10 Things to avoid on a plane or in an airport

10 things to avoid on a plane or in an airport

I went home to Sydney last week for a few days, which meant a big chunk of flying in a small amount of time. It gave me the chance to experience some pretty awful behaviour on the part of some travellers. And since I’m nothing if not polite and accommodating, I let it all go, until I could hide behind my blog and write a list of the things to avoid on a plane or in an airport.

Some of these are so self-explanatory that you’ll shake your head and wonder how anyone would think they were acceptable. Others might be a little murkier and probably just annoy me. Either way, I’m getting this stuff off my chest in the hopes of making us all better travellers and more atuned to the fact that we’re not the only ones on that super-long flight, waiting forever in a line at Customs, or trying to repack our bags to magically make them lighter.


Buckle your seatbelt, unwrap your blanket, open the window shade and get ready for take-off because we’re diving in the deep end of things to avoid on a plane or in an airport.

1. Closing Other People’s Window Shades

I get that you’re tired, it’s 1pm local time in Sydney and the winter sun is streaming in your window. We’ve just taken off and enjoyed the gorgeous views of Sydney harbour with its boats dotted all along the coastline. It’s beautiful to look at, but now the sun is starting to annoy you and you’re a little tired as well so you close your window shade. But there’s also a window behind you, or at least slightly behind you. Maybe some sunlight is still filtering into your periphery vision.

Woman looking out of a plane window
The dreaded window between two seats.

Resist the urge to just turn around, reach your hand between the seat and the window, and close someone else’s shade. Especially if they’re leaning forward and looking out of it at the time. Honestly, it’s rude. If the window’s annoying you, it takes a second to turn around and ask the person sitting directly behind you if it’s OK to close it.

2. Reaching Over the Seat Behind You

Say you’ve just finished closing that window shade and you’re getting ready for a nap, but you need to stretch. I get it, stretching is a critical part of getting ready to go beddy-byes. Your limbs need to feel properly tired and ready for sleep. There are a few ways that you can stretch your arms – reach them straight up to the sky, use your other arm as leverage, reach over your back as if you were trying to scratch an itch.

What you definitely shouldn’t do, is stretch your arm over your seat and block the entertainment screen of the person sitting behind you. Firstly, how are you even that flexible when you’re pretty short (seriously, this woman was tiny), and secondly, when you feel that screen under the palm of your hand, don’t you just automatically recoil? This is not cool. I was happily watching AP Bio before your hand wandered onto my screen.

3. Stealing Blankets or Pillows

What is wrong with you? You are the worst of the worst and I am supremely unhappy with you. In my case, I was sitting in a row of three where there was an empty seat in the middle. We were crusing for a little while before I fell asleep, with three blankets sitting in No Man’s Land – the middle seat. Only to wake up an hour later, shivering.

Sleeping on a plane
I may have slept under my coat on a plane before, as evidenced by this photo taken by Third Brother on the way to Tasmania.

I reach for my blanket,but it was missing, so I look under the seats, and under me. Before I realised that my lovely seat buddy had commandeered all three blankets and was wearing them as layers over her singlet top. I spent the rest of the flight huddled under my jacket. Like a peasant.

4. Standing in the Aisle

You know all of that time that you spent sitting at the terminal gate, whiling away the minutes waiting to board? Why not use that time to get out all the stuff you’re going to need while on the plane? It seems so simple, and yet, when 100 people are trying to shuffle along and find their seats, we’re always held up by those who need to take half their bag apart before stowing it. I’ve got no problem with you if you’re sitting or standing in your seat while doing this. But when you’re blocking the entire aisle and no one else can get through, you’re being annoying. Stop being annoying.

5. Nail Polish Remover

To be fair, I don’t know that it was nail polish remover, but it definitely smelled the same to me. About 10 hours into the 15 hour flight, I started smelling that pungent chemical odour. It wasn’t nice at all and there wasn’t any escape from it either.

nail polish remover on a plane

Maybe I’m being over-the-top and it was a normal airplane smell (that I’ve never noticed in my 27 years of flying). But if you’re even considering removing your nail polish on a plane, you’re making the wrong life choice.

