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7 Things You Should NEVER Do on A Flight (Even Though They’re Legal)

Interior of airplane with passengers on seats
Written by Dhinesh Manuel

This blog post was updated on March 6, 2020.

You may not stop to think about it, but knowing the proper etiquette for acceptable flight behavior is a BIG deal. There are certain passengers that are simply unbearable because of how they act, especially on those crowded long-haul flights (trust us, they’re hard to miss!). You may be saying to yourself, “Oh no, that’s not me!” but sometimes, you may be an unconscious perpetrator. We empathize; sometimes it’s just hard to believe our small actions really affect our fellow passengers, but this is where we can step in to clear up any doubts that may prevail.

To make sure you’re in the know about what you SHOULDN’T do on a flight — whether you’re cutting costs on cheap flights or flying high in business class —  make sure you check out our carefully cumulated list of things that count as big no-no’s on our ‘good traveler’ playbook. You can thank us later!

DON’T try to board like a stampede of elephants

Closeup Queue of Europen people waiting at boarding gate at airport

There’s a reason for the systematic procedure airlines have in place for boarding your flight (like for example, families with kids, and those in wheelchairs, etc.). It’s there so that people can board the flight in an orderly fashion, while also maintaining some sort of order. Even though you probably won’t get arrested for it, you definitely don’t want to be the line jumper who brushes people aside and keeps asking the staff at the gate “can I board already?” a million times. Just remember to go in order and to wait patiently for when your row number is called — you’ll make it a smooth, stress-free boarding process for everyone involved.

DON’T make a Roman conquest of the overhead bin

Yes, the Romans did a lot of conquering but you don’t have to establish your luggage empire in the entire space of the overhead compartment. And of course, you do get to bring along a personal item with your carry-on and you are entitled to some space in the bin, but it’s just not cool to take up all the space when there are others who may also need to store their bags. If you’ve got a piece of luggage that is a bit more malleable, make sure to squeeze it under the seat in front of you — being considerate will only win you new friends!

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DON’T recline without some consideration

armrest on plane

So you’re all done with your dinner, found some decent in-flight entertainment, and ready to lean …back…just…a little bit…BUMP! You just smashed your seat into the face of the poor soul behind you! It’s important to realize there’s someone behind you who’s using the tray that’s attached to the back of your seat. Keep in mind that they could still be finishing up their meal or tending to their infant. Reclining recklessly could make that passenger feel like a fly that’s just been swatted. Remember to go down easy.

DON’T forget to control your inner banshee

Noise pollution can make everybody’s flight that much more uncomfortable. After all, who wants to hear people shouting across to their friend on the opposite side of the row “Was the chicken good, or should I have the tofu?” Nope — we really don’t want to know. That’s why it’s important that you realize there are people who might just want to read a book or just doze off and not listen to your really loud conversation across aisles or your headset that’s turned up to eleven. Being a little wary of those around you can make it a little bit better for everyone, and you can rest assured that when it comes time for you to get a bit of rest, the favor will be returned.

DON’T bring on board that exotic smelling Thai food

Woman eating sandwich on plane

We get it — booking cheap flights sometimes entails sorting out your own food. While there really are no laws on what you can bring on board for your in-flight meal, some common sense here wouldn’t hurt. We love our spicy, exotic food from around the world (trust us, we’ve traveled far and wide JUST for food!) BUT do you really want to be that person who elicits some weird stares when you open up that box of  Japanese natto? Go for some cold sandwiches or inoffensive pasta for your snack when in flight for an odor-free experience for all on board.

DON’T spread your germs

If you’re a frequent flyer, then falling sick as you pass through different time zones and temperatures is inevitable. What’s even worse is when you’re sick and stuck in a metal, pressurized tube thousands of feet in the air! While being in a closed up space with dry air won’t do much for that horrible cough you’ve been carrying around with you, it’s still a good idea to exercise a bit of proper etiquette when it comes to keeping those germs to yourself. Remember to always cough into the bend of your arm or a napkin, and carry some anti-bacterial wipes with you — wiping down your tray and armrest can help in controlling the spread of illnesses.

DON’T read that 500-page novel in the toilet

emergency exit sign and toilet sign on airplane

Airline travel — with all its modernities aimed at making flights more comfortable — is still a tiring ordeal. So when nature calls when up in the skies, and it’s time for weary, disheveled travelers to relieve themselves, things can get hairy when there’s a long line to the bathroom. If you’re comfortably perched on the toilet playing video games or reading a magazine, then you’re not going to be a very popular person once you pop out of there. The simple solution to avoid the evil stares of fellow passengers? Just be more considerate. Try and keep your bathroom time to the minimum, and also make sure to keep the area as clean as possible (due to the tiny sizes of aircraft toilets it’s not uncommon for the floor to get wet pretty easily). A little good sense will go a long way in flushing out any bad feelings.

If you’re one to believe in good travel karma, then it’s all the more reason to avoid these annoying behaviors and be that traveler everyone would love to sit next to. Next time you find cheap flights to explore the world and you’re packed and ready to board, make sure you follow these tips to embrace proper flight behavior.


What behavior by fellow passengers makes you see red? Tell us in the comments!

About the author

Dhinesh Manuel

Socialite, philanthropist, costumed crime fighter by wait...that's bad ...

Musician, writer, travel junkie, dog lover, and database of useless information. I love to learn about new cultures, experience new cuisines, meet new people, and have a few laughs along the way!

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