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Five Unspoken Rules of International Economy-Class Travel

This blog post was updated on November 15, 2022.

You’d love to fly first class on every international flight. But as reality would have it, you’re not made of money, don’t have Elite status yet and can’t redeem loyalty points for certain trips. Thus you, oh frugal one, are stuck traveling nine hours in economy class.


It wouldn’t be half bad if everyone observed the unspoken etiquette of coach-class travel. Alas, many passengers are simply unschooled in the matter. They hog armrests, go to the bathroom  every half-hour and, worst of all, snore so loud that the sound penetrates the quarter-inch pieces of ear-canal-shaped foam designed to drown them out.


The next time you’re traveling long-distance, keep these five basic rules in mind:


1. The Middle-Men Get the Armrests: The great armrest debate has been ongoing for decades. Rather than play the sly, slippery-elbow game and obnoxiously hog both sides, give the gift of double armrests to the folks in the middle seat. They deserve it. After all, they’re flying cross-continent stuck between you and Mr. Bobblehead to the left without the freedom of aisle-access or the support of a window panel.


2. Let Sleeping Passengers Lie: It’s time for in-flight meal service and your neighbor is out like a light. Some travelers think they’re doing their fellow passenger a favor by waking him to let him know it’s time to eat, but who wants to awaken a tired bear in hibernation? The sight is seldom pretty. Drool, disorientation and confusion are often the result. Instead, politely ask the flight attendant to save a meal for your neighbor and once he arises out of his slumber, alert him that he missed meal service. Leaving him to starve while he figures out that food was already served is another no-no.


3. Minimize Bathroom Breaks: Drink lots of water hours before your flight and take a bathroom break (or two!) just before you board. It minimizes the amount of liquids you’ll drink in-flight and the number of times you’ll need to disrupt your neighbor to go to the beloved in-flight lavatory. Middle- and window-seat passengers should try to take their bathroom breaks whenever the aisle passenger stands up – another tactic to minimize interruptions.


4. Don’t Let Your Insomnia Get the Best of Your Manners: Don’t be that guy who, while the cabin lights are out and everyone else is asleep, is fidgeting with gadgets and books and, worst of all, working on a laptop with its bright screen shining towards the other passengers in the row. No one wants to wake up next to you with a solar eclipse happening in his or her face. The best solution – pop in your headphones and listen to soft music until you drift off into la-la-land.


5. Regulate Your Nostrils: There’s not much that can be done when you’re seated next to a loud snorer and the feeling is much like that of being stuck inside a torture chamber with your eyelids pried open. Snorers – be considerate of your fellow passengers and arm yourself with nasal strips and any other anti-snoring gadgets that actually work.


Flickr: oddharmonic



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