People who fly rarely are generally oblivious to the unwritten rules of flying. There are various aspects of on board behaviour that you only learn through experience. For example, is it okay to press the call bell during flight? When isn’t a good time to get up to go to the toilet? The infrequent flyer is usually quite obvious as they do things that make frequent flyers wince.

Here are some hints and tips that I’ve learned over one thousand hours spent in the air.

Boarding Bug Bears

Boarding is a stressful time for everyone. The rules here are simple – get on, stow your carry on and sit down. Always stand in from the aisle to let other passengers pass while you’re stowing your cabin bag. There is room for this in most cases. Holding up everyone behind you makes a frustrating part of flying even worse.

Carry On Carry On

You brought everything you owned on board and stowed it above your head. Do you really need to get your laptop out on a 55 minute flight? Do you need to get up three times to retrieve items? No, you don’t. Plan ahead, especially if you’re in a window seat or middle seat. Take the things you need out as soon as you’re on board.

Even better, have a smaller bag with things you need that you can put under the seat in front. This will save you getting up and down like a jack in the box and bothering everyone.

Seating Rules – Window, Middle and Aisle

When flying economy class, the worst seat is generally considered to be a middle seat. These are the B and E seats on a standard short haul aircraft such as the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320. The hapless person seated here in between two strangers is generally afforded both arm rests during flight. This means window and aisle passengers should use the arm rest on the side opposite the middle seat.

Aisle and middle seat passengers should be aware that they will be required to get up to let the person in the window seat out. There is no point in grumbling about it so be gracious.

To Recline Or Not To Recline, That Is The Question

This causes all sorts of anger for some people. The general rule here is don’t recline your seat until the meal service is completed. Save it until the trays have been collected by your cabin crew. Seating is squashed enough without having to contort to eat your meal.

People are not expected to recline their seats at all on short flights. I never recline my seat unless I am flying long haul and rarely see it on short haul. Keep this rule in mind as it makes for a happier flight for everyone.

Call Bell Concerns

There are various schools of thought on the use of the call bell. Some people believe you should use it all the time and have the crew come to you. Others never use it at all. I’m a firm believer of not using the call bell as I prefer to get up out of my seat and go to the galley when I need something.

Either way, use it sparingly and never press it multiple times in a row unless you need the crew immediately for a medical emergency.

Toilet Time

If you are desperate to go to the toilet, get up and go as soon as the seat belt sign is off. Once you see the crew with their trolley in the aisle starting to serve meals, the rule of thumb is that you should ideally wait for the trolley to pass. Countless times I have seen the hardworking crew have to back up to the galley to let someone go back to their seat. It delays everyone.

Clean up after yourself when you’re in the toilet. There is no excuse to leave it a mess. If you find it a little messy, feel free to clean up a bit. Obviously if someone has destroyed the insides with the contents of their bowels, please tell the crew so they can tackle it or take the toilet out of service.

Movie Madness

Long-haul flights are generally a pleasure as the seats have personal televisions that you can watch. However, don’t be that person who jabs the screen really hard over and over again. The person sitting in the seat in front will feel like someone is trying to give them a hard massage.

It should go without saying but if you have your own device, use headphones. No-one wants to hear what is on your iPad throughout the cabin.

Bubbly Brats

Cabin Crew are not babysitters and nor are other passengers. Keep your children occupied and ensure you bring things to keep them amused. Nothing is more frustrating than children who decide to use the whole aircraft as their personal playpen.

Overall Thoughts

Aspects of flying can be made so much easier if everyone knew the rules. I wish airlines would provide a piece on their web sites listing things like this so that everyone knows the rules before they travel.

What do you think of this list? Are there some rules I’ve missed? What are your experiences? Please let me know in the comments below. Thank you for reading!

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