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What’s the Right Way to Deplane?

What’s the Right Way to Deplane?
Meg Butler

Quick question for frequent fliers: what’s the right way to deplane? Earlier this week, Michael Blacksmith’s hilarious photo of award-winning passenger behavior went viral on Reddit. And since he was awarded Best Passenger 2019, I think it’s safe to assume that getting up as soon as the wheels hit the runway is frowned upon, if, you know, the seatbelt signs weren’t enough of an indication.

But what else is bad deplaning etiquette? Is it OK to clap when your flight lands? Is it OK to rush to the front of the plane from the very back as long as you mutter “short connection time?” We’ve all heard stories of passengers deplaning in an orderly fashion, row by row, but that happens so infrequently that these Canadian passengers went viral for doing it, then proved that this kind of orderly deplaning is even rarer than this gif would suggest when it was revealed that these weren’t commercial passengers at all, but employees who take this charter flight to their job site once every two weeks.

Canadian Flights Passengers wait patiently to exit flight in a calm and orderly manner. from r/BeAmazed

But, for the rest of us who aren’t Canadian or being monitored by our co-workers, what is the correct way to deplane? Does it vary from airline to airline? And is there any point in sticking to the “right way” if you’re the only person doing it?

I’m not the only person on Reddit who’s asked this question. The thread Proper Etiquette to Leaving an Airplane for the Most Efficient Deplaning has been running since 2015, has nearly 100 responses and people are still weighing in.

It all started with FlyerTalker MSPeconomist’s question about the deplaning difference on American Airlines:

So upon touchdown, taxing up, and finally hearing the seatbelt ding, I do what I naturally do as a delta flyer, I get up and start to unload the [overhead bin], but much to my astonishment, no one else in economy got up- literally no one.

I actually thought I was doing something wrong.

So I slowly sat back down and just watched other passengers just sit wait. Now the first class cabin was of course all standing up and all had grabbed their bags down from the bins and once the last 1st-class passenger deplaned, the economy comfort (or what ever [American Airlines] calls it) got up and grabbed their bags, and so on, until finally it was my turn.

I couldn’t believe how civilized these AA passengers were. I hadn’t flown AA in a couple years and of course living in southeast Michigan, Delta is where my loyalty lies, but man, it was something I will remember for a while.

Deplaning class, by class, from front to back—and staying seated until then—seems to be the gold standard. But FlyerTalker DJCobol argues for a height exemption:

I’m 6’3″, so after 2+ hours sitting in tiny coach seats having my knees bashed in by the person in front of me, I just want to stand up. I’m not trying to rush past the people in front of me to get off the plane, but just let me stand up and stretch a little bit.
But, is it OK to stretch in the aisle and then block others’ aisle access with your carry-on until you deplane? Or is it rude to stand in the aisle with no intention of grabbing something for the overhead bin when others are waiting?
If you sit patiently until the row ahead of you has deplaned, are you rude for slowing down deplaning because you still have to collect your things? If you have a clear view of the end of the aisle, should you just gun it? Or wait for the passenger in front of you?
There are so many opinions about deplaning it’s enough to make your head spin. And that’s before you read this Vox article that says we’re all deplaning wrong and that we should exit aisle seats first.
So I’m asking you: What are your deplaning pet peeves, and how do you wish everyone would get off the plane?
View Comments (30)

30 Comments

  1. Irpworks

    September 24, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    Get up, get off, don’t push others or be rude, and get it all over with quickly.

  2. pagophilus

    September 24, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    Don’t over complicate a simple procedure. Different people are ready to deplane at different times. Some are ready to go straight away and some need time to gather themselves and their belongings.

    The correct way to deplane should be to stand up as soon as the seatbelt sign is off, get your bags out of the overhead locker when people and space allows, and when there’s space in the aisle, go.

