Passenger-Shaming Yourself: Are You a Bad Plane Traveller?

No one’s pretending air travel is elegant. Unless you book a first-class suite, you’re going to be squished between a barefoot man and a woman in pajama pants who’s eating six deviled eggs. Well, when in Rome, you think as you take off your shoes…

No! Don’t horrify your fellow flyers — you’re better than that. Here are the six sins of air travel that deserve passenger-shaming. Share your guide on plane travelling and drive more traffic to your platform with the help of Socialwick.

1. You Take Off Your Shoes and Socks.

You’re on a seven-hour flight in economy class, and you just can’t get comfortable, no matter what. So you kick off your sandals and wedge your bare feet into the space between the seat and the airplane window in front of you. Ahh. That’s a little better. Except for the passenger seated there, who now gets to spend the flight edging away from your fragrant toes.

As the popular Passenger Shaming Instagram feed has taught us, taking off your shoes is the number-one breach of airplane etiquette. Passengers put their bare feet on the bulkheads and on the tray tables. Some particularly limber people manage to stick them straight up in the air. However you contort yourself, this is Not Okay and you deserve the passenger-shaming treatment.

What can you do if you just have to get more comfortable? Wear lightweight, flexible travel shoes, like Tieks. Bring slippers or fresh socks to wear; British Airways even hands out free socks on long-haul flights.1 Just don’t put your feet in other people’s faces. Or (gag) trim your nails.

2. You Share Your Hair.

Long-haired airplane passengers sometimes fling their manes over the back of the seat, obscuring the TV screen of the person sitting behind them. This is bad in itself, but even worse are the people who brush or style their hair while on the plane. Sure, you want to look good when you arrive, but no one wants to find a hair in their Diet Coke. Put your hair in a bun or a ponytail and save the primping for the airport.

3. You Steal Your Neighbour’s Tray Table or Armrests.

You have a big presentation to deliver as soon as you land, so you’re working furiously on your laptop on the flight. Problem is, you have nowhere to put your coffee, so you set it down on the adjacent tray table (after wiping it, we hope; remember how many feet have been there).

It’s never okay to use your neighbour’s tray table unless you ask first. Same goes for the armrest. Airplane etiquette says the person sitting in the middle has the right to use both armrests — yes, both. That’s because the aisle seat enjoys easy access, while the window seat has the best view, so the poor person sandwiched in the middle deserves two armrests.

4. You Dress Inappropriately.

When we say “inappropriate,” we’re not talking about the women who have been kicked off flights for wearing clothing that the airline deemed too skimpy.2 We mean the many, many passengers who wear pyjama pants, shower shoes, unwashed tank tops or other dorm-room apparel on the plane. Some people even take their shirts (or pants!) off during the flight.

“But why shouldn’t I be comfortable on the plane?” you demand. “I paid $400 to be here!” Consider this: It’s perfectly possible to dress comfortably while looking stylish, and your fellow passengers will admire you for looking put together. A button-down shirt and khakis are better than a T-shirt and gym shorts. Women can wear flowing pants, a soft jersey dress, or even a calf-length skirt (bonus: you can curl your shoeless feet inside without anyone knowing).

5. You Turn the Aisle Into Your Personal Workout Space.

You get restless when you sit still too long, so you flop down on your back in the plane galley and start doing bicycle crunches. Now flight attendants are staring and people are gingerly stepping over you as they try to reach the lavatory.

We’ve all heard that it’s important to move around on long flights to keep your blood circulating, particularly for pregnant women and older passengers. But that doesn’t mean you can do a full-on yoga routine. Walk a little in the aisles, then return to your seat for some simple stretches. Virgin Atlantic has seven seat exercises to try.

6. You Trash Your Seat Area. Hard.

The flight attendant has come by five times asking to collect passengers’ trash, but you ignore him. Instead, you jam your coffee cup, crumpled napkins and half a sandwich into the seat-back pocket. It’s his job to clean up the plane, right?

Well, no. Flight attendants aren’t maids or servers. They’re professionals who are trained to administer first aid, keep you safe in an emergency and handle all kinds of crises. So don’t demean them by throwing trash on the floor and expecting them to clean it up. Remember, flight attendants are pros at passenger shaming, and you don’t want to become Internet-famous as an airplane slob.

Here’s another way to make your next flight more civilised: protect your trip with trip insurance from Allianz Global Assistance. You can get coverage for all kinds of travel mishaps, including flight delays, missed connections, lost or delayed bags and more. Travel happily!

Richmond-based travel writer Muriel Barrett has a terrible sense of direction, and has spent many happy hours getting lost in Barcelona, Venice and Jerusalem. Her favorite travel memories all involve wildlife: watching sea turtles nest in Costa Rica, kayaking with seals in Vancouver and meeting a pink tarantula in Martinique.

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