10 Little Etiquette Rules for Flying on an Airplane

Being a polite passenger starts with just a few easy steps.

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Don’t hold up the security line

Proper flying etiquette begins before you even board the plane. Have your boarding pass and ID ready as you approach airport security. If you’re waiting in line, start thinking ahead; you can speed up the process by removing your watch and belt, pulling out your laptop, and separating your liquids before you reach the conveyor. This will get you—and everyone behind you—to the gates faster.

Here are five more ways to get through the airport faster.

2 / 10

Board (and pack) courteously

As airlines squeeze in more and more people per flight, passengers fight for the same bin space. To maximize room in the overhead compartment for other travellers, place your bag vertically rather than horizontally on the shelf. And only put one carry-on bag in the bin; the other one can fit in the open space under the seat in front of you.

This list of carry-on luggage essentials can help you pack!

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Help your fellow traveler

While you’re loading your carry-on bags into the overhead compartment, offer to hoist a fellow passenger’s up there, too. Not only is it kind, but it could make the boarding process more efficient for everyone else.

Check out these packing tips for a hassle-free trip.

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Be willing to swap seats with a family

Airlines sometimes block out certain seats or charge extra fees for adjacent ones, making it tough for family members to buy seats together. If you’re traveling solo, offer to switch seats so that a family can sit beside each other; it’s a kind gesture that they won’t forget. But be sure to delay swapping until the plane has reached cruising altitude, as switching seats while everyone is boarding can be an inconvenience for those standing in the aisles.

Find out how to get picked for an upgrade on a flight.

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Respect your (limited) space

In the cramped quarters of an airplane, maintaining your personal space will go a long way to make a smoother ride for everyone. Let the middle-seat passenger use the armrests (it’s the least you can do), and keep your legs within the width of the chair frame.

Find out what not to wear when travelling on a plane, according to flight attendants.

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Keep your personal items, well, personal

It’s as important to be mindful of your personal belongings as it is your personal space. Avoid hitting other passengers with your bag as you walk down the aisles by keeping it in front of you and close to your body. And once you sit down, you should stay there, so make sure you have everything you will need for the flight once you settle in. Reaching over other passengers to access the overhead storage during the flight is uncomfortable for everyone. You also want to avoid taking off your shoes on a plane for this gross reason.

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Converse with caution

Although some people pass the time on an airplane through conversations with strangers, others would prefer to keep to themselves. Be mindful of the cues your fellow passenger is giving; if they avoid eye contact, leave them be. If you do strike up a conversation, speak in soft tones, as loud and disruptive conversation can disturb the rest of the cabin.

Psst—this little known airplane feature could save your life!

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Avoid bringing smelly food

Cramped quarters are no place to break out a pungent tuna sandwich. If you bring food to snack on during the trip, opt for less intrusive goodies like nuts or pretzels. Your fellow passengers will thank you.

Find out more foods you shouldn’t eat on an airplane.

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Snooze at your own risk

Sleep with consideration for your surroundings and other travellers. Only lean back in your seat if you absolutely must; reclining your seat may be more comfortable for you, but it makes a tight space even tighter for the person behind you. A travel pillow is a great tool because it helps you sleep without invading other people’s space. And beware of snoring; you could risk getting an unpleasant awakening from a flight attendant or fellow traveller.

Check out some of the best travel accessories for the frequent flyer.

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Disembark calmly

“Touching down has the same effect as the old school bell,” according to Expedia Airlines; “chaos ensues as everyone tries to be the first through the door.” Be courteous of other people’s belongings in the overhead compartment as you reach for your own, and offer to help them get their bags if you can. And as you leave, take the time to thank your flight attendants—they will appreciate your kindness.

Next, find out which things you should never say to a flight attendant.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest