15 Airplane Etiquette Rules We’d All Really Like Everyone to Follow (Please?)

CREDIT CARDS - TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS
Save your karaoke renditions of famous hair metal hits for your local dive bar, and keep quiet on the airplane.
Updated April 9, 2024
Fact checked
People boarding airplane

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

One of the longest times you’ll find yourself pressed between two strangers is on an airplane, and the level of comfort we experience on a flight has a lot to do with the behavior of the other passengers.

Did a rowdy neighbor keep you from your beauty sleep? Did the kid behind you kick your seat so many times you lost all resemblance to the good-natured human being you once were?

While we can’t be responsible for turbulence or departure delays, we can follow some basic etiquette rules to avoid making the experience miserable for everyone else. Don’t be that guy everyone complains about. Instead, follow our commandments for airplane etiquette, and let’s all treat each other with respect.

Pro tip: To take the sting out of having bad flight mates, book with a top travel credit card to earn travel rewards while you fly.

If you’re over 50, take advantage of massive travel discounts and trip-planning resources

Over 50 and love traveling? Join AARP today — because if you’re not a member, you could be missing out on huge travel perks. When you start your membership today, you can get discounts on hotels and resorts, airfare, cruises, car rentals, and more.

How to become a member today:

  • Go here, select your free gift, and click “Join Today”
  • Create your account (important!) by answering a few simple questions
  • Start enjoying your discounts and perks!

An AARP membership not only unlocks discounts that could save you hundreds on your next trip, but you’ll also have access to deals on vacation packages, guided tours, and exclusive content to help plan your next getaway.

Important: Start your membership by creating an account here and filling in all of the information (do not skip this step!). Doing so will allow you to take up to 25% off your AARP membership, making it just $12 per year with auto-renewal.

Become an AARP member now

I shall go directly to my seat

Blue Planet Studio/Adobe airplane

Boarding is a time-consuming process, so don’t make it even more annoying for other passengers by stopping to rummage through your bag before you sit down.

Have everything you need prepared before getting on the plane, quickly place your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin directly above your seat, and make space for other passengers in the aisle.

I shall never remove my shoes and socks

Gorodenkoff/Adobe Happy man and woman laughing on airplane

You can’t always smell your own foot odor, but this can stink up a plane really quickly.

Plus, unless you’ve just had a pedicure, your bare feet could be pretty gross to look at. And some foot conditions are contagious.

On long flights, it might be OK to take off your shoes if you’re wearing socks — but exercise discretion. If your feet need to be free, you might want to invest in a pair of packable slippers.

I shall place my items in the overhead bin when sitting in a bulkhead seat

Shi/Adobe Putting up luggage

If you’re sitting directly behind a wall separating two cabins, you must put your bags in the overhead compartment.

The space under your seat is meant for the person behind you to store their belongings, and it’s against the rules to keep items on the floor in front of your feet.

Earn a $250 travel bonus with this incredible card

There's a credit card that's making waves with its amazing bonus and benefits. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has no annual fee and you can earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

You can earn additional points just by using this card for your everyday purchases — unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases. The 25,000 bonus points can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel or dining purchases.

If you want to travel and dine out more, the Travel Rewards card can help you get where you want to go.

The best part? There's no annual fee.

Click here to apply now.

I shall share the armrests

BullRun/Adobe Woman reading on plane

The debate over which armrest belongs to each traveler is certainly heated. 

Some people say the person in the middle seat should get both armrests, but the most popular opinion, according to a British Airways survey on flight etiquette, is that each person should take just one armrest. 

When in doubt, ask your neighbor politely which armrest they’d like to use.

I shall ask before reclining my seat

Alena Ozerova/Adobe Woman sleeping on airplane with eye mask on

Reclining your seat can make it easier to get shut-eye, but you should always ask the person behind you if doing so is OK.

Otherwise, you could accidentally hit them in the head, knock over the food on their tray table, or make using a laptop difficult for them. Suddenly reclining your seat too far is a great way to really upset someone.

It’s best to avoid reclining altogether, but the person behind you might understand if you’re on an overnight or lengthy flight.

I shall keep my conversations short

Romolo Tavani/Adobe Airplane flying over water

Sometimes, you might meet someone on the airplane with shared interests and strike up a conversation. But even if both of you are enjoying the conversation, other passengers might not want to listen to it.

And most people would prefer to keep to themselves on an airplane. According to the same British Airways survey, 83% of travelers reported that conversation should be limited to a greeting and a smile.

At the very least, avoid discussing religion or politics, and only share pictures of your dog or cat upon request.

I shall limit my alcohol intake

xartproduction/Adobe Man on airplane with champagne

It’s OK to start your vacation with a drink on the airplane.

But you shouldn’t get so drunk that you spill vodka on your neighbor’s pants, start telling embarrassing stories from college, fall flat on your face while attempting the unsteady walk to the bathroom, or forget your suitcase when exiting the plane.