6. Sprtizing Everyone

As we started to approach our destination, the woman sitting next to me (this was the return flight, not the blanket-stealing one) decided it was time to freshen up. So she went about spritzing her face (and unintentionally mine) with some kind of refresher spray. I should be grateful for the free sample, but by then I was well and truly fed up with the whole thing. Next it was time to deoderise, and I coped a nose-full of that as well. That’s what the toilets on planes are for people. Go brush your teeth and apply spray deoderant in there. It’s not that difficult. Unless you’re…

7. Piggy in the Middle

Sitting in the window seat has heaps of great advantages – you get the view, you don’t have to worry about falling asleep and your seat mate being too timid to wake you so they can pop off to the loo, and you can lean your head against the plane wall. All great attributes. The one downside in my eyes, is that you have to ask your two seat mates to move if you want to stretch your legs or freshen up.

Interior of a plane

So when I tapped my seat mate on the shoulder and asked to go to the bathroom, I was already apologetic for making two people dislodge themselves from their seats. But then the guy on the aisle got out and moved to the right up the aisle. And the woman next to me got up and moved to the left on the aisle. Leaving me in the middle, with nowhere to go. A tiny, petty annoyance, sure. But some commonsense wouldn’t go astray either.

8. Flight Attendant Treatment

Flight attendants get to do their jobs in crazy-long shifts, thousands of feet above the ground where it’s hard to hear anything and people generally have a heightened sense of entitlement. Sound like fun to you? Me neither. So why not be courteous to them, at the very least? Sure, they might have forgotten to bring you the drink they promised, or couldn’t relocate you to a seat that wasn’t next to a crying baby. But in an everyday situation, on the ground, would that be so bad? If your host forgot to bring you a drink, would you immediately be rude to them? Be nice!

9. Close Queuing 

I get that the Customs queue is where the last vestages of civilisation go to die. No one wants to be there, the line snakes so far that you’re not sure if it’d be quicker just to hop on the next plane back out of the country. Everyone feels a little nervous, because with all this heightened security and screenings, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen. None of these are reasons to stand so close to me in line that your breath tickles the little hairs on the back of my neck. And I definitely don’t need you to bump into me each time I stop shuffling a few steps forward in the queue. That’s a sure sign that you’re way too close. It won’t get you to the front of the line any faster.

10. Baggage Carousel Etiquette 

When the first few people start getting out to the baggage carousel, it’s all nice and civilised. People stand back from the conveyer belt and at distance from each other so as not to get in the way.

Baggage Carousel at Heathrow Airport

But once the carousel starts its merry trip round, people get antsy. Kids get in the way, people inch closer and closer to the conveyer and each other, meaning that no one can see their bag until it’s right on top of them. Then there’s the mad scramble to get it off the merry-go-round before it’s too late. I doubt this one will ever change, but I figured I’d take this opportunity to complain anyway.


That’s the list of my petty (and not-so-small) annoyances gathered over 29 hours of flying in six days. Now I need to know what yours are? What behaviour can you just not fathom while you’re travelling? Extra points for people who avoid complaining about children or babies. Have you ever try to shut one of them up? It’s nigh impossible unless they’re eating. And even then…

10 things to avoid on a plane or in an airport


21 thoughts on “10 Things to avoid on a plane or in an airport

  1. This post made me chuckle – I’ve travelled with offenders of all of these. Blanket hoggers are the worst, so now I make a point of taking my blanket and pillow as soon as I sit down, even if I don’t have any intention of using it! As for the baggage carousel, forget all bets are off, it’s like all manners are off, it’s such a free for all! Lucky adventures are fun because airplane travel could really be enough to put you off!

    1. Hahaha, after that week, I was ready to stay away from planes for a long while. Best of luck for your flight home by the way! I hope you meet no blanket stealers!

  2. I think people behave as badly as they do because air travel pretty much takes away any control you do have. I prefer an aisle seat – I’m that person who needs the bathroom all night & who doesn’t sleep at all. But I have this preference in full knowledge that I need to make way for others when they need to go. As for the blanket hoggers, reacher overers and shade shutters…no excuse!

    1. My Dad’s an aisle seat person too for exactly the same reasons. And has no problem getting up for other people to get out of their seat for a bit of a wander. I get that people have finite control when you’re travelling like this, but sheesh. Haha, I just need to stay away from planes for a little bit.

  3. Very fun read, points taken! Here are my two cents:
    Do not recline your seat when the person behind you is having beverage or meal service. Duh.
    Do not pig both armrests.
    Do not pee all over the toilet seat.
    If someone in the middle of the aisle has gotten up four times to go vomit, maybe give up your aisle seat to them. Just saying.