  3. FlyingNone

    September 24, 2019 at 11:29 pm

    After an unusually long (due to headwinds) transcontinental flight, I had the “pleasure” of waiting for the workaholic woman on the aisle seat in my row continue to sit there while just about every other passenger deplaned. I should have guessed early on realizing she literally never closed her laptop from the minute we left the gate until we arrived — (not even to go to the restroom or eat). She ate off the (empty) middle seat tray, never letting loose from her laptop for a moment. I in turn did use the restroom – she managed to hold up her laptop for me to crawl under it. So after we land she is still tapping on her laptop seemingly oblivious to everyone exiting the aircraft. I just couldn’t resist saying out loud (to no one in particular) – “OBLIVIOUS, SOME OF US WANT TO GO HOME TODAY” ??? Seriously, if someone is waiting to get out of your row, at least have the courtesy to stand up, move your laptop, close the tray and let them out.

  4. LANgradStudent

    September 25, 2019 at 4:19 am

    I’m fine with deplaning row-wise, but at 6’1″ and approximately all legs, I’m going to stand up, because flying for long periods (>4 hours or so) is painful, and standing up starts to work out that pain. If someone has a bag that’s behind me, I’m happy to grab it for them, in fact, I’d prefer if they let me help rather than smacking me in the head with it.

  5. taffygrrl

    September 25, 2019 at 4:25 am

    Can you add a credit to the top photo? This is by the artist Michael Schneider aka Blcksmth. The original image is here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2PKGJhBAch/?igshid=1xt160ix8dgw3 It would be great if you used this instead of the Reddit version for two reasons: so the artist gets the credit he deserves and so FlyerTalk members can discover his other hilarious travel-related photos!

  6. kingbee

    September 25, 2019 at 4:52 am

    Proper deplaning begins with proper boarding and in particular remembering where your overhead bag is stowed. Hint, always stow your overhead on your exit path as close to your seat as possible.

  7. t5campbell

    September 25, 2019 at 5:13 am

    My biggest pet peeve are the people who take advantage of needing extra time down the jet way to board the plane. I am talking about the ones that take 5 minutes to board the plane, but as soon as the plane lands and the bell goes off they can all of sudden jump up grab their backs in the over head bin and run off the plane like an Olympic Sprinter.

  8. thoglette

    September 25, 2019 at 5:40 am

    What ever happened to “disembark”?

  9. ConnieDee

    September 25, 2019 at 6:29 am

    I have no quarrels with people who want to stand up as soon as the plane stops: it doesn’t do any harm and it allows people to feel like they’re doing something to speed up their exit. The main thing is to exit row by row (just like in church!) – I’ve actually been on planes in other countries where people tried to push their way ahead in a crowded aisle.

    I myself have a few reasons for standing up as soon as possible: One, it’s healthy. Two, if I have something overhead, I’m anxious about getting help from someone (still in PT for my shoulder from the last time I thought I could reach it myself.) Three, it gives me more time and space to inspect my seat for dropped items. As a frequent public transit rider, I want to be Ready To Go when it’s my row’s turn to exit, in order to keep everything efficient for the people behind me. You can’t arrange your stuff (put on jacket, scarf & hat, sling your purse, orient the rollerboard to go forward, etc. etc.) for exiting the plane until you’re standing up.

    As for exiting by aisle, it would be interesting to see if all the world’s travellers could be retrained to do this!

  10. Wolfsrule20

    September 25, 2019 at 6:47 am

    It doesn’t really make a huge difference to me. I’ll tend to stay seated and gazing out the window until the row infront of me starts getting up and then I’ll stand. I have had instances where I have tight connections and in those cases I tend to tell my seat mates (I’m almost always in the window cause I fly Southwest and will choose it every time I can) and generally the people are nice and let me through into the aisle.

  11. mbgaskins

    September 25, 2019 at 6:55 am

    The aisle seats should stand up immediately and get their bags ready to go. Waiting just slows everything down.

    I am not sure what flight the gentleman’s comments above were about concerning AA but I can assure you that was an anomaly and certainly wasn’t civilized. It slowed the plane deboarding process down when it didn’t have to and it kept the middle and window seat occupants crammed into their seats longer than necessary. If the aisle passengers would stand up it allows the middle and window seat passengers to scoot over and have more room. That is civilized.

    I usually am in a window seat. When I have to put stuff into my carryon after the flight I will pull it down from the overhead bin and put it in the seat and stay OUT of the aisle so others who are ready to deplane can get by me. I then will wait for the proverbial gap, as someone is holding up others while fiddling with there bags and not ready to deplane, and then step into the aisle and deplane.

