a kid’s waterworks, but fellow passengers will be more understanding if you’re at least making an effort to walk ‘em back from the edge. If you want to win over your seatmates even more, these parents had a pretty ingenious idea: hand out goody bags of candy and earplugs to those seated around you!

Listen to your movies/music at a reasonable volume. Airlines really cram people together these days. People’s heads are only a few inches apart during flight. So don’t crank up the volume on your headphones, and treat your seatmate to the sound of every single explosion in The Expendables.

Initiate conversation only when welcome. It’s fine to chat with your fellow passengers a bit; it’s a little strange that we sit side-by-side with people and never acknowledge each other whatsoever. But if your seatmate doesn’t seem interested in engaging with you, don’t continue to prattle on.

If you end up next to an unwelcome chatterbox, follow Emily Post’s old advice to steamship passengers in the same scenario: “If you receive them with any degree of enthusiasm, your response may be translated into a willingness to talk. But if you answer in the merest monosyllables, it should be taken to mean that you prefer to be left to your own diversions.” If you really don’t want folks to talk to you, head off the possibility by slipping on some headphones; doesn’t matter if sound is being emitted or not – it’s an unofficial “do not disturb” sign.

Give those behind you a heads up when you’re going to recline your seat. The person seated behind you may have drinks or a laptop on their tray table, so don’t surprise them with a rapid recline of your seat. If you can, turn around and let them know your seatback is incoming. That’s easier to do in the aisle seat, and if you find giving the heads up awkward, at least recline very slowly.

Don’t get up to use the head when the flight attendants are serving food and drinks. There are plenty of good times to cram yourself into the plane’s tiny loo. During the beverage service is not one of them. Don’t create a game of chicken between you and the bev cart.


Exit in an orderly fashion. Get up row by row. Once it’s your turn, gather your things as quickly as possible and get going. If you’re seated towards the back of the plane, and worried about making a connection, instead of charging into the aisle and trying to bulldoze your way to the front, ask a flight attendant before landing if there’s an available seat near the front of the plane to which you can be moved. They’ll usually be happy to oblige.

Thank the flight attendants and pilots. They just safely hurtled a metal can eight miles above the earth’s surface, without crashing into the Andes and forcing you to become a cannibal. A tip of the hat is in order!

Baggage Claim

Stand a few feet away from the edge of the baggage claim conveyer belt. It may help you grab your bag 2.5 seconds faster, but standing with one’s shins up against the baggage claim conveyer belt blocks the view of others who are looking for their bag. Stand back a little. No need to bunch up right where the bag comes out, either; pick a different spot, wait 40 seconds, and the bag will come right to you.

Polish your monocle, sir. You’ve made it to your destination safe and sound, and got there like a gentleman.

All illustrations by Ted Slampyak

What are your tips on flying like a gentleman? Share them with us in the comments!

{ 131 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Palifox December 3, 2012 at 2:26 pm

A friend once flew South America to Australia with his officer’s sword as a carry-on and nobody said a word. Another friend does the opposite, never has any more carry-on than a magazine. I carry a shoulder bag large enough for phone, a book, keys, ticket and pocket change, cheque book, comb,toothbrush. small flashlight and change of underwear & socks. Nothing else. If you cannot do with out “toiletries” for a few hours then there is something wrong with your head.

102 Firefox December 3, 2012 at 9:28 pm

I would say that if you can’t get through a few hours without flashligt and underwear there’s something wrong with your head

103 Pall.e December 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm

While it is very gentlemanly to help a person put their things in overhead, be careful as many airlines actually have a weight limit usually between 15-25 lbs. If someone is having trouble lifting a bag up it is normally because they are outside of those weight limits. If it then falls on someone’s head you could possibly liable.

