In-Flight Experience Travel Etiquette

Airplane Etiquette Violations: 7 Ways to Make Enemies on a Plane

Want to make hundreds of people hate you? It’s easier than you might think! Try any of these seven airplane etiquette violations and you’ll have some instant enemies.

Slamming Your Seat Back

man reclining on airplane

We won’t get in to the recline vs. no-recline debate (that’s a whole other article), but we can all agree that people who slam their seat straight back immediately after takeoff, without even sparing a glance behind them to see if they’re about to smash a laptop screen or send a drink flying, are the absolute worst. We can all agree on that, right?

Fighting for the Armrest

arm on airplane armrest

The poor middle seat passenger should at least get some pity armrest space from the aisle and window seat flyers. Don’t agree and want to passive-aggressively elbow the person next to you the entire flight? Congratulations, you’re a terrible human being.

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Pounding the Seatback Screen

finger touchscreen airplane seat back

The on-demand entertainment screens on the seatback don’t always function the way they should, but when you’re pounding on the screen trying to get it to work, don’t forget about the person sitting in front of you who’s feeling his seat shake with every selection you make. Be gentle or, better yet, use the remote.

Smelling Bad

woman's socks on an airplane seat

Is the sense of relief you feel after removing your shoes stronger than the smell of your feet wafting through the cabin? There are reasons you might smell bad when traveling that can be beyond your control, but if you’re tainting the cabin air on purpose by going barefoot or eating something odorous, your fellow flyers are justified in their hatred towards you.

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Stealing the Overhead Space

hands stuffing overhead bin on airplane

The tiny overhead bins are a huge minefield of airplane etiquette. Major violations include: throwing your stuff in the first overhead bin you see even though your seat is at the back of the plane, utilizing it for small items like a sweatshirt, or taking up all the space with oversized carry-ons.

Not Using Headphones

man playing game on airplane

You have amazing taste in music and movies, so why wouldn’t you want to share your selections with the entire plane? Turns out the people two rows ahead of you may not want to spend the entire flight listening to bleeps and bloops from the game you’re playing on your phone, so please do us all a favor and plug in headphones or entertain yourself on mute.

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Ignoring Your Own Children

kid on airplane talking

We get it, you can’t always control a screaming baby. But if you’re pretending to be engrossed in your book while your kid is kicking the back of a seat or running wild down the aisles, be prepared to make some plane enemies.

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Caroline Morse Teel tries to follow proper airplane etiquette on all flights. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from the window seat. 

By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo,, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

E-mail her at

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