20 Things You Should Never Do When Flying

Depending on who you ask, flying can be a thrilling adventure or a necessary evil. Either way, the close quarters and long durations mean your behavior can significantly impact those around you.

To ensure everyone’s journey is as pleasant as possible, here are 20 annoying things you should avoid doing on a flight.

1. Ignoring the Flight Crew’s Instructions

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The flight crew’s instructions are not only for your safety but also for the safety of everyone on board. Ignoring these directives can lead to dangerous situations, such as not being properly secured during turbulence or emergencies.

Furthermore, it’s a matter of legal compliance; passengers are legally required to follow the flight crew’s instructions. Disobedience can result in fines or even arrest. Listening and adhering to their guidance ensures a safer flight for all.

2. Reclining Your Seat Without Warning

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Abruptly reclining your seat can cause various issues for the person sitting behind you. It can lead to spilled drinks, making their space uncomfortable, or even breaking their items like laptops.

This sudden movement can be especially problematic for tall passengers, who may already be cramped in their seating area.

A quick glance behind you and a gentle warning allow the other passenger to prepare, maintaining a more harmonious environment on board.

3. Hogging the Overhead Bin Space

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With the increasing number of passengers carrying luggage to avoid checked baggage fees, overhead bin space has become a hot commodity.

By bringing too much on board or spreading your belongings across multiple bins, you’re not only being inconsiderate but potentially forcing others to check their bags at the last minute, which could cause delays upon arrival.

Efficiently packing and being considerate of shared spaces can help everyone have a smoother boarding process.

4. Being a Chatty Cathy

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While making small talk and meeting new people can be one of the joys of flying, it’s essential to recognize social cues. Some passengers use flight time to unwind, sleep, or catch up on work.

Constant chatting, especially during long flights or red eyes, can become a source of stress and irritation. Respecting someone’s personal space and silence allows for a peaceful journey for everyone involved.

5. Loud Headphone Use

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Even with headphones, music or movie sounds can leak out and disturb your neighbors, especially at high volumes. This disturbance can break the calm atmosphere others try to enjoy, making it difficult for them to sleep, read, or relax.

Keeping your volume at a considerate level ensures you’re not infringing on others’ personal audio space.

6. Consuming Too Much Alcohol

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Air travel can exacerbate the effects of alcohol due to the lower level of oxygen in your blood at high altitudes. This can lead to quicker intoxication, resulting in disruptive behavior such as loud talking, invasions of personal space, or even aggression.

Such actions can create an uncomfortable and even hostile environment for other passengers and crew. Moderation is vital to ensuring that you and everyone else on board have a pleasant experience.

7. Getting Up Frequently on a Full Row

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Constantly asking fellow passengers to move so you can stretch your legs or use the restroom disrupts their comfort and can be especially annoying during long flights. It’s essential to consider their needs and comfort as well.

If you know you tend to get up often, try to reserve an aisle seat or plan your restroom visits around meal and beverage services when everyone is already moving around.

8. Not Using Headphones at All

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Playing any audio through your device’s speakers forces those around you into your entertainment choices, which can be distracting and irritating, particularly on long flights or when others are trying to sleep.

Using headphones is a simple courtesy that can make a big difference in the shared environment of a plane.

9. Poor Personal Hygiene

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Given the confined space on an aircraft, maintaining personal hygiene is crucial.

Body odor, excessive perfume, or other strong smells can become amplified in the cabin, making the flight unpleasant for those seated nearby. This situation can lead to discomfort and complaints, affecting the overall ambiance onboard.

Packing travel-sized deodorant or refreshing wipes can help manage hygiene on longer flights.

10. Bringing Strong-Smelling Food

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Like personal hygiene, the food you bring onboard can significantly affect the cabin environment. Strong-smelling foods can permeate the cabin, potentially making others feel nauseous or uncomfortable.

Considering less odorous meal options for the flight respects the shared space and ensures a more pleasant journey for everyone.

11. Kicking the Seat in Front of You

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Kicking or bumping the seat in front of you can be extremely frustrating for the passenger in that seat. This constant disturbance can ruin their flight experience, making it impossible for them to relax, sleep, or enjoy entertainment.

It’s particularly aggravating during long flights where comfort is already compromised. Always be aware of your legroom and try to manage your space without impacting others.