104 Skite December 6, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Regarding the “Let separated couples/friends/family sit together” rule: it is considered rude to ask someone to trade seats to accommodate you when doing so would inconvenience them or sentence them to a less comfortable flight. For example, asking someone in an aisle seat or exit row (which many airlines charge extra for) to switch for your center seat, or back row, next to a toddler. If someone asks you to switch and you’ve 1) paid extra for your seat, 2) are already sitting next to your family, or 3) the trade causes an inconvenience you’re unwilling to endure, politely decline, though it would be exceptionally manly to trade anyway if someone with a small child is asking. If you need to switch, be gracious and try to make an equal trade, or work to the accommodating stranger’s benefit: after all, they don’t have to assist you. Remain pleasant if they decide they would prefer to remain in their assigned seat. An airplane is too small a space for ungentlemanly belligerence, and the flight will be over before you know it.

105 Harold J. Forbes December 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Great article! I thankfully don’t fly as much as I used to, but here are my comments:

1) If you are not in the group that is currently boarding, please back away from the gate. It seems like every flight I board there are folks that will block the entrance to the gate waiting for their group to be called.
2) Unless it is someone you know, please keep your armrest down. It is rude to encroach upon someone else’s limited space. If you absolutely need the extra width, buy another seat.
3) I’m okay with reclining seats, but only recline as much as you need to be reasonably comfortable. For me it makes a big difference on my back to be able to recline slightly. Of course if the person in front of you reclines all the way the only real option not to have their head and seat directly in your face is to recline.
4) Don’t bring hot food on board. My last trip I sat next to a woman who pulled out a to-go box of some hot pasta dish. It was brutal having to smell that one.

As for the seat-switching issue, I won’t switch to a crappier seat under any circumstance. Sorry, there is a reason I plan ahead and select a certain seat. Don’t ask me to swap my aisle seat for your middle so you can sit next to your girlfriend of two weeks – I really don’t care.

Seat switching aside, I think the overwhelming theme of the article and most of the comments is to be polite and respectful to the employees and fellow passengers and things will be much more pleasant for everyone involved.

106 Nick Rosaci December 15, 2012 at 9:51 am

Great article! I have a few to add to the original points:

On dressing sharp, if you combine that with being respectful, and there’s the need, you’ll be the first considered to be upgraded to first class. Not that you will get it, but many airlines have a dress code–so they won’t be upgrading Captain Sweatpants.

With Security points, I’ve learned that if you can get away with not wearing a belt, it’s best to do so. Wear loafers or other slip-on shoes so they can go on and off much more quickly. And even though I have a TSA-approved laptop bag, some of the agents still get up in arms about leaving it in the bag. I still don’t get why what works for one airport causes condescension in another.

I’m a professional musician, and sometimes need to board quickly to find the overhead space so a flight attendant doesn’t tell me I need to check my $10,000 instrument, and that it will be safe in its gig bag as an employee chucks it over the tarmac, hoping it will land on the conveyor. But still, I remain calm and respectful, and wonder why people get up in arms about having to check their bag full of typical luggage.

For those of you whom are playing a gig on the other side of the world, and need to make sure your instrument makes it there safely, too, I’ve written an article years ago that still applies today:

107 natalia December 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I am flight attendant and would like to say this is fantastic advice. I would also like to add a few things, if I may.

please keep your shoes on. You are in a relatively small and crowded space with recycled air, any odors emitged from perfumes, food or your stinky feet are going to waft about 2 rows in either direction and stay there the entire flight. If you must for comforts sake remove your shoes, at least keep your socks on and refrain from putting your feet up on armrests, walls, etc. For your own safety and the comfort and sanitation of others, you are not the first one that day to put your naked and sweaty feet on the carpet, armres, etc….some e en making a trip through the plane to the lavatory and back while shoeless. While they pick up trash and.carpet sweep at night, they almost never wipe down or disinfect seats.and other surfaces unless spill or illness has occured. Oh and being that theres turbulence, the area is tiny, and some folks are plain dirty, there is so much urine on that lav floor that is then tracked throughout the cabin. Keep that in mind.

