5 Things That Are Evil When Flying and 5 That Aren't

October 4, 2022, 6:40 PM · If you are a typical Theme Park Insider reader, you likely travel a lot. So let's take this opportunity to debate what is - and is not - socially acceptable behavior on an airline flight.

Don't Do These

Stowing your carry-on bag before you get to your row - In short, don't be selfish. Putting your bag up front to "save time" when deplaning actually slows everyone since you will have to stop the flow of passengers getting off the plane to pull down your bag. People sitting in the row where you stowed your bag might also then have to put their bag further back, delaying them from getting off the plane. And who wants to walk half-way up or back the aisle to find your bag if you need it mid-flight? If you board late and flight attendants tell you to stuff your bag in the first available space, that's one thing. But if you are boarding early and see plenty of open bins back by your seat, don't be a jerk. Use them, instead.

Demanding a seat swap - If you really need to sit together, do what you need to book those seats in advance. If you tried some trick in the hopes that you would end up with an empty seat between you, or in a more desirable location, but that trick did not work - own it. Never make demands when you are on a flight. If you need something from a fellow passenger, or the airline has done you dirty and you need help from the flight crew, ask nicely. Demands get you nothing but more trouble.

Using the arm rest if you're not in the middle seat - If you are the poor soul stuck in the middle seat, at least you should get use of the two arm rests to (partially) compensate you for having to endure the worst seat in the row. So if you are assigned the aisle or the window, just tuck in your elbows and give thanks that you're not stuck in the middle seat.

Using speakers for audio - Respect your neighbors and keep as quiet as you can while on board. Every modern electronic media device has the ability to play its audio through headphones, earbuds, or Air Pods. Use them, and spare your neighbors from having to listen to your stuff while they're trying to get through the rest of this flight.

Allowing kids to kick the seat - I am going to assume here that no adult would dare repeatedly kick the seat in front of them when seated anywhere in public, including airline flights. But I understand that kids might have not have learned all the lessons they need to act in a civil manner. So if you cannot convince your child to keep their feet to themselves while flying, at least take off their shoes so that they have to suffer the pain of smacking their unshod feet against the hard plastic in front of them. That usually gets them to stop, anyway.

Don't Sweat These

Asking for a seat swap - As we said earlier, making demands is bad. But asking nicely for something is fine. There's no harm in asking politely for someone to switch seats with you on a plane. Still, if you want any chance at success, you'd better make this a good deal. Offer an aisle or window in exchange for a middle, or a seat farther up in exchange for one in back. (And be willing to swap overhead space with that, too.) Or straight-up flash some cash. Just be ready to take "No" for an answer, no matter how much you might want to make the switch.

Opening your window shade - If you have a window seat and there's a shade directly next to you - meaning that you do not share part of it with the row in front or behind - go ahead and open it to look out if you wish. That view from 30,000+ feet is the big reason why some of us want window seats, after all. If someone near you wants to keep the row darker, they should have booked the window to keep it shut. Now, if the window shade straddles two rows, then you will need to find a consensus with the person sitting aisle in the other row. If you both do not agree to keep it open (whether partially or all the way), then keep it closed. And no matter what you want to do, if the cabin crew tells you to do something with the window shade, do it.

Gently reclining your seat - If an airline has provided reclining seats, as the seat holder, you are entitled to use the recline function. Just don't be a jerk about it. Slide that seat back gently so that you do not knock over anything the person behind you might have on their tray table. Better yet, turn around and let the person behind you know that you will be reclining, so they aren't surprised. If someone in front of you gives you that notice, thank them for the courtesy and don't say "no, you can't recline." They can. (If you really do not want the person in front of you to recline their seat, book your seat in the row behind an exit row, since exit row seats do not recline.)

Getting up to go to the bathroom - When nature calls, I would rather my row-mates answer than to have nature, uh, happen in the seat next to me. So don't complain if you are asked to get up and make way for someone to use the toilet. Now, simply courtesy suggests that if you know you can't make it through a long flight without a few trips to the bathroom, book an aisle seat instead of a window. Conversely, if you really need to be undisturbed during a flight, get the window.

