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17 Things You Definitely Shouldn’t Do on an Airplane

Don't be "that guy" on the plane who's wasting overhead space, letting his kids loose and reclining during mealtimes.
17 Things You Definitely Shouldn’t Do on an Airplane

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Nobody looks forward to a long flight. They’re uncomfortable, boring and somehow these are the flights when we’re inevitably seated next to the worst person ever.

Let’s call him Joe.

Anyone who has even been on a plane will tell you how traumatic it is to have to spend ten hours next to Joe. By the end of the first hour, you’ll start sending death stares his way. Then, by the end of hour two, you’ll be wondering if God would grant you just one wish for Joe to die of natural causes. By the end of hour three, you’re thinking “surely jail isn’t that bad.”

You get the gist.

Joe is loud, rude and probably smells weird. Don’t be like Joe.

Airplanes don’t hand out etiquette books, but we all know that doesn’t mean plane etiquette doesn’t exist. Plane etiquette is alive and well—there are just a lot of Joes who choose to ignore it.

Joe, this article is for you. And, unfortunately, if you can’t recognize the Joe on the plane, you might be the Joe.

1. Don’t get mad at the person in front of you for reclining.

We pay for seats that are meant to recline. If they weren’t meant to recline, well, they wouldn’t. And if it bothers you so much, Joe, you should recline your own seat or pay for an upgrade to economy plus next time.

2. Don’t recline during mealtimes.

My recline-and-let-recline argument doesn’t pertain to mealtimes. I’m not a big guy, but even I struggle to eat my food when the tray table is digging into my stomach. We all know that it’s annoying having to wake up and sit up during mealtimes, but it’s also respectful to those eating behind you. So Joe, rise and shine, pal—the cold airplane pasta has arrived.

3. Don’t take your shoes off.

There are few things as nauseating as someone’s sweaty feet unsheathed from raggedy sneakers. You might be more comfortable with your shoes off, but please spare the rest of us on the plane. If you really need to kick your shoes off, please replace them with a pair of slippers or comfier footwear so your fellow passengers can breathe.

View from a plane
When Joe takes his shoes off you’ll be wishing you could open this window…

4. Don’t eat stinky, aromatic foods.

Oh, what’s that you’ve got there, Joe? Tuna salad with raw onions? Even though I’m sitting five rows behind you, the smell of your stinky sandwich has wafted down the plane. There are so many foods that won’t smell up the aisle that the rest of us are eating—please opt for one of those instead.

5. Don’t be a dick to the flight attendants.

Believe it or not, your flight attendant wasn’t in the boardroom meeting that decided how much to charge for beer on the plane. They don’t know why there are so few pretzels in the baggies they pass out. They didn’t design the amount of legroom between rows. And they’re not in charge of who gets free upgrades. Moan all you’d like, but there’s nothing they can do about your silly dilemma.

What your flight attendant does do, however, is try their best to make your flight comfortable. If you have an issue about one of the above, or something else entirely, don’t be a dick and take it out on them.

6. Don’t blast music through your headphones.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves on a plane. Don’t be like Joe, who spends the entire flight listening to music on crappy headphones that leak the sound.

You know exactly what I’m talking about: that faint music emanating from someone else’s headphones. Sometimes it’s a faint whine, other times it sounds like the person donning the headphones might as well unplug them and play their music from a speaker.

Ask a trusted friend, before your flight, to tell you whether or not your headphones are guilty of this unforgivable crime. If they’re not soundproof, scrap them and invest in better ones. Please.

Man on a plane listening to music.
Hey Joe, I hear Beyonce blaring from your headphones. I’m about to shove you in that box to the left. Turn it down!

7. Don’t wait until the food comes and then decide you need to pee (especially when you’ve got the window seat).

People need to pee. I understand that. But if we’ve been on the flight for four hours and the first time you get up to pee is just after I’ve put my tray table down for food, it’ll be an issue. That’s all I have to say on this topic.

8. Don’t clap when the plane lands.

Do you clap every time your bus gets to your stop? What about every time you drive yourself to the gas station? Well, Joe, do you? If the answer is no then there is no need to clap on a plane.

9. Don’t be unreasonable if someone wants to swap seats with you.

When I was a baby my parents took me on a long haul flight (and, for the record, I have since been told I was as good as gold). On this flight, my parents were not given seats next to one another.