Please do not take it upon yourself to move to an open seat. There are strict policies about this, do not force me to embarass you. Just.ask nicely.about ten minutes before departure, and an open seat in close proximity is a better bet as there is not an upcharge… we are not allowed to move you to a different class
s seat
without charge unless to balance aircraft weight as per captain orders (even if we would like to).

Please control your alcohol intake, one drink in the air is equal to two on the ground… try not to get sloppy, sick, or threatening and disobeying…if you interrupt federal regulations for a secure.cabin with no impedments for.a safe and swift evac

108 Nick Rosaci December 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Also, to the guy who said this:

“To the people in the comments saying people shouldn’t recline, apply a little logic: if you lose space when the person in front reclines, you get it back again when you recline your own seat. The only loser is the very last row in the plane (and yes, I’ve been that loser).”

That’s pretty poor logic. At 6’6″, there is no way I’m going to be able to let someone in front of me recline, even if I wanted to. My knees are already pressed up against the back of his seat. There’s no logical equation that says I can shorten my legs and add that to my torso.

And I’ve never been politely asked to recline. The will get in a shoving match with my legs until I tap them on the shoulder and saying it won’t work. They usually stop…for an hour, then try again later. I am always loathe to leave my seat, in fear that I won’t be able to fit in it when I return.

109 Anon December 16, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I have never understood why if it is an airline policy to make an overweight person buy two tickets, people over a certain height don’t buy a first-class ticket.

Last flight I was on, as I started to (slowly) recline my seat back, the man behind me said, “You can’t recline back. My legs will hit the seat.”

I was terribly sorry for him, but he and I had paid for the same amount of space, and I intended to use mine.

If you are tall, spring for the first-class. Or don’t use the service.

110 Tudor December 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm

You know, you should be careful about the baggage claim rule, especially in foreign countries. I travel to visit family in Europe often, and, while I have never been a victim, many thugs will snatch luggage that does not belong to them on purpose. You must observe with the eye of an eagle.

111 Al December 26, 2012 at 9:08 am

Thank you so much for posting these. Awesome site! I used to fly (like a gentleman) every week for work. I frequently followed the rule “Let separated couples/friends/family sit together.” It makes sense to EVERYONE on the plane to have as many people comfortable as possible. AND, good karma travels with you… On one flight I volunteered for re-seating and found myself in First Class. On another flight I was moved to a fairly good seat (although not first class), At the end of the journey, the flight attendant gave me a bottle of champagne to take home with me. On yet another flight, I took a voluntary “bump” to allow a family to travel together, and found myself with an extra $300 travel voucher and dinner. I was on the next flight which was only a 90 minute delay for me.

112 J January 9, 2013 at 5:16 pm

To “Anon”….

No. I’m on a military budget as I’m active duty Navy and I’m 6’5. With a wife, a child and a job that demands travel as par for the course, I cannot afford the luxury of paying for first-class airfare. This is magnified when you add factors like overseas assignments and limited opportunities by your command in which to take leave.

To go home for Christmas, round-trip tickets cost in excess of 2000 dollars for economy class.

Usually I politely ask the person in front of me if they can keep their seat up. More often than not, they ask me what a good level is and we compromise.

For a lot of taller people, first-class tickets are not something we can easily budget for.

113 spydarr January 11, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Here’s one I haven’t seen mentioned. When the meal is served, raise your seat back to it’s upright position so that it isn’t blocking access to the meal behind you.

114 Chris February 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm

I’ve done a fair amount of air travel over the years. About 8 years ago, on a particularly long, crowded flight, I spent about 2 hours complining my Top 40 Rules for Air Travel. Some of my list are already covered in the article, but I’ll include the whole thing here (not as elgantly written as Brett and Kate’s post, but worthy to mind nonetheless):

1. Hey guy sitting behind me. Why do you have to grab my seat back when getting in and out of your row? Use your own seatback to keep your balance.

2. If you have to lean your seat back, how about doing it slowly. Give the guy behind you a little bit of time to move his laptop, drink, knees, etc. out of the way.

