Passengers reveal the answers to 7 common aeroplane etiquette questions

British Airways Boeing 747British AirwaysA British Airways Boeing 747-400.
  • British Airways and ProdegeMR surveyed 1,500 travellers to get their thoughts on in-flight etiquette.
  • The survey covered the US, UK, France, Germany, and Italy.
  • The results of the survey form an unofficial rule books for in-flight behaviour.

In almost everything we do there are a set of rules and regulations that are to be followed. The same goes for when we get on a plane.

However, the rules of etiquette for when we fly is bit more complicated in that its an activity that transcends virtually all nations, races, and cultures. Naturally, there are going to be conflicting views on the dos and don’t of in-flight etiquette.

Recently, British Airways teamed up with market research firm ProdegeMR to survey 1,500 travellers in the US, UK, France, Italy, and Germany. While the survey does not encompass all nations, it does reveal the opinions of flyers in five major aviation markets. Since all 1,500 people surveyed had either flown domestically or internationally within the past 12 months, consider this an unofficial rulebook for proper in-flight behaviour.

Here’s a closer look the results of the British Airways study.

Who owns the armrest?

Photo: Shutterstock.

First up, the survey tackles the age-old question of who owns the armrest. According to the survey, 67% of all respondents said the proper thing to do is to take one armrest and leave the other for your neighbour.

However, opinions diverge a bit different when it came to the middle seat. Forty-seven per cent of those surveyed in the UK and 42% of those from the US said the middle seat passenger should get both arm rests. Roughly half of the travellers from Italy, France, and Germany believe that the center armrests should go to whomever requests them.

Do shoes and socks have to stay on?

British Airways

For some people, kicking off their shoes is part of the in-flight experience. Some find the practice repulsive, but for the most part people seem to be ok with it. According to the survey, 59% of respondents said it's cool to go without shoes. That is unless you are flying in Italy where 75% of those surveyed said its unacceptable.

While no shoes may be kosher, taking off one's socks is a step too far. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed, 87%, said taking off socks is a no go.

OK to chit chat?

British Airways

Personally, I think there are few things more dreaded than being stuck ona flight for hours on end next to an overly talkative neighbour. And it seems like the good folks surveyed by British Airways agrees with me. In fact, 83% of respondents said that the conversation should progress no further than 'hi' and a smile.

In the US, 42% of travellers believe it is unacceptable to share personal stories. According to the survey, British respondents recommended excusing yourself to the lavatory as a polite way of exiting an unwelcome conversation.

To wake a sleeping neighbour?

British Airways

There comes a time in every traveller's life when nature calls during a flight. Unfortunately, nature doesn't always wait for when you have easy access to the aisle. So what should you do when the passenger in the aisle seat is asleep?

According to the survey, 80% of travellers said it's alright to wake up the sleep passenger while 40% of respondents added that you should only do it once per flight. Roughly 1/3 of those surveyed said they would climb over the passenger if he or she was a heavy sleeper. As for proper 'climbing' procedure? Fifty four per cent of people said you should climb over the your neighbour face-to-face.

Should you ignore the snoring?

Sergio Dionisio /Getty Images

What if your neighbour isn't just sleeping, but is also snoring loudly? Incredibly, 66% of respondents said they would ignore the snoring neighbour and turn up the volume on their in-flight entertainment.

However, 11% of Americans did say that they would poke the snorer while 20% of Brits said they would nudge their neighbour and pretend it was an accident.

Should you hunt for a better seat?

British Airways

Even as airlines become better at practicing capacity discipline, there will still be instances where you are stuck in a row full of people on board a half empty flight. In these cases, is it ok to hunt for a better seat?

According to the survey, 53% of respondents said it is ok to change seats after getting permission from the cabin crew. Interestingly, Americans were more likely to seek permission before moving with 62% of respondents waiting for the go-ahead from the crew. On the other hand, 38% of Brits said they would move to an empty seat as soon as the seat belt sign is off.

The golden rule of screen brightness.

British Airways

With the advent of in-flight streaming, we are at the beginning of the end for seat-back entertainment systems. Which means smartphones and tablets will become the method of choice to deliver in-flight entertainment.

This leads to the question of screen brightness etiquette. According to the survey, 92% of respondents said people should dim their screens when the cabin lights are turned off.

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