In the golden age of air travel, people dressed up to fly and behaved with gentility and decorum. If you’ve been on an airplane in the last couple of years, you may have noticed that times have changed. These days, some people have simply forgotten their manners! It seems like some people think nothing of being rude on their flight. If you need a little reminder of behaviors that can get you canceled on a flight, may we offer the following tips to serve as guideposts and reminders of how to behave yourself.

Don’t be a “Reclining Bully” or a “Seat Shover”

Both of these folks can make air travel miserable for their neighbors. If you’re a Reclining Bully, you’re that person who leans your seat all the way back without regard for the person who you might be putting into actual, physical distress. Here’s the problem – it’s a zero-sum game. If you’re super comfortable lounging way back in your Economy seat, chances are the person behind you is feeling the pinch. While everyone has the right to do what they want, more polite travelers tend to recline conservatively. This can mean reclining your seat – but not completely- for the entire flight. Maybe it means leaning way back, but only for an hour or so. There are ways to lessen the pain.

The “Seat Shover” could be a small child kicking the pack of your seat. It might be a very tall person who doesn’t like that you’ve reclined a bit and he’s going to let you know by putting a knee into your back. Don’t be that style of  “rude on a flight” guy. Remember to treat people as you would like to be treated. A little civility can go a long way.

Keep your elbows to yourself

Another passive-aggressive jerk move on a plane is to get settled in your Economy seat and then fully spread out with both arms on top (or even OVER the arm rests). This person puts you in a bad position because you may have to make yourself smaller just to avoid touching your seat mate. Instead, just be mindful of how much space you’re taking up.

If you’re a person of size this can be tricky, because you should not be penalized for your height or weight. But for you and your seatmate to be comfortable on a flight that has a little extra space, you might want to consider asking an attendant for a seat change. You can also book a seat with more arm room so you’re not encroaching on a more slight person’s seat.

Don’t verbally attack the flight attendants or other passengers

This tip seems like it shouldn’t need much explanation, but a quick search of social media will turn up countless videos of people behaving badly. We’ll just say this once. Follow the “Golden Rule.” Flight attendants work long hours for often low pay. Yelling, insulting, or otherwise berating a flight attendant will only brand you as a “problem” on that flight. You’ll likely get worse service from the whole flight crew if you lose your temper.

Keep your cool and remember that flight attendants have a job to do. If you sincerely feel as though you’re being treated unfairly, you can always ask for a customer support phone number or email to vent later. Trust us – having a tantrum on a flight makes the entire community on the plane uncomfortable. Don’t be that person.

Don’t drink too much

Speaking of those viral videos of people behaving badly, a decent percentage of those folks should have been cut off. Sure, a lot of us consider a flight an excuse to get a little loose. However, relaxed inhibitions have clearly been the culprit when belligerent passengers get tossed off flights. We highly recommend moderation when flying so you don’t stick a booze-saturated foot in your mouth. Don’t be drunk rude on a flight – everything in moderation.

Read the room and know when to shut up

Sorry, but not everyone wants to chat for the entire flight from Seattle to Fiji. If you sit down and the person next to you has on headphones, a face mask and a book open on their lap – they’re probably looking for some peace and quiet. It’s okay. Don’t take it personally. Some people find flying extremely stressful and need to focus on themselves to cope. Some people might have had a stressful journey for a not fun reason (translation: you caught them at a tough time). Still others might just be extremely tired.

Most people are up for a little small talk, especially when you are going to be sitting next to a stranger for hours. But if you’re extroverted, maybe be a little self-aware and give people some verbal space too. You’ll know when it’s time to take a chat break.

That’s it. These are a few of the most rude things you can do to your fellow passengers on a flight. Don’t do them. You might also want to read How to Cope with a Terrible Traveler on Your Flight if you find yourself on the receiving end of bad behavior. Have you ever encountered a rude passenger on your flight? What passenger behaviors do you find to be rude? Let us know in the comments below.

10 Comments

  1. Do not put your water bottle (small or large) in the back of the seat in front of you. It is just rude and the person in that seat can feel it, since there is barely any cushion in the seat back.
    Also no typing on your computer on the tray table, you might as well be kicking the seat in front of you!

  2. I prefer to sit in a window seat and look out of the window. On my last two flights I had a problem with the persons behind me who kept pulling the shade down. The shade was next to my seat not theirs. Annoying. It was like a tug of war.

  3. I say,”hi”when another person sits next to me and can usually tell if they want to talk more.
    I’m OK either way,but I’ve had some great seatmates and one a date with a few weeks later.
    Even a little snack makes the aisle seem friendlier and a meal a good deal more.

  4. Thank you for posting this info. I for one pray before a flight for all the mechanics, flight attendants, pilots and passengers that will be on the flight. It is important that everyone is well rested who is serving us on our journey and that everyone who is traveling behave courteously to others. I also pray about the weather conditions as well as security doing their jobs effectively so that no persons who are up to no good are not allowed to harm the plane or the passengers in anyway. Thanks again and safe travel to everyone!!!

  5. Also, practice common sense regarding Covid. Do not lean over other passengers to talk to someone else without a mask. Do not ridicule anyone with a mask. Do not lie about your vaccination status, implying that you have been vaccinated if you have not. And finally, take a Covid test and do not lie about the results before boarding the plane.

    Covid still takes lies and causes devastating disease. Be supportive and practice safe traveling.

  6. Well written article!
    My seat mate felt her speakerphone conversation during an hour and a half spent on tarmac was okay; it was not.

  7. Maybe the airlines should offer a free sandwich along with a drink. Most people are in a better mood with a full tummy. Plus the airline that offered the free food may get more business.

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