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British Airways

The Definitive In-Flight Etiquette Guide, Brought to You by British Airways

The Definitive In-Flight Etiquette Guide, Brought to You by British Airways
Jeff Edwards

British Airways gathered data from passenger surveys about air travel faux pas to create the tongue-in-cheek, but informative publication,“The Etiquette Guide to Sleeping Next to Strangers on a Plane.”

British Airways has tabulated the votes and made a series of non-binding rulings on how to “resolve the biggest plane etiquette issues facing flyers today.” The airline’s latest publication, The Etiquette Guide to Sleeping Next to Strangers on Flights is more of a light-hearted conversation starter than a serious attempt to outline the rules of conduct for air travelers, but the passenger surveys that inspired the rather interesting guide, gives passengers a unique window into how fellow travelers feel about the right and wrong ways to behave on a flight.

For example, who would have thought that 67 percent of passengers agree that flyers should leave at least one armrest for the person in the next seat over? Surprisingly, only 45 percent of travelers from the US and the UK think that the middle seat passenger is entitled to both armrests. Passengers from France are almost twice as likely to avoid armrests altogether in the interest of a détente in cabin relations.

While 78 percent of Brits think that taking one’s shoes off is proper behavior during a flight, only 60 percent of Americans agree. Of course, a whopping 87 percent of all travelers concur that socks should not be removed in the cabin under any circumstances.

In some matters of inflight manners, there is widespread agreement no matter where the travelers call home. Nearly 83 percent of passengers say that conversations with strangers in a cramped aircraft environment should be no more involved than a greeting and a smile (though travelers from the US are somewhat more willing to share personal stories with seat mates). A full 80 percent of those surveyed say that it is perfectly acceptable to wake a neighbor in order to visit the lavatory, but half of those who agree say that this friendly tap on the shoulder should occur no more than once per flight.

Although only 66 percent of passengers surveyed say that it is impolite to intentionally wake a snoring seat mate, nearly 92 percent of travelers agree that screens on electronic devices should be dimmed along with the cabin lights on overnight flights.

These rules of thumb from fellow travelers might not put an end to every conflict in the cabin, but it certainly can’t hurt to have just a little more insight into why the guy in the next seat thinks it’s his god-given right to hog the armrest.

View Comments (2)


  1. Artpen100

    November 27, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Yet nothing about the recline/don’t recline question? Afraid of the response, I guess – in my experience, there are a lot of people who expect the person in front of them to not recline even on an overnight flight, which I think is ridiculous.

  2. Gamerska

    November 30, 2017 at 7:07 am

    Regarding reclining – all I ask is that the passenger in front of me in economy check to see if I am using a laptop before they recline.

    I was using an 11.5 inch screen laptop on an AF flight when the passenger in front of me suddenly dropped back – thereby jamming my laptop into a frozen position between the back of their chair and the ‘tabletop’. I pleaded in French asking that they sit up for a moment – and instead they called the stewardess who firmly advised me that ‘it is her right to recline’ without bothering to hear or look to see why there was an issue.

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