Getting up when the plane reaches the gate - People who complain about this answer the prompt, "Tell me you don't have back problems without telling me you don't have back problems." People standing up as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off do not slow down the process of other people getting off the plane. In fact, if everyone remained seated until the row in front of them cleared, that would greatly slow the deplaning process. Sit or stand as you are comfortable, then when the people three or four rows in front of you start walking down the aisle, get up, get your stuff and get ready to move.

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Replies (14)

October 5, 2022 at 5:02 AM

My #1 "don't do this" is being a jerk to the flight crew. The flight attendants have a tough job dealing with all types of personalities, and they don't make a lot of money to do it. Even if they seem curt, they're just trying to keep to a schedule and keep everyone safe. And don't act they aren't there. This goes for anyone working in the service industry. You aren't that important or cool or above someone else to not smile and say "hello" or "thank you" when they bring you something.

October 5, 2022 at 6:43 AM

/\ Its always befuzzled me how the airline industry is such strong union but somehow they don't get paid until the flight takes off. The rest of the time they are working somehow doesn't count.

October 5, 2022 at 9:07 AM

I'm with NCPete. A flight attendant's job is hard and it costs nothing to be cooperative and courteous. They don't control the weather. They can't make a late flight on-time. They didn't design the seats or plan the meals. They didn't fill the overhead compartments. It's not their fault that the kid behind you kicks your seat or the person in front of you reclines into your face. Everyone benefits when everyone helps. Smile, say please and thank-you. It doesn't hurt.

October 5, 2022 at 10:11 AM

Here's another one in the "evil" column: no passing gas. If you're seated near me and ripping them, you're going to hear about it.

Oh, and that person with a baby? They wish more than anything that they could get her to calm down. If a baby is making noise, don't direct date, direct compassion. Is there someway you can help? Everyone was a baby once, people with babies deserve to travel, too, yet somehow Americans (and it seems to be limited to fussy Americans) absolutely FLIP OUT when a baby is making noise. Stop it.

October 5, 2022 at 10:18 AM

Great topic & info !

But isn’t this the spot in the comments where the Disney Fan Boys would point out a scene from a Universal distributed movie, where they glorify abuse of a flight attendant named Steve (aka “Stove”) ?

October 5, 2022 at 7:30 PM

Also, don't start making your way down to the front the plane until your row is reached. Getting off the plane earlier is not going to make your bags arrive any sooner.

October 5, 2022 at 10:45 PM


As the father of an 18-month old baby girl who has flown with her 3 times in her short little life, I say to you a hearty Right On!

October 6, 2022 at 10:15 AM

I'm sorry, but I think reclining your seat on an airplane is evil. Most coach/economy-class seats on airplanes today recline at most 3-5 degrees, and offer an infinitesimal upgrade over the "full and upright position". The problem is that a reclined seat on a modern airplane dramatically encroaches on the tray-table space of the passenger behind. With most airlines dumping in-seat video screens that are not terribly impacted by a reclined seat, it means passengers are using tablets, computers, and other devices to watch videos in-flight. Unless you're watching video on a smart phone clipped into the back of the headrest (assuming the seat is equipped with those clips, and even then the viewing angles aren't great when reclined if you have a polarized screen cover on your phone), your device is going to be on the tray table, which is encroached upon when the seat is reclined.

For me, it makes no sense to recline an airplane seat, and I wish that airlines would just get rid of the buttons, locking the seats permanently in the full upright position. Reclining is a selfish act that does little to improve your comfort in an airplane seat while significantly impacting and inconveniencing the passenger behind you (unless you're against a bulkhead).

October 6, 2022 at 1:22 PM

Speaking on standing up when the plane reaches the gate.