  4. I can’t believe you did that flight twice in a week! Yes, I’ve seen all these annoying behaviors, and more. I don’t get it; we’re all in it together, can we be considerate? My “favorite” is the annoying neighbor who pretty much takes over your seat, too, getting spread out and very comfortable, while you are trying to squeeze in a small spot on the edge …

  5. Great list. I agree with all of these! I would also add avoid loud conversations and also don’t yank on the seat in front of you when you are getting up! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  6. I seem to spend half my life on planes, many of them ultra-long haul. Like you my home is in Australia. It has to be one of the best places on the planet to live except for the tiny fact that it is a very, very, very long way from just about everywhere. Anyway as consequence I have a few suggestions to add to your list.
    1. Girls (and the occasional guy) please don’t brush, comb, twist or otherwise fiddle with your long hair while you are in your seat – or worse standing next to my seat in the aisle. Your hair is beautiful but honestly I don’t want souvenirs of it in my soup or on my clothes.
    2. Ladies (and the occasional guy) please tone down the perfume. Some of us are allergic to fragrance. If you are too heavy handed on the scent and I have to sit near you on a long haul flight then pack a defibrillator in your purse because you may need to use it to resuscitate me before the end of the journey.

  7. Some great no-nos here – the blanket stealer has to be the worst of these – there is no way to excuse that behavior! Sounds like a really bad experience, I would have probably yanked it back off of her 😉

    The baggage carousel thing is really annoying and it happens almost every time – it is particularly annoying when large families are taking up huge amount of space in front but only 1 person is actually taking the luggage off and then placing each piece right in front of themselves so no one else can get through!

  8. Some people are unaware of common etiquette or courtesy. Another breach of etiquette happens if you are waiting to deplane from a forward door and people from the seats behind you try to block the aisle so that they can deplane before you. Now, if they are trying to make a connecting flight, that’s another story.

  9. Oh gosh I feel very blessed that I have only encountered good manners and politeness of most of my travels, but will commit the list to memory to avoid annoying others. My only true upset was that whilst I was travelling solo with an ill baby the flight attendant somehow dropped my only baby bottle down the toilet, and couldn’t stop laughing as she told me!Totally surreal!

  10. Great read! I am an isle person and I go to great lengths to avoid staying in any other seat. Most of these things you mention here are common sense, but some people lack that. It would be great if these rules could be displayed somewhere where every traveler can see them. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  11. It´s incredible that some people would do things like stealing blankets or nail polish! it´s just common sense! Your post made me realize I was lately very lucky with long-distance flights in terms of neighbors #TheWeeklyPostcard

  12. I’d like to think I’m a considerate traveller but boy have I met some people who have obviously never read a post like yours! It is hard too because there really is no escape. I usually get the larger person who invades my space which on a long haul flight is not a good place to be. We are flying to Japan in a few weeks so I’ll let you know how many people avoided your ten things. Have a great week!

  13. I haven’t done long haul in a very long time but the last few work trips I had the other year I had pet peeves from:
    a) the pilot telling us it was a smooth lfight when we were all being jostled (even the flight attendants were making jokes to each other about it!)
    b) airlines for putting tiny planes on routes full of big burly mining guys!

  14. I laughed a lot more than I should have at this list! I’m debating printing off copies and handing them out at airports as some kind of community service – although these people are also the worst of the worst so would probably just ignore it anyway… #TheWeeklyPostcard

  15. Oh the lack of manners and common sense! I’m appalled at the nail polish remover and spritzer! That’s just ridiculous! And the deodorant! I always just freshen up at the first bathroom I see upon landing prior to getting luggage etc! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  16. People. Wouldn’t life be better without the badly mannered-ones. I haven’t been on a long distance (only 10 hours) flight for a long time but my preference was the window seat so I could lean into it. I may choose differently at my age but unsure. The configuration in Hawaiian Airlines was 2 3 2 in economy and I was able to reserve the same seat there and back. Made a difference!

    Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week’s optional prompt is a photo-based one: Share Your Snaps 27/8/18. Denyse

  17. I can recall 2 bad experiences. One was on an overnight flght when the person next to me had her volume so high I could hear her music. She was asleep but I couldn’t sleep.
    The other was a man pulling my bag out of the overhead locker so he could put his in. Told me he needed space for his bag. His seat was 3 rows ahead of mine. I told him to get lost. But other than these my travels have been pretty pleasant.
    visiting via the LifeThisWeek linkup.

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