Travel Etiquette

Travel Etiquette – Mind Your Manners, Please!

Travel Etiquette

Monica Tindall

Exhausted by the poor travel etiquette of fellow passengers, I write this guide in the hopes that at least one of you will read it and spread the word. It mainly pertains to journeys by plane but you could generalise to other forms of transport too. To all of my fellow globetrotters out there, both new and old, I kindly ask you to:

Mind Your Manners! – A Request for Travel Etiquette Across the Globe


Please check-in online. Lighten the queues for those who really need it.

Pack in accordance with the published luggage regulations. No one wants to wait for you while you unpack and repack your bags that don’t meet requirements. I also don’t want to hear your excuses for not doing so.

Seasoned travellers pack light.

Leave some personal space between you and the person in front of you. I don’t need to feel your breath on my shoulder.

Wait behind the line.

Be especially aware when you’re at the front of the queue. Be ready to go to the next counter. Don’t wait for annoyed passengers also waiting in line to yell out that a counter is available.


Wait in line. Don’t try to sneakily cut the queue. Arrive early enough so that you are not running late for a flight.

Security Checks

Get your stuff ready! Have your liquids, laptop, belt and whatever else might buzz ready to place on the tray before you reach the front of the line. There are plenty of signs before you reach the front of the line (for international flights, laptops and liquids are standard things you need to scan separately).

After passing through the security check, take your things and move away from the exit. Repack your bag and redress away from the crowd.


Stay to one side, let those in a hurry pass.

Waiting Lounge and On Flight

If you are using a device put it on SILENT MODE or USE HEADPHONES. Make sure your children have headphones too.

Find your seat and sit down! No fussing with overhead compartments. No faffing with fellow family members. Get your bottom on your seat and let others pass.

Speak softly to the person next to you. Do not shout across multiple rows of seats.

Bathe before the flight. If you are on a series of multiple flights – please take a quick hygiene check in between. (Teeth cleaning, a bit of a wipe over in the sink, if available, take a shower.)

Don’t wear strong perfume or deodorants and absolutely do not spray them on on the plane.

If you have stinky feet, don’t take your shoes off! (If the nose of the passenger next to you is wrinkling even just a little, put your shoes back on.)

Don’t bring smelly food on the plane and please refrain from passing your snacks around across the bodies of other passengers.

Don’t drink excessively on the flight. I know it might be tempting to take advantage of all of that free alcohol but I don’t want to be the recipient of your pungent breath or misbehaviour because you’ve had “a few too many.”

Be kind to people with kids. Seriously, a little empathy, please. If that screaming baby is annoying you, just imagine how the poor parent must feel not only having to placate and comfort the child but also having to deal with you giving them nasty looks.

Actually, just being kind in general is not only good travel etiquette but sound advice in general. Think: Is my behaviour making a situation worse or better?

Be gentle getting in and out of your seat and softly return the tray table to the back of the seat. If you have children, ensure that they are not disturbing the seat in front of them by kicking, moving or noise making.

Help those in need.

Be polite to the aircrew. Follow their instructions and let them do their job.

Can’t believe I’m writing this but after recent flights, it clearly is not obvious to all. Stay seated when the seatbelt sign is on. Turn your phone off during take-off and landing. Despite your opinion as to whether or not your device affects safety – a rule is a rule and disrespecting the instructions of the crew makes you impolite and other passengers uncomfortable.

Don’t press the “attend to me” button when the crew are in the middle of service. Wait your turn.

Sit in your assigned seat. If you are so particular about where you to sit, book ahead and pay for it.

Allow the middle-seat passenger both of the elbow rests.

Don’t do push-ups in the aisle (or any other activity, and yes my recent flight had two men facing off with push-ups) during landing or take-off.

Luggage Collection

Stay behind the yellow line.

Keep your trolley behind you. Don’t take up space someone else could use by making a line with you and a trolley.

Step back when someone is trying to collect their luggage, or shock, horror, maybe you could even help someone who is struggling.

General Mind-Your-Manners Travel Etiquette

Treat all interactions as a possibility to make the world a better place. Why make an enemy when you can make a new friend?

Be courteous. Be kind. Have empathy.

What would you like other passengers to know when travelling? Leave a comment below. I am curious about your experiences.

Check out some of our top destinations for travel here.


  1. Great tips!!! Get so pissed off sometimes with some fellow-passengers when flying. There’s always the overhead baggage compartment – many will just squeeze into the ones in front, refusing to carry all the way to the back of the aircraft…and leaving no space for you to put yours.

  2. Like minds here! I also bring a large ziploc bag to security check for all my possessions that are in my pockets so that when I empty my pockets, I don’t have to spend two minutes collecting everything out of the tray after it has been screened.

  3. David Bowden

    Great advice Monica – it is a shame that most of it is common sense and that people have to be reminded of common sense. Your mention of getting to the airport early fails to mention that for KLIA2, the norm is about two weeks before just to ensure you get through the immigration queue. Are any officials paying attention to this queue – guess not as they get VIP clearance and are oblivious as to what mere mortals have to experience. My tip is to fly on a full service airline out of KLIA – the additional cost (if any) is way better than missing a flight as I have done or queuing for hours as I and other friends have done. What a disaster KLIA2 is especially as it is only a few years old – imaging what it will be like in a few years is a frightening thought.

