Sitting through a long flight may not be the most pleasurable of all experiences, as I have discovered through the years. Being ‘trapped’ with fellow inconsiderate passengers for 12 hours straight can leave you exhausted as you think of strategic ways of how to stop the space invasion.
Here is a list of 15 basic airplane etiquette everyone should have – I’m sure many of us would have been victims of at least some of them.
1. Never assume someone is willing to swap seats with you. Do not sit on someone else’s seat unless you have their PERMISSION.
I get very mad when I see someone sitting in my seat on the plane, when I get to it. It is only nice if you sit at your allocated seat. If you would like to sit next to a friend, ask if the other party if he is comfortable with swapping seats. With his ‘approval’, only then can you proceed.
2. Guys, please put that gym sessions to use and help with the luggage stowing
I’m vertically challenged and when it comes to heaving my 9 kg backpack into the overhead luggage compartments, it’s always appreciated when someone comes to my aid. (So sorry, but when it comes to luggage stowing, gender equality goes right out of the window.) I get super annoyed when I am struggling to stow away my backpack, buckles and all into the compartment, and a muscular dude seated at that aisle seat flips his in-flight magazine nonchalantly.
Based on my travel experiences, it is a 50% chance I meet a kind soul. And I must say some kind souls are really deserving of my admiration. There was a not-so-tall man in his 40s who reached out to help me with my backpack after stowing his, when he was two seats away.
3. If you have multiple bulky bags, check them in.
A well packed compressed backpack is fine, even though it’s bulky. But I get really annoyed when families bring 5 different huge bags of I-don’t-know-what on board, which takes up all the overhead compartments and they end up blocking the aisle while trying to stow them away. Once, my backpack got relegated 10 seats away, because I had boarded the plane later and the luggage space near where I was sitting was full.
4. Know Thyself (a). If you have body odour, make an effort to have a shower and spray some deodorant before boarding the plane.
I am not judging those who have BO, but if you’re about to board a 20 hour-long flight, the nicest thing you could do is to have a bath a couple of hours before, especially if you have been exposed to some really hot, humid weather.
5. Know thyself (b). If you have a weak bladder, or aim to finish up the airplane’s stock of beverages, request for an aisle seat.
It’s not very nice to be waking up your fellow passengers to head to the toilet, especially during long flights. Though such situations can also happen during short flights.
I was heading back from Bali to Singapore. It was a two-hour flight and I had requested for an aisle seat for more room to stretch around. I was also hoping to take a nap.
There was a Chinese lady sitting next to me, who requested for wine, beer, orange and apple juice during that short two-hour flight. Let’s call her Miss Thirsty. Needless to say, she visited the loo twice during that two hours, which saw her tapping vigorously on my shoulder even though I was nodding off. Which brings me to the next point.
6. Drinking up the airplane’s stock of alcoholic beverages is not going to help you breakeven and cover the cost of your airplane ticket.
It will only get one drunk. And also because there is a high tendency that such cheapskates are also losers who can’t handle their alcohol well. Which brings me to the next point.
7. Don’t get drunk.
It’s fine to get drunk at bars, or in the presence of close friends. But hey, the space on a flight is enclosed, and strangers, people you will probably meet only once in your life do not deserve to hear your ‘drunk monologues’ or bear the brunt of your touchiness. Eews!
On an Aeroflot flight from Russia to Guangzhou, a dude in his 50s, I assume he was Russian, was already tipsy when he boarded the flight. He starting rambling in a rather loud and audible voice, and later fought verbally with fellow passengers. (It was in Russian so we had no idea what he was saying.) We were sitting a couple of seats away from him and the air around had a tinge of alcohol in it.
After having his inflight meal, he clumsily left the tray on the floor and mis-aimed a little, causing some food to fall onto the floor. That lasted through the whole flight. Eerk.
8. Do not tell off the air stewardess or demand for compensation, unless you get your facts right.
The Travelling Squid strongly believes that everyone should fight for their rights. But to not check your facts and be a bitch about it is embarrassing to no one but yourself. Here is a good example.
It was the same Garuda flight from Bali to Singapore and a Singaporean lady was in search of her seat. Her ticket showed 48B and when she arrived at the seat, she found someone already there. Being the assertive lady she was, she asked to see the person’s ticket, and found that both of them had the same seat numbers on their boarding pass.
As soon as the air stewardess came by, she gamely declared in an accusatory tone, “Hi, your airline has overbooked my seat. How are you going to compensate me?”
The air stewardess, patient and nice as ever, requested to see her boarding pass. Alas! Miss 48B was referring to the wrong boarding pass (it was for her previous flight, from Singapore to Bali). Her actual seat number for the current flight was 49B.
I was resisting the urge to snigger, at the same time I wondered to myself, do Singapore Airline stewardess get that sort of attitude as well?
9. Even if you are right (and have been wronged), be gracious.
A sense of uncertainty always exists with air travel. Things can easily go wrong – eg. missing a spare part of a plane, or food orders getting mixed up.