3. Speaking of which, put your seat back up when you are supposed to. Don’t make the flight attendant tell you to put it up. In fact, don’t even put your seatback down at all unless you’re trying to sleep.

4. Never, but NEVER put your feet through the gap in the seats in front of you. Think this is a little far-fetched? It’s happened to me. And they were bare feet.

5. If the middle seat is empty in your row. Don’t put all your stuff on the middle seat or in its underseat stowage. Ask if the other person in your row minds you using it. At the very least make an attempt to look like you’re saving half for the other person.

6. If you’re wearing headphones (ipod, DVD player, in-flight movie), take them off if you decide to talk to the person next to you. I don’t want to hear you yelling at your seat partner about how you don’t get the TV show “The Office”.

7. If you try to make small talk with your seat neighbor, and he only gives you short, quick responses, with no follow-up comments, GET THE HINT.

8. If you’re a relatively large fellow, at least make an attempt to keep yourself within your seat confines.

9. If you are not on the aisle, you’re only allowed to get up once every 1.5 hours on a flight. If you can’t deal with that, get yourself an aisle seat. By the way, if you’re on the aisle, you get to deal with at least one bathroom trip per every 1.5 hours from your row partners. Don’t give me a dirty look when I wake you up to get out. That’s part of the deal with having an aisle seat (note-the 1.5 hours was originally 3 hours, but after protest from a few women frequent flyers, I downgraded to 1.5 hours).

10. If you’re traveling with kids, keep them off of the tray table.

11. Only use your cell phone if necessary. Otherwise, wait until you’re in the terminal. Almost nothing more annoying than the guy who has to place a call the second we land to his friend to see “what’s up”.

12. If you HAVE to use your cell phone, use your quiet voice please.

13. Do not bring a big bag/suitcase packed full onto the plane and then try jamming it into the overhead bin. It’s annoying.

14. If your neighbor is reading, he doesn’t want to talk to you, so don’t talk to him.

15. While walking down the aisle, there is NO need to grab every seatback headrest on the way. If you have balance problems, use a cane or something, or crawl, or whatever.

16. Speaking of walking down the aisle, don’t EVER do calisthenics while in the aisle. I once witnessed 15 minutes of deep knee bends by some old lady. Not a pretty sight. And bizarre.

17. Get in and out of the lavatory. Don’t hang out in there, people are waiting. In fact, don’t go #2 in there…EVER. That’s gross for you and me.

18. When the flight attendant asks what she can get you to drink, don’t ask for “the can”. It’s annoying. The flight attendants make fun of you in the back if you do that. Take your plastic cup and be happy with it. If you’re lucky enough to get the can without asking, great.

19. The armrest is “first-come, first-served”. Still, be polite and share it. Don’t hog the whole thing (Brett and Kate…I like your armrest protocol).

20. If you have to take your shoes off, be discrete about it and make sure your feet don’t stink. Never take your socks off. Never NEVER take your socks off and rub your feet. No joke, I saw some guy do this across the aisle and one row up from me. Made me want to vomit. And you know what happens when one person vomits on the plane-let’s just say “domino effect”.

20. If you’re falling asleep on the plane, don’t let yourself fall onto your neighbor’s shoulder. Do what you have to do to avoid this-it’s your responsibility.

21. If a baby is crying on the plane, don’t roll your eyes, make rude comments, or otherwise. They’re babies…they’re gonna cry…As annoyed as you are, the mom or dad that has the baby feels worse. Deal with it.

22. If your row is full, don’t read a full-size fold out newspaper. There’s not enough room for it.

23. If you are NOT in the window seat, do NOT take prolonged looks through the window over the window-seat-guy’s shoulder. This rule is violated way too much. If you want to look out the window, get a window seat. It’s not hard. Just ask for one ahead of time. A quick glance now and again is okay. But I mean a QUICK glance.

