The Do’s and Dont’s of Airplane Etiquette

Cecilia Otero

3 min read ·

So, you finally kickstarted your dreams and signed up for aviation school. You’ve never been more excited. Once you have that pilot’s license, it’s all smooth sailing…Or flying, we should say. You’ll finally wave goodbye to all of the annoying nuances that come with commercial airline travel! No check-ins, no TSA, no last-minute schedule changes… Sounds like heaven. Unfortunately for student pilots, that life is still a few months away. Keep these do’s and don’ts of airplane etiquette in mind until you finally get that pilot’s license.

Don’t hold up lines.

You don’t need aviation school to know that airports are stressful. Everybody’s already tired and cranky, so don’t hold up boarding lines for the rest of the flight passengers. Have your boarding pass, ID, passport, or whatever else you need out and ready before you get in line.

Do respect others’ personal space.

It’s difficult, especially on smaller flights, not to get all up in your neighbor’s business. Still, you should try your hardest to avoid stepping on toes, knocking elbows, or worst of all, leaning on their shoulder when you fall asleep. Also, remember that common airplane etiquette dictates that the middle seat always gets the armrests.

Don’t hog overhead bin space.

Space on a crowded flight is precious, which is why passengers are expected to respect the unspoken rules of overhead bin storage. Only use the bin above your own seat, don’t stuff it with more than one item, and if you need assistance, ask. You wouldn’t want to accidentally drop your carryon on an unsuspecting bystander.

Do be mindful when reclining.

Yes, airplane seats are uncomfortable. Yes, this makes longer flights feel almost unbearable. Isn’t it just the worst when you’ve been sitting in the same cramped position for two hours and the person in front of you decides to recline? Don’t be that person! If you don’t absolutely need to recline, then don’t. If you do, at least be courteous enough to warn the person behind you beforehand.

Don’t bring smelly food.

Ok, this may seem like an obvious rule of airplane etiquette, but under no circumstances should you ever bring smelly food onto an airplane. Being stuck in an artificially ventilated tube with hundreds of strangers is unpleasant enough, and nobody needs the added burden of stinky scents. Leave that tuna sandwich for another day.

Do be patient with kids.

As a student pilot, kids aren’t something you have to worry about during training at aviation school. As a commercial flight passenger, however, you’re bound to encounter your fair share of crying babies and screaming toddlers. Remember that they’re just kids, and airplanes can be scary and uncomfortable. Instead of making a complaint, throw on your noise-canceling headphones and remember that it will be over…Eventually.

Don’t get drunk.

Nobody’s saying you shouldn’t enjoy a nice drink in the air every now and then, but don’t be that one person who gets totally trashed on their flight. It’s extremely rude to those around you- Passengers and staff. Who wants to be stuck next to a drunk person for several hours with no way out?

Do respect your flight attendants.

Visualize all of the worst parts of commercial flying- Annoying passengers, cramped spaces, unexpected turbulence, altitude fatigue, etc. Now imagine having to go through that for days on end, over and over again. Now add being on your feet for hours to that list. That’s the life of a flight attendant. No matter how inconvenienced you feel on a flight, always treat staff with respect. They’re just doing their jobs. As a student pilot, they’re your aeronautical comrades after all.