12. Not Controlling Your Children

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Traveling with children can be challenging, but allowing them to misbehave (such as screaming, kicking seats, or running in the aisles) can disrupt the peace and comfort of other passengers. This behavior can lead to significant discomfort and annoyance.

Parents need to prepare activities, snacks, and entertainment to keep children engaged and to set expectations for in-flight behavior before boarding.

13. Taking Off Your Shoes and Socks

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While taking off shoes might be done for comfort, especially on long-haul flights, removing socks and exposing bare feet is another level of discomfort for others. Feet can carry odors confined in the cabin space, affecting the air quality and comfort of fellow passengers.

If you need to remove your shoes, consider bringing a clean pair of socks to change into or flight slippers to minimize any disturbance.

14. Not Sharing the Armrest

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Armrest etiquette is crucial for ensuring a comfortable flight, especially for passengers in the middle seat who have limited personal space. Dominating the armrests can make the flight uncomfortable for others.

Sharing or alternating use can help maintain peace and comfort. Remember, the unwritten rule often prioritizes the middle seat passenger for the armrests, recognizing their constrained space.

15. Standing in the Aisle During Boarding or Deplaning

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Blocking the aisle during boarding or deplaning slows down the process for everyone. It can cause unnecessary delays and frustrations, especially for those trying to make tight connections or eager to exit the plane.

Being mindful and efficient when storing your luggage and waiting for your turn to move in the aisle can make the process smoother and quicker for everyone.

16. Leaning Too Far Into Someone Else’s Space

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Personal space is at a premium on flights, and invading someone else’s space by leaning over or encroaching with your belongings can be very uncomfortable. This can make the flight experience unpleasant, especially on full or long flights with limited personal space.

Always be conscious of your body position and ensure your belongings are within your designated area.

17. Misusing the Call Button

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The call button is designed for necessary communication with the flight crew, such as health issues or urgent needs. Misusing it for minor requests, especially when the crew is busy preparing for takeoff, landing, or serving meals, can distract them from more critical duties.

Use it thoughtfully and for legitimate needs.

18. Not Lowering the Window Shade

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Light from the window can be very disruptive, especially on long flights crossing multiple time zones where passengers might be trying to adjust their body clocks or catch up on sleep.

Not lowering the window shade when requested or during rest times can be inconsiderate. If you wish to look outside, it’s polite to do so quickly and then lower the shade again to maintain a restful cabin environment.

19. Blocking the Lavatory Line

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Queuing in the aisle for the lavatory can block access for other passengers and the flight crew, disrupting the flow and accessibility of the cabin.

If there’s a line, it’s better to wait for your turn seated rather than standing in the aisle. This helps keep the cabin orderly and minimizes obstructions.

20. Arguing with Fellow Passengers

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Disagreements or arguments with other passengers can escalate quickly in the confined space of an aircraft, creating a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere. Such confrontations can disrupt the peace for everyone onboard.

If issues arise, it’s best to involve the flight crew who are trained to handle disputes and can find a resolution that respects all parties involved.

Planning and Preparation

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  • Choosing the Right Seat: Choosing the right seat ahead of time can significantly improve your flight experience. Consider your personal preferences, such as extra legroom or proximity to the lavatories, and use seat selection tools and maps available on most airlines’ websites to make an informed choice.
  • Packing Essentials: Prepare a carry-on bag with essentials to keep you comfortable. Include items like noise-canceling headphones, a neck pillow, a water bottle, and snacks. Don’t forget to download movies, books, or podcasts to keep you entertained if you prefer your own selections over the in-flight entertainment.

Interacting with Others

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  • Communicating Needs Politely: If you have any needs or discomforts during the flight, communicate them politely to your fellow passengers or the flight crew. A kind request or a thoughtful conversation can go a long way in ensuring a pleasant experience for everyone.
  • Being a Considerate Seatmate: Practice kindness and consideration by offering to assist with overhead bins, sharing resources like power outlets, and generally maintaining awareness of your impact on the space and comfort of those around you.

Safety and Well-being

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  • Following Safety Protocols: Always pay attention to the flight crew’s safety instructions and briefings. Knowing the safety procedures and where your nearest exit is located can make all the difference in an emergency.
  • Mental Health Strategies: For those who experience flight anxiety, consider strategies like meditation, focused breathing exercises, or listening to calming music. Bringing familiar items from home can also help soothe anxiety and make your travel experience more comfortable.
Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.