24. If you want to get up and out of your seat a lot, get an aisle seat. Both the aisle seat and the window seat have their plusses and minuses. Figure out what you like and arrange for that seat-then follow the rules I have set forth for that seat. If you’re in the middle seat, too bad, there is really no benefit to that. Do all that you can to get out of the middle seat. I once voluntarily bumped myself from a flight and waited in the airport for an additional 3 hours for the next flight, just to get out of a middle seat. Believe me, it wasn’t about the voucher…I needed out of that middle seat.

25. By all means, talk “baby-talk” to your baby on the plane ride if that’s what it takes to keep them quiet and happy. But keep the baby-talk quiet. 95 percent of us do not think “baby-talk” is cute and don’t want to hear it.

26. If you’re on the window, lean a little bit towards the window. On the aisle, lean a little bit towards the aisle. Being in the middle sucks (see #24), and no one wants to be there, so be considerate. Even an inch or two of lean makes a big difference.

27. Don’t stink. BO, cigarette smoke, whatever. Do what it takes to avoid stinking. Again, this is YOUR responsibility. If you smoke before you fly, you WILL stink, even if you don’t think you do. Don’t EVER sit in one of those (very few nowadays) smoking lounges at airports. Not only your smoke, but every one else’s smoke has no where to go but in your clothes and hair. Then we have to smell it on the plane. If you have a BO problem, you really shouldn’t be flying at all. C’mon, let’s grow up.

28. When the plane has landed, and it’s time to exit, wait your turn. Don’t try to dart through the aisle before the row in front of you has cleared out.

29. Offer assistance to old people and ladies trying to get their bags out of the overhead (unless they’ve violated rule 13, then they’re on their own). Do NOT offer to carry a stranger’s baby for her-she doesn’t want you to and it’s awkward for her to say no. Offer to carry her bag or something else.

30. If you are with a group, do NOT treat the flight like it’s your own party. I don’t want to hear any woo-hooing. No seat hopping. Treat the flight like it’s a funeral or church service (but at one of those churches where they don’t sing or make any noise whatsoever).

31. If you are not at least 6 feet tall, do NOT get an exit row seat. I don’t care if you ARE the greatest at directing passengers in the event of an emergency, if you are not at least 6 feet tall you are taking away leg room from someone who could use it more than you. Don’t be a jerk. My knees hurt.

32. Don’t tell me how much you have to fly for business and how horrible it is. I’m not impressed and you’re not a martyr. Get a different job if it sucks so much.

33. Don’t pass gas on the plane. C’mon, confined space…not cool. I’m sorry if you’re getting stomach cramps-use your once-every-1.5-hours trip to the bathroom to decompress. As uncomfortable as you feel because of your gas, the 8 people in your immediate proximity will be even more uncomfortable with your stink.

34. Don’t ever clap when the plane lands. NEVER! This is not a broadway musical, or a football game. The pilot is supposed to land, and land well. Don’t give him false reward by clapping. You can thank him on the way out though-even give him a high-5. However, I will condone (even encourage) booing for really poor landings.

35. If you’re a bad drunk, don’t drink on the plane. You’d think this was obvious, but it seems that the worse of a drunk you are, the more you feel inclined to purchase drinks on the plane. Please resist.

36. Sorry if this sounds a little non-PC, but try to not look like a terrorist. We all know what that looks like. When you dress/look that way, we are all checking you out, making our own little game-plans in our heads for how we’ll take you OUT, should you so much as sneeze. So, just for once, try to look like “Joe American” tourist. You can do it this once, can’t you?

37. If you’re into “sagging”, you know, wearing your pants below your butt, make this flight a rare occasion where you actually dress like a normal person. Be an adult and pull your pants up.

38. On a similar note, if you are into the country western lifestyle, all the power to you. But, for crap’s sake, quit wearing those cowboy hats to the airport. The Wranglers, the cowboy boots and your 20 square inches of belt buckle let us all know who you are. We don’t need the giant hat.

