10 Etiquette Rules for Flying Economy Class

Our airplanes are filling up and our tempers are rising; air travel in the 21st century is no picnic, particularly if you elect to fly coach class. Economy flight operators are providing us with a bargain trip in trade off for a little discomfort and very few luxuries. But while our butts are getting bigger, and flights are getting busier, over three-quarters of us prefer to keep ourselves to ourselves while flying: at 30,000ft, tempers can soar if our behavior is not conscientious and appropriate.

In fact, the collective mood of a flight can be cumulative – each step of the trip potentially encouraging further irritation – so it’s important to note that etiquette begins at the check-in. Security scans have become ever more invasive over the years, but to keep the process smooth and the queue progressing swiftly, empty your pockets into your bag while you’re still waiting your turn, and move quickly from the exit – where human traffic tends to bottleneck. Once on the plane, you really can’t be too selfless: use the bathroom quickly and leave it clean, treat stewards as human beings, and if you’re likely to doze off, avoid drinking to avoid snoring.

Acknowledging each others’ presence with eye contact and greetings will lighten the mood, but conversation needs to be played by ear – not everyone wants it. If you get trapped next to a bore, don’t reach for your parachute – there are more discreet ways to back out of the abyss of small talk.

But before you feel too guilty about your contribution to rising temperatures in the sky, you can take some reassurance from recent reports suggesting airplane aggravation can be connected to the presence of those privileged jet-setters in first class. Just one more reason to be mindful of your behavior among you immediate neighbors – we’re in it together, after all. Check out this list of ways to be the perfect economy class passenger – and make it a ‘bon voyage’ all round.


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  1. Patterson, T. (2012). Airline squeeze: It’s not you, ‘it’s the seat’. cnn.com
  2. McCartney, S. (2015). Etiquette Rules for Packed Planes This Summer. wsj.com
  3. Schnuer, J. (2016). Travel Hacks: Quiet the In-flight Talker. entrepreneur.com
  4. Ha, T. (2016). Study: Air rage is more common on flights with first-class cabins. qz.com

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