How to be a good plane pal

Here are seven suggestions for how to be a great plane buddy.

How to be a good plane pal

Whether it’s a long-haul flight or a short domestic one, the passengers around you can make the flight dreadful or enjoyable. Here are seven tips for being the plane buddy other passengers will want to sit beside.

1. Be ready

Your time starts even before you’ve boarded the plane. You know that in order to board the aircraft you’ll need to have your passport and/or boarding pass, so have them ready when before you’re in front of the line. Neither the staff nor your fellow flyers want to wait for you while you search.

2. Practice patience

Chances are, once you’re on the plane you’ll have to wait behind people desperately trying to stuff their hand luggage into already full overhead compartments, before you can reach your seat. Be patient and politely offer to help if they’re struggling. 

3. Give up the armrest

It’s normal etiquette that the person in the middle seat get to use the armrest. Let’s be honest, there’s no other benefit to being crammed in between two bodies, without a window or an aisle seat. So, don’t spread your elbows and make it impossible for them to do so.

4. Find a friend

If you’re a solo traveller on a long flight, the best way to make the time pass more quickly is to befriend the person sitting next to you. If you’re not a big conversationalist, you can still have a brief chat to your neighbour before putting on your earphones, signalling ‘quiet time’. 

 5. Check before reclining

Before taking a nap, it’s polite to give the person behind you warning before reclining your seat. They will be more forgiving when you do push your seat back and steal some of their precious leg space. Additionally, always remember to return your seat to its upright position during meals.

6. Respect boundaries

You only have a small amount of space to call your own during the flight and so does your neighbour. Be sure not to encroach on their personal space by letting any of your belongings hang over their armrest or against their seat. Also, if you need to stretch your legs, talk a walk up and down the cabin.

7. Don’t be that person

Personal hygiene routines should always happen in the bathroom. No one wants to be trapped next to to someone who’s flossing their teeth or filing their nails. Planes can be germ-ridden places, and the last thing a passenger needs is someone beside them who coughs without covering their mouths. Also, when playing music though earphones, be mindful about the volume.

What are your plane etiquette tips?


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    20th Jul 2015
    To adults with small kids : please don't let the kids kick the seat in front of them :(
    21st Jul 2015
    The little darlings are only having fun.
    21st Jul 2015
    Then let them kick their parents' seats:(
    20th Jul 2015
    When using the toilet, remain seated for the whole performance.
    If guys cannot aim straight, sit down.
    Those who spread toilet paper over the seat, make sure that it is all removed from bowl and the floor before leaving.
    Don't leave water in the hand basin
    20th Jul 2015
    Never, ever, ever recline your seat. It is almost impossible to use a Notebook computer on the tray table if the seat in front of you is reclined - and I have seen the back broken off a PC by someone reclining their seat and catching the person's computer lid under the tray table catch. Not at all friendly.
    20th Jul 2015
    Never say never. Surely it isn't too much to ask that you ask the person behind if they mind if you recline the seat - especially on a long haul flight. Short flights, 1- 2 hours I don't see a need for it but if I'm on an oveseas flight you can bet that seat is going to be reclined for a while. I will respect the rights of the person behind me and I expect them to respect my right to have some comfort as well.
    20th Jul 2015
    I always put back my seat on long haul on earth do people sleep sitting up...impossible for me. However, I would politely say to the person behind that I was about to do so.

    I would not of course do during meal times.
    Happy cyclist
    20th Jul 2015
    You can't expect people to sit bolt-upright for a long flight just so the person behind can use a notebook! But certainly its only polite to let them know you are about to recline a little. It is much more important that people do not suffer backpain than it is that people can use their notebooks.
    20th Jul 2015
    What you mean is that you think your right to additional space is more important than the person behind you - or do you expect them to recline their seat to recover the space you took from them and create a chain reaction all the way to the back of the plane? Unfortunately, the back seats don't recline so you are effectively swapping your comfort for their discomfort.
    20th Jul 2015
    Totally agree with you Cheller. I am gob-smacked by people who think their comfort is more important than mine, and I am too polite to do the same thing to the person behind me. Hence many trips I am sandwiched in, unable to get my notebook or even my reading material in an appropriate spot.
    I feel the only acceptable exception is night time, when the aircraft dims lights, and most are attempting to sleep. ( but I still feel for the back seater)
    20th Jul 2015
    The real problem here is that airlines try to cut costs by cramming seats as closely as possible. I have travelled for many years, and know that on the older-style planes one did not impinge on another,s space when the seats reclined. Now we are faced with this dilemma of reclining seats. I had an 11 hour flight in a seat which did not recline due to its design. It was not a good experience. I was quite ill bythetime we landed and was not able to sleep at all. I will not fly Cathay Pacific again due to this. My right to a comfortable and restful flight is not usurped by the person behind me.
    20th Jul 2015
    Even in Business class people have to be respectful of others. It is the only way I can fly on a long haul flight.

    20th Jul 2015
    Go to a chemist (Discount Chemist is the one I use) and purchase a bottle of "One Drop" deodoriser. It is in a very small bottle and take it to the toilet with you. All you do is put one drop in the loo and no nasty smells.
    20th Jul 2015
    Next time that I go, if the loo smells nice, I will know that Radish is on the flight.

    20th Jul 2015
    The above tips are more like common sense/courtesy, but certainly not exercised all the time. Many times I have had people seated next to me who either bit their nails, fell asleep and snored, talked ceaselessly, had wind or B.O., or a combination of the aforesaid.
    20th Jul 2015
    Cheller, believe me, you have no special rights on long-haul flights just because you have a lap-top computer. Wow, fancy thinking that you have more rights than other passengers. If you have a problem with reclining seats, get an iPad or similar, or travel Business or First Class, the cover can't be broken off that way.
    Everyone in economy class has limited space and requires all other passengers to be mindful of others needs however, the seats are designed to recline so that on a 13+ hour flight one can get some sleep. Provided the seats are upright during food service I have no problem.
    20th Jul 2015
    So let me get this straight. You feel that when I pay for a tiny bit of personal space on a plane, you have the right to decide in your arrogance that it is OK for you to just take some of it? When you feel a tad tired and want a nap, you expect me to lay my seat back and sleep too? You think I should purchase and use equipment that is not fit for purpose just so you can spread out into my space whenever you feel like it?

    Read my post! I never said I had any more rights than anyone else, but when I buy a ticket, I expect to have the SAME rights as the person sitting in front of me. I would NEVER recline my seat and steal space from the person behind me just because the selfish or bad-mannered person in front of me decided to have a nap - or just to lay back more comfortably than everyone else on the plane. Wow, fancy YOU thinking that you have more rights than other passengers.

    Many people, including me, simply can't sleep on planes - and wouldn't it be nice to only have 13 hour flights - I have done more than my share of 22 hours trips! Does that mean that I have to plan my in-flight activities around the preferences of the rude person who might be allocated the seat in front of me? Maybe you should learn to sleep upright like many more considerate people do.
    20th Jul 2015
    Oh dear. It is very hard having to sit next to a morbidly obese person. They ooze over into your space...
    21st Jul 2015
    I'm not religious but I do pray that I won't have to sit next to an obese person when I fly.
    21st Jul 2015
    Jenner, I agree. It is also very unfair. A 70kg passenger with a 20kg case pays the same fate as a 130kg passenger with a 20kg case. If the normal sized person's case is 3kg over weight they must pay a penalty. Unfair
    21st Jul 2015
    Treat others as you want to be treated yourself.

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