39. Don’t EVER try to sell me anything on the plane ride. EVER!

40. When exiting the jetway, people are behind you. Don’t stop the instant you enter the terminal and look around. Move out into the hallway area first. People are cursing you under their breath.

115 Matt February 22, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Chris, #29 is just childish. Instead of refusing to help, offer to help by saying (in as polite of a tone as possible) something along the lines of “That sucker looks like it’s just too heavy for you, would you like me to get it?” You’re being helpful and respectful while still getting them to think ‘Yeah, that is too big for me.’ If nothing else, think of how you’re helping -all the other passengers- who are waiting on them.

I’m surprised there were no rules for overnight flights.
1. The window seat is for whoever among you will sleep through the flight, and the aisle seat goes to whoever needs the least sleep.
2. Just don’t recline your seat back. Period. My apologies to the tall guy in front of me who wants sleep, but you can’t expect sympathy when your head is practically in my lap.
3. If you have kids and a night flight is all you can get, load your kid up with natural sleep aids like melatonin before bringing them on the plane. Sure, they usually fall asleep on their own, but do you really want a whole plane full of restless passengers pissed at you?
4. If you aren’t going to sleep, PLEASE stick to books to pass the time. If it needs headphones or has a bright backlight, keep it in your carry-on. Now that I think about it, consider bringing something like a drawing book and a sketchpad with you; in this case, you’re letting the people around you sleep while teaching yourself a fairly useful ability.

In short, unless you’re flying for business or an emergency, you’ll have plenty of time to plan ahead; if you have restless kids or just can’t fly without your tablet to keep you busy, don’t fly at night. Before any constant night flyers respond angrily, I’d like to point out that I never sleep on planes. These are actions that I’ve noticed that made me think “I’d hate being in that other guy’s place if I were trying to sleep,” or (as is the case with number 4) things that I’ve done that, in hindsight, I realized were rude.

Plane etiquette is all about making small sacrifices that keep everyone happy. Feel free to make this point abundantly clear to people who are rude in every way imaginable, but if that doesn’t help, be the better man. Ask the flight attendant if there’s another seat you can move to or >just deal with it<, but don't stoop to their level by being an asshole in return, especially verbally; even crying babies are less annoying than crybabies.

116 Susan April 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Please,passengers, pay attention. Take off the head sets.
Be aware of other passengers and be aware of the flight attendants who are attempting to offer ‘service’. Yes, I know, it’s not like pre-deregulation nor as friendly as pre 2001. But we flight attendants attempt to do our best with what is provided by the company.

Please do send comments/complaints to the company via email. In flight there is very little I can do.

Please understand the limitations imposed on you, my passenger as well as on me. Acceptance of what is leads to peace and calm. Try it sometime.

I will apologize heartily and authentically for my own short comings, but not for what is out of my control …

American Airlines flight attendant

117 John F. July 31, 2013 at 9:39 am

Terrific article. Well done.

I travel often and appreciate how you’ve handled every one of your points.

What I especially appreciate is that the article is written to help the reader be a gentleman, not — as are many of the comments — written as a list of veiled complaints about how other passengers behave.

It’s true, I’ve met some pretty thoughtless people on planes, both crew and passengers. But I’ve also met some very good and decent ones, even helpful ones. And to all of them, I’m most appreciative.

But my own choice to be decent is up to me. And I hope I live up to it.

Two quick things I just want to add to what others have said, if only for making an observation if not a new suggestion:

First, about kids. We’ve traveled with ours since they were born, internationally and about 12 times a year. They’re 9 and 6 now and well-versed about plane travel. But it was still a struggle when they were younger.

When new parents ask us the secret(s), we say this. It’s far easier on you an fellow passengers if you say to yourself before flying that the priority will be the kids… not laptops, the movie, the meal, etc. We did our best to keep them attended to throughout, above any other distraction. And that paid off for both us and others in the plane (I don’t think we ever disembarked without compliments from fellow passengers about our “well-behaved” children… if they only knew!).