  4. Kirsten Durward

    Agree with all this Monica! Surprised this year to see people ignoring the beautifully laid out example trays and very clear pictures of what not to take at Edinburgh security screening, and going through with full sized bottles of toiletries and areated cans! Seriously cannot believe that there are adults still doing this! What else can I add?

    Be calm with delays. They are not the fault of the service staff, the information desk, the airline crew or anyone else. Airports have problems, weather changes, planes need parts replaced, crew get out of time. Things happen, decisions are made to keep us safe. THE WORLD WILL NOT END if you are a few hours late. Empathise with the people who are trying to resolve the issues and take advantage of the fact that you are in a safe location with toilets, food, drink and often even entertainment. You are not a refugee and this is not a disaster.

    on the plane – we all have limited space, this means I would like you not to kick or thump the seat in front of you, and restrain your child from doing so. And if the courteous flight attendant asks you to put your seat up doing meal service, that’s just so that someone’s coffee doesn’t end in their lap.

    Personal space – and I am directing this at men in particular – it is not ok to spread your legs out, so that your knees bash into my space. In this space you need to be decorous and keep your legs together, in your own little quadrant, thanks very much.

    Bathrooms! Some of you are disgusting! what makes it ok to leave scummy water in the sink, spray on the seat, tissues everywhere? Clean up your mess and show basic human decency. I know there is not time for it but I wish that toilets were checked as people left them and those leaving them in a state become blacklisted!

    When leaving the plane, again we are all in the same boat, I dont need your bag on my foot or you shoving me out of the way to gain 3 centimetres. We need to flow out in order. Seriously if I am not going through passport control I usually just wait til everyone is off the plane anyway. What is it about air travel that throws people into panic competition mode and fear of waiting. Don’t like to wait in queues? Become a gazillionaire or stay at home. Travel – accept that you will queue, it is a reality. Build that time into your plans and you wont panic!

    Having said that, sometimes with a tight transfer or a long security queue, people need to rush through the airport, so walking 4 abreast and blocking the whole corridor is thoughtless. Standing on the escalator or travelator in such a way that people cant get past is thoughtless. Leaving your bags around in such a way that there is no way past them is thoughtless. Be aware of other people’s movements and needs, and leave space!

    Rules of thumb for everyone, all the time – Simple courtesy costs nothing. Plan ahead. Leave extra time. Don’t be greedy and selfish. Lets make travel time slightly more pleasant?

  5. Please and thank you goes a long ways.
    Coffee is on

  6. People should just mind their manners, period! Just follow a simple rule…..don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.

  7. Great tips. There are some travellers who are just not bothered about minding their manners.

  8. Gosh, I’m reminded of the article I wrote and of my flight experiences over the years. A recent flight experience made my jaw drop while all of the flight passengers waited to board the plane: a particular passenger sat with her flip-flops on the seat, as if she owned the boarding area. *sighs*

    ‘Leave some personal space between you and the person in front of you. I don’t need to feel your breath on my shoulder.’ – I personally dislike this because I’ve been knocked into by the airport trolley twice at KLIA. I was so annoyed that I snapped.

  9. I disagree with a lot on this list. It shows a huge lack of understanding of different cultures and different experiences. For example, it is not common place to stand on the left on escalators in all countries. That person in front of you who you think is being discourteous by standing on the ‘wrong’ side may be thinking exactly the same thing about you. Not all countries have the same requirements for security screenings. If you travel widely you will find that it is actually hard to know whether it is shoes off or on, tablets in or out, liquids in or out. In London I can leave all my jewellry, glasses etc on and I wont beep the scanner, in KL I could walk through stark naked and that thing would still beep. Maybe the person in front of you who is holding up the security line or fussing in their seat is not as fortunate as you and isn’t an experienced flier. Where was your empathy when you wrote this list, slagging off people’s personal hygiene and complaining that they are reaching round you to share something when they were unfortunate not to be to secure seats together (perhaps because they couldn’t afford the extra to pick their seats in advance). I fly a lot. Yes, the romance of flight has died for me somewhat and I just to get through it all as painlessly as possible and I can whine and complain about the seeming incompetence of thos around me but I should never forget how fundamentally fortunate I am to be able to travel as frequently as I do and enjoy all the experiences travel has to offer, regardless of the minor inconveniences that come with it.

    • Thanks for your comment Tokyotoni. I always welcome different perspectives. Maybe I’m just getting old and fussy or maybe I am hoping that by communicating my frustrations, people will become more aware of their behaviour and how it affects other passengers. It is common courtesy to be culturally sensitive, and just as much as I respect other cultures, I would also like mine to be respected (especially when it comes to my personal space and safety). The intention was not to “slag off” anybody, but rather to raise awareness of how our actions affect the comfort level of others. As a fellow frequent traveller, what do you consider to be polite behaviour?

  10. >Escalators
    Stay to the left.

    It’s the opposite in London.
    It’s stand on the right, walk on the left.
    I guess most of us are right-handed, so it’s more natural to hold on to the rail such way?
    But I don’t really know the real reason though.

  11. These are good tips and they need to be in Chinese.

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