Airplane etiquette: What would you do?

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PLYMOUTH, MN – As summertime temperatures begin to rise, air travel passengers’ patience tends to wane – which can lead to uncomfortable situations and potentially unruly behavior, particularly on extremely full flights.

Recently, Travel Leaders Group asked Americans travelers “What would you do?” when faced with a variety of travel situations, such as: pets on planes, in-flight fights, reclining airline seats, children behaving badly on a plane, and airline passengers not using headphones when listening to music, watching movies or playing video games. The survey of 3,431 consumers across the United States was conducted by Travel Leaders Group April 4 to April 30, 2016.


“Last year, an all-time record of more than 798 million American airline passengers took to the skies. That means there are plenty of opportunities for travelers, perhaps unknowingly, to commit a gaffe – from the constant tapping on the seatback monitor to reclining so much that it’s uncomfortable for the passenger behind you,” explained Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko. “Not surprisingly, a vast majority would let the flight crew handle any in-flight disagreements – and there have been a few as of late. But in many other instances, there aren’t clearly defined right and wrong answers on how to handle particular situations. Patience, civility, common sense, self-awareness and courtesy toward others all contribute dramatically toward in making any travel experience better, all around.”

Airplane Etiquette – In-flight Fights and Bad Behavior:

After multiple incidents of airline passengers fighting, survey participants were asked, “If you saw two airline passengers fighting, in-flight, what would you do?” and the responses included:

Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation. 73.3%
Step in and try to defuse the situation. 7.8%
Sit quietly and say nothing. 4.6%
Capture the video on my smartphone to share with others. 1.3%
Not sure. 13.0%

When asked, “If a child was behaving badly on a plane, one that was old enough to understand their actions, and the parents did nothing to correct the behavior, what would you do?” the responses were:

Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation. 54.8%
Sit quietly and say nothing. 14.4%
Say something directly to the parents. 13.4%
Say something directly to the child. 6.6%
Not sure. 10.8%

Airplane Etiquette – Reclining Seats:

When asked, “If the person in the airline seat in front of you reclined their seat so much that you had difficulty lowering your tray table or perhaps were unable to open up a laptop, what would you do?” the responses were:

Say something directly to the person. 41.6%
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation. 31.6%
Sit quietly and say nothing. 15.3%
Jam your knees into the back of the seat. 3.7%
Not sure. 7.8%

Conversely, when asked, “If you were trying to recline your airplane seat and you were hindered by the person behind you, in some way, what would you do?” the responses were:

Say something directly to the person. 27.8%
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation. 27.5%
Sit quietly and say nothing. 27.0%
Continuously try to recline my seat 5.0%
Not sure. 12.7%

Airplane Etiquette – Music and Videos:

Trying to keep occupied on flights today often includes watching videos or in-flight television or listening to music. It’s not uncommon for the volume of those to be disruptive to other passengers. When asked, “If an adult passenger seated near you on an airplane was listening to music or watching videos without using headphones, what would you do?” the responses included:

Say something directly to the individual. 32.6%
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation. 21.3%
Put in my own earphones to drown them out. 18.4%
Do nothing because it would not bother me. 13.0%
Sit quietly and do nothing, even though the sound bothers me. 3.7%
Try to find an alternative seat. 3.5%
Not sure. 7.5%

When asked, “If a child near you was playing video games without using headphones on an airplane, what would you do?” the responses were:

Say something directly to the parent. 30.2%
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation. 21.7%
Put in my own earphones to drown them out. 16.6%
Do nothing because it would not bother me. 13.9%
Say something directly to the child. 4.4%
Sit quietly and do nothing, even though the sound bothers me. 4.1%
Try to find an alternative seat. 3.2%
Not sure. 6.0%