And to that, I just want to add, most fellow passengers are NOT insufferable grumps about kids on board. Many have been kind and even helpful. To whom we say thanks, once again. It’s definitely karma we now try to extend to other parents of newborns inflight. Even well-tended kids can have their rough moments.

(There was a news story that got a lot of play recently, about parents who put together goodie bags with ear plugs for all fellow travelers. Praise was heaped. But frankly, that bothers me. It was a nice gesture, but it also sets an impossible standard. New parents have their hands full. Do they really owe you what little precious time they have for themselves already, to be making you a goodie bag?)

Second, about the seats. There is no way anybody will ever “win” the debate over where to recline or not. But I can at least say that I personally have chosen not to. And yes, I do wish others would make the same choice.

I’m 6 foot 1, so not impossibly tall or even oddly so, but still in that group of people that has little leg room in a regular seat. When the seat gets jammed back — God forbid during meal service or when my laptop is on the tray — the movie screen is inches from my face. I dislike it so much, I won’t think of doing the same to the person behind me. So even on 8 hour flights, my seat stays upright. Period.

If you can’t handle doing the same, I won’t argue with you. But again, I wish you’d see the light. That’s all.

118 Phil July 31, 2013 at 10:00 am

I fly 2-4 times per week and I disagree with “Help people put their bags into the overhead compartment”. If you can’t lift it, it’s not a “carry-on”. Stick a crow bar in your wallet and check the damn thing.

119 Zoey August 2, 2013 at 8:44 am

I travel about 80% of the weeks of the year. There is nothing hard about being civil and considerate, but too many times I see people doing just the opposite and it is mind-boggling. Such basic things like sticking your small laptop bag under the seat in front of you instead of in the overhead bin should common sense. It doesn’t matter that you feel entitled because you didn’t bring a carry-on suitcase and you “paid for your seat like everyone else” (and most business travelers can stop using that line because it probably never hit your wallet since your company or client is footing the bill). Making the guy next to you now hunt for space for his carry-one luggage that can’t fit under a seat because your small bag is wasting space is just rude.

120 Taylor September 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm

“Sorry if this sounds a little non-PC, but try to not look like a terrorist. We all know what that looks like. When you dress/look that way, we are all checking you out, making our own little game-plans in our heads for how we’ll take you OUT, should you so much as sneeze. So, just for once, try to look like “Joe American” tourist. You can do it this once, can’t you?”

For many Muslims and all Sikhs, a turban is a non-optional religious item. So no, Chris, they can’t “do it this once” for the sake of your fears, any more than a devout Jew can abandon his yarmulke.

121 Sara October 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Ah, I love this. More people should be polite like this!

122 Nathan Magnuson November 23, 2013 at 10:54 am

I just want to say that I very much enjoyed the pictures that were included in this article. Bravo!

123 Evan S. November 23, 2013 at 11:03 am

Thank you for this informative article. I have flown only a few times, and acted civilly, but having the information available in such a simple, easy to follow format is excellent. I will be flying to Munich from Boston soon, so I will have a chance to practice me flying etiquette.

124 Glenn November 23, 2013 at 11:30 am

I travel every week and I know what the rules are and how to act. It’s the people who travel once a year or first trip since 9/11, etc who do not understand how to act. They are idiots to show up to the airport in flip flops and pajamas. I have seen people vomit, soiled diapers and pet pee on the floor of airports and planes. I think everyone should have to take a test to get on a plane just so they know the expectations (You mean I can’t take my gallon bottle of shampoo through security?) I was on a regional jet not too long ago in a window seat, the guy sitting on the aisle wanted me to move my arm off the arm rest so he could put his there and then told me I was rude when I said no. Fortunately there are more nice and reasonable people flying. It sucks to have to put up with the idiots.

