Airport Etiquette: Simple Reminders That Will Make Everyone’s Life Easier

Pilots, flight attendants, and ground crew have one resounding plea to passengers.

In travelling by flight, it is not enough to abide by the safety rules. Here are 10 unwritten rules that every flier should know, as told by pilots and flight attendants.

Don’t Blame the Airline for Delayed Flights

If there is one thing that irks both passengers and flight crew alike, it’s a delayed flight. Pilots, flight attendants, and ground crew are never more united in anything than this issue.

“I wish that passengers would not blame the airline all the time when the flight is delayed,” says First Officer Paul Gonzales, who has been co-piloting commercial aircraft for a number of years.

Gonzales is echoing the sentiment of thousands of people in the airlines industry. “We understand their frustration. However, safety is our number one priority. Sometimes, flights are delayed because we need to address safety issues about the airplane. Sometimes, airport congestion or bad weather causes the delay. These are things that are really beyond our control,” explains Gonzales.


Avoid Going to the Lavatory When Food Service is Ongoing


Not many passengers are aware of this, but using the lavatory while food is being served significantly delays the service.

“When the food cart is in the middle of the cabin and a passenger decides to go to the lavatory, we will need to pull the cart all the way back to the galley again so that the passenger can pass, says flight attendant Nina Melizza Ronda.

“Imagine if there are four to eight passengers want to go to the lavatory. We will always suspend the service just to give way for passengers who want to use the lavatory,” Ronda concedes.


If you want to use the lavatory while food service is ongoing, just wait until the food cart passes your row, and then go to the lavatory. This is considerate for the flight crew and fellow passengers.

Don’t Get Angry if a Passenger Reclines the Seat

It is within a passenger’s liberty to recline his or her seat, as cabins are designed that way. “They have the right to do that,” explains Tin Carnes, who has been in service for 11 years as a flight attendant.

When a seat is reclined, it is also expected that the passengers behind it not knock it up or cause too much movement in the reclined seat. For example, we avoid using the headrest of the passenger in front of us as a leverage to lift you up when standing. This causes so much discomfort that we ourselves do not want to experience.

Share the Overhead Storage Bins


“There are many passengers who get angry when another passenger stows their bag in the storage bin above another passenger,” says Carnes, who admits that it can cause unpleasant exchanges among passengers.

“Passengers seem to think that they paid for the overhead storage bin directly above their seat, which is not the case. It is for everyone.”

Use Your Headphones

We already know that phones need to be on silent or vibration mode when flying to keep it from disturbing passengers who want to rest, so it makes perfect sense to use headphone or earphones when watching a movie in flight with your phone.

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“Some passengers watch movies on their phones with its speakers in full blast while everyone else is sleeping,” Carnes recounts. “It’s better for everyone to use headphones.”

Extend Your Patience with Babies

Infants in a flight can be a very stressful experience for everyone, especially the parents.

“People sometimes tell us to do something about a crying baby, and we approach the parents and ask if there is anything we can provide or help with,” says Carnes. “We can try to pacify the baby, but if that does not work and the parents can’t pacify them either, the passengers should try to understand,” she says.

We have heard stories of celebrities and parents with infants providing a sort of “please bear with us” loot bags for all passengers in a flight. However, we should not expect this gesture from every infant-carrying parent. Sometimes, empathy can go a long way, especially for the baby’s parents who are most probably stressed humiliated. Smile at them or hand them a small treat (a candy), and you will be very glad that you did.

Wait for Your Turn to be Served


Being self-aware and aware of 200 other passengers on a flight escapes even the most polite person once in a while, especially when we can’t wait to get our orders taken.

“When I’m serving a certain row, and then four rows down, a passenger is already waiving and calling me asking for something, it gets to me,” admits Carnes.


Doing this is short of being disrespectful to fellow passengers and the cabin crew. Passengers must realize that this is the in-flight version of cutting the queue, since the purpose is the same: getting ahead of everyone.

Respect Everyone’s Personal Space


Paolo Francisco, frequent flier and student pilot, sums up in-flight etiquette in four words: respect one’s personal space.

“A seat is a small space in a flight where we hope to keep our personal space intact,” says Francisco. Asked to elaborate, he explains that “people with long hair should not let it hang over the head rest.”

“People should also keep their feet on the floor or leg rest, and never remove their shoes,” he continues.

As much as we want to enjoy our flight, we must also be mindful of how we affect other passengers. We might be invading their small space without intending to.

Lift Your Own Bags When Able

Many passengers think that it is the cabin crew’s responsibility to stow away all the passengers’ bags into the overhead storage bin, but that is not their job. We should not be angry if cabin crew are busy and are not able to assist us in this aspect.

There have been many cases when flight attendants had been injured for trying to lift passenger’s bags. “Passengers should not expect us to lift their baggage,” says Carnes.

If there is no crew available, we can always we polite and ask our fellow passenger to assist us in lifting our bags into the overhead storage bin.


The Person in the Middle Seat Gets the Armrests


When it comes to seat preferences, window seats rank highest, followed by the aisle seats (easier to get in and out). The middle seat is the one that everyone avoids.

For this reason, an unspoken rule about flight armrests is this: the window seat gets the armrest near the window, the aisle seat gets the armrest near the aisle, and the middle seat gets the both the left and right armrests on its sides.

Jacqueline Marie, flight attendant for a major US airline, weighs in on the subject. “I one hundred percent believe that the middle seat has the right to both armrests,” as quoted from the travel website, The Points Guy.  


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