    There is nothing wrong with standing in the aisle getting ready to deplane and waiting your turn. The biggest gripe I have is when the people behind don’t yield to the row in front to eit and deplane. And yes I do understand short connections and those people have every right to request the courtesy of moving forward early to deplane. But they need to understand that some in front of them may also have that same short connection and need to deplane as quickly as possible too.

  12. snowdog9

    September 25, 2019 at 7:01 am

    Maybe you were on a flight with a Mormon missionary group? I dunno. I’ve flown in and out of YYZ many times and I’ve never witnessed such non-hurried and civilized behavior.

  13. SaltyGB

    September 25, 2019 at 7:07 am

    The deplaning models all assume “competent” passengers that have their bags in bins either directly above or forward, which is not the case. A single salmon going the wrong way causes the whole thing to mess up as well as the single mother (father) with multiple kids, car seats, diaper bags, stuffed animals, etc. trying to wrangle out successfully.

    I do about 200K actual air miles globally annually and have seen just about every ‘incompetent’ manner of behavior. A simple rule should be if you are not fast and agile like a rabbit, wait until the rabbits get off, then do your turtle thing!

  14. BarbaraLee

    September 25, 2019 at 7:27 am

    Deplaning shouldn’t be all aisle seats first, then center seats then window seats. Traveling as a family, with my elderly father who needs assistance and we pay to sit together with Dad on the aisle, deplaning should be row by row from front to back.

  15. jybrick

    September 25, 2019 at 8:00 am

    The problem is people standing in the aisle to get their bags out of the overhead bins. If you stand in front of the aisle seat, facing the rear, you can grab you bag out of the bin and put it in the seat ready for an opening. Then go when there is an open space. The aisle would never be blocked and exiting would be quick.

  16. azmojo

    September 25, 2019 at 8:10 am

    The only thing I would suggest that I think is OK but is sometimes frowned upon is if I am standing in the aisle and people in the next one or two rows are still emerging from their seats and the aisle is clear in front of me, I’m going, rather than waiting for those people to emerge. I’ve been told this is rude, but I see it as more efficient.

  17. gerstperson

    September 25, 2019 at 8:32 am

    A plane is not church, and people can be in a hurry for all kinds of reasons. I don’t understand why I must wait for the passenger in front of me who takes inordinate time to take down two bags and then reorganize before leaving, having left an enormous gap in the line to deplane. Why is that preferable to a person on the aisle with all of his/her belongings in hand, scooting up the aisle to queue to deplane?

  18. binkata

    September 25, 2019 at 8:54 am

    There’s nothing wrong standing as soon as the seat belt sign is off, as long as you’re not invading someone else’s personal space. I will do this just to get the blood flowing again.

    Deplaning most efficiently by refunding means minimizing the amount of time wasted where nobody is moving down the aisle. Those who have a million little items overhead, or a really heavy bag that they can’t manage to pull down without some effort should let anyone by who seems to be ready, at least enough to create a gap wherein they can get their stuff and keep the flow going smoothly.

    I tend to pack light and am happy to keep my stuff under the seat in front, and rent to choose aisle seats

  19. ckfred

    September 25, 2019 at 9:10 am

    The only time I’ve seen any sort of exiting plan enforced is when an aircraft uses the L2 door for deplaning. The FAs will make sure that everyone who wants to deplane quickly from the premium cabin ahead of L2 does so, before the coach passengers aft of L2 can deplane.

  20. binkata

    September 25, 2019 at 10:11 am

    My comment posted before I finished..

    I tend to choose the aisle seat when I have to put anything overhead so that I can grab it (without hitting anyone with it) and keep it on my seat until it’s my “turn” to go. I don’t think it’s rude to go ahead of someone else who isn’t ready–especially if I’m 10+ rows down the aisle by the time they make any forward progress!

    I realize that sometimes you can’t stow overhead near your seat; the salmon going against the flow should do what flight attendants do and make as much progress in a clear aisle as possible, then slip into an empty row to let people pass and keep playing this game of Frogger until they get to their bag.

    This brings up another issue: I’ve seen people boarding who just throw their stuff into the first available overhead bin and then proceed rearward to their actual seat. I know the better FA’s will keep the forward-most bins for bulkhead pax storage, but this seems to just unnecessarily create the possibility for the aforementioned salmon scenario.

