WWYD: Airplane Etiquette Edition

Travelers report how they would handle airplane etiquette gaffes.

Airlines for America reported record-breaking airport traffic this summer, with an estimated 2.5 million passengers flying each day. With the increase in travelers, airlines passengers will likely witness airplane etiquette violations during summer travel. For inexperienced travelers, it is a good idea to read up on annoying passenger behavior and do avoid committing these in-flight faux pas. For frequent flyers, understanding what other passengers are thinking is helpful to avoid escalating a situation when attempting to correct a fellow passenger.

Recently, the Travel Leaders Group surveyed 3,431 consumers across the US to find out what they would do when witnessing various airplane etiquette violations. The results will help travelers to understand what is likely going through the minds of nearby passengers during airplane etiquette violations.

When discussing the findings of the survey, Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko stated, “Not surprisingly, a vast majority would let the flight crew handle any in-flight disagreements – and there have been a few as of late. But in many other instances, there aren’t clearly defined right and wrong answers on how to handle particular situations.” She went on to say,

Patience, civility, common sense, self-awareness and courtesy toward others all contribute dramatically in making any travel experience better, all around.”

The questions and results are below.  Please comment with your answers!

“If a child was behaving badly on a plane, one that was old enough to understand their actions, and the parents did nothing to correct the behavior, what would you do?” 

Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation.54.8%
Sit quietly and say nothing.14.4%
Say something directly to the parents.13.4%
Say something directly to the child.6.6%
Not sure.10.8%

Unfortunately, this situation occurs way more than it should. Last year, Expedia reported the most annoying passenger behavior had to do with children. Rear seat kicking and inattentive parenting landed at the top of the list. Whether you decide to have a chat with the child’s parent of the flight attendant, it is a good idea to do so before you become angry. If you travel with children, your fellow travelers would appreciate if you stop your children from kicking the seat (here are some tips), pay attention to your child during the flight, and do your best to keep them from being loud (see tips for flying with kids).

“If you saw two airline passengers fighting, in-flight, what would you do?”

Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation.73.3%
Step in and try to defuse the situation.7.8%
Sit quietly and say nothing.4.6%
Capture the video on my smartphone to share with others.1.3%
Not sure.13.0%

Unless you are a trained mediator or someone large enough to defuse a hostile situation with your presence, it is a good idea to alert a flight attendant and avoid getting involved.  Flight attendants have the ultimate say over who gets kicked off the plane, and if you step in and appear to be involved, you may find yourself booted off the plane for trying to step in.

“If the person in the airline seat in front of you reclined their seat so much that you had difficulty lowering your tray table or perhaps were unable to open up a laptop, what would you do?”

Say something directly to the person.41.6%
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation.31.6%
Sit quietly and say nothing.15.3%
Jam your knees into the back of the seat.3.7%
Not sure.7.8%

Recliner rage occurs more often than travelers realize. Thanks to shrinking seats, passengers are already dealing with less legroom, before a seat is reclined. Unfortunately, the topic of reclining is very heated and divided. Travelers who are pro-recline, feel reclining their seat is a right. Travelers who are more conscientious about it seem to prefer a more polite approach, which may include letting the person behind them know before they recline their seat.

“If you were trying to recline your airplane seat and you were hindered by the person behind you, in some way, what would you do?”

Say something directly to the person.27.8%
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation.27.5%
Sit quietly and say nothing.27.0%
Continuously try to recline my seat5.0%
Not sure.12.7%

Recliner rage is a two-way street. Thanks to the invention of the knee defender, hindering a seat from reclining has become a hot topic. The controversial device allows the person behind you to block your seat from reclining. It has led to many in-flight fights. It is likely a good idea to involved a flight attendant if this situation occurs.

“If an adult passenger seated near you on an airplane was listening to music or watching videos without using headphones, what would you do?” 

Say something directly to the individual.32.6%
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation.21.3%
Put in my own earphones to drown them out.18.4%
Do nothing because it would not bother me.13.0%
Sit quietly and do nothing, even though the sound bothers me.3.7%
Try to find an alternative seat.3.5%
Not sure.7.5%

Listening to loud music or having a loud conversation was reported as the fourth most annoying passenger behavior last year. Many experienced travelers consider noise-canceling headphones a must for this reason. Most airlines do have headphones on board, so you may consider asking a flight attendant to provide headphones to someone who is using a loud device without them.

“Many newer airplanes have seatback monitors for watching movies or playing games.  If the person behind you continuously tapped the monitor on the back of your seat during the flight, what would you do?”

Say something directly to the person.29.5%
I don’t think it would bother me.28.6%
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation.18.3%
Sit quietly and say nothing – even though it bothers me.10.7%
Not sure.12.9%

Unfortunately, the need for in-flight entertainment may be the cause of this annoyance. It is hard to believe the monitors have games that involve tapping multiple times, but it is true. The passenger committing this faux pas may not realize they are causing an issue, so it may be easier to ask the person to tap lighter before you enlist the help of a flight attendant.

If you were seated on the airplane next to, or near, someone who had a pet (i.e. dog or cat) with them, what would you do?”

Make small talk about pets.38.4%
Sit quietly and say nothing – would not bother me.29.1%
I would ask to be reseated, I’m allergic to animals.14.1%
I would ask if the seatmate could be reseated.4.4%
Sit quietly and say nothing – even though it bothers me.3.0%
Not sure.11.1%

This happened to me one time. There was an empty seat between the dog’s owner and myself, which the 70lb. golden retriever sat in. Since it was an early flight, the dog’s owner feel asleep and the dog decided to lay over the seat and in my lap. Luckily, I have three dogs and miss them when I travel, so I had no complaints. Most passengers would likely not appreciate a 70lb. lap dog (especially when traveling in a business suit).

“If you were seated on airplane next to, or near, someone who had a service animal with them for a disability, what would you do?”    

Sit quietly and say nothing – would not bother me.48.8%
Make small talk about pets.32.5%
I would ask to be reseated, I’m allergic to animals.9.8%
Sit quietly and say nothing – even though it bothers me.2.8%
I would ask if the seatmate could be reseated.1.0%
Not sure.5.2%

It seems travelers are more tolerant of service animals. You may be surprised to learn the dog in the story I shared was a service animal. In fact, he had just graduated from the training program and was flying home.

Overall, it appears most travelers will take the high road when it comes to uncomfortable situations on the airplane. Remember to be courteous when you fly and when in doubt, it is always a good idea to contact a flight attendant before a situation becomes escalated.

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Business Travel Life

Business Travel Life is an online resource supporting the road warrior lifestyle. We give business travelers the tools they need to maintain their wellness and productivity when traveling. The topics we cover include business travel tips, travel workouts, healthy travel hacks, travel products, general travel tips, and industry trends. Our goal is to make business travel a healthier experience – and to make healthy travel practices more accessible to all road warriors.

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Kristina Portillo, CPT, MS

Kristina is the founder of Business Travel Life. Her love of fitness and travel unified to create a resource for business travelers and road warriors who want to take a healthier approach to business travel. She has traveled for business on and off for the past eight years. Kristina received a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Colorado State University and received her Bachelors of Arts in Business Marketing from Chaminade University of Honolulu.

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