Tag Archives: travel etiquette

Aeroplane (airplane!) etiquette

This week, a plane had to be diverted because a fight broke out between two passengers. While on his laptop, a man used a Knee Defender, a device that stopped the woman in front of him from reclining her seat. He refused to remove the device when asked by a flight attendant. ‘The woman then stood up, turned around and threw a cup of water at him’, the enforcement official said.

A United Airlines plane on the tarmac.

A United Airlines plane on the tarmac. Photo from The Guardian.

I have written posts on bus etiquette, commuter train etiquette and also what to do when you have a private chauffeur. I have been requested to write about aeroplane etiquette previously, which I have declined. In light of recent events, I now feel it is my duty to share basic aeroplane etiquette.

Photo from virginiaspinespecialist.com

I’d like to believe that those in the middle seats should get armrest priority. After all, the ones in the window and aisle seats have one for their exclusive use. But I realise, I might be the only one who thinks this way. Be willing to share the armrest. If your fellow passenger is taking up all the space, slip your elbow behind theirs. If they are polite, this will likely force them to make some space for you. If not, discreetly take up an inch more of the space at a time.

Be prepared to share the armrest. Photo from oprah.com

Reclining the seat
It is only fair to mention the incident that is the inspiration for this post. It’s very easy to avoid unwanted beverages thrown at you: do not use a Knee Defender. You must expect that the person in front of you will recline their seats. You can try to avoid reclining seats by requesting the first row seats or the emergency exit row, the both usually has more leg room.

The Knee Defender, a device designed to keep the seat in front from reclining. Photo from gadgetduck.com

It is perfectly acceptable to recline your seat during long haul flights. The cabin lights are dimmed creating an atmosphere conducive for naps. It should go without saying, do not rest your head on the stranger’s shoulder when you sleep. If you find yourself unwittingly made into a headrest, feel free to wake the sleeping person a violent shake.

Do try to avoid reclining your seat in short flights. The United Airlines flight which experienced the fracas was flying from Newark to Denver, a 4 hour journey. Arguably, a 4 hour flight is neither long nor short. Avoid the aggravation and simply keep your seat upright if you are sat in front of a whiny person. I was informed that the seats in most budget airlines do not recline because there is no need for it during short flights.

Flight attendants
The cabin crew are trained to deal with difficult and irritating passengers.
Do speak to them if the child behind you keeps kicking or someone’s music is blasting through their headphones. Let the cabin crew handle the situation and you will be spared awkward discussions and nasty stares for the duration of your flight. I suppose if if the woman who threw water had let the flight attendants sort the incident out, it would have been very likely that she or the Knee Defender man would be moved to a different seats.

I hope that this post will help make your flights more pleasant and agreeable. At the very least, I hope it will prevent future altercations with fellow passengers. When in doubt, be aware of other people’s discomfort; be considerate and do not to be the annoying passenger.

Bon voyage,

Update: Only days later, a second plane had to be diverted due to a similar incident involving a passenger row over reclining seats . Read the full report dated 29 August 2014 here. We are grateful to our reader Ruth for bringing this to our attention.

Do leave a comment below if you would like me to write a piece on airport etiquette or if you’d like me to share etiquette tips that will help you get flight and hotel upgrades.

May I have your seat? Baby on board.

Maggie Smith, in her Oscar-winning role as Miss Jean Brodie instructs her girls, “We must away and catch our tram. I doubt we will get seats. It is 1936 and chivalry is dead.”

It might be all the etiquette books I read or the  period dramas I watch that makes me feel men should give up their seats for me on the train.

I do tut inwardly when they don’t.

I do, however, smile and profusely thank those who do.

Given that chivalry died sometime in the mid-1930’s, I would like to discuss here what I believe is the protocol for offering your seat.

The Duchess of Cambridge was presented a "Baby on Board" badge when she rode the London Underground (photo: The Independent)

The Duchess of Cambridge was presented a “Baby on Board” badge when she rode the London Underground (photo: The Independent)

1. One must offer their seat to those less able to stand. This includes older people, pregnant women, and those with small children.

2. It is polite to offer your seat to a lady, even if she is not showing a baby bump. It has become more popular to wear a “baby on board” badge when travelling in London. The Duchess of Cambridge was presented with one when she was with child.

3. Gentlemen, if you do wish to offer your seat, do NOT stay seated and say ‘Would you like this seat?’ The person would likely feel that it would be a great imposition if they accepted.

DO stand up, and say to the person, ‘Please have my seat.’

Do NOT sit back down if they decline.

4. Ladies, if a man offers you their seat, DO take it and say thank you, even if the next stop is yours. It is guaranteed to make you feel you feel special, and the gentleman feels like a hero.

Just for fun, please take time to answer the poll below. Is chivalry indeed dead or just asleep?


Chinese tourists and manners

Photo from The Economist

A blogpost from The Economist discussed how Chinese tourists are vilified for bad behaviour. An example is the international incident caused by a teenager carving graffiti at a temple in Luxor.

The Economist writes: In Paris, … polite French-speaking Chinese guides shepherd their flocks through the sites, apologising when any of their charges bumps into others… Spitting, shouting and sloppy bathroom etiquette have made the Chinese look like the world’s rudest new tourists, from London to Taipei and beyond.

It is accepted that in big cities, it is not uncommon for people to bump into others. This is inevitable and accidental. However, accidentally bumping into someone does require an apology. It should not be left to the tour guides to apologise on behalf of the tourists. For many of us, uttering a little ‘sorry’ when unintentionally knocking into someone is instinctive.

The Chinese government has placed new regulation to educate and inform tourists. “The new tourism law points out the problem and reaffirms the principle, as a way to further remind Chinese people to pay attention to their behaviours when they travel.” 

My advice to China’s new travel elite: just as it has always been, when in Rome…