The Unspoken Rules We’re Begging You to Follow When You Travel by Plane

Airports are truly a microcosm of humanity, showcasing the wide range of human personalities in one area. As we step into an airport’s stressful, bustling atmosphere, we become one of several specific archetypes. Maybe you’re the airport crush: the unbothered, effortlessly cool person who draws their fellow travelers’ eyes with a stylish matching set and looks like a meet-cute waiting to happen. There is also the airport dad, who gets to the airport hours before boarding, “just in case.” They beeline for their gate the second they get through security and set up shop until it’s time to board.

No matter what kind of airport traveler you are, we all know the one type that makes everyone collectively roll their eyes when crossing paths with them: that person. And no, not in an organized, put-together, “that girl” kind of way—in a holding up lines, making travel faux pas left and right, and disrupting others’ airport experience way. These people have no regard for airplane etiquette rules and are the worst people to get stuck next to on a flight. To ensure you’re never that person, keep reading for the unspoken travel rules our editors believe everyone should follow on a flight.

airplane etiquette rules
Source: Dupe Photos | Sivan

1. Have all travel documents ready before you get to the front of the line

Travel is all about time, and many people have little patience during the stress of airports and traveling. We all know the necessities we will need to show to check in, whether that be identification, boarding passes, or passports. Have it ready before your turn so you’re not rustling through pockets or bags. Save yourself the extra stress and the impending looks from the people behind you. – Jenna Piotrowicz, Editorial Assistant

2. Offer to take the middle seat if the other people in your row seem uncomfortable

If I’m booked in the window or aisle seat and my row-mates seem uncomfortable, I’ll always offer to switch to the middle. I think this is simply the polite thing to do when I’m traveling alone as a young, able-bodied person who can handle the middle seat easily. This doesn’t happen too often, but whenever it does, I feel like it’s just the right thing to do. – Emma Ginsberg, Editorial & Podcast Assistant

3. Don’t talk to me if I have headphones on

Headphones are the do-not-disturb sign of airplane conversations. So, if your seat neighbor has them on, don’t attempt to strike up a conversation. – Kirra Wallace, Deputy Art Director

airplane etiquette rules
Source: Dupe Photos | Sweet July

4. If it’s a short flight, leave the skincare in your bag

I love my skincare routine as much as the next girl, but if your flight is less than 6 hours, just do your skincare routine before getting on the plane. Sure, it’s fun to romanticize your plane ride with a DIY facial, but no one wants to be in the splash zone of your Tower 28 SOS Spray. If you must do your skincare on the plane, head to the bathroom to quickly do your routine so you aren’t disturbing the people around you. – Lauren Blue, Editorial Intern

5. Wear deodorant

In fact, wear twice the amount of deodorant you would usually wear, and bring some with you in your personal item. I’ll leave it at that, thank you. – Jessica Friedhoff, Senior Lifestyle Editor

6. Always switch seats with families

Travel can be stressful to coordinate for families with children, and seat changes these days are astronomically expensive. Seat switches are rare, but if a family with children asks to trade seats with you so they can have at least one parent sit with the child, no matter the age, you should trade. – Isabella Kicklighter, Editorial Assistant

airplane etiquette rules
Source: Dupe Photos | Payton

7. It’s OK to take your shoes off for long-haul flights, but the socks stay on

Taking your shoes off on a plane is controversial, but I’m going to go on the record here and state that it’s perfectly acceptable if you adhere to a few guidelines. Namely, keep your shoeless feet out of other people’s personal space, and never under any circumstances take both your shoes and socks off. Socks provide at least some barrier between your stinky feet and the rest of the world, and this is non-negotiable. Also, if you get up to use the restroom or leave your seat for any reason, the shoes must go back on. – Jessica Friedhoff, Senior Lifestyle Editor

8. The middle seat gets both armrests

The middle seat armrest debate is a hill I will die on! The one perk of sitting in the middle seat is that you get two armrests, so don’t be the greedy window or aisle seater who tries to take two. When I’m in the middle seat, I will shamelessly claim those armrests the second I sit down, as is my right! – Lauren Blue, Editorial Intern

This is a “duh” one, but what irks me the most is seeing other passengers being rude to the flight attendants or TSA staff, so it’s clearly not so obvious to many people. I have sat next to so many strangers who were angry at the flight attendants for things completely out of their control: the internet not working, the flight getting delayed. Even people shaking their heads grumpily rather than saying “No, thank you” to the beverage service irks me to no degree.

I know travel can be stressful and airlines don’t always do the right thing, but the people who work for them are just trying to do their job, which is to make your experience as safe and comfortable as possible, and they deal with a lot of negativity. So go out of your way to be extra kind (I also have gotten many alcoholic beverages and extra snacks on board just by being friendly, and laughing with TSA agents feels way better than being annoyed at them!). I promise it will make your travel day a lot better, too. – Josie Santi, Senior Wellness Editor & Podcast Host

airplane etiquette rules
Source: Dupe Photos | Sydney Savage

10. If you see someone crying on the plane, mind your business!

One of my key personality traits is that I am a chronic plane crier. I cry on almost every flight—it’s the perfect place to just get out a little bit of emotion, removed from any potential distractions or notifications, usually with a great view for reflecting. It’s not like I’m wailing! Sometimes, I just get a little emo while I’m in the air. Few row-mates have ever noticed me getting choked up during a flight, but I once caught a guy texting his girlfriend that the girl next to him was crying to make fun of me, and that was an icky moment. If you see someone getting emotional on the plane, mind your own business! You never know what someone is going through. – Emma Ginsberg, Editorial & Podcast Assistant

11. Wait your turn to get off the plane—unless it’s an emergency or you’re trying to catch a connecting flight

Everything runs smoother when everybody waits their turn to get off the plane. Please don’t be that person that tries to get off before everyone else and is rude about it—it causes unnecessary stress for your planemates and disrupts the exit flow. If there is an emergency or you need to catch a connecting flight, that is understandable, but be polite! – Kaia Grobe, Video Content Editor

12. Don’t crowd the gate or baggage claim

We all want to get on the plane as quickly as possible, but crowding the gate before the workers call your boarding group is unnecessary. You won’t get to board any earlier, and it just creates a chaotic huddle for no reason. In the same vein, don’t stand right next to the carousel at baggage claim. Take a few steps back and just walk forward to grab your bag when you see it. If you’re right against the barrier of the conveyor belt, you’re blocking everyone else from seeing and being able to get to their bag. – Lauren Blue, Editorial Intern

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