In most cases, the person serving you (the air stewardess) is not the main cause of such mistakes. While they represent the airline, it is still important to treat them with respect. It’s the same with any job. Mistakes happen and we got to forgive and move on. Why let a small incident affect the rest of your trip?
10. Flirt all you want, but keep your volume low.
As a lethargic traveller who is keen to maximise her length of sleep on a flight, any sort of flirting is not welcomed. But The Travelling Squid acknowledges that people have met their soulmates on flights, and it is important to grab on to opportunities which Fate hands out.
So if you have to flirt and see the passengers around you nodding off, keep your volume low. Also helps as the other party would have to move in closer to listen to you. Keep those annoying flirty giggles to a minimal, and definitely avoid things like, “Oei, don’t like that leh!! tee hee hee”
That being said, for the entertainment of your fellow passengers, flirting is welcomed on short flights, especially when content on the in-flight magazine is really meh (boring). (Stay tuned for an upcoming post on 10 flirting tips to bring with you on a flight).
11. Be sensitive. Stop talking when the other party is showing no interest
When I first started travelling alone, I adopted an open mindset and was very friendly to the people around me, (despite The Mother’s teachings of not to talk to strangers.) When I was on a flight to Delhi, an elderly looking man in his 50s started asking me questions about my trip and if it was my first time to Delhi. I said no, and he started asking me where I was going to stay and where I was heading after the flight. What a creep!
I remembered clearly faking a yawn and taking out my ear plugs, an obvious hint that I had absolutely no interest in carrying on the conversation but he still continued. I just ignored and carried on my fake-sleeping.
Once the plane landed, I zoomed out from the plane to the passport control in double-quick time. Thankfully he wasn’t as quick to follow.
12. Do what you can to keep your kids quiet
I acknowledge that it’s difficult travelling with kids, especially babies who are unable to control their cries. But I’d appreciate the effort by parents to shush their babies, or take their yelling kids to task when they are being little tykes. Sometimes, noises from kids are almost impossible to quell, but if I see a parent disciplining the kid, I would feel less annoyed.
13. Have some sleeping manners, please
I was on a 12 hour Finnair flight to Helsinki and was allocated the window seat. A lady at the seat behind me had stretch her feet right on to my arm rest, such that I could literally see her coloured toenails. (The nail polish was peeling off, which was really quite gross.) I ended up opting for the passive aggressive method of using the pillow to push away her feet and defend my space. It worked.
Also, if you are about to sleep, please have the decency not to kick or rest your legs against the seat in front of you. My reaction to that would be then to fully recline my seat backwards.
14. Middle seat people need elbow rests too
As it is, being in the middle seat is already a disadvantage. You don’t get to cuddle at the corner of the window seat – that extra 5cm in space still makes a lot of difference. You also don’t get the flexibility of an aisle seat, standing up and walking about whenever you feel like it. The last thing middle seat people need is for encroaching elbows to invade their already limited space. Be nice and leave the middle person at least one elbow rest!
15. Do not shout across other passengers!!!
Shouting across other passengers, is by far the biggest No No. The airplane is not some mountainous area where you have to raise your voice such that your neighbour some 800m away can hear you. We are on the plane! If you need to speak with your friend, about something important, leave your seat and speak to the person close up.
This is the most epic of all scenarios. The culprit is the same Chinese lady who drank four beverages in two hours, Miss Thirsty. As I soon discovered, Miss Thirsty is also Miss Noisy. Essentially Miss Noisy was sitting away from her friend, I can’t remember his exact name, but let’s call him Cai Jin Xuan (Refer to the diagram above for the seating arrangement.)
Miss Noisy felt the strong need to alert Mr Cai about the contents in the beverage cart, which was coming by. The following conversation took place.
Miss Noisy: (Shouting from her seat) Cai Jin Xuan! CAI JIN XUAN! 空姐带着饮料过来了。里头有葡萄酒还有你喜欢的啤酒！(The stewardess is bringing over the beverages. There is wine and beer that you like!)
Poor Phebe: (Thinking silently): Why does Miss Noisy need to tell her friend what’s in the beverage cart? I am sure he can see the contents for himself.. And to shout across two passengers and the aisle….
Cai Jin Xuan: (Looks embarrassed) 好了好了，我知道！ (Yes I know) – gives a rather embarrassed and frustrated expression.
Miss Noisy: Ay， Cai Jin Xuan! 里头还有苹果和芒果汁。要多拿一些哦！(There is apple and mango juice too! Remember to take more!)
The conversation ended here thankfully, but if I was Cai Jin Xuan, I would have asked for a beer and wine to drown out the embarrassment.
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Do you have more basic airplane etiquette to add on to the list? Please share your stories and anecdotes! It could run into a long list…
In the meantime, here’s to having a smooth long haul flight of yours. Have fun!