9 Things You Should Never Do on an Airplane

Simple protocols make life easier for everyone, especially frequent flyers

Jake Daghe
Aug 8, 2019 · 6 min read
Photo by Ethan McArthur on Unsplash

Flying is fun, but there are definitely ways to make the experience less enjoyable for you and for those around you.

If you’ve flown often, you should hopefully know the standard operating procedures for how to be a good passenger.

If you haven’t flown or don’t fly often, this list is a fun, good reminder for some best practices that if possible, you should think to avoid the next time you get on an airplane.

After all, you don’t want to be that guy or girl who does one or more of these things and has the whole plane looking at you like, “Seriously?”

Don’t be a rookie when you can be a veteran. So buckle up, the captain has turned on the fasten seatbelt sign.

Seriously. Buckle up.


Before we get to the nine things to avoid doing on an airplane, I feel like I need to make this clear. This list is for everyone. Everyone.

It doesn’t matter if you're in business class or at the back of the airplane. It doesn’t matter if you’re on your seventh plane of the week or if you’re on the first flight you’ve ever taken. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

There isn’t a status level you reach where you can suddenly choose to start doing these things. That’s because most of these things you shouldn’t do on an airplane deal with courtesy. Most of these things involve being respectful to your fellow humans who did nothing to deserve being co-passengers with you on this flight besides needing to get to the same location as you.

Flying is never an individual sport. Unless you own your own private jet like Drake. In that case, it very much is an individual sport that I have no true understanding of. Drake, if you’re reading this, you can do whatever you want.

If you aren’t Drake, this is for you. It doesn’t matter if you are a platinum, excelsior, gold-level boss. You still should try to not break these rules. But the odds would say that you aren’t that level, which means you’re just like the rest of us.

And if all of us try our best to avoid these nine things, we might just enjoy a great flight.


1. Take Your Shoes Off

This is an “oh no, no” for flying.

Here’s a couple of fun facts. Most airplanes have three seats per row. Which means most flights you’ll probably sit next to someone you don’t know. Most people who sit on a plane are fairly cramped. Most airplanes have poor ventilation.

If you can smell the perfume of the lady sitting three rows behind you, you can definitely smell your shoes that are stuffed under the seat in front of you.

And most people are just weirded out by feet in the first place.

So don’t do it. Just keep your shoes on.


2. Snore Loudly

I didn’t think I would have to write this until I sat next to a stranger on a flight home the other day and he legit started snoring loudly enough that it seemed like everyone on the plane could hear him.

Loud enough where you put in earplugs but can still hear it.

If you’re thinking, “Some people just can’t help it.”

I agree. If you’re one of those people, don’t sleep on an airplane. Spare the rest of your co-passengers.


3. Lean on Your Unsuspecting Neighbor

Few things are weirder than randomly getting leaned on by the co-passenger next to you. There are very few other places in public where this would be acceptable.

“Excuse me, sir, while we’re waiting in this line at Starbucks, do you mind if I lean my head on your shoulder?”

You barely meet the people you sit by on an airplane—if you meet them at all. Unless you’re that girl that talks to everyone. Suddenly you’re not only sleeping right next to that person but you’re laying your head on their shoulder, which is more physical contact than you had in all of eighth grade.

Don’t be a leaner.


4. Spill Your Drink

This is a hard one to include because it really is a total accident 98% of the time it happens, but it deserves to be on this list because of how much of a pain it is when it happens.

Spilling your drink on an airplane is like throwing up on a rollercoaster—there’s no place to go and it usually affects the people around you.

These days, most people are trying to get around airline restrictions on luggage so the majority of spaces under seats are crammed to the max. The stakes are high. We know it. So just take extra caution when sipping your Sprite at 30,000 feet.


5. Be Uncourteous With Your Window Shade

The window shade is a gift. I repeat: the window shade is a gift. As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The easiest way to be a happy traveler is to just play by the rules with the window shade. If people are trying to sleep, consider lowering your window shade. If someone in your aisle wants to see the mountain you’re flying over, be kind and lift your shade to give them a peek.

I know looking out the window on an airplane is fun, but there are other people on the plane as well.


6. Not Use Headphones

If you are stuck within a metal tube for long durations of time, you do not want to be the person making overly loud noises of any kind.

A nice calm flight is a quiet flight. I don’t care what kind of music you listen to or what you like to watch on HBO. That’s your business. And it should stay that way.

I don’t need to overhear the conversation between you and your mom or between you and your child’s elementary school principal. There is a plane full of people who didn’t pay decent money to listen to your noises.


7. Get Things From The Overhead Locker Mid-Flight

This rule has an exponential factor attached to it based on which seat you are sitting in within the standard three-person row. If you’re on the aisle, directly under the overhead compartment, this is still pretty annoying.

If you’re in the middle seat, now you’re not only pretty annoying but you’re also inconveniencing your neighbor. If you’re in the window seat, just forget about what you want up in the overhead bin. If you move, there’s going to be a traffic jam in the aisle and with nowhere else to go, people get antsy.

I once flew on a flight where the guy next to me got up and got something from his overhead bin every 15 minutes. Savage.


8. Bring Food on the Plane From the Terminal

I didn’t discover this until recently, when the guy who sat down beside me dropped down a brown paper bag on his tray table. About 30 minutes into our flight, he opened the bag and took out an overstuffed burrito made at some restaurant at the departing airport terminal.

Not only did the food not smell great to my stomach, which was already feeling a bit queasy from the turbulence, but it was also messy. When the first plop of rice and beans fell on the tray table, no big deal. When it kept falling, one thought: “Get it together buddy.”


9. Stand in the Aisle for Long Periods

This one happens rarely, but once you see it you won’t stop thinking about it.

Most adults on an airplane at some point along their journey feel a little cramped. Even kids hit a point where they feel restless. And when you hit that point, you’ll likely think: “This would all just be better if I could stand up and stretch my legs out.”

Wrong.

Well, right about stretching your legs out would feel better, but wrong about doing it on an airplane.

Have you ever seen someone doing calisthenics in the middle row of an airplane? Me neither. That’s because it’s uncalled for.

If you stand up on an airplane, you should either be going to the bathroom or getting off the plane. Anything else is improper airplane etiquette.


Earn Your Wings

No one is perfect. I’ve done many of the things on this list, so if you’re an airplane rule-breaker, it’s okay. Almost all of us are at one point or another.

The trick is to be aware of the things to avoid. The goal is courtesy, and if you try to be a nice human being and you try to think about the people around you on an airplane, you’ll probably be just fine.

Happy flying.

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Jake Daghe

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Creative Engineer | Executive Assistant + Navigator at an ATL Non-Profit. | I’m a fan of poetry, popcorn, and a great puzzle.

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