I get it that some people need to stand up, but for every one that has a back or leg they need to stretch, there seems to be another one or two who are just impatient and looking to cut out as soon as possible, thereby getting in the way of or cutting in front of the people that are actually in front of them trying to get out of their seats and get their bags. Honestly for most people, if they can sit in a seat for an hour or two, they can sit for another 5 minutes or so while people in front of them get up and leave. These people are the equivalent of the drivers who roll up all the way to the end of a closed lane to try and cut in front of the other lane, even though they saw the lane closed sign a few miles ago, or people who cut lanes in a traffic jam for the sake of gaining one or two car lengths. Things would go faster if they just stayed in their lane.

Everyone is in it together on the plane. We all want to get on and off of them as quickly as possible, even those who have kids or who are maybe a little slower, and those who work the plane want that to happen too. Any extra curricular activity from some self-important douche who doesn't stay in their lane gets in the way of that. Be good to your crew and fellow passengers and we'll all get through it fine.

October 6, 2022 at 2:07 PM

@fattyakin Before kids I would hear a baby cry and think, oh god, here we go with a crying baby! Now I think, that poor baby, her poor parent! haha, instantly changes you.

Can anyone confirm that these sorts of fussy airplane issues seem particularly American? I swear, most times I travel within europe people get on the plane with no problem, don't seem to have anywhere near as many carry-ons, don't have a problem with babies, and don't just get agitated anywhere near as much. Even going through customs in Europe is low stress as compared to here, where it's like you're Snake Pliskin entering the federal prison in Escape from New York.

I know it's a cultural thing, but I never ceased to be amazed at how agitated and upset Americans choose to keep themselves by comparison.

October 6, 2022 at 2:26 PM

@theolonel - Most Europeans travel by rail, particularly families. Part of that is because of geography (major cities are closer together), but much of it is because European countries have consistently invested in passenger rail travel over car and air travel. In the US, passenger rail is very limited (and slow) outside of the Northeast Corridor, meaning travelers wanting to go between cities that are more than 3-4 hours apart by car are more than likely going to fly.

The cultural differences between American and European air travel is primarily a function of a larger percentage of the US population needing to fly. The perception amongst Europeans is that air travel is a luxury while in the US air travel is often a necessity.

October 7, 2022 at 2:32 AM

Who stows their carryon away from where they're sitting? Makes no sense to do that.

And I agree, never DEMAND anything. You can request, but if the answer is no, accept it.

I'm often in the middle seat between two strangers. The arm rest thing give me stress, and I just react to how the people next to me act. If I get no arm rest, I get no arm rest. I'm not about to argue about it. We all know that airline flights suck, and I'm not about to make it suck more by arguing with anyone.

Using headphones or ear buds is a no-brainer, but it was worth mentioning for those who don't have a brain.

The kicking of seats hits me. I recently went to a concert and a kid was kicking my seat through the full show. I felt like I would be the a-hole if I turned around to ask the mother to control her kid. In the end, I chose not to so it's on me. But it was a concert, so some interference is to be expected.

As for another comment about passing gas from @thecolonel: sometimes it just HAS to happen, and we cannot get away from others before it happens. I never judge ANYONE who farts in my presence. Sometimes it happens and the person has no warning. If it's me, I'll excuse myself to do so, but sometimes it just happens with little to no warning. I agree that it's better done away from others, but that's not always an option.

Asking others to do their best to not "cloud a crowd" (AKA "crop-dust") is fair. Asking people not to fart at all goes against nature.

I can't believe that we're discussing farts on a reputable Disney-related site. Not saying that this is a bad thing, it's just weird to me.

October 7, 2022 at 2:40 AM

The "Nature Calls" reminds me of a quote from...I think it was The Animaniacs. The reply when Nature called was to say "Yes, I got your message...I have a package for you!"

October 8, 2022 at 1:15 AM

A couple of years ago my wife and I went to our niece's wedding in Ontario. On the flight back there was a young mother with a child maybe 16 - 17 months old sitting across from us. The toddler was good for this bit and then got restless, so I would look at the little one and when she looked at me I'd look away. Then I'd look at her and she would look away, we did that for hours and it kept the flight peaceful and all it cost me was missing a nap in an uncomfortable plane seat.

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