The Unspoken Rules of Air Travel

by Anthony Losanno

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Online booking platform, KAYAK, conducted extensive research into the unspoken rules of air travel. Most of these are common sense, but it’s a bit alarming what some people think is okay to do while flying. Here are some of its findings:

Foot on Wall

Feet & Planes

I’ve experienced people putting their feet on seats, walls, and the bulkhead. Sometimes with socks and other times not. I’ve also seen countless people go to the lavatory in only sock-clad feet (that’s not water you’re stepping in). Here is what people think based on the KAYAK research:

  • 76% say you’re not allowed to take your socks off.
  • 68% say you are not allowed to put your feet up against the back of the seat in front of you.
  • 92% say you are not allowed to clip or paint your nails at your seat. Filing your nails is also a no no, according to 81% of people. (I’ve seen toenails being clipped in First Class. Gross.)
  • 56% of North Americans agree your shoes should stay on during a flight. But, the fact that this was so close (56% vs. 44%) is a bit disturbing. My take is that your shoes can come off as long as you have on clean socks and your feet don’t smell.
  • One in five people believe it’s okay to use the restroom without shoes on.

Plane Armrest

Share the Space

In Economy, space is tight. It’s not easy being packed into a small space for hours on end. Common courtesy goes a long way, but many forget their manners above 10,000 feet. Here are some thoughts based on the KAYAK research:

  • 88% of people say it’s okay to recline your seat. But timing is important to some with one in three saying it’s only okay to recline your seat on a long or overnight flight.
  • 57% say the middle seat is not entitled to both arm rests.
  • Sleeping is not a valid excuse for leaning on a stranger’s shoulder (77%), snoring loudly (66%), or refusing to wake up to let the passenger next to you get up (66%).
  • Over one in four people (26%) say it’s okay to hang your hair over the headrest/onto the front of the seat behind you.
  • 73% say you are allowed to store small items or jackets in the overhead bin.


Keep Quiet

If someone is watching or listening to something without headphones, I quickly say something. If there is no course correction, some people will push things too far. KAYAK researchers found that the majority agree:

  • 70% say you are not allowed to watch something without headphones.
  • Headphones on is the equivalent to do not disturb according to 94% of people.
  • 69% agree you are not allowed to call someone before you get off the plane.
  • 58% say you are not allowed to laugh loudly at a movie when on a plane.
  • 26% say it’s not okay to bring a baby on a flight.

The Office

Snack Time

Airplane food is rarely good (and this includes many premium cabin offerings). If you’re going to bring food on a plane, make sure you take others into consideration around the smells coming from your meal. KAYAK found:

  • 92% of people agree that you should not bring any food with strong smells on a plane. That includes the biggest offenders: tinned fish (89%), hard boiled eggs (74%) and a rack of ribs (84%).
  • 55% of people say no to eating crunchy food on a plane.
  • You are allowed to bring airport fast food. Because 61% of travelers don’t mind the smell of burger.

(Image Credit: NBC Universal | The Office.)

Matt Clarke, VP of NA Marketing at KAYAK said:

Travel etiquette is one of those things that is universally acknowledged yet frequently debated. Even within our own team at KAYAK, we couldn’t all agree whether it was or was not OK to recline your seat on a flight. So, we wanted to put an end to the debate once and for all. By launching these rules as summer travel really picks up, we hope to create a more enjoyable and agreeable summer travel experience for all.”

The rules KAYAK created will run on digital displays in major airports throughout the summer and will also be available via a modernized seatback manual that can be downloaded here.

Anthony’s Take: Manners are not often found inflight. Just think about what you’re doing and ask yourself if you’d like someone else to do it. If not, leave the bad behavior at home. Planes are packed and tension will run high this summer due to lines, lack of space, and overworked staff.

(Featured Image Credit: KAYAK.)

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