Do you know these unwritten rules of flying?

Imagine boarding a plane after an exhausting trip or travel, and all you want to do is get a few peaceful hours of sleep up in the air. But then you hear someone cursing at the flight attendant, or feel kicks behind your seat. Then a bad smell hits you, and later someone reclines their seat violently as you’re trying to eat. Sigh. Shouldn’t everyone have the common sense to know what’s okay and not okay on a flight?

I hate to break it to you, but it’s easier to not be aware of the unspoken rules of flying than you know. As with any unwritten rule and social norms, the etiquette of flying can feel ambiguous, especially for those who don’t travel as often. Today, let’s dive into some of them!

There may be no official rule dictating how to divvy up armrests, but the popular consensus is the middle seat gets both. The window seat gets one armrest and a wall to lean on, while the aisle seat gets one armrest and additional leg room. That doesn’t leave much for the one stuck in the middle. So, unless you know the person, be considerate and leave both middle armrests for the middle seat!

When you’re on a short flight and flying economy, try not to recline your seat if you can. Sure, it feels nice to lean back and have a nap, but remember that this limits the space of whoever sits behind you. Of course, long-haul flights are a different story. However, do pull it back up during meal times to give the other passenger plenty of space to eat.

Another important rule is to always be nice to your flight attendants. Their job is to provide service with a constant smile, but surely that doesn’t entitle us to be douchebags. Understand that you’ll be tens of thousands of feet in the air, and flight attendants also have to ensure safety. Simple things like a smile and thank you can go a long way. A related tip is to never ask to go to the bathroom when they’re handing out meals. The aisle is tiny and having to push the trolley all the way to the end, just because you want to walk through at that exact moment, is very inconvenient.

Let’s say someone in the window seat needs to get up. What do you do? Half-stand or just shift to make a little bit of space? Wrong. Economy legrooms on any plane are not wide enough for two people. Trust me, it can’t get any more uncomfortable when someone has to clamber over you just to get out. Just stand up and exit the row so they can move without things having to be awkward for the rest of the flight.

Sure, it’s 2021 and flying is still something most of us can’t do today. But I hope these tips can be useful for the next time you hop on a plane.

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Erica Thajeb

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March 2021
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