  21. lebelgo

    September 25, 2019 at 10:19 am

    When the row in front of you leaves, stand up, get your stuff, and go. Doing the aisles first, then middle, then windows is silly and could never work because people often travel together (in the same row).

  22. NonnaGoes

    September 25, 2019 at 11:07 am

    I had occasion to test the preboard and leave quickly claim just three days ago. Flying home on SW, I preboarded d/t the ankle I’d sprained on the flight out. We were in the first row, so I was first off the plane.

    I gimped my way as quickly as I could to the jetway, so I could be out of people’s way, using the railing to help me up the slope. Being able get out of the way for a short period doesn’t necessarily mean one can race up the jetway.

  23. picturegal

    September 25, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    If everyone would raise their armrests once the plane is stationary, that would help a lot to speed people in the window seat getting out.

  24. gavron

    September 25, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    So… the “best” way to disembark [sorry, “deplane” is what Tattoo said on Fantasy Island] depends on what definition of “best” is.

    The 6’3″ (190cm) gentleman says he is so happy with his seat pitch he can’t wait to get up. The people who have connecting flights also seem to have a priority per se over those who have reached their “final destination” [Hell? Heaven?].

    If the goals is the orderly departure of passengers in a stream of front-to-back passengers, then people moving past other people — if done politely — don’t hurt the process. What DOES hurt the process is the less pro travelers who get in and block the aisle, take their time getting luggage from overhead or underseat areas, and literally hold up everyone on the aircraft until they can waddle off.

    Seated first, and usually up front are also those passengers “needing extra assistance” which should suggest they may need same assistance getting off, and wheelchairs on the jetway hamper the space, and people who cannot be ambulatory without assistance do too… so maybe if you got the dispensation for early boarding… you get the reverse by late exit.

    For me as an engineer it’s about the flow. A constant flow is the most efficient method of transporting anything, be it railcars, passengers, motor vehicles on a road, or even water through a hose. Air pockets in a water hose are bad. So are people who hold up the line. Those who move past those people — filling in those pockets — make the process more efficient.

    Ehud Gavron
    FAA CPL-H

  25. msconk

    September 25, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Get off row by row if ready – at times some passengers are not ready and will hang in their row – I do not have any problems with exiting

  26. onlyairfare

    September 25, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Not every person who needs extra time to board is a fraud if they are able to deplane quickly. Some people have “invisible” heart or lung disease that flares with the process of getting to the departure gate to the point they have difficulty walking on board. But after resting a bit (or spending seated hours on a plane) they are fine for to speedily deplane.

  27. friendlyplanet

    September 25, 2019 at 9:59 pm

    Deboarding should be row by row, front to back. Sure, if the people in front of you are not moving, or sorting through their things, and there’s a clear way to go by, then feel free to exit first. But there’s a fine line between sliding by stragglers, and barging by slower moving people. I’ve seen people pushed out the the aisle by someone to get off the plane 10 seconds faster- that’s just rude.

    Speaking of rude, anyone remember the post in FlyerTalk ~5 years ago, where the OP says, “Don’t you hate it when you stand up in line on the plane to disembark, and all these people cut in front of you?” One of my favorite threads of all time, as people went from “sure, you shouldn’t cut the line” to “what do you mean, line?” to “you pushy jerk!”….

  28. PushingTin

    September 26, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    If you are in an aisle seat it is your duty to get up on the ding. This give the middle and window a bot of room to move around and grab their underseat bag, maybe stretch a little to get ready to walk. Aisle people that stay seated should be forced to lick their seat tray. I even raise the end arm rest to make it easier for people to exit.

  29. RandyN

    September 26, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    That guy who gets up, grabs his bag out of the overhead and drops it in the aisle so you can’t get past it?
    Yeah. That’s me.

    Your time isn’t more important than mine is.

  30. NotSoFrequentColorado

    October 4, 2019 at 9:50 am

    The most efficient is the one in the graphic – aisle, then center, then window. People seem to object because they wouldn’t be able to deplane with their party. Seriously? Are you with those people every minute of every day at home? You can’t be separated for 2 minutes? Obviously exceptions would be made for people with small children or people needing assistance.

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