125 Drew November 23, 2013 at 11:41 am

I am a million miler. I am 6’5″ and 280 lbs. Fit not fat. My shoulders are 6″-8″ wider than the seat back even when I lean into the aisle (and get pummeled by the flight attendant with the drink cart, seriously? You can’t see the guy who looks like he plays in the NFL leaning into the aisle? You can’t just say “excuse me” when you are coming through?). Sorry I digress.

The simple fact of the matter is that most people do actually adhere to a lot of these rules. It is only the one or two people on the flight that are the “obliviots.”

Ladies, please stop packing the 4,000 cubic inch suitcase for the weekend trip and trying to carry it on. And when you get a comment from me about “ma’am maybe you should chech that bag” don’t get so upset that you fly off the handle and have to be escorted from the flight (it happened).

Seriously though, the flight attendants do a lot to make the flight more enjoyable. Make their day with a smile and do what your mother taught you by being polite. Say “please” and “thank you.”

And remember the following and accept it, you are powerless when you get on the plane. You are nothing more than high maintenance cargo being shuttled between Sheboygan and Houston. Even if you are royalty, we are all equally worthless in the eyes of the airline. They just want to get the door closed (that’s when their pay starts) and moving towards the next airport. That’s all.

Make it easy on yourself and your fellow inmates, keep the grooming and bodily functions to a minimum, and anything that emits light, noise, or sound should be kept to the minimum levels if used at all.

Oh, and don’t buy a full sized pizza and bring it on the plain (or a full sized sub sandwich, or a styrofoam to go plate from Panda express, etc.)

126 John A Maness November 23, 2013 at 11:57 am

Flying is a stressful event for everyone. From having to deal with TSA, boarding en mass, to finding your seat and then stuffing luggage into overhead bins as an irritated, frantic mob surrounds you. Adding to the stress is attempting to find some comfort in the seats with as much room as a back seat in a sports car. Many people are tired, uncomfortable or dealing with anxiety from their phobias. What used to be a fun adventure has evolved into a tedious journey to a destination, in other words no one else is having fun either. Even in times of my aggravation,I try to remain a gentleman and to rise above the situation. It may not be easy but attempt to be calm, courteous, helpful, and respectful of others; in short, be a gentleman in spite of whatever minor discomforts you may find yourself in while traveling.

127 csthom November 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Also sometime in the last fifteen years, they put the seats so close together that the “pitch” of a seat minus the thickness of the seat-back is now a couple inches shorter than my legs on most “economy” seats. With my best posture, my knees are pushed into the seat in front of me.

I have a hard time convincing people that the extra time for train travel is worth the comfort.

128 Philip Quim November 23, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Wow, so many angry people. “Don’t touch my seatback…. don’t recline….. don’t talk with your child too much…. don’t clap…”.

Lighten up a bit, you will live longer.

129 Romlee November 23, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Here’s one for the lav. Please drain the sink and do a quick wipe around it after use.

130 Robert November 24, 2013 at 4:50 am

I fly at least once a year and my mother is a flight attendant, so I can relate to all of this. Being a filthy foreigner I don’t have to put up with the TSA, though. So I’m at least happy about that.

Personally I think the airlines should have stricter policies on how much alcohol they serve passengers. Many people drink to cope with their fear of flying, but there is point where it makes you and everyone around you miserable.
Last time I flew, the gentleman next to me ordered two G&T’s and two small bottles of wine. At 9am. It was a loud and smelly trip.

131 Barbara Miller November 24, 2013 at 7:38 am

Hysterical article, but well said! TODAY, most of our traveling public cannot read, or hear. Rarely does anyone dress for the occasion, it ‘s more like going to a barn dance! Manners, I think they went out with deregulations! Sadly, as a former stewardess with a major international carrier, times have changed and not for the better. For the airlines, it’s all about the dollar, for the employees, for the most part are tired and jaded from constant ‘give backs’. Once flying was exciting, glamorous and an adventure. Now it’s a form of transportation complete with hassles even before you step on board. Such a shame for people to lose their sense of common courtesy in it all!

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