A Flight Attendant’s 12 Etiquette Rules: ‘There is Never a Reason to Take Off Your Socks’

In a New York Times piece that went viral, a flight attendant revealed a dozen rules on proper travel etiquette.

Kristie Koerbel exposed her biggest pet peeves as a flight attendant, including when passengers fail to flush the toilet. She also revealed who has the right to the middle armrests and whether swapping seats is required.

What’s the proper way to handle seating issues?

When it comes to seating inquiries, Koerbel recommended travellers chat with gate agents before boarding. The agents have access to the plane’s seating arrangements and are able to accommodate families. She added that once on board, it is not required to agree to a seat change.

Can I take my shoes off?

Comfort is key to a stress-free flight, which means that passengers might be eager to take off their shoes, sit back and relax. Koerbel reassured travellers that they can take off their shoes on flights but urged them to not go as far as taking off their socks.

While insisting passengers should keep their feet directly in front of them and on the floor, she warned that travellers should slide their shoes back on when heading to the bathroom.

Who has the right to an armrest and how can I stop a chatty neighbour?

Travellers don’t always get to choose who they sit by on a plane, which can lead to unpleasant experiences if proper flying etiquette isn’t followed. Armrests tend to serve as a divider between each passenger, but they have sparked debate on who has the right to them.

When it comes to the middle armrest, the traveller sitting in the middle seat automatically gets dibs on both in exchange for being squished in the middle of two people during a potentially lengthy flight, Koerbel wrote.

As for how to stop a neighbour from talking, sliding on headphones tends to do the trick!

What If I forget my headphones?

A flight without headphones can be dreadful, but Koerbel insisted passengers should refrain from chatting over FaceTime, watching a movie, or listening to music without earbuds.

And yes, that includes children too.

What is the best way to handle kids on a flight?

Koerbel wrote that children should be extensively looked after. She begged parents to be cautious of what they hand to their children and urged them to pick up after them. She added that dealing with a disruptive child can be tricky and advised passengers to always chat with a parent rather than a toddler, or even a teenager.

‘A nice way to approach this is to ask the parents calmly, and with a smile if they realize their child is kicking your seat. Then say it’s bothersome; is there any way you can you make the child stop?’ she wrote in The New York Times article.

What is the best way to recline my seat?

While Koerbel reassures fliers that everyone can recline their seat, she warned them to be cautious of those sitting behind them.

‘Before reclining, peek behind you and see what the situation is, and nicely ask if that person minds,’ she wrote.

Koerbel shared that rushing to recline can lead to the spillage of drinks and damage to electronics. These common incidents have often led to physical arguments, according to the flight attendant.

Do I have to swap seats?

No. While Koerbel admits that this is an unpopular opinion, she advises travellers that they do not have to swap seats they paid for – even if someone asks nicely.

‘No, you do not have to switch with someone who asks you. If you have paid extra for your seat, or even if it is just an inconvenience, you can kindly say no.

‘If it is advantageous, like trading a middle seat for a window seat, or you are happy to help, please go ahead and swap.’

What bags can go in the overhead bins?

Koerbel urged passengers to remember that their largest carry-on item is supposed to be stored in an overhead bin while smaller items go under their seat.

Since the bins are first-come, first-serve, Koerbel insisted travellers should respect the unspoken rule and not remove the baggage of other passengers in an attempt to fit their own.

‘Sliding bags to maximize space is fine but save the complex puzzle solving for the flight attendant,’ Koerbel wrote in The New York Times.

Do I have to flush the toilet?

One of Koerbel’s biggest flight pet peeves is when she has to flush other people’s waste.

‘If you can’t find the button, please look for it: I guarantee it’s there. On every airplane,’ she wrote.


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