10 Golden Rules of In-Flight Etiquette

Riding on an airplane requires some level of etiquette.


For many CU Denver students, winter break was the time to travel. For some at the Sentry, the medium of transportation was a Moroccan camel. For the rest of us, bikes, trains, hiking boots, and airplanes hauled us to our respective adventures. Each mode of transportation has its own accepted set of protocol and appropriate behaviors. Flights are no different. Here’s what all passenger should know.

1. Learn how to open a ketchup packet before getting onto the aircraft. It’s important to master the art of opening tiny containers of salad dressing and plastic packages of silverware before tackling the complimentary meal and squirting chutney all over the seats and its occupants

2. If your seatmates don’t want to talk, don’t talk. Don’t chatter, don’t push a conversation, and don’t explain your intricate childhood to an exhausted insurance secretary who could barely stumble onto the plane. Be polite and pleasant, but know when to power down.

3. Align your chakras before getting into the tight, confined spaces of an aircraft. Regardless of the time zone or length of the flight, you may not go allout transcendental namaste if you’re flying economy. Stand up, go to the restroom or the standing area, and get comfortable there.

4. Do not complain about the wailing, airsick toddlers in front of you. Everyone is miserable enough on a flight; don’t add to it by scowling at the kids or telling parents their offspring are a nuisance.

5. Keep your pillows, shoes, and gum wrappers to yourself. Every passenger is allocated a precious amount of legroom and an even smaller amount of in-cabin luggage. You may not commandeer someone else’s private space. Travel light.

6. Inform the airline of all food allergies and dietary restrictions prior to the flight. People get possessive over peanuts. If you have an airborne tree nut allergy, your fellow passengers will hold an eternal grudge against you if you only tell the flight attendants when they’re half-way through handing out snacks.

7. Watch your adult privileges. Slap-happy smashed has its place, although the plane is not it. Passengers and flight attendants don’t need to deal with effusive, red-faced, alcoholic opinions and breath spouting all over the cabin.

8. Check with the person behind you before you jerk back your seat. All you have to do is ask if it’s OK to lean the seat back. The startling courtesy of actually being asked will jolt them into a surprised, “Yes, not a problem, go ahead.” Lean back and enjoy the guilt-free knowledge that your hair is not draping in their salad.

9. If you’re in the aisle seat, you’re bladder control. Have pity on the window-seat dweller and let them use the restroom once every eight hours. Stand up often, and give your seat-mates a chance to run to the loo or stretch their legs. You may be proud of your iron willpower to not go, but don’t expect your seat-mates to happily participate in your 15-hour gauntlet of self-discovery.

10. Keep your beauty and bathroom routine to a minimum. The aircraft restrooms are sacred places of blessed privacy and mirrors to examine your bloodshot eyes and static hair. Nevertheless, you deserve the walk of shame back to your seat past the lines of glowering, antsy bathroom-needers if you spend 20 minutes in your private temple.

—Elsa Peterson

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