The Rudest Things You Can Do On A Plane According To Experts

Here’s your need-to-know list for your next getaway.
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Flying is already incredibly stressful. From missing flights to dealing with ongoing travel disruptions, it’s understandable that we as travellers may tend to ‘slip up’.

Research from the International Air Transport Association mentions a worrying increase in air rage-related incidents since last year. Figures state one unruly incident reported for every 568 flights in 2022, up from one per 835 flights in 2021.

“The increasing trend of unruly passenger incidents is worrying,” Conrad Clifford, IATA’s Deputy Director General says:

“While our professional crews are well trained to manage unruly passenger scenarios, it is unacceptable that rules in place for everyone’s safety are disobeyed by a small but persistent minority of passengers.”

That said, travel etiquette expert Jo Bryant has paired up with the travel experts at SkyParkSecure to share her top ten tips to avoid giving your flight attendants and fellow passengers the “ick” and how to avoid them so you – and your fellow inflight staff – can have a pleasurable flight (and also avoid any potential incidents).

Seat swapping

“Simply not liking where you are sitting isn’t a good enough reason to move – you need to validate your request,” Bryant states. “If there is a spare bulkhead seat and you are very tall, you could point this out.”

If it isn’t possible to swap or move, she explains to “not get angry or rude but to accept it’s a no-go with a smile and good grace.”

Clapping after a flight

You may have thought clapping is the ultimate way of showing gratitude to your pilot for landing the plane safely – well, it’s not!

“Applause is not necessary after a landing and is rude to the pilots,” she explains. “If the landing is good, clapping suggests surprise at such skill; if the landing is bad, applause would be insultingly sarcastic.”

Bring smelly food on board

Bringing smelly food on board is a massive no-no, says Jo Bryant.

“The confines of the cabin, combined with limited airflow, make smelly food a definite no.”

But what about the smelly food the airline serves?

“If the meals served by the airline are particularly strong smelling, then that is out of passengers’ control.” Phew – thanks, Jo.

Keep your shoes on

Look, we get it. Long-haul flights and being confined to one designated seat for several hours may lead you to wanting, needing, and begging to take your shoes off. However, Bryant says to keep them on: “Be sure that your feet are suitable for public viewing and are completely odour-free.”

She also mentions a pet peeve that you may have had to deal with before.

“Never put them on the seat or worst of all, rest them on the armrest of the seat in front.”

Be ready for security

Going through security is already stressful enough – we know! From packing liquids into a tiny plastic bag to trying to remember to take your belt and shoes off, it can become a little too stressful.

“Know where your electronics are, have your liquids bagged and ready, and clear your pockets in advance,” Bryant advises.

“Don’t hold everyone up by rummaging through your bag hunting for your tablet or setting off the detectors with your belt. The rules are clear, so plan and stick to them.”

Reclining your seat

If you’ve ever been a victim of a reclining seat during a flight, Bryant has got your back.

“Don’t recline immediately after take-off, or recline during drink/mealtimes,” she reveals. “It’s best to wait to press the button until the cabin lights have been dimmed and the quiet time of the flight is underway.”

If you’ve ever had to deal with strangers reclining their seats during a meal, Bryant has something to say about that: “When things start to get busy again – a pre-landing meal, preparation for arrival etc. – then move back to a more upright position to give everyone behind you enough space.”

Talking to the person next to you

On a flight and have to sit next to someone you don’t know – the question is, should you talk to them? Jo Bryant responds:

“It is good manners to acknowledge the person next to you but read their body language carefully,” she says.

“It is usually pretty clear whether someone wants to chat or keep themselves to themselves. Be helpful and willing (pass trays/drinks, get up to let them out etc.), but be respectful of their personal space and levels of sociability.”

Boarding the plane

Whether you start queuing the moment staff begin announcing boarding group numbers or whether you like to ‘play it cool’, Bryant has some thoughts about said topic.

“Some people like to be in the queue promptly before the gate opens, whereas others like to board the plane later on,” she adds. “It’s a matter of personal preference.

Either way, queue in an orderly fashion, respect other people’s personal space, and when it comes to flying, holding up the whole plane by boarding late is never going to cut it as being ‘fashionably late’.

Getting off the plane

The moment the plane lands, some passengers want to be the first one off – while others prefer to stay in their seats and wait patiently.

Whatever you decide to do, Bryant explains:

“The rule is simple: wait your turn but be ready,” she explains.

“Have your things packed up and help others who are trying to reach for bags in the overhead lockers. When it’s time to get off, let people out from some of the rows immediately in front of you as you move down the plane.