My mom asked the guy sat next to her, who was traveling alone if he would swap seats with my dad. They both had aisle seats, it’s just that my dad was one row behind. Joe wouldn’t move. So, my parents had to spend the eight-hour flight passing me back and forth over his head.


10. Don’t get wasted and be an asshole.

Joe is the kind of person who gets wasted and then quietly passes out for six hours. Joe is, however, the kind who gets drunk and then increases his volume by a thousand decibels. Put that beer down right now. No one wants to listen to your drunken antics. It’s neither funny nor cool.

11. Don’t use your neighbor’s legroom.

I’m sorry your legs are freakishly long. I really am. Being stuck on this flight is going to be very uncomfortable for you. But, I’m not sorry enough to offer up some of my own precious legroom.

It doesn’t matter that my legs are shorter than yours. Your other neighbor and I paid for these spaces, and we intend to use them. If you need extra space, pay for a seat in economy plus or try and nab the emergency aisle. I’ll be your advocate.

View down a plane's aisle.
My leg room, NOT yours!

12. Don’t let your children loose on the plane.

You might think your kid is the best thing since sliced bread, but I can guarantee you that no one else on your flight does. If your kid is running up and down the aisles, yelling or encroaching into others’ personal space, I will hold you personally responsible. Joe, control your kid. Give them an iPad, tell them a story—I don’t care, just keep them quiet.

13. Don’t stand up when the wheels touch down despite just being told to stay seated.

We all know the drill. The plane lands, drives around for a bit, comes to a standstill and then, about 10 minutes later, the doors open. Every flight I have ever taken follows this routine. And yet some Joe always stands up and tries to get their bag while the plane is still moving.

You are not going to get off quicker by doing this. Why? Because the door is still shut and the plane is still moving.

Sit down for five more minutes and don’t make the flight attendant (or me) shout at you.

14. Don’t push your way off the plane once the doors have opened.

Once the doors are finally open, don’t try and shove your way to the front. If you have a connecting flight and are in a rush, then explain this to a flight attendant and they might be able to get you to the front of the plane before everyone else stands up. Otherwise, just let the rest of us file off row by row. I promise you won’t miss the five extra minutes it adds to your trip.

15. Don’t waste space in the overhead bins with your bag that could fit at your feet.

There is always a fight for space in the overhead bins on a plane. Let me be clear: These are for roller suitcases and duffel bags. Please don’t put your tiny backpack, laptop bag or handbag up there and take up valuable space.

If you do, it means some sucker is going to have to squeeze their roller suitcase down by their feet or put it in the hold of the plane and wait for it at baggage reclaim (a.k.a hell on earth).

Traveler opens overhead locker on airplane
Oh, and let’s also mention YOU should put your bags in the overhead bin, not the air hostess. (Unless you require assistance)

16. Don’t drape your hair over someone else’s TV screen.

And, as we reach the end of my list, I would like to focus my attention on anyone with long hair. Yes, Joe, your man bun is luscious and beautiful but if you let it down and dangle it over the back of your seat so it covers my screen, I will cut it off. Be considerate of the person behind you, or face the possibility of toting a mullet on your vacation.

17. Don’t drink the water.

OK, we really can’t blame this next one on Joe, but it is gross so I’m putting it on the list.

The water tanks on airplanes aren’t cleaned very often—if ever. Plus, the spout to fill the water tank is right next to the spout that empties the sewage tank. What happens if someone on crew mixes the two up? Can you imagine!?

So of course, in light of this new information, you shouldn’t drink the tap water. But wait, there’s more.

Where do you think the water for your coffee or tea came from? Yep. You probably should have splurged on that $6 airport coffee. At least they use clean water (or they better for $6!). Don’t wait to grab your cup of joe (ha, Joe) for when you get on a flight. That water may be more tainted than Joe’s stinky socks!

Now, as the experienced traveler that you are, I’m sure you already knew most of these. But, will you do me a favor? If you know a Joe or know someone who knows a Joe, send them this list. With your help, we can educate the Joes of this world and make airspace a better place.

What’s the worst experience you’ve had on a plane with a Joe? Let us know in the comments below!

READ MORE: Find the Flights No One Else Will with These Cheap Flight Hacks

Jeremy Scott Foster
Jeremy Scott Foster
Jeremy Scott Foster is an adventure-junkie, gear expert and travel photographer based in Southern California. Previously nomadic, he’s been to ~50 countries and loves spending time outdoors. You can usually find him on the trail, on the road, jumping from bridges or hustling on his laptop working to produce the best travel and outdoors content today.

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