Just keep yourself under control. If you can’t even look at a Sudoku puzzle without getting dizzy, it’s probably time to switch to coffee or juice.

I shall not eat smelly food

vsurkov/Adobe Kid eating on airplane

Tuna salad might be a convenient airplane snack, but most people would prefer that the stuffy airplane air not smell like fish for the whole flight.

Bring dry snacks like crackers or cookies, and if you need a protein, pick one that doesn’t have an odor (hint: not hard-boiled eggs).

I shall avoid personal grooming activities

Have a nice day/Adobe Inside an airplane

It’s OK to apply hand lotion or put drops in your eyes to combat the dry cabin air. But whatever you do, don’t trim your nails, clean your ears, or pick your nose.

If you have any doubts about whether a grooming task is appropriate, head to the airplane bathroom or wait until you arrive at your hotel.

Earn cash back on everyday purchases with this rare account

Want to earn cash back on your everyday purchases without using a credit card? With the Discover®️ Cashback Debit Checking account (member FDIC), you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month!1

With no credit check to apply and no monthly fees to worry about, you can earn nearly passive income on purchases you’re making anyway — up to an extra $360 a year!

This rare checking account has other great perks too, like access to your paycheck up to 2 days early with Early Pay, no minimum deposit or monthly balance requirements, over 60K fee-free ATMs, and the ability to add cash to your account at Walmart stores nationwide.

Don’t leave money on the table — it only takes minutes to apply and it won’t impact your credit score.

Apply for a Discover Cashback Checking account today

I shall stand up to let other passengers into the aisle

Viacheslav Lakobchuk/Adobe Women on an airplane

Don’t force other passengers to crawl over you or stick their rear end in your face as they try to squeeze past. It’s awkward for everyone involved.

Just unbuckle your seatbelt and step into the aisle if someone needs to get up to stretch their legs or use the bathroom.

I shall stay in my space

Maria Sbytova/Adobe Happy kid walking through airplane aisle

Sitting in an airplane for hours can make you restless, but you shouldn’t get out of your seat unless you have to.

Limit your bathroom breaks so you’re not constantly asking your neighbors to accommodate you. And if you’re going to take a nap, pack a neck pillow to keep your head from falling onto your neighbor’s shoulder.

I shall keep my kids under control as much as possible

Viacheslav Lakobchuk/Adobe Mom with kids on airplane

While you can do your best to calm a crying infant, no one can blame you if your baby makes noise on the airplane. But you can talk to your older kids about airplane etiquette and explain how their actions affect other passengers.

Also, bring plenty of quiet distractions to keep your kids busy during long flights.

I shall silence my electronics

Aleksej/Adobe Man using phone on airplane

Keep your phone and tablet on silent, and make sure you have a good pair of headphones for listening to music or watching movies.

Also, don’t turn up your device so loud that your fellow passengers can still hear what you’re listening to, even with your headphones on.

I shall clean up after myself

Wayhome Studio/Adobe Man wearing neck pillow and holding passport

Make sure the spaces you use in the airplane stay clean for other passengers.

Don’t make a mess in the lavatory; wipe down the toilet seat and sink before exiting. Use antibacterial wipes to clean off your tray table after eating, and don’t just push the crumbs onto the cabin floor.

Finally, be sure to throw away your trash when the flight attendants stop by to collect it.

I shall wait my turn

Rawpixel.com/Adobe People waiting in line on airplane

Everyone’s anxious to get off the plane at the end of a long flight, but that doesn’t mean you should somersault down the aisle before anyone else gets a chance to stand up.

Allow passengers seated ahead of you to grab their bags and exit one row at a time. That means if you’re sitting toward the back of the plane, you might have to wait a while — but that’s proper airplane etiquette.

Bottom Line

Bob/Adobe Airplane over city

While thinking about travelers breaking these commandments might be comical, it’s in no way fun for other passengers when someone is disrespectful on a plane.

If you want to be the worst airline passenger in travel history, clip your toenails while singing ”99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall“ or peel the shells off your hard-boiled eggs while asking total strangers for personal advice.

You may be excited to start stepping up your travel game, but unless you want to be responsible for a rough start to someone else’s vacation, let’s all be kind and thoughtful about our behavior each time we fly.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Benefits

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Apply Now
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 18.24% - 28.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
4.1
Apply Now

on Bank of America’s secure website

Read Card Review

Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee

$0

+

Why we like it

Author Details

Lindsay Frankel Lindsay Frankel is a Denver-based freelance writer who specializes in credit cards, travel, budgeting/saving, and shopping. She has been featured in several finance publications, including LendingTree. When she's not writing, you can find her enjoying the great outdoors, playing music, or cuddling with her rescue pup.

Want to learn how to make an extra $200?

Get proven ways to earn extra cash from your phone, computer, & more with Extra.

You will receive emails from FinanceBuzz.com. Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

  • Vetted side hustles
  • Exclusive offers to save money daily
  • Expert tips to help manage and escape debt