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Airplane Etiquette: Dos And Don’ts For Flying Coach

No matter what your preferred method of travel may be, one fact remains: most of us can’t afford to fly first class for every flight. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with flying coach (aside from the fact that seat sizes and legroom seem to be dwindling more and more each year), there are some basic and unspoken “rules” that you’ll want to follow to keep things peaceful between yourself, your fellow passengers, and your flight crew.

Avoid Smelly Foods

Don’t be “that person.” As tempting as it might be to pick up your favorite hot tuna melt from that fast food joint five minutes before your flight boards, stick with foods that are less pungent. Nobody else on the flight wants to smell your food. Cold sandwiches, bagels, muffins, and bagged snacks are a much better option that won’t stink up the entire cabin.

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Stash and Sit

If you have any carry-ons that need to be stowed, do your best to stash them in the overhead bins and take your seat as quickly as possible. With as narrow as the aisles in coach are, you could easily hold up the entire plane by taking several minutes to stow your carry-ons. Before you even get in line to board, make sure you have everything in your carry-on bag such as your reading material or compression socks so you need can expedite the process.

Mind Your Armrests

It’s an unspoken rule, but an important one. The person in the middle seat gets both armrests; it’s the least you can do. If you’re lucky enough to have an aisle or window seat, stick to a non-shared armrest and enjoy the fact that you’re not sandwiched between two people.

Respect Your Flight Attendants

Flight attendants have a difficult job, so cut them some slack. Yes, they may accidentally bring you tomato juice when you asked for a ginger ale, but keep in mind that they likely have 100+ other drink orders to take and very limited space in which to work. Treat your flight attendants with respect and you will get the same in return. Remember that the primary job of a flight attendant is to evacuate you safely in the event of an emergency; they are not your personal wait staff.

Think Before You Recline

This is perhaps one of the biggest debates among those who fly coach. Should you ever recline your seat in economy class? Generally speaking, the answer is no. You will only gain a couple of inches of additional space by reclining your seat, but you will most likely set off a “chain reaction” of sorts throughout the rest of the plane. That’s because when you recline your seat, you’ll be stealing space from the person behind you. As a result, he or she will need to recline their seat, and so on. Unless you have an empty seat behind you, it’s generally best to keep your own seat in the upright position.

Never Wake A Sleeping Passenger

When the drink or snack cart rolls around and you notice that another passenger in your row is sleeping soundly, don’t wake them! It may seem like the “polite” thing to do, but most likely, they’ve fallen asleep on purpose and have no interest in the drinks or snacks that are being passed out. Not to mention, if they’re hungry or thirsty when they wake up, they can always use the “call” button above them to order something from the flight attendant. When in doubt, let them sleep unless they’re snoring loudly or beginning to slouch into your personal space.

Don’t Make People Crawl Over You

If somebody in your row needs to get up and use the restroom, have the decency to get up and walk into the aisle so they can get out of their seat comfortably. Don’t do the awkward half-stand in your seat and make them crawl over you to get out of the row.

Exit The Plane In Order

If you’ve ever flown coach before, you know exactly what we’re referring to. As soon as the plane lands and the “fasten seatbelt” sign shuts off, people begin immediately jumping out of their seats to get their items from the overhead bins and rush to the front of the plane so they can be the first to exit.

The bottom line is that everybody is more-or-less going to get off the plane and to collect their luggage from the baggage claim around the same time. In fact, every passenger would get off the plane a lot faster if everybody filed out of their seats in order. Don’t waste your time or hold up the rest of the plane by trying to be the first one off.

These are just a few basic etiquette tips to keep in mind anytime you’re flying coach. Some of these might even apply if you’re flying business-class or first-class. At the end of the day, it’s all about respecting your fellow passengers and your flight crew—and treating others the way you’d like to be treated. If everybody followed these unspoken rules, we’d all have a more enjoyable time flying economy.

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