7 Implicit Rules of Flying

Chron.com published an article today titled “Whose armrest is it, anyway? The unspoken etiquette of airline, bus and train travel.” It began with a gentleman, Jacy Reese, telling his story on a flight from Copenhagen to Toronto. Out of the graciousness of his heart, he gave up his seat to a mother, who was travelling with her young son, so that they could seat together. Despite that, he did not inform the crew that he had his seat swopped and ended up having his pre-ordered vegan meal delivered to the original seat. By the time he realised this mistake, the mother had eaten her meal. So here lies the conundrum, who’s at fault? The crew who was not attentive when they served the meals or the mother who was probably unaware and thus did not reject her meal or Jacy herself who failed to inform the crew about the change of seats?

Thanks but no Thanks for Warming my Seat

On a personal note, just last week, I flew from Denpasar to Melbourne. When I boarded the Jetstar plane, someone was already at my seat (helping to warm it up although Bali does not experience winter at all) and snoring. I nudged him a little to wake him up and told him that he was on the wrong seat. Unapologetically, he asked whether I was willing to change my seat. Well, truth be told, I was allocated the much-despised middle seat and I too had a pre-ordered meal. Hence the first thing that ran through my mind was that I was not willing to give up my (although despised by many) middle seat but his proposition – an aisle seat on the other side – was worth a consideration. Long story short, I gave up my seat and informed the crew about my pre-ordered meal and my new seat.

The Unspoken Rules of Flying

Flying can be an extremely stressful and frightening experience for many. From long queues at pre-flight security screenings to “This is not Trump’s America” racists comments just yesterday, flying is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Anyhow, back to Chron’s article, there were 7 questions posted and answered. But I could not concur to some of the author’s point of view, so here I am to add my two cents in between theirs and adding a few more other points.

Q: Should I lean back my seat in economy class?

Chron: No. Seriously, no. Even though you can theoretically lean your seat back, most airlines have removed so much room between the seats that you’re almost certain to collide with a passenger’s knee, laptop computer or lap child. And that’s likely to provoke a confrontation.

Me: This is the one million dollar question that nobody has an answer for it unless you are flying Qantas premium economy with their latest innovative reclining seats that invade LESSer into your personal space. Nevertheless, my short answer is yes. By all means go ahead. You paid for the seat and the seat came with the function. Just do it slowly and if someone taps you from behind telling you no, smile and say no back but avoid a confrontation as far as possible. 

Q: Sorry, I paid for the seat and it’s mine to recline whenever I want. Should I ask the passenger behind me before I do?

Chron: Yes, that’s the least you can do. If you’re going to lean, ask the passenger behind you if it’s okay. “If you’re shy about talking to your aft seat mate, at least do them the courtesy of slowly reclining your seat, lest you upset their laptop and land that complimentary soft drink all over their pants,” suggests Kathleen Starmer, a former research scientist and frequent traveler who lives in San Jose.

Me: Yes and no. I would not even think of asking the person behind me for permission. I would do it slowly. If you are flying economy class, a good common sense to know is that the person in front of you are going to recline – anytime.

Q: What is seat sprawl, and how much is acceptable?

Chron: Seat sprawl happens when a passenger stretches, extends or invades your personal space with his or her legs, arms or head. How much is acceptable? None. “Don’t sprawl onto your seatmate’s territory,” says relationship expert April Masini. “Bring a neck pillow so you can be comfortable and avoid falling onto their shoulders when you fall asleep, as the pillows tend to brace you away from neighbors.” If you’re a large passenger, buy a second seat.

Me: Agreed. However, buying a second seat just because you are a large passenger might not work on some airlines as they tend to oversell the seats. You might end up paying for an extra seat and still not getting the space you want. You might be better off buying an emergency exit seat where there will be more space for you to get in and out.

Q: Whose armrest is it, anyway?

Chron: Obviously, the passenger in the window seat controls the window armrest and the aisle seat controls the outermost armrest. But the middle two armrests – ah, that’s not an easy one! The consensus is that it’s a shared space but that the middle seat passenger has something close to the right of way. In other words, if you’re sitting in a window or aisle seat, the middle seat passenger gets to put his arms down first. If there’s room left over, great. If not, it belongs to the middle seat passenger. And one more thing, says Adeodata Czink, a Toronto-based manners expert, “Try to be nice about it.”

Me: Agreed. The seat in the middle is tricky. Good to know that Qantas has a wider middle seats compared to those on the aisle on their latest premium economy on the Dreamliner.

Q: Shoes on or off?

Chron: Only you know the answer to this one. “We all know if our feet smell or not and need to base our decision on that fact alone,” says Bill Sechter, a Seattle-based frequent traveler who founded a company that designs workspaces. “If you know you have foot odor, by all means, leave your shoes on. If not, feel free to take them off, but remember to place them out of the way of others getting in and out of your row.” One more thing: Always wear socks. It’s just better for everyone. And you don’t want to end up on one of those passenger-shaming websites.

Me: Couldn’t agree more.

Q: Should I awaken a snoring seat mate?

Chron: If the snoring is keeping you awake on an overnight flight, absolutely. But the burden is on the snorer. “If you know you have a snoring problem, you may need to avoid sleeping,” says Maryanne Parker, an etiquette expert from San Diego. The best approach: Ask a flight attendant or conductor to help. You might be able to move to a different seat. “If the passenger himself asks us if we can hear him snoring, you can be honest, but still polite,” she says.

Me: Agreed. Trying to avoid sleeping just because you have a snoring issue is not going to work. I do not have a snoring issue but I understand the pain of those who has it. If you have snoring issues, you might want to try one of those over-the-counter snoring kits.

Q: Should I change my baby’s diaper on my seat?

Chron: No. Go to the bathroom to change Junior.

Me: Agreed. But if you need to breastfeed your baby, by all means go ahead. Do not allow anyone to tell you to do it in the toilet. If they were not going to have their meals in the toilet, then your child should not have to have his or hers in the toilet. Period.

Q: Should I keep the toilet clean after I used them?

Me: Yes. There are only so many toilets and some toilets are located next to some passengers. What if you were the one sitting next to the toilet?

Q: Should I turn on my overhead lights for the entire journey because I could not sleep on an overnight flight?

Me: This usually happens if you were on an overnight flight and though some people might argue against doing it as it still invades into someone else’s privacy space albeit non-physical. Again my answer would be that you have all the right to do it. But remember, you have a whole day in front of you when you arrive. So you might still want to (try) catch a wink or two.

Q: Should I keep calling the crew for a drink?

Me: Well you could and I am not stopping you. But if you are on the way to the toilet and you happened to walk pass the galley, you might want to ask for a drink when you are there rather then keep calling for one.

* italics are mine

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